TIPS 'N TALK:






Use for broken terracotta pots:

We all have accidents with terracotta pots and the pieces can be very useful as drainage crocks.However if it not too serious a mishap and the pot is just cracked consider making a mini alpine garden. I got this idea from a neighbour and it is very effective. I put broken bits of terracotta at the bottom and built it up in layers using larger pieces to terrace it. In fact I enjoyed playing so much that I bought a machine made pot, which is much cheaper, and sort of dropped it gently!

Hypertufa troughs from old bathroom basins;

In the background of the above picture is an old bathroom basin that I covered with hyper tufa to make a trough. It has got more seasoned looking now as the photograph was taken in June.
To make these troughs I was lucky to get hold of two slightly cracked bathroom basins (sinks). I removed the taps and gave the sink a good wash down. Then I coated the surface with Polybond and allowed it to dry. This provided a better surface for applying hypertufa. I mixed Portland cement, sand and sieved peat in proportions of 1--2--1/2 until it was quite moist but not *runny*. Then ,wearing gloves all the time, I pressed handfuls of the mixture on to the basin until the top part was covered; there is no need to do the bowl as this will be filled with compost. This dried enough in a few days to allow me gently turn the basin over and repeat the process on the underside. I left it about a week and brushed it hard with a wire brush. If big pieces of the hypertufa fell off I re-applied a fresh mixture to those places. When it was covered and well dried I made a small quantity of 1 to 1, sand and cement mixture and fixed small plastic plant pots to the region under the holes left by removing the taps. This was most useful for additional planting using the tap holes. I painted the whole surface with live yogurt to encourage the growth of lichen and moss. As the plug hole provided a good means of drainage I just put some small stones over it prior to adding compost. There is much discussion about the best proportions of sand , cement and peat to use so I am sticking to what worked for me! Remember that this is not a job to do if there is frost around as it affects the hardening process; I would suggest doing it in the summer.

Hypertufa troughs from polystyrene boxes;


While the porcelain sinks make good troughs they are very heavy when it comes to moving them around. There is also the problem of actually finding them. However you can also use polystyrene boxes. These have the advantage of being very light and easy to manipulate while applying the hypertufa. I have made a very nice trough from a fish box; it measures about 2 1/2 feet long and 14inches wide with a depth of 10 inches. For this I used a strong wood adhesive called Evo Stick which works well on the polystyrene. It was easier to work on this but remember that when the compost is added it will be rather heavy; the best idea is to site the trough prior to filling it. Also if you put a sheet of fine gauge netting at the bottom it prevents unwanted visitors like slugs and snails gaining entry.

Watering suggestion for large containers;

Because my garden is small I use containers quite a lot . For example I have an Acer in a large pot, also Camellias, Pieris and Azalea. As these can be large plants I was concerned about water reaching down to the roots. To ensure that it did I tried the following idea: I cut a piece of old hose pipe( this can be so useful) and having put some drainage material at the bottom of the pot , added some compost put the plant in position and then placed the hose pipe vertically mid way between the plant stem and the rim of the pot. The pot was then filled with compost and firmed down. I left about an inch of hose pipe above the firmed surface and cut off any excess. Now as well as watering the whole surface of the plant I also pour water down through the hose pipe and am sure it reaches to the roots.

Another use for old hose pipe.



This can be very handy when securing a climbing plant to a wall. The Freemontdendron in my garden , growing against a wall, was being blown over; so off to the old leaking hose pipe again! I cut a length, threaded strong wire through it, and secured the wire protruding at each end to "vine eyes" put in the wall on either side of the main stem. The hose pipe makes sure that the friction against the stem does minimal damage; the wire alone would cut it badly.

Staking climbers in the conservatory or glasshouse.



Calling it a conservatory is perhaps a misnomer as it is the place where potting is done and seeds are sown. However it is a lovely spot to sit and think of all the jobs I should be doing! A problem in the Summer is that it faces south and the heat can be oppressive. So how to get shelter without paying a lot for blinds? A vine of some sort might be the answer but as I was not keen on drilling through the PVC how could I train it? Well I ended up by getting a length of 4 X 2 wood and drilling holes deep enough to insert 6ft bamboo canes at intervals. The wood was kept steady by placing a brick on it.

When the vine which is a Passiflora caerula reaches the roof I have made little blocks of wood about 2 X 2 inches which I will paint white, screw in small vine eyes and stick to the PVC at the positions needed to train the vine across the roof . I think this will work fine and my PVC will not be harmed.

Polystyrene packing

We all end up with some packages which have a lot of polystyrene padding; any electrical equipment for example is protected by it. Well instead of dumping it keep some and break it into smaller pieces to use at the bottom of pots and tubs to aid drainage. While broken pots are often used for this purpose, it can be very helpful with a large container to fill maybe a third of it with polystyrene pieces before adding compost; not only do you save on compost but the containers are much lighter to move than when stones or broken terracotta are used.

Making Spider webs from wire.


Sorry this is not a very good picture but hope you get the idea. I got galvanized wire and made one large circle from it. Then I made a series of smaller ones and just linked them together with more wire. This is a bit hard on the hands but I am pleased with the finished product. It looks really nice with the sun glinting on it.

Learning by trial and error.




As I mentioned in my introduction mistakes do happen and such events can be a valuable learning experience. Fortunately most of them can be rectified or at least you can ensure they will not recur. For example I have a reminder that labelling seeds carefully is rather a good idea! Outside my window is a container with Foxgloves, not the best conditions for growing woodland plants. However I though they were Petunia seeds and was puzzled as they developed large leaves and headed skywards.

Another common error is not marking where one plants bulbs. Recently armed with some Iris reticulata,Tulip pulchella and Crocus I looked for a spot where I thought there may be space.However all I did was dig up bulbs already planted. These new ones will have to find homes in pots. I resolve to note the location of bulbs when they flower next year...or will I ??

This winter I had several bird feeders hanging from a lilac tree. I have now found that beneath the feeder containing seed there are various grasses sprouting. As these may be invasive, in future I will put a sheet of plastic down to prevent the falling seeds from germinating. I may miss out on some wondrous grass but it will save a lot of weeding.