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!