Horticultural Gardening Tips/Printable version

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Horticultural Gardening Tips

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Vegetables: (Add your tips NOW! by clicking 'Edit this page'. No registration/login required.)

Brussel sprouts[edit | edit source]

The soil must be substantial, or plants fall over during winter gales. Loose soil causes sprouts to open. The ground must be rock hard - plant in soil-based paths: drive a pole into the ground, remove the pole, and put the seedling in a hole. Whitefly is a pain but not destructive. Prevent using fleece. Fleece/netting increases the plant's sturdiness. Caterpillars are very destructive. Huge populations appear and destroy plants. Prevent using net curtains to prevent cabbage white butterflies from laying their eggs on the underside of leaves. Slugs destructive when plants are young. Rotting ("damping off") of seedlings frequent during cold wet springs due to fungus. Ensure seedlings have plenty of sunlight, are not too hot and crowded, and have lots of ventilation (put outside if not too cold). Sow seeds in a 1cm thick layer of vermiculite on shop-bought compost helps prevent rotting. Sunlight kills the fungus.

Parsnip[edit | edit source]

Always use fresh seed. Old seed will not germinate. Germination is erratic and slow - easily takes 3 to 5 weeks. Seeds very fussy - they hate the cold, heat and dry soils. Plant seed succesively 3 or 4 times in same place to have higher chance of germination - surplus/weak seedlings can be thinned later. Grow in rows and mark out with sticks laid horizontally on ground. Slugs very destructive - spread sand on surface. Stones, manure and nitrogen cause forking. Harvesting is difficult - parnsips grow large roots and trying to dig 'em up in cold wet winter weather in muddy saturated soil isn't pleasant - suction makes job even more difficult - grow in raised beds, loose and/or sandy soil. When harvesting, dig trench next to roots - and gently lever parsnips into trench. Flavour better after harsh frosts. During 2nd year avoid skin contact with foliage (which grows rapidly to 6ft) - or risk blisters.

Potatoes[edit | edit source]

Plant deeply to ensure tubers grow and enlarge deep underground. Earth up to keep tubers in dark - to prevent greening. Keep leaves dry. Keep soil moist to ensure larger crops. Blight control: as for tomatoes but also: cut potato stems down to soil if blight is widespread and weather conditions are expected to continue wet, humid and warm (>22degC). Blight supposed to be less of a problem to tubers when planted deeply. Do not dig up tubers during warm, humid conditions (blight spores jump onto tubers ebing dug up). Seeking out 'blight resistant' varieties when buying tubers definitely helps. Consider picking off blight infected leaves (do not add to compost heap). Storage: Store potatoes in fridge if shed/garage is too warm. Store underground in a 'clamp' (straw sided box buried under pile of soil). Inspect stored tubers regularly and remove/destroy/eat tubers beginning to go bad. Prevent stored tubers touching and passing on rot to each other.

Tomatoes[edit | edit source]

Plant deeply (25-30cm) to : 1. Increase drought resistance, 2. Force more lateral roots, 3. Increase flavour, 4. Increase sturdiness Plant outside to:1. Increase drought resistance (outside soil dries out slower than in pots), 2. Increase flavour (more 'stuff' in natural outside soil), 3. Reduce infestations of greenhouse bugs (red spider mite, greenfly, whitefly) Earth up around stems whilst growing to encourage extra feeding roots. Pinch out shoots which form between leaves and main stem. Regularly tie to bamboo cane - and before plant gets blown over. Blight prevention: 1. Spray with dithane or milk regularly and especially during humid warm weather. Blight spreads fastest during thundery, humid, weather >22degC. 2. Keep individual tomato plants as far apart as possible (eg grow at opposite ends of fields). 3. Keep well away from potatoes, 4. Rotate crops - change position each year, 5. Skim off top 2 inches of soil after severe blight season (blight spores get washed onto soil) 6. Pick off blight infected leaves (don't add to compost heap). Companion plants: basil supposed to be good. Anti-companion plants: potatoes, other tomato plants, peppers, tobacco.

