Wake up and smell the coffee
IN MY student days when, to be quite frank, I was dirt poor, I was always on the lookout for ways of gardening that were not just cheap but free.
I used to really enjoy researching old garden lore and I treasure the information I learnt through that part of my study.
One thing in particular it taught me was that there are many things in and around the house that are famous for one job but can be used in the garden for many others.
Legumes are a win- win for the garden, as their roots have a rather productive relationship with fungi called rhizobium which allows them to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere and store it in nodules on their roots.
By getting your hands on a cheap bag of beans or peas and planting out your bed you can get not only get a tasty crop but also by digging the plants back into the soil you get free fertiliser.
Egg shells are calcium carbonate which is what is sold at the nursery as garden lime, so by crushing and liberally throwing them around the garden rather than in the bin you are adding calcium to the soil as well as raising the soil’s pH.
Now for those of you who are coffee lovers like myself and wake up in the morning resembling an extra out of some zombie apocalypse movie until you can get the morning’s ration cooking on the stovetop, there is a further use of the seemingly endless piles of black grit you produce. Coffee grounds acidify the soil, they are toxic to the garden’s gastropod population such as slugs and snails and they also contain a small amount of nitrogen which makes them a great addition to compost bins to speed up the job.
There is also the added benefi t of making parts of your garden have the same aroma as your local cafe.
Those of you who suffer from sore joints whether through work, the playing of contact sports or age will probably have a box of Epsom salts in the bathroom cupboard.
Another name for Epsom salts is magnesium sulphate and a small amount added to a watering can will help to correct magnesium defi ciencies in plants.
An old gardener once espoused the virtues of milk as being a great fungicide.
After some tests and a fair amount of research I found he was, in part, correct.
It will not control an existing fungal infestation but it has great value in preventing it from spreading.
When sprayed on unaffected plants that are in close proximity to the outbreak, the fatty acids in the milk can help prevent the spread of the fungus.
Salt and vinegar on chips is a match made in heaven but it is also a potent herbicide when diluted in water and put in a sprayer.
Small amounts of vinegar will lower the soil pH and help to deter ants, plus it makes a great cleaner of tools such as secateurs.
Some plants, such as asparagus, will love it if you throw a small amount of salt at them.
Watch out though, too much will make the
Salt and vinegar on chips is a match made in heaven but it is also a potent herbicide when
diluted in water
soil toxic for plant growth, just ask the ancient Mesopotamians.
Baking soda is a mild fungicide that can be used to control powdery mildew and black spot. Simply mix a teaspoon in a litre of water and apply. It can also be used as a simple pH tester, just mix it with moistened soil and if you see bubbling then your soil pH is acidic.
Now, just to clarify, I have used all these methods and they have worked well for me but like everything in life, moderation is the key.