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Great garden tips

Over the months we've collected a wealth of hints and tips for the garden. Here's the story so far…

  • Comfrey added to your compost bin will aid decomposition. The leaves are rich in nitrogen, which assists in the breakdown of dry material.

  • Garden tipsLavender produces its most fragrant flowers in poor soil. In rich soil the fragrant essential oils are lacking.

  • Plant hyssop with cabbage to deter white cabbage butterflies.

  • Weak or broken stems of plants can be protected by placing a drinking straw (slit lengthways) over the break to support it.

  • A teaspoon of milk powder added to the soil when planting your tomato plants will ensure an even ripening of fruit. When the first truss of flowers open, add a heaped teaspoon of sulphate of potash to ensure good red colouring and fruit set.

  • Leftover water from boiled potatoes makes an excellent organic weedkiller for paths and patios.

  • To repel pests from your veggie patch, crush the leaves of lemon balm and sprinkle amongst your plants.

  • Annual herbs are best sown directly into the ground, as most do not like transplanting. Root disturbance can cause the plants to go to seed. This is especially true for coriander.

  • Banana skins at the foot of plants will lure aphids away and add a dose of potassium too.

  • Aphids can also be lured away from your crops by placing a yellow bowl half filled with water amongst your veggies. Aphids, being attracted to yellow, will land on the water and drown. Alternatively, cut some yellow card, smear with petroleum jelly, attach to a stick and plant amongst your veggies.

  • As new shoots grow on a climbing rose, tie down horizontally. Side shoots will form right along the cane, and each of these will produce flowers. If left upright, flowers will form only at the top.

  • Garden tipsClimbing roses do not need pruning for three years after planting.

  • Create a natural rose tonic by fermenting banana skins in a sealed jar of warm water for a couple of weeks.

  • The nutrients from eggshells are ideal for the garden. Place broken shells in a watering can, fill with water and leave overnight. Water the garden in the morning. Alternatively, use the water that you boil your eggs in as a tonic for your indoor plants.

  • To gloss the leaves of your houseplants, use a mixture of half water and half milk.

  • Oat bran scattered amongst plants is said to kill slugs and snails.

  • To avoid getting weedkiller on cherished plants, place some piping over the unwanted weed and spray inside the pipe.

  • Pine needles can be used as a mulch around acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons and camellias.

  • Studies show indoor plants are best watered when it's raining! Plants can supposedly sense approaching rain and will increase their water uptake.

  • Add food colouring to your weedkiller solution to easily identify which weeds you've sprayed.

  • Garden tipsTo prevent vigorous groundcovers (such as ajuga) from choking other plants' root systems, 'plant' pots amongst the groundcover and fill with desired plant.

  • Young runner beans respond well to a heavy straw mulch.

  • For some reason seedlings that spring up on their own are far healthier and rarely get attacked by snails.

  • Ants are said to never cross a chalk line. Try it, and see for yourself.

  • Humus and compost can retain up to 80-90% water. A clay soil, which is said to be the most water retentive, holds only 15-20%.

  • For plants in large containers that are impossible to repot, remove the top 5 to 7cm of soil and replace with fresh potting mix every two years.

  • Sterilise pots that have contained a diseased plant before reusing. Mix 1 part bleach with 9 parts water, scrub pot, rinse and leave for 2 days.

  • You can test the viability of old seeds by pouring them into a glass of water. Those that sink have a better chance of growing than those that float.

  • To discourage birds from eating your strawberries, scatter red marbles amongst them. Birds will get fed up with pecking glass and leave the fruit alone.

  • Slugs and snails love dead leaves and debris. Regularly clear away fallen leaves from your garden beds and paths.

  • Coffee grounds can be used as a fertiliser and are also a wonderful pest control when sprinkled at the base of plants.

  • Garden tipsSprigs of rosemary scattered around the garden are said to repel slugs.

  • Tomatoes will lose their flavour and texture if stored in the fridge. They should be kept at room temperature, just as bananas are stored.

  • To attract birds to your outdoor birdbath, drop in a few coloured marbles.

  • Vinegar poured onto the affected area will kill grass on walks and driveways.

  • Applying a teaspoonful of salt can individually kill a weed such as dandelion in your lawn.

