The best gardening wisdom should be passed on, from one gardener to another. So here are my top gardening tips from years of experience.
These tips will help you boost your plants and borders and repel pests, as well as saving you time and money in the garden. And all you need are everyday household items that you probably already have lying around.
I’ve listed the tips underneath the everyday items. Behold my ultimate list of cheap and easy gardening tips!
Feed roses with the added potassium and save money on rose fertiliser. Chop up banana skins and place on the soil around roses, fleshy side down. The skins will rot down and add plenty of nutrients for the plant roots.
Old iron nails
You need old, rusty nails for this rather than shiny new galavanised ones. The rust helps release iron, which is vital for ericaceous or acid-loving plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. Leave the nails in full a watering can for a few days then water your plants.
An alternative to rusty nails if you can’t find any. Add a brillo pad to the watering can for a few days until it turns nice and rusty. Then water ericaceous plants.
Keep plants watered while you’re away! Towels are very absorbent, so lay them down and soak with water. Place plant pots on top and the roots will draw the moisture up from the towel. You can do this with houseplants in the bath or patio pots in a big tray.
It’s not just humans that love beer – slugs are big fans too. Create beer traps to get rid of slugs without using pellets. Sink a cupful of beer into the soil so the rim sits at ground level. The slugs will be drawn to the beer, fall in and drown. Remember to remove the slugs in the morning and top-up the traps.
Muscle relaxant spray
Keep cats out of the garden with smelly muscle relaxant. Dry out cold used teabags and spray them with the relaxant. The tea leaves absorb the strong smell which cats hate.
Place the teabags in borders where cats come into the garden. The smell should last a couple of weeks.
Stop the water in your cut flower vases from going green by adding a tot of vodka. It inhibits the bacteria growth that turns water green and rots your flower stems.
Keep eggshells rather than throwing them away. Crush into small pieces and drop into a bucket of water. They will add plenty of calcium and minerals and you can use this rich water to feed your plants.
You can also crush up eggshells and sprinkle them in a ring on the soil around plants to deter slugs and snails. They won’t crawl over such a rough barrier.
Cold tea leaves are a good source of minerals for plants. You can add used teabags to a jug of water and leave for a week, then pour the liquid around ericaceous plants and add the teabags to the compost heap. Or rip open the bags and add the tea leaves directly to the soil as a mulch.
Boost your cut flowers with sugar dissolved into the water. It will keep them looking fresh and encourage more blooms to open. Add a teaspoon of sugar to a vase full of water and change the water every few days.
Plastic carrier bags
This is a great container garden watering tip. Punch holes in an old carrier bag and fill with ice cubes. Lay this on the soil surface around plants in dry weather. The ice cubes will melt and slowly water the plants.
Keep squirrels away from your bulbs by grating smelly soap into the planting hole and over the top. You should also plant bulbs nice and deep, twice as deep as the height of the bulb, to help disguise the scent of tasty bulbs even further.
Don’t throw used coffee grounds away! You can add them to the compost heap or mulch directly onto the soil around plants. They are full of nutrients.
Wooden coffee stirrers
There are stacks of these at coffee shops and they make great cheap plant labels. Write the name of the variety on the stick, coat with varnish and push into the soil.
Plastic shower cap
You can pick up shower caps free from hotels. Pop one over the top of a plant pot and you have an instant propagator. It’s great for sowing seeds indoors or taking cuttings. Remember to ventilate the pots often. You can also prop the shower cap up with wooden coffee stirrers to stop the plastic touching the leaves.
Ripen green tomatoes in the greenhouse by hanging bananas up among the plants. They release a ripening gas called ethylene, which will encourage the tomatoes to turn red. After a few days, your tomatoes and bananas should be ready to eat.
Tic Tac boxes
These plastic boxes are great seed storers. Prise off the lid and wash out, then dry thoroughly. They are airtight and watertight, meaning your seeds will stay safe. Tic Tac boxes are ideal for seeds where the packet is damaged, or seeds harvested from your own garden. Remember to label them!
Brighten up dull and dusty houseplants with a cheap leaf shine – mayonnaise! The eggs are great at cleaning and adding gloss. Simply wipe over the surface of the leaves with kitchen roll.
Keep the water in water butts fresh with a filter made of old tights or stockings. Cover the end of the drainpipe with the tights to catch leaves and debris. Remember to clean out the filter regularly.
You can also use tights as tree ties. They are a good material because they stretch in the wind. Tie in a figure of eight so the tree stem doesn’t rub on the wooden stake.
