Top Tips

These are just a few of the many tips and ideas that I have come across, there are many more that I have forgotten about or maybe not even heard off.

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Cabbage Root Fly Cans (Aluminium) Corks CD's
Eggshells Hanging Basket Tips Hedgehogs Herb Jars
Insect House Liquid Fertiliser Margarine Tubs Net Curtains
Newspapers/ Magazines Old Carpet Old Hosepipe Old Pens
Old Tights Onion Sacks Packaging (various) Pallets
Plastic Bottles Plastic Cups Polystyrene Plant Trays Plant containers
Tomato Training Toilet/Kitchen Roll Centres Yoghurt pots Water Butt

Cabbage Root Fly

Cut disk shaped pieces of plastic from supermarket carrier bags and fit around the base of the plant. They can be held down with small stones to stop them blowing away.

Cans (Aluminium)

Cut the top and bottom off cans, flatten out and cut into strips. These can then be used as plant labels by writing on them with an old biro to emboss the letters onto it. This is ideal for more permanent type markers.


Hang excess or unwanted CD's on canes with twine as. As the wind blows they will spin & scare birds away from crops.


If you have any water retaining crystals left after planting out hanging baskets etc. You can use them to propagate plants. Add sufficient water to make the crystals into a gel the consistency of wallpaper paste. Add a small amount of Phostrogen or Miracle grow to the mixture, stir well and place in a small jamjar or yoghurt pot. Place cuttings of Fuschias etc. in the mixture and keep in a warm place. Add a little water when needed to keep the gel from stiffening.


Make a hole in the end of wine bottle corks and place on the end of canes as eye protection.

Egg shells

Broken eggs shells can be added to cacti compost when repotting. The calcium in the eggshells helps to strengthen the plants growth.

They can also be put around plants as a mulch. The theory is that it keeps slugs away - they don't like crawling over the sharp edges.

Hanging Basket Tips

Pace a short length of 2" plastic tubing down the centre of the basket when assembling. This allows the water to reach the roots easier when watering.

Place a plastic plant pot saucer in the bottom of the basket before planting up. This will help to retain a certain amount of water and help prevent from drying out too much.

If using a taller central plant, leave in its pot. The whole lot can then be easily lifted out and changed if need be.


Hedgehogs are one of the gardeners best friends and should be encouraged into your garden.

They devour slugs, snails and beetles with vigour. Leave saucers of dog or cat food and a dish of water out between spring and autumn. Do not feed with bread in milk, as this can be harmful to them.

Herb Jars

Use empty herb jars to store your seeds. Label them clearly. They can be placed in the fridge for prolonged seed storage.

Insect house

Attract beneficial insects into your garden by building an insect house - see separate diagram for building instructions.

Liquid fertiliser

Place manure or Comfrey leaves in a piece of old net curtain or tights; tie a knot in the top and place in a bucket or barrel of water. Weigh down with a brick or some other object. After 3 weeks the resulting liquid can be diluted approx. 1 measure of fertiliser to 10 measures of water and used on your plants. Ideal for tomatoes and peppers. See plan to make one.

Margarine tubs

Use margarine tubs in the bottom of hanging baskets or other planters as a water reservoir.

Net curtains

Use as a substitute for fleece for frost protection and protection from carrot fly on crops. Can also be used on Brassicas as protection against Cabbage white butterfly laying its eggs on them.


Make paper pots to plant beans and sweetcorn seeds in. When ready for transplanting the pot can be planted as well - it will rot away in the soil.

Old Carpet

Use old carpet for suppressing weeds. It is also useful for making pathways on allotments.

Old hosepipe

a) Use an old length of hosepipe as a leaky hose. Bung op one end and punch holes along its length attach to the tap and turn on the water so that it just trickles slowly.

b) Use as temporary ties for holding young trees to their stakes.

Old Pens

Use old biros as dibbers for seedlings when transplanting - marker pens can be used for the larger seedlings.

Old tights

Old tights can be used as ties on trees. They are flexible and soft enough to prevent damage to stems. They can be used for tying tomatoes to canes in the greenhouse. Another use is for the storage of onions after they have been lifted.

Onion Sacks

Ask your local greengrocer for his empty onion sacks. These can be cut along one edge and the bottom and opened flat. This can be used for shading on a cold frame.

