1. Snail Bait
If going on a snail safari doesn’t appeal to you, get yourself a bottle of beer and a cup. Bury the cup in the ground near were the snails hang out and fill it with beer.
They are attracted by the beer and fall in when they come over to drink it. They will drown in beer.
2. Manual Pest Deterrents
If you can keep the pests off your plants, the battle is won. For larger pests like deer, a fence should do the trick. For climbing pests like rodents, cloches or cages can protect valuable plants.
A lot of gardeners swear by roasting eggshells, crushing them and scattering the pieces around plants to ward off snails and slugs. I always had a problem with my dog eating the shells and never felt it was that effective. Gravel, on the other hand, proved a very effective barrier.
3. Use Trap Crops for Pests
A trap crop can be a very valuable way of protecting more valuable plants against pests such as aphids. Plant a row of your trap crop to lure pests away and then destroy the plants, and pests at the end of the season.
Fennel is said to be attractive to snails and slugs. Nasturtiums are popular with aphids. For more tips, Google “trap crops”.
4. Letting the Garden Go to Seed
If you like your garden to have a wilder, more natural look to it, leave your annuals to go to seed – that way, the following year they will come up wherever the wind has spread them. Do retain some seed for yourself though.
5. Collect Your Own Seed
Watch your flowers carefully once they start to fade and watch as the seed pod grows. Wait for the seed pods to ripen and collect some of the seeds for use the next year.
I do this every year with the poppy seeds and am never disappointed – although poppy seeds are so fine I just collect the pods themselves.
I store my seeds in paper envelopes on which I write the variety and the date harvested – I haven’t had to buy poppy seeds in more than twenty years.
Some people say that you should store the seeds in the refrigerator. I don’t – I store them in an old cake tin and they are fine. Just use them within a couple of years.
READ OUR FIRST 20 TIPS ABOUT FLOWER GARDENING.
6. Getting Water Levels Right
It is tricky knowing when you should and shouldn’t water your garden, especially when we are told that we should be conserving water as much as possible.
I normally water my garden well once a week, if it hasn’t rained – twice a week if it is very hot.
Take a look at your plants – if they are starting to droop, they need more water.
7. Don’t Overwater
On the other side of the coin, it is better that the plants get too little water than too much. If the leaves are showing signs of yellowing or if the plants are not lush and thriving, despite getting a lot of water, you might be overdoing it. Check how wet the soil is to see.
8. Does Your Soil Drain Properly?
It is important to ensure that your soil drains at the right speed so that the plants have enough opportunity to soak up the water that they need without becoming waterlogged.
An easy way to check this is to dig a couple of holes, about two feet deep each. Fill each with water and take note of the time and water level. Every hour thereafter, repeat this process, until the water is completely drained.
The optimal rate of drainage is 2.5 inches per hour.
9. Dealing with Soil That Drains Too Fast
If your soil drains faster than 2.5 inches per hour, there is a good chance that it is too sandy. If this is the case, digging out the soil to a depth of about two feet and incorporating more organic compost can help to rectify the situation.
10. Dealing with Soil That Drains Too Slowly
Soil that drains too fast is dealt with in a similar fashion except that this time you will also incorporate some fine river sand into the organic compost as well, to promote better drainage.
Laying down a layer of gravel at the bottom of the hole dug will further facilitate drainage.
Temperatures soar here and that can play havoc with the moisture levels in the soil. Mulching is essential for preserving moisture in the soil and helping to keep the soil cooler.
If you can get it, Eucalyptus mulch is great – it smells good; helps repel insects and is very effective.
Wood chips can look quite attractive but are best avoided if you have a problem with ants.
12. Collect Your Own Water
Collecting your own water is a great way to keeping your garden green and lush and reducing your water bill. You can either buy a tank to attach to your drainpipe or make your own. You can even have a system installed that recycles the waste water from the house, but this can be pricey to set up.
13. Get Clever with Your Pot Plant Positioning
I have a number of different pot plants on my patio and they generally love it there. It can get very hot in summer though, so I got creative. I put my salad box on the outside wire table and tucked the mint pot under the table.
When I watered the salad box, the water filtered through to the mint below and the mint was happier in the partial shade of the box.
This is a good way to protect more delicate plants and save water as well.
14. Water at Ground Level
The roots of the plants are where the water is needed most. If you really want to conserve water, install a drip irrigation system – the plants are watered at ground level and don’t get their leaves drenched every time they are watered…
They get the water where they need it and the risk of fungal disease is decreased.
15. Never Water at Noon
You should never water your plants at the hottest time of the day. Not only will you waste more water through evaporation, but you increase the likelihood of your plants roots’ getting burned – they gravitate towards the surface when plants are watered.
