Gardening is a fine art, and often learning to get it right is a process of trial and error. However, there are top tips and tricks you can learn from professional gardeners – so, whether you want to stop slugs eating your plants, or learn how to keep your soil moist for longer, read on...
- Coffee, grapefruit, eggshells, 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 discourage them! According to horticultural experts, coffee grounds deter slugs and snails. Using grapefruit skins (cut in half and turned upside down) around your plants also helps keep slugs away from plants. And, as slugs and snails don't like rough territory, they can be deterred by using crushed eggshells around the bottom of precious plants, says plant advisor Jane Earty.
- 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 fruits, and help them taste better says horticulture specialist Peter. To give your plants a calcium boost, try feeding them eggshells or even milk!
- 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 expert.
- 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 be pink!
- 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. But it depends on the seed, 'Soaking large, hard seeds helps break down their outer coating , but small seeds do not need soaking,' says Plant Advisor Jane Earty.
- Plants can protect each other
Nasturtium has a reputation for keeping white-fly at bay, chives(small onion) can prevent lightning strikes, and horseradish (radish) provides protection for potatoes from Colorado beetle. '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.
- 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!
- Vodka can help flowers stay fresh longer
Vodka inhibits bacteria growth, so a few drops mixed with water would help to keep the flower fresh longer. A teaspoon of sugar can help too, as will pennies, the copper works as an acidifier and inhibits bacteria that way.
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