Tips and Tricks for Better Plants and a Better Garden
Use old tights or odd socks for tree and plant ties as they are nice and soft, flexible and won’t cut into the stem.
When watering your plants, make sure that you give them a really good drink. Just giving them a short watering encourages the roots to develop closer to the surface of the soil, making the plant less drought tolerant and more susceptible to be rocked by the wind.
Water hanging baskets by putting ice cubes on the top. As they melt moisture is slowly released.
Age new statues by smearing on natural yoghurt
Banana skins are good for feeding roses.
Stop cut tulips from flopping in a vase by putting a pin through the stem just under the flower.
Fizzy, sugary drinks can be used as plant feed in vases and alcohol can sterilise the water just like a drop of bleach.
Golden rule for planting vegetable seeds, don’t sow too early, too thickly or too deeply.
Runner beans can be grown as an ornamental climber – originally they were grown as ornamentals in Victorian times before they were grown for food.
Don’t plant cauliflowers in sandy soil or they will fail.
Brussels Sprouts will fail on loose, infertile soil, so make sure the soil is enriched with well-rotted manure the winter before sowing. Also, ridge up the plants with soil and firm them in. Brassicas also like alkaline soils so lime if necessary the previous winter.
Plant food-bearing plants when the moon is waxing (increasing to a full moon) and ornamentals when the moon is waning (decreasing).
Pest Control Plant some Marigolds around the vegetable garden and they will keep pests away. Companion planting.
To keep rabbits away from your crops, it was said to plant a row of onions ,chives or garlic. (anything from the allium family).
Plant garlic and chives among roses to keep greenfly away.
Methylated spirits can be used to control wooly aphids.
To prevent slugs getting to plants in containers, smear the outside of the container with Vaseline or WD40 .
Ants nests can damage grass roots in lawns so apply ant gel or clove oil in a watering can. Ants don’t like water.
Planting and Sowing
-When sowing seeds, use a pencil dipped into water to pick up the seeds and place them onto the growing medium. That way you don’t lose any. Or use a match stick.
-Mix fine seed with sand for ease of sowing. You can also use non-scented talcum powder so you can see them as you are sowing them.
When planting trees, dig a square hole rather than a round one as it allows the roots to spread out evenly.
When to plant trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and vegetables
When to Plant
In general, you can plant trees and shrubs all year round as long as the soil isn’t frozen, covered with snow or waterlogged. Bear in mind though that if we have a hot summer and it is really dry you will need to keep the plants well watered. This applies to container grown plants, bare-rooted plants should be planted in the autumn when the soil is still warm.
The best time to plant trees is late autumn to early spring (October to March) when they are in a dormant state. Most apple trees are planted October to December.
Prepare the soil a couple of weeks before planting by digging in plenty of organic material. To plant simply dig a hole large enough to take the roots, generally twice the size of the pot, place the tree in the hole and cover the roots with soil up to the surrounding ground level. Trees should be planted in a square hole to encourage even rooting. The tree should be planted to the same depth as it was in the pot and not any deeper – the biggest cause of tree death is planting too deeply. Having planted the tree, firm down the soil using your boots to ensure the soil is in good contact with the roots and water well to wash the soil in around its roots.
(Note – when planting fruit trees the graft union should be at least 3-4 inches above soil level).
If necessary the tree should be staked, with the stake being driven into the soil at a 45 degree angle, being careful not to go through the root ball. Tie the trunk to the stake using plastic tree ties available from the garden centre. Do not use wire or string as this will cut into the tree trunk with time and damage it. You will need to check the ties in the first couple of years to ensure that they don’t become too tight.
You can’t go far wrong if you plant evergreens in early to mid-autumn or mid to late spring, and deciduous shrubs between mid-autumn and early spring when soil and weather conditions are favourable. Good soil preparation is important and it is a good idea to dig in good organic matter before you plant to give them a good start. Dig a hole about twice the size of the pot that the plant is in and loosely fork over the bottom of the hole. Tease out the roots so they are encouraged to grow into the surrounding soil and plant to the same level as they are in the pot and then back fill the hole with soil and firm in. Some shrubs should be planted slightly deeper such as roses and clematis, roses to cover the union of the graft and clematis to discourage wilt but on the whole most shrubs shouldn’t be planted too deeply. Rhododendrons for example always do better if not planted too deeply, as do phormiums, if in doubt check the label. Water in well.
Generally, perennials can be planted during autumn or spring, although containerised plants can go in at any time provided the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. Make sure that the root balls are thoroughly soaked before planting, if really dry soak in a bucket for a few minutes. Dig the planting hole of a shape and size to allow the roots to spread comfortably, and at a depth to the level of the crown – the point where the stems and roots join. Firm the plant in and water thoroughly if the soil is dry.
Annuals can be planted mid-spring to early summer, depending on the location and the type of plant. Begin with the hardier ones, such as sweet peas and pansies, and finish with the more tender types such as pelargoniums and fuchsias when the danger of frost has subsided. Before planting, water the containers and allow the plants to absorb the moisture before moving them. During dry periods, puddle them in – fill the planting hole with water and allow it to soak in, then set the plant in place and fill the hole with soil.
Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils and crocus should be planted in the autumn preferably by the end of September. Tulips are best planted in November but can be left to December at a push. As a general rule plant the bulb at a depth that is 3 times the size of the bulb itself ( if a bulb is 1 inch in size then there should be 3 inches from the surface to the top of the bulb). Plant in groups rather than singly. Dig a hole to the required planting depth and then space them at least twice the bulb’s own height and width apart. Carefully replace the soil and gently firm with the back of a rake.
Planting and Sowing vegetables
Growing vegetables from seed can be quite challenging, but basically the thing to remember is not to sow them too early, not too deeply and not too thickly. Sowing also depends on whether you sow indoors or outdoors directly in the soil. Decide on what you want to grow and have a good look at the seed packets for detailed growing information. You also may not want to grow from seed but buy plants from the garden centre if you are short of time and grow them on. Consider growing heritage varieties of veg such as purple peas (Lancashire Lad) or white carrots (White Belgium)
Sowing seed outdoors – Prepare the seed bed in early spring, wait until the soil dries out and doesn’t stick to your boots. Dig over the area you want to plant into (in some cases you will have done this already in the winter) and break down the clods of soil with the back of a fork. Rake level, removing large stones, aiming for the soil to have a consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.
Mark out the row with a taut piece of string and with the edge of a hoe draw out a drill to the depth recommended for the vegetable to be sown. Water the row before sowing, once sown cover the seed gently with soil with back of a rake.
Sowing seed indoors – Choose plastic rather than wooden containers, using trays, small pots or cellular trays and use a seed or multi-purpose compost. Firm the compost in place and water it. Sow according to the instructions on the packet. Do not cover very fine seed with compost. Other seeds should be covered with compost or vermiculite to a depth which is twice the diameter of the seed. Most seeds require a fairly warm temperature to germinate (about 70 degrees F). If you haven’t got access to a greenhouse most seed can germinate on the windowsill of a central heated room. Keep well watered with a fine sprayer ensuring the compost doesn’t dry out.
As soon as the first set of true leaves have opened the seedlings should be pricked out into small pots or cellular trays. Once they get to this stage high temperatures are not required and 50-55 degrees are OK. When the seedlings have recovered from the pricking out move, they must be hardened off to prepare them for life outside. Move to a cold frame and then open on dry frost free days. Later keep them open day and night for 7 days before planting out. Windowsill plantings should be moved into an unheated room before being stood out for a few days prior to planting outside in the garden.
• Sow Bulb Onions seeds under glass
• Sow early Carrot seeds in a cold frame
• Sow Bulb Onions and Lettuces under glass
• Sow Beetroot, Spinach and Carrots in the soil, will need protection
• Continue to sow Early Peas and Broad Beans in mild areas
• Sow Lettuces, Radishes and Spring Onions in the soil
• Sow Summer Cabbages, Leeks and Brussels Sprouts in a seed bed
• Sow Tomato seeds in trays or pots and keep at 18°C (65°F)
• Sow Beetroots, Carrots and Turnips in the soil
• In the south, plant Early Potatoes and Onion Sets at the end of the month providing the soil is not excessively wet
• Continue to sow Lettuces, Radishes and Spring Onions in the soil
• Sow Cucumbers, Marrows, Pumpkins and Squashes under glass
• Sow Winter Cabbages and Late Summer Cauliflowers in a seed bed
• Continue to plant Onion Sets
• Plant out Onions grown from seed under glass into the soil
• Plant out Asparagus crowns (will take 2 years for harvest)
• Sow leaf beet and chard outside
• In the north, plant Early Potatoes providing the soil is not excessively wet
• Plant Main Crop Potatoes
• Plant Onion Sets and Potatoes in the middle of the month unless the soil is excessively wet
• Plant Tomatoes in the greenhouse or in cold frame
• Continue to sow Lettuces, Radishes and Spring Onions in the soil
• In the north, sow Runner Beans under glass
• Sow French Beans, Runner Beans and Long Rooted Beetroot towards the end of the month when the frost risk has subsided
• Plant out Late Summer Cauliflowers
• In the north, plant out Brussels Sprouts
• Plant out Cucumbers, Marrows, Pumpkins and Squashes towards the end of the month
• Continue to sow French Beans, Peas and salad crops in the soil
• Continue to plant out Cucumbers, Marrows, Pumpkins and Squashes
• Plant out Brussels Sprouts and Winter Cabbages
• Plant out Tomatoes
• Plant out Leeks
• Continue to sow salad crops in the soil
• Complete planting Brussels Sprouts, Leeks and Winter Cabbages
• Sow early Spring Cabbages
• Plant out Spring Cabbages towards the end of the month
-Sow autumn broad beans such as Aquadulce to provide beans for June, winter peas
Ornamental Veggies: Urban dwellers and other small space gardeners can make better use of their space by tucking veggies and edibles in amongst their bedding plants rather than separating them out into distinct gardens, or grow some in hanging baskets . There are lots of unusual edibles available with gorgeous flowers and foliage. Try 'Red Burgundy Okra', 'Bull's Blood' Beets, 'Mascara' lettuce, and 'Lipstick' strawberries, to name a few.
