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Garden Guru Competition

Thanks to everyone who shared their Garden Guru tips with us. The competition is now closed.

We’ve been bowled over with the wisdom from all the budding and mature gardeners who entered. And we’ll be announcing the lucky winners soon, so keep an eye out on Facebook as well as this page to see which top tips made the cut!

Terms and conditions

The judges’ decision is final and will be made objectively by our panel. The winner will be notified by email on 14th September 2012. By entering the competition entrants consent to the publication of their tip and name on the Creative Garden Ideas website and social media profiles, such as Facebook. This may occur at any future time. The competition is open to UK residents only and no entries will be counted after the 31st August 2012.


Don't lrave grass cuttings on the lawn after mowing, the will stop new growth.

Weeds in your lawn, or sneaking through the gaps in the patio paving -get some tortoises, honestly you will NEVER EVER have problems with Dandelions or chickweed again - plus they are so relaxing to watch as you relax and enjoy a glass of wine as your very own weed exterminators get stuck in! Honestly we have 3 old tortoises (all over 60 years old) and no lawn or patio weeds - weeds just don't stand a chance with these old girls roaming round.

Slugs, snails, earwigs, woodlice, etc a problem - Get some chickens, they are brilliant at hunting out all the nasty bugs that gardeners hate, brilliant at scarifying the lawn too. We have Bantam hens, they don't destroy the grass, (like some of the bigger hen breeds can do) they keep the pests at bay and help themselves to the low hanging berries as their treat for bug hunting. They also provide some pretty good fertiliser! :-)
The big upside is that we get fresh eggs every day!
All in all, Eco gardening at its best. Mind you they do love the Hostas!

I used to spend many, many hours digging out the ground elder which flourished in my garden. No matter what I did, it just kept coming back. I only had to leave the tiniest smidgin of root behind for it to spring back into life as soon as my back was turned.

This ground elder obsessed me... until I discovered it was actually quite tasty! Maybe the Romans, who introduced it to Britain as a plentiful and nourishing food source for the soldiers, actually knew a thing or two. Now I look forward to its early arrival each year (its the first fresh greens to harvest, in my garden).

I usually cook it like spinach or turn it into soup, but my family's particular favourite is to use it chopped in an omlette. It has a fantastic bright, green colour and fresh taste, which works well in mashed potato, similar to chopped parsley, or a verdant sauce, full of vitamin c, for pasta.

Because it is continuously harvested, the spread is contained to one small area of my garden (nothing else would grow there anyway). The leaves are always young, so maintain their attractive lush green look and the leaves are an interesting shape, which is another bonus.

The same applies to nettles ( which also have a special place in my heart and in my garden). Believe me, nettle soup, made with simple additional ingredients such as onion and garlic, is one of the tastiest soups ever.

Just remember, If you can't beat it - eat it!

I was given about 20 black plastic buckets by a street market florist (just ask at the end of the day - they usually just bin them or leave them for the refuse men). Half of them I kept as they were, as it is always useful to dot them around the garden to collect rainwater. The remaining half had their bottoms sawn off. I sunk these halfway into prepared ground, and planted outdoor tomatoes in them (when the last frosts had gone). The deep plastic collar ensured accurate and easy watering, deterred pests and gave a small amount of support.
This small, outdoor bed of 10 closely planted tomatoes flourished and provided me with loads of tomatoes for salads and for freezing as pulp for cooking.

I have also done this same method with potatoes, filling the high collar with soil as the potatoes grow higher.

You can throw weeds under a thick shrub or hedge - they won't be seen and they won't grow as it's too dark, instead they'll provide habitats for creatures then rot down to feed the shrub and worms saving you from carting them to the compost heap or dump. Or put them in a black plastic bag to rot down then spread as mulch or put in a bucket of water for 4 weeks to become a liquid feed.

If your roses are prone to powdery mildew, spray them with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap in a gallon of water.

I found that 'variety is the spice of life' and add a mixture of green material and either newspaper or brown twigs/shredded material. I have also found that dilute urine helps the heap and saves flushing!

Lawn mowing’s with newspaper under them gets very hot and also speeds the heap up as well.

Save all your used egg shells - once you have a baking tray full bake in the oven until they are brittle and break into small pieces without much pressure.

Sprinkle the 'shards of doom' around the plants that need protecting from slugs ... it will keep them OFF and you won't inadvertantly poison any other creatures.


