The Dirt

An everyday object makes an unusual but handy garden tool

My office jungle
My office jungle

I have many loves. At the top of my love list, is gardening, and not far below that, you can find office supplies. Yes, I love pens, pencils, paper, sticky notes, and all the other stuff that clogs my desk. Knowing that, you will understand why living in this digital age is difficult for me. While my friends and colleagues are typing appointments on black, hand-held brains, I pull out my paper pocket calendar and pencil. I don’t want to relinquish my silly, Neanderthal habits. I love holding a pencil and mindlessly doodling in the margins of my planner. Wait; don’t tell me–there’s an app for that.

It’s not surprising that I found a way to combine my fetish for office supplies and stationary with my gardening obsession. I have retired a few pencils from appointment making to my pots. Yes, I stick pencils into the soil of my houseplant containers. It turns out that pencils are as good at soil probing as they are at writing. Sometimes I prefer not to have soil under my nails (shocking), so I jab my pencil–rather than my finger–in the soil to test moisture. Pencil holes also add a little aeration or can help work sand in, which I had to do to combat the fungus gnat plague in the office last summer.

Overtime a crusty layer of soil can form around your indoor container plants making water absorption difficult. I break-up that top layer with a pencil and remove the larger chunks. I replenish what I removed with fresh potting mix and again, work in those fresh nutrients with, what else, my pencil.

While I combat the tech onslaught with a sharpened pencil, do you choose to embrace it? Tell me your tech-savvy soil solutions. I promise, I’ll listen, even if it’s from my rotary phone.


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