By Beatrice Hawkins
I stumbled on an article by a fellow gardener from America recently and found some of his tips were very interesting.
Some, like how to deter deer and ground hogs from our gardens, not so applicable, but who knows what the future holds!
Where I am at the moment feral deer are becoming a problem and exclusion fencing is being used in an attempt to keep them out of cropping country. They seem to be a particularly adaptable animal and are now seen in our arid areas, eg. around Bourke, as well as in the higher rainfall areas. My son often sees mobs of them on the highway through the main part of Murrurundi as he drives the truck at night. It is my opinion, that the problems we have with other introduced species in Australia, eg. feral pigs, will be dwarfed by the problems looming with deer. Determined ones will easily clear a 2 metre exclusion fence in a single bound!
Some of the more applicable suggestions though, are as follows:
Instead of buying potting soil or seed raising mix, use some of your garden soil, after all this is what the seedlings will be growing in once you plant them out. However you will need to put some soil in a large baking tray and cook it at about 180 degrees for about 30 minutes to sanitise the soil and kill off any weed seeds that might be lurking.
If you are starting your seeds outside, consider mixing flavoured gelatine into the soil! This will apparently feed the beneficial bacteria in the soil and give your seedlings a nitrogen boost as they come up… no suggestion as to preferred flavour was given!!
After you have planted your seeds into this mix, sprinkle the top of the ground with cinnamon to keep away fungus that may cause damping. Sounds more like a recipe for something in the kitchen than in the garden.
If it is cuttings you are trying to start in water, a tablet or two of aspirin ground up and dissolved will help with the uptake of water and speed up the formation of roots.
Bicarb soda is also useful in the garden so I’ve learned. I use it all the time in the house for cleaning everything from my oven to adding it to the washing machine to make the detergent more effective, but apparently it also makes for sweeter tomatoes!
Add about 2 tablespoons to the hole you are planting in, cover with a couple of inches of soil, then put a teaspoon of unflavoured gelatin and a teaspoon of cinnamon as close to the roots as possible. The suggestion is that the gelatin will feed and encourage the helpful bacteria and the cinnamon will keep away fungus and cutworms and the carb soda will give sweeter tomatoes. The plant should have been stripped of all but the topmost leaves and planted deeply and it will bolt away if planted where it will get full sun.
I had learnt many years ago from an old friend, that Epsom salts watered in around citrus would make for sweeter fruit, but had not heard of using carb soda on tomatoes.
Cinnamon sprinkled on cabbages apparently also keeps cabbage worms away.
Another suggestion was to puree my banana peels with water and pour it around the tomato plants as a “pick me up”! Apparently this is what I should be doing with all my vegetable peels – quick compost, and my plants will love me for it.
Also I should plant marigolds in my vegetable patch to keep the pests away and provide somewhere for those beneficial aphid eating ladybirds to lay their eggs. It would certainly make it all look pretty! Mint also keeps unwanted bugs away but be sure to have it contained as it will spread quickly and become a pest in itself.
As much as I don’t like spiders, apparently I should be encouraging them into the garden as well, as each year they eat more bugs than the weight off all the humans on earth. This “fact” is almost unbelievable!!
Another tip I liked was a use for onion and garlic skins, as, at the moment, they just go in the rubbish because I was told not to put them in the compost bin. I should put them in a container, cover with water and put a lid on, leave them for a week, strain the resulting liquid and I will have natural, effective aphid and spider spray. Don’t know how I rationalise this with the previous idea of encouraging spiders into the garden!!
Lastly, another unusual idea is that hair is very beneficial for gardens. It deters pests, works as a natural mulch and provides nitrogen to the soil! I don’t know that I could handle the aesthetics of hair as a mulch. I think I would have to dig it in to get the fertiliser benefits and that seems too much like work, so maybe this is one idea I’ll give a miss!
However, as these suggestions are all cheap to do and all things I always have on hand, they will certainly be given a try this spring.
Keep well and keep gardening ready for our spring garden competition and flower show in October.