Garden lore, it's often fascinating, but it is true? Knowledge is frequently handed down from generation to generation but how do you know if the facts have been lost in translation or been changed as in Chinese whispers or the 'phone game'? Here are 21 tips and tricks for gardeners.
The fact is that garden folklore might not be the most scientific, but much of it has been tried and tested out in the fields and gardens over time. Since the Egyptians cultivated plants that they collected from Europe, in fact. There are folklore solutions to age-old problems that you might not find in an official guide. Sometimes, listening to granny gives you wisdom! Heres a round-up of useful folklore, tips and thoughts that you might want to put into practice.
Bees tend to swarm during the months June, July and August. This happens when the colony runs out of space. Part of the colony splits and sets off to look for a new home. Naturally you are advised to contact your local Beekeepers Association, but before they arrive you can apparently encourage the bees to settle by making a loud noise. Banging on a dustbin lid or crashing saucepan lids together is ideal. Incidentally, to state the obvious, never destroy bees or use insecticides on them. We need as many bees as we can possibly get for pollination.
Elderflowers (pictured above) not only make a good wine or cordial but they can also be used as a pest deterrent. An effective anti-caterpillar spray can be concocted by making an elderflower infusion. Boil up around 10 flowerheads in water, allow to cool and spray it on your cabbages. Fact or folklore? You decide.
Cooking potatoes for dinner? You can use the potato water - don't tip it away! Save water after boiling potatoes and spray it onto plants that need protection. The starch is said to provide a protective layer on foliage.
Coffee grounds can be sprinkled around ant nests to deter them for example if the nest is very close to your house. They are also very useful for acid-loving plants as it helps to lower the pH of the soil. You can use both coffee grounds and tea leaves as a mulch. Acid-loving plants such as camellias, azaleas, hydrangeas and even roses will benefit from the nutrients they add to the soil.
Most (but not all) types of Clematis prefer to have their heads in the sun but their roots in the shade.
A few garlic or allium bulbs planted in amongst roses tend to help protect the roses from disease.
Prune weak roses and spindly rose shoots harder than the chunky, robust ones. It encourages strong growth. Always prune newly planted roses quite hard.
Did you know that rose hips contain fine hairs that can be used as itching powder?
If your blue hydrangea has turned pink, you can make the soil more acidic in order to turn it blue again. Aluminium sulphate added to the soil will help. There are now proprietary products for sale specifically for hydrangea colour, but in the old days, rusty nails or copper was added near to the roots in order to achieve blue flowers.
Plant spinach as a companion to broccoli if you want a magnificent harvest! The roots of spinach inject a growth-promoting hormone into the soil which helps nearby crops.
Plant French marigolds alongside tomatoes in order to deter white fly.Calendula can also be planted alongside vegetables as it attracts hoverflies which feed off aphids.
Stop cutting asparagus on the longest day, 21 June.
Soak green nettles in water for a week and use the liquid as a feed on your vegetable garden.
Plant leeks next to your root vegetables to protect against root fly pests. Also, according to granny, one shouldnt plant similar-sounding vegetables next to each other such as tomoto and potato.
Useful tip number 15
Mint is said to be effective at keeping flies and mosquitoes at bay. Try rubbing mint leaves on your skin before working in the garden or having a barbecue. You can also place both mint and basil on your dining table to keep pesky biting insects away.
Parsley seeds are said to grow faster when they are sown by a female!
Grow comfrey for eating (its similar to spinach), but also for making plant feed. Just soak some leaves in a bucket of water, leave for a few days, then dilute it before using it to feed plants. It is also known as the healing herb because it can be gently rubbed on bruises, placed on swellings and muscle sprains.
Plant chives next to apple trees in order to ward off scab disease.
The beautiful mulberry tree, Morus, has always been known as the wise tree because it tends not to unfurl its spring leaves until all danger of frost has passed.
Folklore says that the medlar tree is believed to bring happiness to the owner of the land on which it grows. Medlar fruits are picked in November and they should be left to partially decay before being eaten. The fruits can also be made into jelly or jam. The native hawthorn tree, Crataegus monogyna, is one of the very best trees for wildlife. Its great for nesting birds; plays host to a wide range of insects; produces flowers that are loved by bees; has edible berries (haws) which persist into the winter; has edible twigs and bark and it provides a safe haven and habitat for small mammals. The thorns protect little beasts from predators and the young shoots are loved by larger mammals.
It's always a good idea to listen to granny!
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