Best gardening Tip is to water flowers and plants late in the evening as the sunshine will scorch them otherwise!

my tip is to keep on top of the weeds, they have been dreadful this year and they have grown so big, so get them all out before they seed and have double trouble next year.

make a wooden frame 1mx1mx1m deep and fill with alternate layers, atleast 6inches deep, of green material free of pesticides (eg comfrey leaves, grass clippings, bracken, nettles) with layers of fresh straw based horse manure and fresh poultry droppings. Fill all at once and make sure each layer is damp(human urine will help with the fast heat production).Top with leaf mould if possible and then top soil. Should heat up quickly and level start to drop. Top with a home made cloche / cold frame to be a neat fit to keep the heat in and plant directly into the soil. You need to plan so that young plants are ready to plant into the hotbox as soon as ready. The choice of green material as above will provide some of the nutrients required. Remember to choose the site to allow best available light source and shelter possible and make sure the hotbox fits the site!

Listen to the older generation they have a wealth of knowledge if you'll only listen to them

This is potentially very productive soil but very difficult to get adequate drainage, dig successfully or produce a decent tilth to enable plants to flourish when established let alone create a seed bed. Adding sharp sand to planting holes when planting out plants makes the soil a lot more workable, improves drainage and soil texture generally. 'Clinker' boiler house ash used to be used for this purpose when it was more common and provided the ash contains no toxins there are good arguments for this. As well as improving soil condition the sulphur and other trace elements can act as a form of fertiliser.

You would be amazed what you can grow vegetables in - I am currently growing carrots in a toy box - they are small but delicious. When you have a tidy of your house, think about what would make a container and put them all together in a sunny spot of the garden and use them for vegetable growing. Looks really quirky and much easier than sowing in a veg patch.

My top gardening tip is to get rid of weeds in your patio or drive pore some salt into the cracks, this poisons the soil and stops the weeds re-growing.

In these hard times, enter lots of competitions so you can afford to keep your garden looking great!

The best way to clear from around your plants without damaging them is to get a 12 guage stainless welding rod and a five foot cane. Cut the stainless steel into four six inch lengths space them round the cane and tie themup. Its great to use and I have been using it for 30 years with no problems.

Most people have a shed in their garden, so to create extra planting space (and improve the view!) place grow bags on the roof. Great for growing veg like courgettes but can also be used for growing colourful annuals. Add a gutter and a water butt to recycle any water used.

If you wish to mow the lawn but it is too wet then simply brush the grass to remove the excess moisture and it then dries out quicker and you can then get the job done. I have found this invaluable after the wet summer we've just had and still managed to cut my lawn regularly.

Let children "help" with as many safe things as possible from as early as possible, and use things that are quick to grow, cheap and, or bright or edible. Plant lots and then you don't have to worry if some of them are eaten by pests or others crushed with the child(ren)'s enthusiasm.

Last year, we planted about 50 sweet pea seeds with our then 2 and a half year old, the slugs got a few, she damaged some whilst planting them but about 20 plants grew. She loved helping to pick them each day. When we left some for seeds, she helped to pod them and coloured in a label for the pot. This year, we planted out some of the seeds she'd harvested and even grew some in tiny pots to use as part of the "going home" home presents for her birthday party.

Also, if you've grown something edible with a child and she or he has helped you harvest it, then you really can expect a clean plate, go on, try a purple brussel sprout or some jerusalem artichokes!

Used polystyrene cups are great for starting off seeds indoors because they keep the seeds warm.

Keep a pair of gardening gloves by your front door: every day as you walk in from work, put on the gloves and walk through your garden, pulling any stray weeds as you go, and deposit them, with your kitchen waste, on the compost heap. It takes only moments, and you'll already be relaxed and ready for your first after-work cup of tea. Bonus is that your garden will never become overwhelmingly weedy.

boil rhubarb leaves and strain the liquid, add some washing up liquid, which makes good spray against green fly.

I grow onions from onion setts. The only problem is that worms come out at night and pull them up and drag back to their holes with roots in the air. 20% can be pulled up each night. To prevent this I sprinkle woodash along the row and since the worm has a very sensitive skin, the saltiness keeps them away. After a couple of weeks, the ash is washed away but the roots are well enough established to keep the onion upright in the soil.

Before gardening, scrape nails over a bar of soap-stops dirt getting down nails, and much easier to wash hands afterwards!

i never buy liners for my hanging baskets i use old woolen jumpers keeps the basket from drying out plus you wont notice it once all the lobelia has started growing covering all the bottom and sides of the basket plus it helps the enviroment recycling your old woolies

When growing marrows, cucumbers or courgettes, always pick the fruit before they get too big. Too big and they will not taste that good and by picking often you are encouraging the plant to produce more.

Find a friend knowledgeable about gardening and ask him/her to show you everything!

Cut the top and bottom off large see-through plastic bottles and use to protect small seedlings against slugs till they grow bigger and can withstand an attack. They can be easily lifted off.

