Tom’s tips, the familiar tag-end sentence or two of helpful hints at the end of each From The Ground Up column, stands as the main subject of this holiday-season column.

Here, readers will find suggestions ranging from new ways of using standard household items to time-tested methods to thwart garden pests. So check out this expanded version of Tom’s tips and get ready to save time, money and energy. And most of all, have fun doing it.

Coffee break

Don’t discard those last few drops of your morning coffee. Instead, introduce them to your potted geraniums. Drip the coffee closer to the edge of the container, rather than around the plant stem. Do this regularly and your geraniums will develop lots of new blooms, as well as healthy foliage.

If you make drip coffee, save both filter and coffee grounds and place them in the bottom of a container before adding potting soil. The filter will eventually decompose and the grounds will nourish the growing plant.

Save your coffee grounds until you have a coffee can full. Then spread these under acid-loving plants such as azalea and gently work them into the ground with a rake. The grounds will help keep the soil moist and loose, while at the same time providing nourishment for the plants.

Seashell gardening

Don’t put those clam, mussel or oyster shells in the trash. Instead, place them outside in a sunny spot to dry and then put in a cloth bag and crush with a hammer. These can now be worked into the soil, where they will introduce calcium and trace nutrients.

Shrimp and lobster shells can go directly into the garden soil, where they will eventually break down. One caveat: beware the spiny “nose” of shrimp, since these take some time to break down. So save the body, but discard shrimp heads.

Unbroken clam and oyster shells make excellent fill for small holes in dirt driveways. Driving over these will crush them. It may take a whole season of adding shells to a hole, but by fall the shells will have done their work and the hole will be gone.

Free tools

If you like Oriental food, save the chopsticks from your meal and take them home. These can serve as stakes for small plants. Wooden chopsticks are inconspicuous and won’t attract the eye.

Also, save those plastic knives, spoons and forks from takeout restaurants. These have myriad uses.

In spring, stick plastic knives in the ground where you see bare places in your crocus bed. Then come fall you’ll know where to add more bulbs.

Plastic spoons can be used in measuring fertilizer and also to drizzle fine soil over newly planted seeds.

Plastic forks can serve as mini-garden forks when working with houseplants or when preparing soil for seed-starting.

New uses for old brooms

When your broom becomes worn out, the bristles soft and splayed, don’t throw it out, because it has several new uses.

First, remove the wooden handle. Broom handles have countless uses, from walking sticks to apple-pickers. To make a broom handle apple-picker, just nail a tin can to the end. It helps to cut a large V-shaped lip on the open end of the can to accept the apple.

One of my favorite uses of old broom handles is to cut a handle into a 16-inch length and drill one end to accept the tip of a castoff fishing rod. Fill the hole with glue and insert the rod tip, butt first. Then cut a copper pipe into inch-long segments and use these as slip rings on the handle to hold a reel. And presto, you have a homememade, one-of-a-kind ice-jigging rod.

Finally, when a broom plays out, trim the bristles until they are only about 6 inches long and use this as a stiff scrubbing brush for rough work.

Rust remover

Even the most fastidious homeowner finds that hand tools sometimes become rusted, often through condensation buildup. But don’t break out the steel wool or sandpaper just yet. Instead, fill a plastic container with cider vinegar and drop the rusty tool in the vinegar. After about two days have elapsed, remove the tool and wipe dry. The tool will be rust-free.

Eggshells, too

It’s not just shellfish that can help build up soil nutrients. Eggshells, too, have a beneficial effect.

First, start saving eggshells by washing them out inside to prevent odor and then crush them and store in a container. Add these to the bottom of planting holes for both indoor and outdoor plants. Or just mix them in with garden soil.

Fill another container, this one with a removable cap, with water and add crushed eggshells. When sufficient shells have built up, use the water to feed houseplants. Ferns, especially, respond well to this treatment.

Soil savers

Somehow, the soil at the bottom of potted plants often becomes fine and spills out when the pot is lifted or moved. To prevent this, place a small section of window screen at the bottom of the pot. No more soil loss.

Toward that same end, soak an old kitchen sponge in water and squeeze just enough water out so it doesn’t drip. Stuff this in the bottom of the planter and it will not only keep fine soil from sifting out, it will retain water for the plants, something needed in the low-humidity indoor winter environment.

Pest repellers

Save used aluminum foil to use to discourage rabbits and small rodents from chewing the bark on your young trees. Just wrap the base of the trunk with foil, extending about 12 inches high. Lightly secure the foil with lengths of cut-up sheets or tee shirts.

Slightly crush some garlic cloves … perhaps ones that are becoming soft, and stuff them into the toe of an old sock. Hang the garlic sock on any shrub or sapling that deer have chewed on. Deer hate garlic and will leave your plants alone.

You don’t need to be an angler to benefit from the many uses of monofilament fishing line. Monofilament line is cheap and most sporting goods and variety stores sell it. But the beauty of monofilament is that in clear shades, it is nearly invisible. This attribute makes it one of the better sources of deer fencing.

All you need is a single strand of monofilament line strung two to three feet above the ground in places where deer enter your yard or garden. The deer will walk into the line, feel the pressure, but won’t be able to see it. This will frighten them, causing them to turn tail and leave.

If your fence is too short and deer are jumping over it, just attach some lathes or sticks to the fence posts in order to extend them and at the very top, run a single length of monofilament fishing line. This will stop deer in their tracks.

Fruit flies can pose a problem, even in winter. Fresh fruit and vegetables are responsible, as is leaving peelings exposed to the air. Fruit flies will hatch and when those annoying little specks flit past our eyes, it’s time to do something about it. Fortunately, a simple solution of common household materials will do the trick.

To 2 cups water, add a quarter-cup of cider vinegar and a teaspoon of dish detergent. You can substitute wine for the vinegar, if desired. Mix the ingredients and pour into a small container. Seal the top with cling wrap and punch several slits in the wrap. Attracted by the scent, fruit flies will enter through the slits, but will be unable to find their way out. Refresh the liquid every few days, discarding the dead fruit flies.

Bird helper

Instead of teeth (“scarcer than hen’s teeth” says it all), birds have a crop, which they fill with fine sand and gravel. This grinds their food prior to digesting. But in winter birds have a tough time finding grit for their crops. This is where you can help.

Save floor sweepings for the birds. This contains fine grains of sand and the birds will eat it up if you spread it around under feeders. Or if you have a snow-free spot, sprinkle dirt and grit there. The birds will find it.

Suggestions welcome

Finally, readers are invited to submit their “secret” tips for the Tom’s tips section. Use the contact information at the head of this column. Send in your tips, and chances are they’ll appear in a few weeks.