Gardening is a fine art, and perfecting it frequently involves making mistakes. To stop slugs from eating your plants or to learn how to keep your soil moist for longer, read on to learn some top tips and tricks from professional gardeners.
1. Beer, Tea, Grapefruit, Coffee, and Eggshells All Keep Snails and Slugs Away.
These everyday items are a great (and eco-friendly) way to deter garden snails and slugs if your plants are frequently harmed by them. Coffee grounds are said to deter slugs and snails, according to Peter Burks, a horticultural expert at Potter & Rest.
According to Nicola Macnaughton of The Bonnie Gardener, using grapefruit skins (cut in half and placed upside down) around your plants also helps keep slugs away from plants. Additionally, using crushed eggshells around the base of priceless plants can deter slugs and snails since they don’t like rough terrain, according to plant advisor Jane Party of Monkton Elm Garden & Pet Centre.
With rooibos tea leaves, you can deter slugs in a clever new way. Breaking up a bag of tea and distributing the leaves around the base of the plant is recommended by BloomBox Club founder Katie Gilbert. Finally, setting up a beer trap is a surefire way to get rid of them because it seems to attract slugs and snails.
Locate a container (such as a margarine tub or Philadelphia cheese carton), bury it so the soil is just below the top of the carton, then fill it with beer. Nikki Hollier, a celebrated landscape architect, claims that the slugs are drawn to the smell and end up drowning when they fall in. Even though it is unpleasant, the advice is still useful.
2. Add Calcium to The Soil in The Garden, Grind Eggshells Into a Powder.
All plants need calcium for new growth, just like people do. Calcium is important in plant development and processes and also helps reduce the risk of plant diseases. ‘It can reduce diseases such as bitter pit in apples, and clubroot in brassicas,’ says Peter. To give your plants a calcium boost, try feeding them eggshells – or even milk!
‘Powdered eggshell is good for this, but it’s best mixed in with potting compost before planting,’ advises Jane. And apparently, milk works just as well! ‘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, managing director at Bartholomew Landscaping. However unlikely this seems, he promises it has produced some remarkable results!
5. Coffee Grounds, Pine Needles, and Mushrooms Can Change the Color of Your Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are fascinating in that, unlike most other plants, the color 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 be pink!
‘Add pine needles to make your soil more acidic and mushroom compost to make it more alkaline,’ advises Nicola. And coffee comes in handy once again. ‘Coffee, being acidic, will also 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.
6. Lay Nappies in Your Flower Pots to Keep the Soil Moist for Days
Going on holiday any time soon? A clever way to keep the soil moist for days is by using a (clean) nappy. ‘The granules used in nappies 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 Party. ‘Not all seeds need to be soaked,’ adds award-winning garden designer Nikki Hollier. ‘Some need to be put into refrigeration to imitate cold weather.’
8. Some Sprigs, Twigs, and Cuttings Can Grow a New Plant on Their Own
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 reliable 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 the year if they are going to grow effectively,’ she advises.
This time of year is great for taking cuttings to create more plants, says Nikki. ‘When ginger starts growing (it’s a rhizome) you can put that on and grow a ginger plant!’, she says. You can also get more basil from your leftover store-bought cuttings – although it’s fairly labor 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 their stately plumes, are 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. Rice and Nettles Can Be Used to Make Your Own Plant Feed/fertilizer.
You can cut nettles, put them in a bucket, add water and leave for a few days, then pour the liquid on your plants. Fill a bucket with nettles (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, then empty out the nettles and keep the water, which can be used, watered down at a ratio of 20:1, on plants.
It will provide an excellent source of nitrogen for leafy plants and vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Another top tip for making your own plant feed: the next time you cook rice, keep the water to use as a natural fertilizer in the garden!