Oca[edit | edit source]

Can take 1-2 months to emerge from ground. Initially grows slowly but then accelerates. Slugs destructive. Tubers only swell after daylength has shortened considerably - need to prolong plant growth during Autumn. Prolonged growth gives bigger tubers. Earthing up increases yield. Frosts destroy foliage.

Fruit bushes

Fruit bushes

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Blackcurrant[edit | edit source]

Plant deeply to encourage plant to put out new shoots from the base. Chop very old stems (>4 years) during late summer. Chop up pruned bits into 15 cm lengths and plant as cuttings - burying at least 5cm in moist soil outdoors. Cuttings are fully hardy, will drop leaves in autumn and will re-sprout in spring. WIll fruit during following year. Move bushes only in winter. If moving in summer, move during cold, rainy, cloudy weather. Stand bush in water (add liquid fertiliser) whilst moving. Lightly prune large roots to encourage root branching/new smaller roots. Pull out all traces of weeds and their roots - especially bindweed roots (white spaghetti/noodle resembling roots). Fill new hole with water, plant, drench soil with water and water well for following month. Mulch soil around moved plant and prevent weeds. Consider shaing plant from direct sunlight for a month.

Gojiberry[edit | edit source]

Grows fast. 10cm stalk reaches 40 to 50cm 3 months later. Cuttings root very easily. Drought tolerant. Slugs very troublesome but plant responds very quickly. Cuttings root very easily - multiply.

Gooseberry[edit | edit source]

Grow as cordon to make picking fruit easier. Over-ripe fruit on bush become sweet enough to eat raw without sugar. Red varieties seem sweeter. Cuttings: root very easily if planted in August in moist garden soil, fully hardy, sprouting in spring. Will fruit by 2nd year. Protect from birds using net laid over bottles inverted into bamboos stuck in the ground. When planting in fruit cages ensure netting doesn't blow and get snagged on the plant's spines - use non-blowing wire netting - not string/nylon netting.

Juneberry[edit | edit source]

Prune to keep bushy. Grows fast. Rabbits and slugs very destruictive to foliage. Foliage regrows throughout summer. Protect birds from fruit. Cuttings root well.

Raspberry[edit | edit source]

Avoid waterlogged ground or, when growing in pots avoid overwatering - they quickly die when standing in soggy soil. Ensure plating area is totally bindweed free - bindweed loves growing throiugh their roots. Weed killers damage raspberry foliage very easily. Spray foliage with seaweed solution, dissolved phostrogen and magnesium if leaves go yellow. Autumn fruitng raspeberries: better than summer types. Chop autumn fruiting varieties to ground in January. Summer fruiting: canes give fruit in second year (during July) then die. Chop down canes when fruiting has finished. Foliage yellows and looks manky in 2nd year. Summer fruiting raspberries need staking. Autumn ones don't. Birds: Big problem for summer fruiting types but not for Autumn types. Cover with net or grow in fruit cage.

Fruit trees

Fruit trees:

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Apple[edit | edit source]

Easy pruning tip: cut half of current years growth during December. Pruning markedly increases fruit on old fruitless apple trees. Beware of branches breaking due to too much fruit - take off fruit or stake before breakages. Thin fruit on heavily laden trees - to discourage bi-annual fruiting (when trees only give fruit once every 2 or 3 years). Aphids (black fly) damage: leaves curl up, shrivel and die. Spray with Pravado during spring. Water well during summer drought.Apple is a colour of red.And its pulp colour is white.An apple is a sweet fruit.Its benefits are important for our body.

Cherry[edit | edit source]

Water copiously when forming fruit to prevent tree deliberately shedding unripened fruit. Uneven watering (too dry then too wet) cracks/splits fruit. Fertilise well in spring otherwise tree often struggles to put on new leaves. Replenish lime (more lime required than for apples and pears) using calcified seaweed. Thoroughly spray foliage regularly every month with seaweed extract & dissolved phostrogen. When young, ensure soil never dries out. Water thoroughly with seaweed solution when planting, regularly during first 3 years and cover soil with plastic mulch. Be careful of soil cracking up during dry weather - plant becomes locked into its own block of dry soil. Very difficult to re-wet soil (water goes down crack). Rabbits very destructive - total defoliation of branches within reach. Protect using chicken wire rolled into cylinder and anchored with bamboo cane. Protect fruit from birds. Aphids (black fly) damage: leaves curl up, shrivel and die. Spraying with Pravado seems to work without damaging tree. Ants damage fruit by eating. Protect tree by applying sticky bands 3ft above ground or by pasting non-sticking grease to trunk. Never prune in winter - to avoid silver leaf fungus disease and bacterial canker. Prune roots by inserting spade as deep as possible, in circle 1m away from tree - to prompt new roots to grow and branch out. Water copiously during months after root pruning. Consider adding mycorrhizal fungi to roots during planting. Tie down branches ("festooning") so they're as horizontal as possible - to generate more fruit buds.