Catch slugs with the peel of citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits. Chop the fruit in half and scoop out the flesh to eat. Then place the peel domes cut side down onto the soil surface. Slugs will crawl underneath and in the morning you can check under the fruit and discard any nasty pets.
Keep cats off your plants with cocktail sticks. Push them into the soil around plants – especially young plants and seedlings. They will stick up out of the soil and stop cats from walking on the soil or digging in it.
A clever way to slugs and snails out of your pots and containers. Wrap a length of copper tape around the pot – it will give them a little electric shock if they try to crawl across it.
An old broom handle can be really useful in the garden. If you have heavy soil that sets hard in summer, push the end of the broom handle into the soil around the plant to crack the crust. Then water into the holes to make sure moisture reaches the plant roots, rather than running off the surface.
You can also create straight seed drills by laying a broom handle across the soil. Push it down as deep as you need the drill to be, then remove and sow your seeds.
Want to age new stone features to make them look weathered? Use live yoghurt, sometimes sold as ‘natural’. Smear it over the stone surface and wrap with cling film. Leave in the sun for a few days, then remove the cling film and gently wash off excess yoghurt. The stone should be dark and weathered.
Smother weeds with a layer of newspapers. Use several sheets directly over the soil surface to block out light. Hold the newspaper down with a mulch of compost or leaf mould. The paper will naturally rot down.
Washing up liquid
Deal with aphids without pesticides – simply add a little washing up liquid to a water spray bottle. Douse plants regularly, concentrating on the leaves.
Hang up old shiny CDs in the garden to scare birds away from your crops. Tie loosely to trees and hang from fences and bamboo canes. They will reflect the sunlight and startle the birds.
Don’t just get rid of old engine oil – you can use it to clean and protect tools. Fill a bucket with sharp sand and add the engine oil. Then plunge your spade several times into the bucket. The sand will knock off any soil and dirt and the oil will protect from rust. You can do this with forks, trowels, hoes – any metal tool.
Ever bought a bunch of tulips only to watch them all flop over a couple of hours later? This is because they have hollow stems. Sometimes a bubble of air gets into the stems and is pushed all the way to the flower neck, where it gets trapped. It blocks water from reaching the flower. Push a pin through the stem just under the flower head to release the air, and an hour later the tulip will stand up again!
Don’t throw away old carpet after renovations. Use it as pond liner between the bricks and the plastic liner. It helps smooth any rough brick edges to stop them piercing the plastic liner and causing a leak.
Most mail-order companies package their products in bubble wrap, and you should save it. Wrap pieces around plant pots in winter and tie with twine to protect the plant roots from frost. You can also stick bubble wrap to the windows of unheated greenhouses to keep them insulated in winter.
Make mini cloches for protecting young plants from slugs and cold weather. Simply cut the bottom off a clean plastic bottle and push the remainder into the soil around your plant. Keep the cap off for ventilation.
Kill weeds with table salt! You can sprinkle it directly onto troublesome patio weeds and let the rain take it down, or dissolve a few spoonfuls of salt into boiling water and pour this onto weeds.
Sometimes the writing on plant labels washes off in the rain or fades in the sun. Keep it there for longer by painting over the top with clear nail varnish. This works especially well on homemade plant labels made from coffee stirrers or old twigs.
When lemonade goes flat, add it to your cut flowers. You need full fat stuff rather than diet as it’s the sugar they need. Add a few splashes to the vase.
Sticking plasters are great at repairing plants. Tall bedding plants like geraniums can be damaged by wind and the stems sometimes snap. But the plant is not lost – attach the stem back together and hold in place with a plaster. They should fuse back together.
Video or tape casettes
Create bird-scaring streamers with the tape from videos and casettes. Strip it out and hang as streamers around fruit crops to stop birds stealing your bounty.
Plastic milk bottles
Does it take you forever to fill containers using a trowel? Usually all the compost falls off before it reaches the pot. Make a DIY compost scoop by cutting the bottom off an old milk bottle. Then cut back diagonally on the side with the handle to make a scoop opening. Remember to keep the lid on or the compost will fall out the back!
Boost your cut flowers with soluble aspirin. Dissolve a tablet into the water and place the stems back into the vase. It helps water keep moving up the stem.
Stop your pond freezing over and keep fish safe with a tennis ball. Float the ball onto the pond surface. When the water freezes over, remove the ball and you will have a hole for air to reach the fish, without risking harming them by trying to crack the ice. Make sure to replace the ball during the day in case of freezing temperatures the following night.