  • Keep cats out of your garden bed by putting citrus rinds on the soil. Alternatively, try sprinkling with onion and garlic peelings. Mothballs are said to work on both cats and dogs.

  • Soak used tea bags in water, making a mild mixture to water your plants with once a month to maintain proper soil acidity.

  • Most plants with grey or white leaves are drought-tolerant.

  • Also drought-tolerant are many sweet-smelling plants. The volatile oil in aromatic leaves helps retain moisture by producing a protective haze around the plants.

  • Because they can make use of nitrogen from the atmosphere, bean plants will actually enrich the soil in your garden.

  • Plastic soft drink bottles with their bottoms cut off make great cloches for seedlings.

  • Birch trees next to compost bins are said to help in the breakdown of plant material. The roots excrete a substance that helps in the fermentation process of organic matter.

  • Buy lemon trees that are 1-2 years old not 3-4 years old. They are better at transplanting.

  • Old Venetian blinds make ideal plant markers in the garden when cut into small strips.

  • Spray pesticides on still days. If you can smell it, you're inhaling it.

  • Hibiscus should be planted in pots that are as wide as they are deep. As their feeder roots spread out almost horizontally, tall narrow pots are unsuitable.



  • The earthworm has no lungs; it breathes through its skin.

  • Slugs can stretch to 20 times their normal length, enabling them to squeeze through the tiniest of gaps.

  • Not only can a slug follow a slime trail left from the night before, other slugs can too, leading a host of them to your luscious plants!

  • Slugs' eggs - white, oval and laid in clusters of 12 - can remain in soil for years before hatching. They need moisture to hatch.

  • It is estimated that millions of trees in the world are accidentally planted by squirrels who bury nuts and then forget where they hid them.

  • Bees have 5 eyes and 2 sets of wings to help them forage for nectar and pollen. They must collect nectar from two million flowers to make a 450 gram comb of honey.

  • The orchid releases a chemical that makes bees drunk. When the bee becomes disoriented, it dumps its load of pollen into the flower, thus pollinating the flower.

  • Alliumphobia is the fear of garlic, anthropophobia the fear of flowers and euphobia (not to be confused with euphorbia) the fear of hearing good news.

  • Plant life in oceans makes up about 85% of the greenery on Earth.

  • The world's largest orchid can grow to 20m long.

  • It takes 27 minutes of gardening to burn 100 calories.

  • Lettuce is a member of the sunflower family.

  • Strawberries are a member of the rose family. They are the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside. However, they normally do not reproduce by seed. On average, there are 200 seeds in a strawberry.

  • Sunflower stems were used to fill lifejackets before the advent of modern materials.

  • There are approximately 13,000 identifiable varieties of roses throughout the world.

  • The snail mates only once in its entire life and can take as long as 12 hours to consummate the act.

  • Some olive trees in the eastern Mediterranean are estimated to be over 2,000 years old.

  • The oak tree can take as long as 30 years to produce its first crop of acorns.

  • Oak trees are struck by lightning more often than any other tree. This may be why the ancient Greeks considered oak trees sacred to Zeus, god of thunder and lightning.

  • Carnations were used to spice wine and ale during Elizabethan times.

  • In the 10th century carrots were white or purple - not orange.

  • There are more than 5000 varieties of potatoes in the world.

  • Potatoes were banned in Burgundy in 1910 because it was believed frequent use caused leprosy.

  • Cabbage is 91 percent water.

  • The bark of the redwood tree is fireproof. Fires in redwood forests take place inside the trees.

  • Roman historian Pliny listed 61 medicinal uses for garlic, including warding off vampires, restoring hair loss, and preventing warts.

  • A notch in a tree will remain the same distance from the ground as the tree grows.

  • If you were to rub garlic on the heel of your foot, it would be absorbed by the pores and eventually show up on your breath.

  • Twenty thousand plants are listed by the World Health Organization as being used for therapeutic purposes.

  • Bees and houseflies flap their wings 200 times a second, mosquitoes 600 times, and a tiny gnat 1,000 times.

  • The most drought-resistant tree is the baobab tree. It stores 136,000 gallons of water in its trunk for later use.

  • An orange tree may bear oranges for more than 100 years. The famous "Constable Tree," an orange tree brought to France in 1421, lived and bore fruit for 473 years.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: March 1, 2021