11 inspired hints, tips and hacks that will boost your gardening success

Jul 02, 2021
From tips about soil and shade to hacks about propagating and tackling garden pests, our guru Roger Fox has you covered. Source: Getty Images

Gardening has been described as ‘10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration’. But it’s the inspiration that makes your gardening efforts a success, and every gardener loves finding a better, or easier, way of doing things. There are thousands of hints, tips and shortcuts out there in the world of horticulture – here’s a collection to inspire you.

It’s all in the soil

Cheat’s compost

Earthworms are the best barometer of soil health — the more you have, the better your soil is. They thrive on organic matter, but if you don’t have time to maintain a compost heap, then try this quick hack — dig small holes throughout your garden beds and bury your kitchen scraps in them. Cover over with soil and let the worms do the rest.

Moisture is the key

All garden soils, even those with plenty of organic matter, have problems with water repellency at different times of the year (especially after dry periods). Make applying a wetting agent to the soil a regular part of your gardening schedule — ideally twice a year. You can use liquid forms for treating small areas (these are mixed up in a watering can) or if you have a larger garden, it’s easier to apply a granular wetting agent. These are broadcast by hand, just like a fertiliser.

Start right

You’ll never grow a flourishing garden in poor soil. If that’s what you’re confronted with, spend some time digging through lots of compost and cow manure weeks before any plants go into the ground. If your soil is woeful — hard and rocky, for instance — then instead of digging down, build it up. Install raised garden beds (30cm plus in height) and fill them with a top quality planting mix. Success guaranteed!

Roger recommends raised garden beds as an option to overcoming poor soil issues. Source: Getty Images

Shady solutions

Success beneath trees

Landscaping areas beneath trees is a serious challenge. It’s not so much a shade issue — there are lots of plants that will grow in shade — but rather a problem of hard root-filled soil, which makes it impossible to dig normal planting holes. Try this cheat’s trick.

  1. Gather a collection of black plastic pots (15-20cm diameter) and cut off the bases, using a sharp pair of secateurs or scissors.
  2. Dig shallow planting holes beneath the tree, position the pots and plant directly into them.
  3. Finish by spreading a layer of top soil over the area, followed by a layer of mulch, so that the pots are completely hidden.

Shaded ground

In areas that are sun-deprived for most of the year, such as the south side of a house, don’t struggle with growing lawn — it will never thrive. Instead, loosen the soil and plant a shade-loving groundcover such as dichondra, native violet, vinca or ivy (note: some trimming required). For something taller, try mass planting liriope (also known as lily turf) and enjoy its pretty mauve flower spikes in autumn. Alternatively, opt for a hard landscaping solution and install a path of stepping stones, surrounded by a bed of decorative pebbles.

Liriope, also known as lily turf and monkey grass, is a grass-like perennial featuring clumps of strap-lip, arching, glossy, dark green leaves. Source: Getty Images

Propagating tips

Seed shortcuts

Instead of using plastic trays for seed raising, try egg cartons filled with seed-raising mix. Not only are they perfectly shaped, with their separate cells, but they’re biodegradable too. To water, either spray lightly from above or sit the carton in a shallow tray of water and let them absorb moisture from beneath. When the seedlings are ready, you can cut out the individual sections and plant them directly into the ground. For large seeds, you can also use old cardboard toilet rolls, by stacking them closely together in a tray or pot, filling with mix and planting one seed per roll.

An eco-friendly solution: growing seedlings in egg cartons means you can break off the biodegradable cup and plant in the soil. Source: Getty Images

Totally rooted

When you’re striking cuttings, try some homemade alternatives to using rooting hormone products. Dissolve a teaspoon of Vegemite in a jar of water and sit the cuttings in it overnight (Vegemite contains vitamins that aid with root formation). Alternatively, dip the end of the cuttings into pure honey right before potting.

Striking success

Many shrub cuttings can be coaxed into striking by sitting them in a jar of shallow water. Place them in a protected spot for a few weeks, until you see roots appear, then pot them up into potting mix to grow on. This method works not only for soft-stemmed plants like impatiens, but also for many woody-stemmed shrubs like abutilons, gardenias and others.

Pest patrol

Snails and slugs

There are many homegrown alternatives to chemical snail baits. Protect susceptible plants by sprinkling a border of coffee grounds or crushed eggshells around them. You can also use a plastic dish filled with flat beer — the snails are attracted to it, and fall in and drown before they can get to your plants. To keep these pests out of potted plants, try wrapping some copper wire around the outside as a deterrent.

Roger has some useful tips for getting rid of garden snails. Source: Getty Images

Grubby individuals

Many of the caterpillars that attack garden plants are the larvae of night flying moths. If your potted plants are getting chewed, try placing a couple of moth balls (or camphor balls) on the surface of the potting mix. This will deter the moths from laying their eggs.

Home brew for roses

To control back spot disease on roses, and discourage aphids at the same time, here’s a homemade rose spray that’s easy to make.

  1. Mix 3 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, 2 1/2 tablespoons of PestOil and 4.5 litres of water.
  2. Shake well, pour into a spray bottle and spray the foliage weekly from spring onwards.

What tips and tricks have you found useful in the garden? Do you have a question for Roger?

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