Whether you’re a green-fingered garden guru or a novice, these very clever tips and tricks are sure to come in handy!
Gardening is a fine art, and often learning to get it right is a process of trial and error. However, there are a few gardening hacks you can pinch from professional gardeners to help you master you hobby with ease…
1. Coffee, grapefruit, egg shells, tea and beer all fend off snails and slugs
If your plants constantly fall victim to garden snails and slugs, these common household goods are a great (and eco-friendly) way to get rid of them. According to Peter Burks, horticultural expert at Potter & Rest, coffee grounds deters slugs and snails.
2. Grind eggshells into a powder and sprinkle in the garden for a calcium boost
Much like humans, all plants need calcium for fresh growth. Calcium is important in plant development and processes and also helps reduce risk of plant diseases. “It can reduce disease such as Bitter Pit in apples, Clubroot in brassicas,” says Peter.
To give your plants a calcium boost, try feeding them egg shells, or even milk. “Powdered egg shell is good for this, but best used in with potting compost before planting,” advises Jane. “Powdered milk can again be used in a potting mix for a good source of calcium,” she adds.
3. Baking soda can make home-grown tomatoes taste less tart
“Baking soda can make tomatoes sweeter – but only in tiny amounts as overdosing can poison the soil,” advises Jane.
4. Rotten cider helps wisteria grow
“Wisteria that refuses to flower should be treated by pouring rotten cider over its roots,” advises Barry Burrows. However unlikely this seems, he promises it has produced some remarkable results!
5. Coffee grounds, pine needles and mushrooms can change the colour of your hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are fascinating in that, unlike most other plants, the colour of their flowers can change dramatically – and it’s all down to the PH level of the soil. If the soil is acidic then the hydrangeas will turn blue, and when the soil is alkaline, then the hydrangeas will turn pink.
“Add pine needles to make your soil more acidic and mushroom compost to make it more alkaline,” advises Nicola. Coffee also comes in handy once again, as it helps turn hydrangeas blue!
“Coffee, being acidic, will alter the pH of the soil and so in turn (depending on the volume used and the original pH of the soil) can turn the flowers blue,” explains Peter. This clever trick is not just for hydrangeas – the same also applies to rhododendrons and camellias too.
6. Lay burp cloths in your pots to keep the soil moist for days
Going on vacation any time soon? A clever way to keep soil moist for days is by using a clean nappy. “The granules used in burp cloths absorb a large amount of water and so will release this water to the pot or hanging basket as the plants need it,” explains Peter.
7. Soak your seeds in warm water 24 hours before sowing
If you’re planting seeds, it could be worth soaking them in warm water 24 hours before sowing. “It is a method, for some species, of breaking seed dormancy.
All seeds will need to absorb water before germination takes place so soaking them will speed the germination process up in many plants,” explains Peter.
But it depends on the seed – “soaking large hard seeds helps break down their outer coating (this especially applies to Sweet Peas), but small seeds do not need soaking,” says Plant Advisor Jane Earthy.Award-winning garden designer, Nikki Hollier, agrees saying, “Not all seeds need to be soaked – some need to be put into refrigeration to imitate cold weather.”
8. Make the most of your cuttings
Some plants will grow well from cuttings, particularly cornus alba and lavender, explains Nicola. “You will need to cut it in a specific way and use a good quality cuttings compost. Beginners should consult a good gardening book if they want to do this as different plants will require different growing conditions and cuttings will need to be taken at different times of year if they are going to grow effectively,” she advises.
This time of year is a great time to take cuttings, says Nikki. “When ginger starts growing (it’s a rhizome) you can pot that on and grow a ginger plant,” she says. You can also plant more basil from your leftover store-bought cuttings – although it’s fairly labour intensive.
9. Plants can protect each other
Nasturtium has a reputation for keeping Whitefly at bay, chives can prevent lightning strikes, and horseradish provides protection for potatoes from Colorado Beetle, says Barry. “Alliums, so often used for its stately plumes, is widely credited with suppression of red spider mites, so could be used in conjunction with many of the plants plagued with this tiny pest,” he adds.
10. Nettles can be used to make your own plant feed or fertilizer
Fill a bucket with nettles out of your garden (remember to wear gloves) and fill the bucket with water. Cover with a stone to keep the nettles underwater and leave in a corner of the garden for two weeks.
Next, empty out the nettles and keep the water—this can be poured over plants watered down at a ratio of 20:1. It will provide an excellent source of nitrogen for leafy plants and vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
11. Make your own compost
Collect mixed layers of soft, organic waste, such as prunings and grass cuttings, and place into a compost bag or pile at the back of your garden.
“Every six inches, sprinkle a layer of Garotta compost maker or fresh farm yard manure as these feed the microorganisms that break the green waste down – it will get hot as it does this and that sterilises the material meaning there is no smell,” says Peter.
Food waste also works well, including raw veg scraps, egg shells, coffee granules, tea bags and even pet fur. Put it all in a compost heap and continue to add grass clippings and any annual weeds. “Mix the compost every few weeks and you should get some good compost in 12-18 months,” says Nicola.