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Gillian Vine has some timely tips for gardeners.
Like all gardeners, I’ve picked up lots of tips over the years from various sources and it seems timely to share some of them.
Wash your face
When I mentioned to my optician that I was prone to hay fever, which made my eyes water, she recommended not only hand-washing after gardening but also face cleaning, as pollen grains will stick to the skin.
Wear a mask
I do bang on about this but the importance of wearing a mask and gloves when handling potting mixes and compost cannot be understated. No-one wants to contract legionella, which can kill, and — thanks to Covid-19 — every household should have a supply of masks.
Zap that liverwort
Liverworts are flat, green growths that grow in damp shade, often on paths, in lawns and potted plants. There are commercial sprays to get rid of them, most containing dichlorophen, but for paths, driveways and other plant-free areas, laundry powder is the answer. Sprinkle it fairly thickly and within 24 hours the green thalli (leaves) will be dead. This works for moss, too, although that takes about three days. Otago Lily Society members gave me this tip, one adding tongue-in-cheek that her paths smelled great afterwards.
An older bachelor caused much hilarity at a garden club meeting when he appealed to the women to save him their pantyhose. Strips of them, he hastily explained, made excellent soft and durable ties. I agree — and no-one seems to have noticed that my tomatoes are held to their stakes with the remains of last winter’s bright red tights.
A neighbour admits to taking old venetian blinds if he sees them in skips. As he says, they make first-class plant labels, especially if written on using one of the gardener’s durable marking pens available from stationery shops.
The first garden tip I recall being given was about 50 years ago when I was shown how to deadhead roses just above a five-fingered leaf. It really does encourage new flowering shoots in repeat bloomers and keeps the shrubs looking tidy.
Keep them going
It’s not just roses that benefit from deadheading — dahlias, too, keep producing new blooms if dying ones are taken off. Drop dead flowers in a bucket of boiling water to kill any earwigs making their homes in the spent blooms.
Use two buckets when weeding, one for compostables, the second for rubbish such as stones, and weeds like docks, dandelions and convolvulus, which don’t readily break down in the compost bin. I owe this one to my daughter.
On the cheap
Late summer is a good time to take cuttings of shrubby plants such as lavender, fuchsia, perennial wallflower, thyme, sage and roses. Aside from producing more for your own garden on the cheap, there is great pleasure in being able to share favourites.
Buy spring bulbs
Having saved money by using old pantyhose and venetian blinds (tips 4 and 5) or propagating shrubby plants (tip 8), now is the time to plan for spring by buying bulbs. Because many bulbs are imported, there may be shortages this year, so getting in early is recommended. Starting late this month, stock of different bulbs reaches garden centres at different times, which is a great excuse to go back several times to browse new stock.