Garden lore: truth or fiction?
The best nature and garden knowledge, some say, is that which is handed down from generation to generation. 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.
Beautiful gardens... listen to the advice that your granny might give you!
June and July is peak bee-swarming period. Here's a handy tip!
Swarming bees: we are now in the season where bees tend to swarm if 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.
Elderflowers not only make a good wine or cordial but can be used as a pest deterrent too.
Cooking potatoes for dinner? Save the water and use it as a bug spray.
- 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.
Some shops, including Waitrose, now offer free coffee grounds to customers. They are really useful in the garden.
- Another natural deterrent for plant pests is potato water. Save water after boiling potatoes and spray it onto plants that need protection. The starch is said to provide a protective layer on foliage.
Position your bird feeders near your flower beds to encourage birds to clean off your plant pests.
- Coffee grounds can be sprinkled around ant nests to deter them for example if the nest is very close to your house.
- Position your bird feeders amongst your flowers so that the birds awaiting a space on the feeder will feast on nearby aphids.
Fantastic flowers and how to achieve them
Clematis are beautiful climbers but remember to plant their roots in the shade.
- Clematis: always try to plant them with their heads in the sun and roots in the shade.
Allium not only protects crops but looks beautiful too!
- A few garlic or allium bulbs planted in amongst roses tend to help protect the roses from disease.
Roses need to be pruned in order to keep them healthy. Spindly stems need harder pruning than thicker stems.
- Prune weak roses and spindly rose shoots harder than the chunky, robust ones. It encourages strong growth. Always prune newly planted roses quite hard.
Rosehips are great for birds. They also look lovely - but did you know they contain an itching substance?
Camellias are acid loving plants and you can mulch them to give them what they need.
- Did you know that rose hips contain fine hairs that can be used as itching powder?
Blue flowers on hydrangeas can turn pink in an alkaline soil. But you can help them to turn blue again!
- 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.
- Red and white flowers, incidentally, are said to be unlucky as they represent blood and bandages! Mix another colour with them if this aspect of folklore worries you!
Various vegetable tips
Grow spinach to help other crops. It's delicious and nutritious too.
Marigolds are a great planting companion.
- 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.
Listen to granny when she tells you to stop picking asparagus on the longest day of the year.
- Calendula should also be planted alongside vegetables as it attracts hoverflies which feed off aphids.
Hoverflies are a gardener's friend.
- Stop cutting asparagus on the longest day, 21 June.
Stinging nettles have a hidden use - they make a good plant feed!
- Soak green nettles in water for a week and use the liquid as a feed on your vegetable garden.
Root vegetables can be helped by nearby leeks
- Plant leeks next to your root vegetables to protect against root fly pests.
- Apparently, one shouldnt plant similar-sounding vegetables next to each other such as tomoto and potato.
Handy herb advice
Mint is useful for many things, not just for eating!
- 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 seems to like women, according to common folklore!
- Parsley seeds are said to grow faster when they are sown by a female!
You can eat comfrey but also make a plant feed from the leaf infusion.
- 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.
Chives are useful in the vegetable garden and in the orchard too.
- Plant chives next to apple trees in order to ward off scab disease.
Tremendous tips about trees
The wise mulberry tree knows something about the weather. And produces delicious fruit too.
- 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.
The humble hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, is a great tree for wildlife
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- 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.