Hold Dirt in with Coffee Filters or old tea bags
You can use coffee filters and tea bags as an alternative to rocks or terracotta shards over holes in containers to keep the dirt from falling out.
You can collect Free coffee grounds at Starbucks or ask your local coffee shop to save you some.
Coffee grounds can provide a valuable source of nutrition for your garden.
Applying coffee grinds directly to your garden:
Coffee grounds can be applied directly as a top dressing to acid loving plants like blueberries, hydrangeas, and azaleas (acid loving plants thrive in areas where rainfall is common in the warm season).
Adding brown material such as leaves and dried grass to the mulch will help keep a balanced soil pH.
Mixing coffee grounds in your compost:
Coffee grounds act as a green material with a carbon-nitrogen (C-N) ratio of 20-1. Combined with browns such as leaves and straw, coffee grounds generate heat and will speed up the compost process. Don’t make your coffee grounds more than 25% of any one pile’s content.
Using coffee grounds in your worm bin:
Worms fed with coffee grounds and other vegetarian materials will flourish.
Lighten Your Containers and Save Soil: To decrease weight and for really good drainage, use foam peanuts or broken pieces of styrofoam in the bottom of your pots, then fill with soil. While no one should go out and buy the stuff, it tends to sneak up on you anyway -- at least this way it can be useful and reuseable.
Pepper Plant Spray: A great way to help along your pepper plant blossoms in setting fruit is to add a bit of espom salts to a spray bottle and spray it directly onto the leaves and buds as they are just developing. Epsom salts contain magnesium which pepper plants need to produce healthy peppers.
Magazine Subscription Cards Put to Good Use:
Instead of throwing out all those annoying subscription cards that fall out of every magazine, turn them into seed packets. Just fold them over and seal the edges with glue or tape. Make sure to note what is in each packet- unless you like surprises.
Weed Control in Vegetable Gardens: A great way to avoid weeds around vegetable crops such as tomatoes or squash is to plant low growing, quick harvest crops such as lettuce or radish around the base of the larger veggies. This will fill up the empty spaces until the late harvest plants have filled out more, providing less places for weeds to grow. It will also keep the soil around the plant shaded and moist which means less watering.
Natural Herbicides: If you have small areas or cracks and crevices that you need to weed try these natural herbicides. They won't damage the environment and are nontoxic to mammals and beneficial insects. Vinegar and salt is great for places where you won't be growing anything in the near future. Spray directly on plants. To remove young plants, pour boiling water directly on them. This is the simplest, yet safest herbicide there is. Just be careful to avoid plants that you don't want to damage.
Super-size Your Basil & other herbs .
Tired of waiting until midsummer to harvest basil & herbs fresh from your garden? While waiting for your seedlings to develop into plants, buy a basil or herb plant which you purchased at grocery section at your local store.
Just dived the plant into small bundels, place in to pot or straight into the garden & water well.
Herbs also grow & look great in a hanging basket
Growing Tomatoes in Containers: There are two types of tomatoes, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate ripen their fruit all at one time. Indeterminate have fruit production throughout the season. Determinant plants are better for container growing because they will stay compact (also the Husky variety, a dwarf indeterminant, is also great for containers). Indeterminant plants get huge and will need support.
Fast Rooting: When rooting cuttings in water, you can actually speed up the process by placing a piece of willow branch in the water along with the cutting. Willow contains natural auxins, a hormone that stimulates root growth and development. These chemicals are synthetically produced and used in powdered and gel rooting hormones.
Shredded Paper Mulch:
After using your paper shredder, store the paper until you have enough to use as a base layer of mulch with compost or manure spread over it to winterize your plants. Remember not to use glossy paper ads.
Super Sized Containers: Large pots can take a lot of soil to fill and they weigh a ton once they are full. It is unnecessary to completely fill a container with soil if you are planting shallow-rooted plants. Place some styrofoam chunks, styrofoam peanuts, old plastic pots or soda cans in the bottom of the container as filler. It will make the container lighter for easy moving, and save money too.
Save Money: Purchase perennials in mid /end summer.
Many garden centers will have sales at this time of year and by next summer they will be larger and in full bloom. Look at the reduced section even if the plant looks a bit on it's last legs ,floppy or dull these plants will go in the reduced sale section ,but with a bit of TLC they will look great next year .
Quick Space Fillers: Often when you start a new perennial garden it will take some time for the plants to grow and your garden may look a little bare. Plant fast growing annuals in the empty spaces until the perennials grow large enough to take over.
Save Your Flower Seeds: You can save money by harvesting seeds from your flowering plants for next year. Snip off seed heads when they are ripe and shake them into a brown paper bag. Make your own seed packets using paper envelopes. You can write the name of the corresponding plant onto the envelope or decorate them to give away to friends. Seeds should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place.
The Mint Pot: Don't let mint and other invasive herbs take over your garden.
Curb their wild tendencies by planting mint in a pot, then planting the pot into the soil.
Get Your Indoor Plants Out of the House:
Houseplants love a warm summer rain much more than cold tap water.