A great way to keep wasps out of the greenhouse is to suspend an inflated brown paper bag from the roof inside the greenhouse. Wasps mistake it for a rival nest and keep away. This really does work.

To grow longer, straighter carrots, sow seed in a hole which has first been dibbed and filled in with sand. The carrots find it easier to develop without any obstructions in this medium.

this year i used tubs and pots for my potatoes, hoping to avoid the slug and snail problem i have in my garden, i was right, although they ate some of the leaves the potatoes were fine, and as the tops died off i was able to move the pots around until the potatoes were needed to avoid unsightly empty patches in my garden, the idea worked if i say so myself, so pots and planters is the way forward for my potatoes in future.

Use a sprayer containing vinegar to kill weeds - very cheap alternative to expensive weed killers, and just if not more effective.

Many ladybirds lay their eggs on nettles, so allowing a few to grow in a pot in your garden will mean useful ladybirds and ladybird larvae, just when you need them there to clean your plants of aphids.

Some tools are made with brightly coloured handles, but many have handles of plain wood or grey plastic which get mislaid very easily. Make life easier by painting the handles bright colours - red and orange show up well against the dark soil.

Do look up pruning methods before you start, but if the guide says hard pruning is okay, then don't be afraid to do this. There is a saying, 'Growth follows the knife' and you will often find that a plant will regrow any removed growth just as fast as it can.

Gardening often, even if for a short time, lets you see plants at all stages of growth. This way, you will come to recognise useful seedlings as well as weeds when they are tiny seedlings and have time to remove the weeds before they flower and set seed.

Look at your plants often and touch the foliage and stems so that you know what they feel like when the plants are thriving or unwell - for example: foliage may be firm, soft and drooping, or sticky with honeydew. Paying attention to your plants means you will be better able to keep them in the best health possible.

Glue pennys to large stones and leave them in your veg beds to repel slugs and snails.

After returming from my holidays earlier this year, i came back to a green house with mostly dead tomatoes. An auto watering failure destroyed all but one plant. The remaining plant was overgrown and full of very long side shoots. Not down hearted with this disaster i set about removing all the side shoots, which were all longer than 6 inches. In a moment of sheer hope i cut just below the lowest pair of leaves on all the side shoots, then removed the lower leaves and planted them deep into fresh moist compost, and put them somewhere warm. Within a week i noticed new growth, and within 2 weeks almost all of them had a good root system. I also noticed that the plants are setting fruit trusses lower down the plants, and now have many very sturdy plants full of free tomatoes.

Instead of digging and clearing new ground for raised beds use small hay or straw bales topped with a high nitrogen mulch (chicken manure or comfrey leaves mixed with old grow bag contents. Plant directly into the top of the bales and let nature take its course. The slowly decomposing bales will aid the growth of plants by the residual increased temperature due to decomposition. The ground below will become weed free and worms etc will be attracted to help break the soil below the bales. Can be used inside and out and is ideal for creating raised beds in tunnels.

With the unpredictable 'summer' we've had, tomatoes will be helped to ripen by placing banana skins in greenhouse.

I don't like slugs, but I do get a lot of birds in my garden, so I sprinkle salt around my garden, as this kills the slugs, but doesn't harm other creatures.

Whizz all your kitchen peelings, "past-it salad", any old uncooked veg, apple cores, etc in your liquidiser with a little water and either pour onto your compost heap or use as it as a "free" liquid feed around your garden.

Don't overwater - more vegetables and flowers are killed by overwatering. It encourages shallow root growth which in turn means that even in short dry spells plants dry up.

Underwater and the roots go looking for waiter.

cut some yellow card punch a hole in the top so you can place garden wire through to make a tie smear both sides with petroleum jelly very thin hang up in greenhouse just as good as the fly catchers and cheaper

Save all "screw top lids" from old coffee jars.These can be recycled by placing them upside down into hanging baskets /tubs/planters before applying compost etc.The inverted lids will act as sunken reservoirs,retaining moisture ,thus saving water & reducing the number & time of having to manually water,plus other than the initial cost for the coffee the reservoir is free.Bury multiple lids in growbags,to help prevent tomatos splitting.

Find this a nightmare when we actually get a summer? Next time you are potting up put a couple of layers of kitchen roll in the bottom of the pot. This holds in the water for much longer and prevents any soil coming out of the holes at the bottem. Saved me lots of time and plants.

A few years ago i stoped putting tea bags in my compost as they take so long to break down. Now i empty out the tea after drying the tea bags, and use it as an additive for my lawn dressing to break up the clay soil.
This just left me with the bag, so this year i filled them all with compost planted my tomato seeds in them and then tranfered them straight in to bigger pots when ready with minimal root disturbance.