Juneberry (Amelanchier canadensis)[edit | edit source]

Very hardy. Protect from slugs and rabbits. Both totally defoliate branches within reach. Grows vigorously. Foliage eaten by rabbits/slugs regrows quickly and mmediately once protected - use chicken wire round plant, fastened with bamboo in ground.Its an amazing fruit.

Kaki/Persimmon/Sharon fruit[edit | edit source]

Hardy but requires warm summers to fruit. Very slow to resprout during spring after winter dormancy - protection from frost may help. Fruits require bletting (leaving on tree until very very ripe) otherwise they are very astringent. There are two types of persimmons: astringent and non-astringent.

Pear[edit | edit source]

Similar tips to those of apples. Requires warmer climate than apples. More difficult to fruit than apples. New plants seem to take 2-3 years to start fruiting compared to apple trees. Protect blossom from frost (use fleece). Pear blossom is earlier than on apples. Frosted blossom will not give fruit. Help blossom pollination using fine paintbrush. Fragrant, bright nearby flowers might (which flower whilst pear tree blossoms) might help bring in more natural pollinators. Try hyancinth. Thoroughly spray foliage regularly every month with seaweed extract & dissolved phostrogen. Seaweed extract works as stimulant, the Phostrogen as foliar food. Prevent all weeds, especially grass. Aphids: black aphids strongly retard leaf growth during spring. Destroy using Provado.


Flowering plants (Add your tips NOW! by clicking 'Edit this page'. No registration/login required.)

Echiums[edit | edit source]

Transplanting: Difficult. Only possible when young. Try to transplant with accompanying soil as a block/cube around roots. Plant will sag and look dead after 2 hours, but will often recover. Water transplanted seedling regularly. Shade from all sun for at least 3 weeks. Once plant appears to be growing and standing upright, take away shading. Don't spray growing tips - rots very easily. Feeding has very little effect. Protect from all frost using fleece but ensure cover is off when temperature rises - otherwise growing tip rots. Caterpillars (green variety) very destructive. A single caterpillar can destroy a plant in a day.

Rugosa roses[edit | edit source]

Never never spray with any chemicals even if covered in bugs. Let plant fight the bugs itself. Even organic sprays cause leaves to go brown and shrivel. Do not foliar feed either. Damaged plants do slowly recover. Don't prune unless at least 7 years old. Don't chop off finished flowers (chopping off rugosa flowers does not apparently encourage more flowering). Add Mycorrhizal fungi when planting.


Various non plant related tips (Add your tips NOW! by clicking 'Edit this page'. No registration/login required.)

Irrigation/watering[edit | edit source]

Soak ground thoroughly but not frequently - you want to plants to search deep down for roots. Mulch like hell after heavy rain/watering. Some plants benefit from being planted deeply (tomatoes, potatoes). Earth up tomatoes/potatoes as they grow to prompt more root mass. Add water retaining crystals to soil. Mix ground soil with shop bought compost. Line terracotta pots/wooden barrels with old plastic/compost bags. When drilling holes in pots, don't drill at bottom of pots- but slightly up the sides. Bury newspaper underground to help retain moisture. Add Mycoorhizal fungi when planting trees/roses/grapes/woody perennial plants to increase plant surface in contact with soil moisture and nutrients. Redirect roof drain pipes into water butts/bins. Re-use water from the house - from baths/showers, rinsing/washing machine rinse cycles. Never use dishwasher water - it contains too many salts. Washing machine water generally ok, especially the final 2 rinses -phosphates in washing powders may even give plants a boost - but may cause overfeeding. Experiment. Consider drought resistant plants if soil is too stoney/dries out too quick: carrots, tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, lavender, cape gooseberries...

