22 April 2024

Simple money-saving and sustainable hacks for gardeners

22 April 2024

Swedish gardener Filip Johansson ditched his job in IT when his love of gardening took off, after he and his brother commandeered a free plot of land where they started growing flowers and vegetables.

Today, his passion has gone viral, with nearly 63.2K followers on Instagram alone, who he encourages to try his money-saving, sustainable hacks to successful gardening.

He has now written his first book, Garden Hacks, which features 70 tips for gardeners to shortcuts, offering step-by-step instructions on ideas while recycling, saving money and thinking sustainably.

Here are a few of his ideas:

1. Make a cardboard weed barrier

Cut out a piece of cardboard, cutting through it to the middle to create a hole, then place it around the plant.

“It stops weeds from competing with the little seedlings or the plants you have just planted. It works as a collar around the stem of the plant and also helps deter slugs from eating little seedlings.”

The cardboard will disintegrate in a few weeks and if you don’t like the look of it you could top it with grass cuttings or mulch, he suggests.

2. Harvest herbs quickly

Save time tearing off lots of leaves from herbs by running the stems through the holes of a colander from the inside and tugging, which should remove the leaves, which will remain in the colander for you to use. Good herbs for this include sage, mint and oregano, or anything else that won’t benefit from the stems being put into your dishes.

3. Save water rinsing your harvest

“I use a basket from my bicycle as a harvest basket, picking the vegetables and then rinsing them in the basket over a bucket, so I save the water, which I then use to water plants. It’s a good way to not waste water. And in the summer months you need to save every drop.”

4. Revitalise old potting soil

Think again if you’re planning to chuck out all your old potting soil in the spring, he advises.

“It may not have a lot of nutrients, it may be hard and dense and doesn’t look so good, but you can recondition it, as I call it, and just add some nettle water, or some coffee grounds, mix it around and let it sit for a while.

“Probably worms will start to work with the soil, so instead of composting, which takes one or two years, this takes a few weeks.” You could also use comfrey water to feed to revitalise the soil, he suggests. Don’t worry if it is root-laden because coffee grounds and other additions such as barbecue charcoal (not briquettes or ash) will give it structure, he says.

Don’t plant the same plants in the old soil, he advises, because it will lack the nutrients which those specific plants like. He uses old rejuvenated soil as a topsoil layer for his vegetable beds when he plants new seed and mixes it with new compost to plant other types of plants.

5. Make your own seed tape

Small seeds such as carrot seed are difficult to space evenly, but you can make your own seed tape out of toilet paper to do the same.

Mix flour with water to create a sticky ‘glue’, lay out the toilet paper and fold it lengthways to make a crease in the middle. Lay a tape measure along the length of the paper so you can place the seeds at an even distance, then dip a pencil into the flour mixture and place it into the seeds so that one gets picked up. Twist off the seed on to the toilet paper midway between one long side and the crease.

Repeat using even spacing for the seeds, and when you’re done, apply some flour ‘glue’ along one edge of the paper. Fold the paper along the original crease, roll it up and let it dry, ready to lay out in a garden bed in spring when you can put some soil on top of it and water it in.

6. Stop ants in their tracks

If you have problems with ants on your patio, use coffee filters or insect netting and put them in the bottom of patio pots, to prevent the ants entering the soil. “It hinders them from starting their colony,” he says.

“The other thing is keep watering, because if it’s damp they don’t like it. So try to always keep the soil moist.”

He also recommends using cinnamon to deter them, sprinkling ground cinnamon in the bottom of your pot or pot saucer or along the lines that ants form in between paving stones or near the patio door.

7. Use corks to make perfect spacings for seedlings

“I use corks which are already uncorked from the bottle and screw them into a wooden board or plank with the spacing I want.

“So for peas or beans, you could space them 10cm, then you just push the long board with all the secured corks down into your garden bed and you have perfect holes all the way along, where you can drop in the peas or beans or small seedlings, perfectly spaced.”

Garden Hacks by Filip Johansson is published by Murdoch Books, priced £12.99. Available now. Photography by Peter Carlsson.

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