Every gardener develops their own tricks and techniques to use in the garden, and old wives tales are as important a part of the art of gardening as trowels and sun hats. If you’re looking to get more out of your garden or just find uses for common household waste, try these ten unusual (but reliable) gardening tips.
Even a teetotal gardener should make sure there’s a couple of cans of cheap lager under the sink, because they can be used as excellent organic pest control. Use an abandoned tin, jar or plastic cup and bury it up to the neck in the soil near any plants that are suffering slug problems. When filled with beer, it makes a serviceable trap that attracts, drowns and poisons slugs, while not posing a risk to household pets, children or the plants themselves.
Other gardeners use a mixture of beer, 1 parts Epsom salts and fish oil as a low-cost and efficient fertiliser.
This one’s not for the faint-hearted. Once you’ve collected a couple of traps full of bugs, pick an old or easily sanitised blender and liquidize them. Strain the result, stick it in a spray bottle and spray it on plants as an excellent natural insecticide. If you can stomach it, the mixture repels and even kills most bugs.
Plants require all kinds of minerals and nutrients, and where better to get them than in their concentrated form from common household waste? Coffee grounds and beans contain phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, copper and nitrogen, all vital for the development of healthy vegetables. In addition, caffeine is a weak but functional natural anti-fungal agent, and will even help deter slugs and snails.
Banana peels, meanwhile, are also an excellent source of potassium and calcium, as well as potash, magnesium, sulfur, phosphates and sodium. They decompose quickly and don’t smell too bad, helping you create thick, nutritious topsoil. Some gardeners blend them with water to reduce decomposition time, but either way they’re great on roses and tomatoes.
Applied daily, camomile tea makes a gentle anti-fungal spray that’s perfect for nurturing and protecting seedlings, particularly during the ‘damping off’ period when they’ve been transplanted to the garden for the first time. Make a pot of camomile and wait until the leftovers have cooled, of course.
Water used to boil vegetables or pasta contains a lot of nutrients, and it’s a shame to waste it (In addition, it can contribute to ‘fatbergs’ in the pipes). Let your pan water cool instead and toss it onto your vegetable garden. If boiling eggs the water will contain plenty of useful calcium, which will help your plants grow stronger stalks.
Rain barrels and water butts are an environmentally-friendly way of watering your garden and an excellent store of water during the dry summer months, but when it gets warm they can become breeding grounds for mosquitos and other insect pests, contaminating the water and leading to lots of bites while gardening. To avoid this, you can introduce common household fish like goldfish or minnows into the barrel during the summer.
However, to keep the fish alive and thriving (there’s no need to be cruel!) there are some extra things to include – you can find out more here.
‘Keyhole Gardening’ is a recognised technique when gardening in areas with poor soil or limited space. Organise your garden and reduce the amount of topsoil you buy by planting in raised soil containers rather than in the ground. You could purpose-buy containers, but old tires, topsoil bags or even hollowed out straw bales are all excellent additions for a more homely garden. Strictly organising them by allowing each plant a square foot of distance from all other plants also helps.
This is more of a quirk of the human brain than anything particular to the plants themselves. Planting odd numbers of plants, particularly threes and fives, will make a garden look lusher and healthier.
This fine old wives’ tale actually contains a grain of truth, particularly with root vegetables like parsnips, cold temperatures and frost force the plants to convert starch into sugar to survive without sunlight, resulting in a nuttier, sweeter flavour that’s much more palatable.
Eggs and eggshells have a myriad of uses to the savvy gardener. Burying an egg in the soil creates a slow-release fertiliser source that can provide plants with all kinds of essential nutrients. Eggshells are also useful sources of calcium carbonate, so blended mixtures of shells sprinkled on flowerbeds can have excellent results.
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