Growing our own food is hugely satisfying, especially if we can save a little time and effort along the way.
Well, my green-fingered-and-thumbed friends, you’re going to love what’s in store for you in this video because I’m delighted to share some, quite frankly, ingenious ideas sure to help you up your gardening game!
1. Prevent Potting Mix From Escaping
Containers enable us to expand growing areas to spaces such as patios and balconies. But have you noticed how potting mix can sometimes seep out of the drainage holes when you water? The simple fix is to pop a coffee filter paper into the bottom of your container before you fill it with potting mix. The beauty of this is that excess water can still drain through and out, but the potting mix can’t, keeping your patio or deck squeaky clean!
2. Turn Kitchen Waste into Fertiliser
Don’t throw out ingredients that are past their best – use them in the garden to boost growth! Use milk that’s on the turn as a natural fertilser. Just mix it in with the soil around plants. Milk also makes an excellent preventative spray against powdery mildew – simply dilute it one part to 10 parts water then apply over the surface of the leaves.
Flour contains nitrogen as well as micronutrients such as calcium, which makes it an ideal soil enrichment for leafy crops. Lightly dust stale flour over soil a few weeks before planting, or just add it in thin layers to your compost heap.
Of course, don’t forget that almost all uncooked, plant-based kitchen scraps can be composted. They contain lots of nutrients, so don’t let them go to waste – recycle them back onto your garden!
3. Water Transplants with Ease
One of the easiest ways to water recent transplants of thirsty plants like squash is to bury a pot next to the plant. Water into the pot and the water will be held in place long enough to drain through to the roots.
An even more effective alternative is to gouge holes into one side of a bottle then bury that so that the young plant sits on the same side as the holes. Water through the neck of the bottle. Now all the water will filter through exactly where it’s needed – towards the plant’s roots, helping it establish even quicker in dry weather.
4. Use Paths for Composting
If you don’t have much space for composting, a great option is to toss your weeds, trimmings and old crops onto the paths between your growing areas. In the same way that woodchip paths rot down over time, all that old plant material will decompose and, once it has, you can skim the resulting compost off and back into your beds to feed future crops. It’s the ultimate in convenient composting!
5. Water Faster
Watering by hosepipe can take longer than it has to when water pressure’s low – a common occurrence in summer, particularly during periods of peak water demand. So rather than standing around waiting for your hose to slowly rewet the soil, try this instead: fill up a barrel then use watering cans instead.
The flow rate from a watering can is almost always stronger than that from a hose, and if you water with two cans at a time, it’ll speed things up still further. Dipping the cans into the barrel takes seconds, and the barrel is easily refilled once empty using your hose while you get on with other gardening jobs. Do check it regularly as it fills to avoid it overflowing and wasting this precious resource!
6. Keep Seedlings Safe From Pests
Small seedlings are much more vulnerable to pests such as slugs, cutworms and birds than bigger, more established seedlings. If pests are giving you a hard time the solution’s simple: start your seedlings off away from the garden in plug trays or pots. Plants are easier to protect this way, and you’ll be helping them grow through the most perilous early stages of life. Once it’s time to plant you’ll have sturdier plants that are better placed to recover from an attack, or that are simply of less interest to pests.
7. Seed Storage Containers
Old Tic Tac cases make superb, robust and reusable seed stores. Just pop in your seeds, label the container – not forgetting to include the date the seeds were harvested - and store in a cool, dry place. The great thing about these is that they’re stackable, so are very easy to store, and transparent, so you can see what’s in them.
If possible, pop a little sachet of silica gel into each case to keep the seeds nice and dry.
8. Ditch the Dirt with a Veggie Wash Station
I’m always getting into trouble for bringing soil-caked vegetables into the kitchen and making a mess! So, I’ve decided to clean up my dirty ways with a portable vegetable wash station.
I made a frame by screwing planks of two by four together, then hammered a wire mesh screen to the top using U-shaped pins. You can screw this frame onto four corner legs, or just use it over a bucket or other container.
The wash station is light enough to pick up and move to where it’s needed. Harvest your veggies and lay them on the wire mesh. Blast them with a hose and the water and dirt will just fall away leaving sparkling, kitchen-clean veggies!
9. Safer Tool Storage
For the life of me I can’t find the protective sheath that sits over my hedge trimmer. But then I had an idea – I could make my own sheath out of foam pipe insulation!
Use a diameter of foam pipe to suit what you’re covering and cut it to length to match the blade. I cut two lengths to slip over each blade of the hedge trimmer. To keep everything in place you could use bungee cord (I ended up using my daughter’s hairbands!).
This method works well for any type of saw or open-bladed knives too, and is a good idea if you have little ones running about. Stay safe folks!
10. Make a Straw Bale Cold Frame
You can make a cold frame very cheaply by placing a salvaged windowpane on top of a frame made from straw bales. That thick wall of straw will create an incredibly cosy space inside – perfect for overwintering plants, or to bag yourself an extra-early start to the growing season.
Once the growing season finally gets underway you can remove the window and repurpose the bales as windbreaks, creating a warm, sheltered microclimate for warm-season transplants such as squash, or even to make instant raised beds.
We love sharing these kinds of gardening hacks and tips. If you have a clever tip you’d like to share, please do let us know in the comments below. We may even feature it in a future video!