16. Early to Water Is Best
To really help your plants out, water them early in the morning. That way they have the additional strength to deal with the heat of the day. Think about it, heat saps your energy – if you have to go around parched in the heat, you don’t do as well. The same goes for plants.
17. Watering and Cool Evenings
If the weather is cooler, you could get away with watering in the early evening. Just be careful that the temperature is not too low – the water cools the plants down and if the temperature is too low it can stunt growth.
18. Make Your Own Compost
I have always made my own compost – although I must admit to being quite impatient about it. I started with a compost heap but felt that it became a bit of an eyesore.
My grandmother always used a compost pit and now so do I – it works great and doesn’t stand out in the garden. Just dig a pit about two-foot-deep and lay the compost as you would in the heap.
The benefit is that you don’t turn this at all. The downside is that the dogs are likely to go digging in it – I never add meat or dairy but my two schnauzers love papaya, avocadoes – heck, they eat just about anything because they are always “starving”.
A compost bin is also an alternative.
19. Make Your Own Worm Tea
Having your own worm farm can be a good option if the idea appeals to you – personally, I’d rather have the earthworms roaming free where I only come across one at a time, not a whole bunch of them.
To be honest, I am just being silly – once you start feeding the worms, they get covered up with veggie scraps anyway.
Still, I have my own supplier – my sister-in-law has a worm farm and that’s good enough for me.
Never use the “tea” undiluted – I usually put about two or three capfuls in a bucket of water.
20. Compost from Different Sources
If you do need to buy your compost, try to find an organic supplier and see if you can find out what goes into it. Some composts, for example, are made up of the remnants of mushroom farming. The more different, natural ingredients that go into the compost, the better it will be for your garden.
21. Quick Compost
If you dig your plant matter into the ground, it will decompose more quickly, and you will normally be able to plant in the area in two to four weeks. This is a rule I use when using green manure.
22. Decomposition Can Burn Plants
On the whole though, I prefer to let the organic stuff decompose fully before exposing my plants to it. As an example, green grass cuttings, if dug into the soil, can burn the roots of plants around it.
Compost is best when it is rich and looks more like earth than plant matter.
23. Watch Out for Pathogens
If you practice hot composting, most pathogens will be killed off in the center of the compost. To be on the safe side though, you should never use fecal matter from meat-eating animals in your compost.
You should also not use meat or dairy products as these attract rodents.
24. Pruning Your Plants
To keep your garden looking great, you will need to prune your woody plants and shrubs about once a year. Normally you will do this after the growing season is over and when the plant is dormant. Basically, what you do is to remove old growth, or vegetation that is damaged or disease to make room for new growth. This process invigorates the plant.
25. Deadheading Your Flowers
Taking off the dead flowers encourages new growth and can extend the length of time that your flowers flower. All you need to do is to snip off the dead blossoms. Do be gentle with the plant when doing this.
26. Dividing Plants
Plants have a number of different ways in which they propagate themselves. Some plants, like daylilies clump out. You should look at dividing the clumps once a year so that they have more space to grow and you have more plants. The best time to do this normally is in early spring when the plants are semi-dormant.
27. You Can Have a Great Garden on a Shoestring
My uncle, the horticulturist, always insists on planting annuals in groups of at least three but he says they are best in groups of seven or eleven. When you see them planted out, it makes sense because you can either create a swathe of color or several coordinating points of interest. It can work out expensive though, but you can save money by choosing plants that clump out quickly and plants that self-seed – self-seeding annuals really only need to be planted once and then you can let nature take its course.
28. Make Your Own Seed Packs
When you have amassed your own collection of seeds, you can mix and match them as you please to make seed packs. All you then have to do is scatter them in the garden and water them. These seed packs sell for quite a bit in the shops but are easy to make yourself.
29. Grow Your Own Seedlings
If you need masses of seedlings, growing your own could be the more economical way to go. All you need is good potting soil and something to plant the seeds in.
I have made my own seed “pots” out of newspaper – fine if you only need a few. I find that egg cartons are good to start seeds that grow quickly and that toilet tubes are good for seeds that take a little longer.
30. Give Your Seeds a Head Start
Soak your seeds in tepid water for at least half an hour before planting them. (More robust seeds can be soaked overnight.) This will kick start the germination process and also help you to determine which seeds are good and which aren’t. (Seeds that are not as fresh will float and should be discarded.)
31. Wrap It All Up with Love
The tip that I will leave you with is that you need to love your garden – gardening can be a lot of work and if you don’t love it, you won’t do as well. Learn to love the miracle of plants growing and the beauty of nature and you’ll thrive.