Getting rid of weeds

Grass: skim with spade horizontal. Nettles: dig out yellow roots. Bindweed: spray or paint leaves with glyphosate.

Mulching[edit | edit source]

Reasons for mulching: Prevents weeds, keeps soil moist, prevents drying out, prevents ground cracking. Mulch especially when weed plants seed (after flowering/late summer).

Materials to use: leaves, compost, manure (cow better than horse - 6 stomachs to destroy grass seeds), newspaper, black plastic weed mulch (versions with holes are best), old compost bags (v effective but unsightly), rocks, cut grass, paving slabs, carpet (eventually rots and weeds seed into it), cardboard (anchor down), kitchen worktops, weeds (not bindweed/nettles or any with seed heads). Pile weeds and cut grass (grass cut with shears is better than with lawnmower), around base of trees - but leave inch gap of air around trunk in case weeds/grass cuttings generate heat during decomposition. Use dug/pulled up weeds to mulch other weeds. Add gravel/pebbles/bits of card to soil surface of plants in pots - prevents weeds and evaporation. Plant crops with large leaves - rhubarb, courgettes, pumpkins, cabbage etc or vigorous plants e.g., potatoes/nasturtiums/raspberries/trees. Mulch with impermeable plastic during winter to prevent nutrients leaching away and to retain surface tilth. Don't mulch if tilth is bad - frost will help shatter clods.

Fertilisers, nutrition[edit | edit source]

Stuff nettles/comfrey in bucket/bin and add water. Leave for 3 weeks, dilute and use. Bouquet-garni of manure - stick perforated bag of manure into bucket of water. Potage - Submerge weeds in large bucket/bin - and leave for 3 weeks. Stick weeds into water butt and use concentrated runoff through tap (make filter from chicken wire to avoid blockages) 3 months later. Pee on a bail of straw and add to water filled bucket - and use 3 months later. Ensure seeds within straw won't germinate. Cover bare soil to prevent winter rain leaching out nutrients. When planting in pots mix slow release granules into soil when preparing compost.

Plant protection from weather[edit | edit source]

Frost protection: use fleece (very effective when doubled over), newspapers, cardboard boxes, cloches, portable coldframes. Consider keeping some plants in pots - which can be hauled into a shed/greenhouse/indoors. On low growing plants, cloches, old glass sheets, corrugated plastic sheets are good for keeping winter rains off things like garlic (which rots easily). Make a tall thin greenhouse by sticking 3 or 4 bamboos vertically into the ground, tying them at the top to make a cylinder or pyramid. Wrap clingfilm or clear polythene around the bamboos and secure. Gives plants extra boost and protects them from rain, cold northerly winds. Help tender plants get through winter by keeping soil drier. Ridge soil up to avoid water logging. Build raised beds using old pallets/bricks/soil also to reduce waterlogging. In summer dig 50cm wide 40cm deep trenches to create micro-climates for small sub-tropical plants (peppers, tomatoes, aubergines etc). Mound soil from within trench on north side of trench to block cold northerly winds. Also makes plant watering easier. Add insulation to greenhouses using fleece, bubble wrap, newspapers. Keep greenhouse interior dry in winter to keep temperatures up. Keep interior moist in summer to reduce temperature and increase humidity (good for plants). Stake trees/tomatoes/beans when planting, before gales rather than after.

Sowing seed[edit | edit source]

Distinguishing your seedlings from weeds: Sow in rows. Mark out rows with sticks/bamboos. Grow a few seeds in a pot indoors - and compare outdoor seedlings/weeds with your pot specimens. Damping off: a fungal disease when seedlings grow to 3 cm, then suddenly fall over and die. Prevention: lots of ventilation, light and space between seedlings. Don't overwater. Direct sunlight kills the fungus - but beware of seedlings getting cooked. Sow seeds in vermiculite. Apply fungicide to soil before sowing seed. Use fresh, sterilised compost. Water seeds with tap water only - never rain water. Seedlings not germinating: may be due to seeds/soil drying out - shade sown seeds with newspaper, cardboard, walls. Put seed tray in supermarket carrier bags. Spray with fine water spray daily (but reduce spraying when seed germinates to avoid damping off). Plant seeds in several different trays and pots and put in different locations/conditions - experiment! and note which place/cover is most successful. Add your results here!