If the two long sides are cut and the bag opened out, it can be used as a net for protection of seedlings against birds or cats walking on them.

Packaging (Various)

Containers with clear lids from supermarkets that have contained fruit etc. can be used as mini propagators.

Planting Up Containers

When planting up large containers, place an upturned plantpot in the bottom to act as drainage. This reduces the amount of compost that is needed to fill the container.


Use 3 full pallets to make a simple compost bin.

Use the wood from pallets as edgings for raised beds.

Use the wood to temporarily hold up damaged edges of lawns until they have been repaired and the grass is growing strong again.

Plastic bottles

These have a number of uses including -

a) Use as mini cloches for over young plants to prevent frost and slug damage.

b) They can also be used for plantpots - cut off at about 4", make holes in the bottom.

c) Root Waterer Cut the bottom off them and bury them next to the roots of a favourite plant or shrub, then, when watering fill the bottle with water to ensure that the water gets deep to the roots of the plant.

d) Slug Trap a contraption can be made from a 2-litre soft drink bottle cut off top 1/3. Place bait into bottom then invert the top. Staple the 2 parts together. Dig a small trench and half bury it on its side so that the bait/lure is lower than the neck, and the neck is level with the soil. The whole lot can then be thrown away finished with. It can also be filled with beer or some other attractant.

Remove the top part of the bottle, cut large zigzags in the sides and place over slug traps to prevent rain filling the pots.

e) Cut lengthways and use as a mini propagator - ideal for use on a window ledge.

f) The larger bottles with an inbuilt handle can be cut diagonally and used as a scoop.

g) Hang from canes with string as bird scarers.

h) Wasp Trap. Cut off the top third with a sharp knife. Invert and seal into the bottom part with tape. Put a small amount of something sweet (sugar, jam, syrup etc.) in the bottom part (mix with a little water if needed). The wasps will then enter through the funnel shape top and will not be able to get out again.

i) Plastic washing up bottles can be cut into strips and used as plant labels.

j) Use the body of the bottle, slit down the side, as protection on young trees, against rabbit damage.

k) Cut off the top and bottom to make a tube. Spray weedkiller through the tube onto weeds required. The tube prevents any over spray hitting your plants.

l) Cut off the top and bottom to make a tube. Place over branches of Cherries to prevent damage by birds. (You would probably need quite a few, and I imagine the tree would look pretty silly with hundreds of bottles on it).

m) Plastic bottles as self watering plant pots.

Cut bottle in half invert top half and place inside the second - this may need forcing and may buckle but it doesn't matter. Make the top of the neck nearly meet the inside of the base of the bottle, leaving a small gap use small bits of porous stone like house brick to act as a wick.
Fill most of the way up with potting compost and plant your plant or seeds
The bottom holds the water reservoir.

If you have a very tall bottle (2 litre) and only half fill it with soil you get a sort of green house These are great for work as they leave no mess - I have grown salads on the windowsill in my office in them.
(Donated by Lisa Cole)

Plastic cups

Use the plastic cups from vending machines as plant pots. Wash in soapy water and pierce a few holes in the bottom. They are ideal for starting off seedlings such as sweetcorn and beans.

Use as a measure for putting down fertilisers.

Use as eye protectors on the end of garden canes.

Cut into strips and use as plant labels.

Fill with old beer and use as a slug trap.

Polystyrene plant trays.

Break up old polystyrene plant trays and use as crocks in the bottom of plantpots or containers but do not add too many as the plant may make the pot top heavy.

Training Tomatoes

Place a length of twine under your tomato plants when planting. Tie or pin the other end to the roof of the greenhouse. The tomatoes then can be trained around the taught string, which will support the plant.

Toilet/Kitchen Roll Centres

Use the cardboard tubes as fibre pots. Fill with compost sow with seed and when the plant is ready for transplanting, plant out complete. This avoids root disturbance and the cardboard tube rots away naturally.

Yoghurt pots

Fill with old beer and use as Slug traps.

Water Butt

Get a water butt (either buy one of the various commercial ones or recycle a polythene industrial container) and place in a convenient position to collect water from the house or greenhouse gutters.

In the summer it can be used to store old bath water for use on the garden. Place on bricks or breezeblocks to raise its height to enable you to get the watering can under the tap.

© copyright 1999, P. A. Owen

UK gardening help and assistance