My top 7 gardening hacks
A ‘hack’ is a low-budget tip or trick. It may be cheat or a workaround. It’s often about money-saving – because you use something you already have, instead of going out to shop. Or it’s about making something cheap look classier than it is. Some people buy chain-store furniture and ‘hack’ it to make it look like a designer one-off. There are websites devoted to this. And there are ‘life hacks’ – involving unusual uses for tea bags, drink can tabs, and paper-clips.
We middle-sized gardeners do a lot of hacking. We never seem to have time to go to the garden centre, so our potting sheds are woefully equipped. We may flick through catalogues wistfully and plan to order labels, plant supports and salad seeds, but somehow we just don’t get round to it.
So we hack. And here are our best:
1) Paint roof tiles or pots for fade-free DIY plant labels
I first saw broken roof tiles used as labelling on another blog, but can’t remember which (so do let me know if it was you). And, visiting Hampton Court Palace this year, I loved seeing ‘cabbage’ and ‘kale’ painted on terracotta pots in the newly opened veg garden.
It’s not quite as easy as it looks – make sure you use a very slim paint-brush, preferably with a pointy tip. Now that we are no longer keeping our pieces of broken pottery to improve drainage (apparently it doesn’t work), you can practice your sign writing on pieces of broken pot.
2) Stockings or tights as ties
I love this one. I’ve used an old pair of tights, cut up, tied to a stake, to support a young silver birch. It has much more give than rubber ties, but seems just as effective. It’s a tip from professional gardener, Stephanie Wolfe, from Gardens to Love.
3) Twigs to deter pigeons and rabbits.
This one is from my friend, the actress Suzanne Church, who lives out on the Dickensian marshes of Oare. Her garden is plagued by rabbits, pigeons and other wild-life, but she says that if you can deter them from settling, they won’t munch. She places bare twigs at intervals – and it looks more attractive than netting, too. I’ve tried it out and no pigeon has nibbled my lettuces for two weeks.
4) Tins as planters
I often regret having to throw tins away as some designs are delightful. So this tip from Posy Gentles on using soft drinks cans as planters has been great fun. And lots of people have commented.
5) Wilko gardening fork
I haven’t done anything clever with this, but it’s so cheap that it counts as a ‘hack’. Wilko sent it to me to try out, but as it only costs £4, I don’t think this counts as heavy-duty bribery. My fairly heavy clay soil means I go through garden forks quickly, but this has survived 3 months of being used almost every day. And I think it looks a lot classier than the price suggests.
6) Branches as bean supports
I saw this in Little Bredy Garden in Dorset, and loved it so much that I scoured the edges of a friend’s field for fallen branches. Mine turned out to be a bit more solid, but I like both effects:
7) Seaweed as fertiliser
This one is for those of us who live near the sea, although James Wong has a recipe for making your own seaweed liquid fertiliser that would be worth trying even if you only visit the sea once or twice a summer.
James Wong’s recipe is to rinse seaweed off, put it into a bucket, weigh it down, and fill with water. After two weeks, you’ll have an extract that you can dilute with water. Feed it to your plants. However friends down here (where seaweed comes from) say that you can also just put seaweed into your beds, and fork it in. Land-lubbers can do the same thing with nettles.
What are your gardening hacks?
Let me know any good gardening hacks that you’ve found useful, and I’ll link to your blog or website. Leave a comment below or contact me through Twitter or Google+.
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