Bug control

Bugs, slugs, pests and diseases - prevention/treatment tips

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Aphids[edit | edit source]

Spray with Pravado/organic bug spray. Coat with bubbles from washing up liquid. Put greenhouse plants outside during summer. Prevention: Good hygiene in greenhouses, get rid of weeds in greenhouse under which aphids survive during winter. Clear outside debris (wood, rubbish, old leaves etc) in which aphids overwinter/lay eggs. Smoke out aphids using barbeque smoke - put barbeque in greenhouse and burn green grass. Grow nasturtiums to attract blackfly away from other plants. Dispose of infested leaves.

Slugs[edit | edit source]

Use slug pellets, sand, soot, ashes, crushed egg shells, coffee powder, beer in pots, copper strips/coins, gravel, bark chips, vigilance (search during wet evenings), predators (see link). Avoid putting slug pellets in piles - the metaldehyde actually deters them.

Caterpillars[edit | edit source]

Prevention similar to aphids. Derris spray more effective than bug spray. Vigilance: actively hunt for caterpillars and their eggs near/on eaten leaves - particularly on underside of leaves. Pick off caterpillars and dispose. Prevent butterflies laying eggs, using old net curtains, fleece, glass.

Rats[edit | edit source]

Poision/traps etc. Keep fertilisers/seed poackets/grass seed boxes well sealed. Keep plots clean - avoid hiding places. Block holes in sheds with expanding foam. Don't leave scaps of food from barbeques. Keep compost bins well closed. Don't put meat into compost bins.

Rabbits[edit | edit source]

Lots of chicken wire. Make cyclinders to put around plants, fasten and anchor using bamboo canes. Bury 5cm to prevent animals digging underneath. Corrugated iron sheets. Put fleece on top of carrots/parsnips etc and anchor down firmly. Grow things rabbits don't seem to eat:- potatoes, cape gooseberrys.... Grow things off the ground: trees, window boxes, hanging baskets, in pots, on shed roofs. Cover plants with chicken wire, cold frames, cloches etc. Encourage foxes (and other rabbit predators) to come and leave their scent. Electrify your fence... using a desired battery size attach wires to both the negative and positive terminals of the battery and attaching both wires to your fence.

Birds[edit | edit source]

Make fruit cage using bamboo canes, empty bottles (put upside down on top of canes to stop net sinking) and large pond netting/net curtains. Lots of scary/noisy things: - windmills, mirrors, foil pie dishes on bits of string, bells, tin cans, coke cans, pairs of saucepans/frying pans, old cds/dvds/unwound video/casette tape, bottles set in ground, fake eagles, scarecrows, cats, dogs, cotton strung out between bamboo canes, Christmas baubles, tinsel, supermarket carrier bags tied but allowed to blow around, old radio left on.

Vandals/thieves/trespassers[edit | edit source]

Chalk 'beware of wasps' on shed doors. Attach fake warning signs, eg saying 'dangerous chemical/electrical/nuclear materials' (search for examples using google, print and laminate). Engrave 'stolen from [add your postal code/name/address]...' to tools. Note features of your tools (brand/shape/markings etc) in case you need to identify them if they are stolen and subseuqnelty recovered. Hide tools under plants. Camouflage tools/wheelbarrows etc by painting them the same colour as plants/soil/ etc Plant robust thorny plants - goosebeeries, blackberries, raspberries, roses, berberis etc Leave lots of nettles/brambles/barbed wire around borders/entrances. Deter trespassers and vagrant sleepers by spreading smelly manures - cow/horse/dog/cat etc. Soak nettles in water and spread the foul smelling residue. Avoid providing seating, fixed or mobile - hide seats behind plants when not in use. Opportunist vandals/thieves may be less tempted to aim for a target at the end of long, winding, complicated, overgrown, muddy, flooded paths. Consider locks (locks sometimes re-enforce the notion of 'private - keep out') but bear in mind more damage may be caused by someone forcing entry.