Tuesday’s Top Five – Gardening tips and tricks

Since getting the gardening bug a couple of years ago I’ve moved from utter and complete novice to mildly-novice-like but with slightly more skill and knowledge.  I still make lots of rookie mistakes, often multiple times before I learn my lesson, I’m pretty hopeless on plant identification unless it’s a vegetable I’ve grown or a fuchsia (I can pick them from ten paces, ready with my scissors or just fingers to take a sneaky cutting) and I use google A LOT to figure out what creature or disease is plaguing parts of the patch.  But in all that I’ve picked up a couple of tips or tricks that I think are great, super easy and for me successful.  Here are my top five…

1) Strawberry punnet hothouse
This one was passed on by a fellow townhouse gardener, though I’m lucky to have quite a lot more room than she does.  Nevertheless we are both on the look out for cheap/free, eco-friendly and easy ways to get our seeds going.  The idea is to take one of those plastic punnets they sell strawberries in with the flip lid, punch several holes in the bottom (it conveniently has holes in the top already usually), fill it with seed raising mix and pop your seeds in.  Then all you need to do is give them a gentle water, close the lid and voila… a hothouse.  It works an absolute treat and with the holes in the top I just dribble a bit of extra water in when there’s no condensation on the plastic without having to open it up.  When the seedlings are big enough I just flip the lid open and let them continue to grow until big enough to plant out.

Chilli seedlings growing in a strawberry punnet.

2) Homemade weed killer.
I mentioned some time ago that I was struggling to deal with the weeds that come up in between the pavers in garden (front and back).  They almost impossible to pull out because I can’t get a good grip, I don’t like the idea of chemical weed killer for a number of reason (namely the children and the dog as well as they whole environmentally friendly thing) and they were getting out of control.  Someone (or several people) suggested boiling water.  I tried this (though for safety reasons not when the girls were buzzing around me) with limited success.  It took ages for the weeds to die off and I had to do it several times over a couple of weeks.  It was slow and not really doing it for me.  I mentioned all this to my mother in law and she emailed me a homemade weed killer recipe.  So easy and better yet, it worked within days.  So the recipe, one cup of white vinegar, quarter cup of salt and a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid.  Give it all a good stir, pour it into a spray bottle and off you go, spray those weeds TO DEATH!  Warning though, this amount doesn’t last that long, so if you’ve got lots of weeds you might need to increase the quantities.

3) Pantyhose
Ah there are endless possibilities for pantyhose or stockings in the garden.  Unfortunately I don’t wear them so I, embarrassingly, have to ask friends and family to pass on old pantyhose with runs or holes.  They are great to tie tomatoes or baby fruit trees to stakes because they are gentle on the stalks or small trunk.  But my favourite use I stole from Liz where you make a sort of 2D teepee with stakes, joining them at the top, wrap stockings around the stakes at various levels and then grow cucumbers in between the stockings.  Okay that probably makes no sense, but if you pop over to Liz’s she has great photos which should clear things up for you.  I can’t find my photos from last year.

4) Toilet rolls
I know lots of people make cute little paper pots to plant their seeds in, but for me that seems to require some kind of special skill and a fair bit of time when you’re planting lots, neither of which I have.  Instead I use toilet rolls.  Generally speaking I cut them in half, fill them with seed raising mix and then plant the seeds.  Once the seed has germinated and the seedling established (especially once the roots pop out the bottom) I plant the whole thing in the garden.  I did this last year with my tomatoes and I had a much better success rate at least partly due not disturbing the roots.  I’ve also started doing this with carrots and have had a much better success rate there too.  I’ve even taken cuttings and planted them in toilet rolls and then into bigger pots when they get going.  I like that they absorb some water when you give the seedlings a drink, but still hold their shape.  Plus I love the idea of completely reusing something that would be tossed otherwise and allowing it decompose in the ground.

5) Homemade plant food
Okay I’m cheating on this one, trying to include three ideas in one, but they are all used to feed plants.  The first one is worm wee.  It took me a while to really get my worm farm going and twice I fried the wrigglers in the insane summer heat we had a few years ago.  For ages I couldn’t get more than a drop of two of worm wee, but now I get a decent amount every time and can fill a two litre bottle every month or two.  I dilute this and water the nutrient hungry plants.  It’s not quite enough to cover their needs, but I alternate seaweed solution or fish emulsion making it significantly cheaper.  The second one is my compost in a pot, which involves adding kitchen scraps to a pot, covering it with old dirt to about two thirds of the pot, top it up with potting mix and then plant something in it.  By the time the plant has finished (make sure it’s an annual) the compost has decomposed enough to put on the garden beds.  This is great for those without space for a big compost bin.  But be warned, not all plants like being in rotting food scraps (don’t do tomatoes or eggplants, lettuce works well).  And the last one I found on pinterest recently.  Make a kitchen scraps soup by adding vegetable peelings etc to a bucket or container, add water, cover and leave for a day or two (NOTE if you forget about it and leave it for a week the smell will KNOCK YOU OUT! but the plants still love it).  Strain into a watering can and water your plants with the liquid.  The scraps can then be added to your compost or worm farm.

So, what’s the best trick or tip you have for the garden?

Liz has a hamburger-related list, could there be anything better.  Check it out.

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6 Responses to Tuesday’s Top Five – Gardening tips and tricks

  1. fergie51 says:

    Love the way these posts address the same trials and tribulations, successes and issues that we all face but don’t necessarily think to mention! Strawberry punnets, I can remember when they were made from either bamboo or pine or some similar woven wood and they were so romantic! They do work well as mini hothouses but I find the roots need a bit of blackout or algae sets in.
    Love the weedkiller recipe and will try that! Last couple of seasons I have used a ‘Red Devil’ that is basically a weed burner but uses one of those butane gas cans you use when camping. Great if you can ‘Zap’ the weeds as they first show their heads, especially oxalis and blackberries. I think I could write a book for uses other than wearing, on pantyhose. Unfortunately op shops down here don’t take them (Gippsland) for OHS reasons, but I spread the word and have them donated by kindly wearers! Great sharing of ideas.

  2. Liz says:

    I ran out of pantyhose this year and i’m attempting the teepee thingy with cut up t-shirts but their not really elastic enough and they are sagging terribly particularly when wet. i will have to go and harrass my friends. I do like your strawberry punnet greenhouses – very inventive!

  3. Liz says:

    Apologies for using the wrong their/there/they’re oh the embarrassment of pushing post just a moment too soon…..

  4. Jo says:

    Those are all awesome ideas!, thanks for sharing 🙂 Off to find some old pantyhose…..

  5. I love the punnets, and the toilet rolls – very clever, and a lot cheaper than the little jiffy pods I’ve been using to try and raise my seeds. The jiffies are good, but not cheap.

  6. Andrea says:

    Always love reading gardening tips, the strawberry punnet hothouse is a great idea especially if you have a wide window sill which I do ! might just try some lettuce seeds today…….

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