When I stopped working in an office, I found myself with a drawer full of what I thought were useless nylon stockings. I held onto a handful of them for special occasions, but the rest got tossed in a junk drawer in the garage. I accidentally discovered how useful they are in the garden when I came across them when searching the same drawer for twine a few years ago. As it turns out, the stretchy nature of nylon stockings and their long, narrow shape makes them useful for a plethora of tasks around the garden.
1. Plant Ties
When searching for twine all those years ago, I spotted the nylons in the back of the drawer. I was in a hurry and quickly cut the stockings into pieces and used them as plant ties (pictured above) to attach my rowdy tomato plants to their stakes. The softness of the fabric doesn’t cut into plant stems, and their stretchy nature means they expand as the plant’s stem grows. I’ve used them to tie up my tomatoes ever since.
2. Seed Collectors
I save a lot of my own seeds, especially for flowering annuals, such as zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, amaranth, cleome and tithonia, but allowing the seeds to mature on the plants often means you have to share them with the birds. While I don’t mind sharing some, I found that the birds were getting the lion’s share and I was getting the puny seeds they leave behind. So I started covering the mature seed heads with sections of nylon stockings to protect the seeds from the marauding birds. I cover them as soon as the petals drop and leave them covered until the seeds are mostly dry. The tiny holes in the nylon fabric allow for just enough air circulation to keep the seed heads from rotting before I can snip them from the plants and harvest the seeds.
3. Compost Tea Sieve
You can also use sections of nylon stockings as steeping bags for making compost tea. I simply fill up a stocking leg with compost, tie the open end closed, and let it sit in a 5 gallon bucket of water for a day. When I’m ready to apply the resulting nutrient-rich, compost tea onto my plants, I simply lift out the compost-filled nylon and pour the tea into a watering can. I often reuse the same section of nylon stocking several times, dumping out the “used” compost and refilling the stocking between steepings.
4. Melon Supports
One of my favorite uses for old nylons is as supports for maturing melons. I grow my melons vertically, to save space, but sometimes the fruits get too heavy and pull the vines down off the fence they’re climbing. To support the melons as they grow, I take a section of stocking and cut it open lengthwise. Then I make a little sling for the growing melon by tying the ends of the nylon to the fence and stretching the middle around the underside of the melon. The stocking will expand as the melon grows, providing just the right amount of support without being too restrictive.
5. Fruit Protector
I have a lot of trouble with coddling moths and apple maggots attacking the apples on my trees. Our peach trees also suffer from brown rot. I’ve found that surrounding each immature fruit with a piece of nylon stocking prevents damage from both pests, as well as protecting the peaches from brown rot. In fact, the only way I’ve been able to harvest a good organic peach crop is by covering each one with a shield of nylon when it’s about the size of a nickel. Yes, it takes some time, but not having to spray is worth it. It might be too time consuming if you have a large orchard, but for a handful of trees, it works like a charm.
6. Onion & Garlic Storage Tubes
I also use my old nylons to store harvested and cured onions and garlic. I find the flexibility of the fabric perfect for storing these two bulbs, in addition to shallots. I’ve even stored daffodil bulbs in nylon stockings until planting time arrived. Make sure the bulbs don’t have any blemishes or rotten spots that could cause the whole bunch to go bad. As long as the bulbs are properly cured in a cool, dry place for a few weeks, they’ll last for months when stored in the nylon stockings.