Free plants

Yesterday I watched Gardeners' World and was really pleased to see Carol Klein share her propagation tips. I was delighted when she took the idea of the toilet rolls and made it even more eco-friendly by using a fruit punnet (the ones where strawberries are stored) as a tray. As it has drainage holes, it's even better than a conventional plastic tray.

Packaging/empty containers can be used in the garden, I have mentioned polisterine in my greenhouse thread, but you can also use wet newspapers/cardboard as a mulch (put some soil on top), plastic water bottles (the neck cut out) as cloches or as moisture agents (keep whole but make a few holes in the screw top, fill with water and it will slowly release water in your pots), cans as planters... the list is endless.

Coming back to propagation, it's very satisfying to collect seeds in the autumn. If you think it's too slow going, just take cuttings! Cut your stem under a leaf node to give it a chance to make roots. Sometimes I stick cuttings in pots, sometimes I put them in a jar full of water and wait till they have rooted.

Free plants can be had by sowing pips and seeds. I have a lemon plant that grew from pips of a supermarket lemon (it has never fruited, though and not sure it will ever will as most fruit and veg sold in shops are treated in a way that their seeds are infertile). Of course, organic stuff has more of a chance. You can get a very tall plant out of a potato (great for kids) and an interesting one out of an avocado stone. If you invest in a packet of cress seeds, they can be grown on a tray in between two layers of kitchen towel (no compost needed), but do keep those layers moist.

Or you can buy potted herbs from the supermarket and split them so you end up with more plants. I have done well with a price-reduced mint plant and you can try that with basil, etc.... I planted my split mint plants in various places in the garden and they grew fast.

Do you have any other tips for lean & green gardening? Drop a comment!
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Household hints

Thrifty tips have always been the preserve of women's magazines. But the current financial crisis might make them more popular as people tighten their belt and start to make do. So here are a few household hints for you...

Instead of buying expensive descalers, use a raw potato boiled in the kettle with a solution of soda crystals and water. If any limescale remains, reboil the kettle. Alternatively you can also use a vinegar solution and leave overnight (do not boil this solution in the kettle or it will overflow).

Newspapers and empty toilet rolls make good planters for seedlings. You will need a tray to stand your containers in. For newspaper pots, roll up two pages together and tuck their bottom in. Fill with compost.

The inside of banana skins is very good to polish (and nourish) leafy houseplants. The skin will pick up the dust off the leaf and give it a good shine!


Green gardening

We had a cold snap early in October and the demand for bubble wrap has escalated on Freecycle. Why? Because bubble wrap is great for insulating plants. Last year I wintered big houseplants outdoors by positioning them against the walls of the house, the pots and the sides of the plants swaddled in bubble wrap.

This year I'm low on bubble wrap because of our house move, so I had to find alternative solutions. We recently bought some appliances and I am using the polisterine packaging to insulate the trunk of a few house plants (I have a few cylindrical bits) and the flat sheets to insulate the bottoms of the pots or to shelter the sides of potted, non hardy plants.

Still, it was not enough so I built a greenhouse out of scrap materials (pictured here open and closed). I used a metal shelving unit somebody had dumped in the street, then wrapped around a broken PVC vacuum bag (usually sold as underbed storage, mine had a broken zip so the top couldn't close anymore) and fixed a torn pram raincover on the front with brown tape and pegs (so it can be opened for watering plants). I left a free shelf on the top of the unit to insert trays of seedlings early next year).

I know you can buy a plastic greenhouse from Argos for little more than £10 but this one costed nothing and used recycled materials that could have ended up in a landfill. I created an extra shelf on the ground by placing a polisterine sheet under the front row of pots. The bulky raincover stretches to accommodate the two rows of pots at the bottom.

There are other ways to be green in the garden. Used coffee grounds can be scattered around tender plants to keep slugs at bay (free from coffee shops); you can make cloches out of plastic bottles; you can use urine (yes, don't be squeamish) and nettles to activate your compost heap (no need to buy chemicals)... If you need more suggestions, just google green gardening, there are so many sites offering free advice!
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Abundance of apples

The wind, birds and squirrels keep knocking apples down. Some are rotten or diseased because our two trees were neglected, but it is still a bumper crop and I'm wondering what we'll do with them at harvest time, we are already struggling to dispose of the windfall ones! So far we have made jams and chutneys, given them away through Freecycle and to friends... If you have any suggestions, please let leave a comment.

We left London, at last!

We are in the Midlands now and it's not as dreary as our London friends said it would be, it's actually topping our expectations (and they weren't low to start with). We are in a pretty town with great schools (one has to think of the sprog) and plenty of things going on. The Midlands are not a cultural desert and they are not dreary nor grey; I was pleased to notice it rains less than in London and we get more sunny spells. We have exchanged our landscaped, urban garden for a family-friendly big plot. We have two apple trees (the pic on the side shows our eating apples) and plenty of space for my pots, plants and garden paraphernalia.


We are on the move!

We are moving house soon, so it's time to downsize our possessions. Today we went to a Give & Take event, a regular occurrence in East London. It's a simple concept: you take your unwanted possessions and browse the offerings.
Unfortunately, although we left our stuff, we came away with other stuff, so it wasn't a successful decluttering experience.
I usually give stuff away through Freecycle and local charity shops, but there is the odd item I try to sell, usually expensive things I really don't want to part from. However, I find selling a bore so I am always open to alternatives, such as swap forums. Any good one?