Good old fashioned gardening tips

carrot I was looking through some old books and came across some old tips for gardeners.I had forgotten how important they were.So instead of passing the book on to some one else which I intended to do I might keep it now and pass a few tips on.Of course you can probably find these tips else where but you also may pick up a tip or two that is new to you that you might like to try.These old gardeners knew a thing or two..

Planting and sowing


When it comes to sowing seeds gardening lore has many variations about how thickly to sow , but they add up to the same advice.

Plant your seeds in a row ,

One for the pheasant ,one for the crow,

One to rot and one to grow.


Sow seeds generously

One for the rook,one for the crow,

One to die and one to grow.

  • In short plant on the generous side.Between predators and natural failure they are not all going to germinate satisfactorily.



Grow a few herbs outside the herb garden

  • Many plants classified as herbs contain natural chemicals that either encoutage growth in other plants or protect them against pests and disease.

  • Cabbages planted around with sage thyme or rosemary do well.

  • Borage helps strawberries thrive.

  • Pot marigolds secrete an insect repellent that protects many surrounding plants.

  • Parsley encourages bees and protects asparagus ,beans and carrots.

That’s why in the old cottage garden you would find plants,herbs or flowers all over the place.When you know the reason it makes sense.

The weather


If you want to know when to sow,take your trousers off and sit on the ground!

  • This is a favourite old wives tale and another one that is senseless at first sight.All it meant was that before they had clever ways of measuring soil temperature,was that feeling the bare soil with tender flesh was a good – if uncomfortable – way of finding out if it was warm enough to start the spring planting.In later times it was changed to using your elbow.

Oak before ash ,we are in for a splash,

Ash before oak we are in for a soak.

  • Or put it another way which ever tree comes into leaf first you are going to get wet.

If the first of July be rainy weather,

It will rain for four weeks together.

  • If you escape the 1st of July , 15th July lies in wait…

St Swithens day if thou dost rain,

for forty days it will remain.

  • In other words until August 24th.

Plants that help each other



Although much rarer today there was a time when all cottage gardens had marigolds everywhere.I certainly have them on the allotment.

  • Most garden pests hate marigolds because of the excretion from their roots-and the warning given off by their aroma-which kills eel worm and various other baddies in the soil.

  • French,African and Mexican marigolds all perform this service and the last is even recommened for controlling ground elder.

  • All vegetables and flowers like them nearby-potaoes,tomatoes,peas,brassicas and roses seem to benefit.



The common foxglove is often the first supposed weed to go on the bonfire when a new garden is being made or an old one is being cleared up.Just think before you do this!

  • It stimulates the growth of plants around it and helps keep disease at bay.

  • Rhododendrons and azaleas are said to paticularly to thrive when foxgloves are grown among them,and there is evidence to support this.

Growing up nice and strong


Unusual things to help plants grow.

  • Banana skins – Roses love it if you dig in old banana skins just beneath the surface of the soil around the roots.The skins contain a load of goodies-phosphates,calcium,sulphur and magnesium-which many soils are deficient.

  • Lard-If you are putting in new roses bury a good wedge of cooking lard beneath the roots.They say that the roses will show their appreciation when they bloom.

  • Beer– Most vegetables appreciate a drop now and again,but it is brassicas that like a drop the most.Cabbages like to have a regular drink about once a week.It is an excellent food for flowers as well,especially the tall ones such as delphiniums and hollyhocks.

  • Milk – Whe the milk container is empty fill it with water and shake it up well.You then get a mild liquid manure that is good for house plants or climbing plants growing on the outside of your house.

  • Tea leaves – Used tea leaves are a good addition to the compost heap at all times but rhododendrons ands camelias respond well to them as a mulch….Cold tea is just as good.So what ever you have left is better on them than tipping it down the sink.

  • Nettles– No garden should be with out nettles!! They take and store nutrients from the soil retaining …nitrogen,phosphate,iron,protein and silica.If you use nettles as a fertiliser you will be returning all this goodness back to the soil.

Making nettle fertiliser

  • Fill a container with rain water and let the nettles you have pulled or cut soak for 1 month.

  • Then dilute what remains with more rain water in a ratio of 1:10 and use as a liquid manure to be poured around the roots.

  • Again you can soak the nettles for only a few days and use the water as a spray against aphids.

  • Manure – If you have some manure but not enough to do your whole plot a power of good,make some liquid manure.Fill an old sack with the manure and hang it in a barrel of water for three or four days.The liquid can then be fed to your plants in a watering can.

  • Potash (bonfire ash) – If you have a bonfire ,the ash from the burned garden waste is a good substitute for animal manure.Make sure there is no chemicals or plastics on the fire .If you haven’t you can put it in the compost heap and let it rot down with all the other things in it.

  • Roots of beans and peas -When you have used all your peas and beans and all the leaves ands roots are dying,dig them into the ground as they have loads of food for next year.

All these tips are from a book compiled by Duncan Crosbie.



5 thoughts on “Good old fashioned gardening tips

  1. I’m glad you found my tips of interest.I always find that the old ideas are the best don’t you?..Many thanks for the comment.

  2. I have always known the oak and the ash saying differently

    Oak before ash, we’re in for a splash, (of sunshine)
    Ash before oak, we’re in for a soak. (of rain)

    Told to me by an old shropshire lad.

    • I just love these old sayings. Of course they evolve over the years depending on which part of the country . .” Old Shropshire lad ” sounds as reliable as any .

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