Now here is something I have just learnt – so hopefully this it is not just a reminder for you too!

You can share your club soda with your containers. Because of the bubbles? Not sure that this would be an immediate follow-up question but some may ask it. No, it’s not because of the bubbles, it’s because club soda contains minerals that plants love. These include phosphorous, potassium, sulphur and sodium; and they all help plants to grow bigger and greener and deter pests because the plants are healthy.

I shall certainly be adding more club soda to my shopping list in future.

Well you must all think someone has gone a 'bit bonkers' as we used to say at school. Who me? No, it's not I!

This morning when putting up the TIP OF THE DAY, the program seemed not to accept it, so I did it again and again, and when it still didn't show, with the logic of a very non-technical person (!), I started a new thread.

Well then I went out of the program and when I came back in, lo and behold - there they ALL were!

That's my story and I am sticking to it!

I say we carry on as before but we use the continues thread to keep going. No loss to anyone and hopefully a lot of gains! Thank you.
CONTAINER GARDENING TIP OF THE DAY (this one is for Saturday ... where do these days fly off to!?)

There are several ways to enhance your container soil, give it a new lease on life as it were, without having to replace it completely. Of course everything relies on the soil, so it would be wise to replace it at least every season (?) or when re-potting or up-sizing (?) or rearranging plants in established pots (?) The question marks? Depends on your garden and your circumstances…

Anyway, two things you can do easily to enhance your soil are: mix some cinnamon powder into the soil (especially for seedlings) but as a general action too. There are anti-fungal properties here that can kick in just when they need to.

The second is to crush eggshells very finely (I blend mine) and add this egg powder into the soil for a great calcium boost. Depends on the size of your pots, but around a tablespoon per pot will do every three months or so. Any plant will like it and only plants that need it will take it up, it would be harmless otherwise. You don’t have to do this, don’t feel driven by yet another chore for the container garden, just do it on an if-and-when basis.

P S Be careful if you are going to blend the dry eggshells, you will want to let the mixture settle down and even then be careful not to breathe it in (easy to do if you open the blender ‘carelessly’).

Speaking about soil, you can add unused cat litter to your soil mix that you use for succulents and cacti. A third litter to two thirds soil is okay. Succulents (and similar) prefer fast-draining soil and this is a very good substitute/addition for lightening up the soil, enhancing drainage properties and it will help you with your watering regimen for these delightful water-storing plants. You could also add/mix in fine bark mulch - it also works well.

Never use soiled litter (this is the one time you do not recycle!) and note that it is best to use a litter that is not fragranced and which is clay-based. The pet store will help.

You have some edible flowers in your containers not so? I hope so, they’re so much fun to use, easy to grow and add colour and pizzazz to your life!

You should pick the flowers you want to use early in the morning so that their water content is at its highest and you can keep them fresh in a glass of water (in or outside the fridge). Put them in water, don’t expect them to last just lying on a plate.

Wash the flowers before eating (use only organically grown ones of course … no insecticides or chemical sprays etc.) and I do this by gently spritzing water over them in a large sieve or colander. Drain and dry the petals on an absorbent paper towel. Don’t put them in the sun to dry (!) because they will just wilt and go floppy. A floppy salad? No thanks. Smile now.

Pansies and Violas can be eaten whole but, as with other plants, it is better to remove the stamens and pistils. Only do this just before you add them to your dish or they will wilt too.

Nasturtium bedecked salad – oh so pretty!

Have you thought about propagating your own plants for your containers? Many people don’t because, well, it’s a container garden right? and all you need to do is go and buy what you like? Yes. I guess that’s fine (and I love buying new things for my pots) but once you get into gardening, you may like to spend some more time and propagate your own. Succulents and cacti are very easy to propagate, as are many other plants that remain strict favourites and which will root readily in water. It is really a satisfying and easy way of sharing plants too.

If you would like specific instructions on how to do this for a plant that is dear to you, let me know and I’ll see how I can help.

Remember this nursery rhyme …

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat; Please put a penny in the old man’s hat; If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do and if you haven’t got a ha’penny then God Bess You.

From your container garden and heart to another container garden a prettily packaged propagated plant could be a nice gift idea in this season of giving.

Have you thought about propagating your own plants for your containers? Many people don’t because, well, it’s a container garden right? and all you need to do is go and buy what you like? Yes. I guess that’s fine, but once you get into gardening, you may like to spend some more time doing stuff besides watering (!) and propagate your own. Succulents and cacti are very easy to propagate, as are many other plants that will root in water. Besides, it doesn't matter what time of the year it is or why, something propagated and presented to a friend is such a nice thing to share.

If you would like specific instructions on how to do this for a favourite plant, let me know and I’ll see how I can help. Remember …

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat; Please put a penny in the old man’s hat; If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do and if you haven’t got a ha’penny then God Bess You.

From your garden to another garden ...

P S It's a proven fact, days are deaf. Yep. They are deaf, they do not listen to me and they are undisciplined and disappear just when a person doesn't want them to. Ah well, this tip was supposed to be for yesterday, so today's will follow. Help!

Did you know that plants enjoy the energy that some music produces, and that music can help plants grow? Apparently the sound of music and its vibrations emulate similar sounds in nature that make plants respond positively.

Apparently too, a Australian university study established that they do not like being exposed to music more that one to three hours a day (?) and that classical music and melodious jazz seem to stimulate the plants best … makes sense that a gentle violet or and stately rose would be unlikely to respond well to heavy metal don’t you think?

Anyway, what happens is that some sounds can make the stomata of plants stay open longer. Stomata are the tiny pores that act like lungs on plants, and if these stay open longer, then the leaves take in more air and so grow faster and bloom more.

I have been playing music to my plants for years and I am convinced they love it! I don’t know why or for how long or for whatever reason, but I play them music and I talk to them. I tell them how pretty they are. Or I can tell them off if they are not performing well. Or I can apologise when I forget to water them. Or I just chatter.

Ah. What’s not to like about containers!

Well now. I wonder if this constitutes a real container gardening tip ... one around Tillandsia or Air Plants? Let's vote. Okay the yesses win!

I saw this in a magazine some time ago. On a shielded balcony, this person had hung, at differing heights/lengths, a variety of these air plants which now and then moved a little in the breeze. It looked charming and balanced the space, drawing the eyes upwards and then back down to the magnificent display of daisies below. I think there are as many ideas on how to display these plants as there are gardeners times ten. Except of course trying to grow them in soil. They don't do this.

Tillandsia are clever. They have adapted their root systems to allow them to anchor themselves onto other plants (trees, branches, logs) and other rough surfaces and they are epiphytes – meaning they absorb their nutrients through their leaves instead of through their roots. It is through the trichomes – those fuzzy white hair-like things - on their leaves that they take in nutrients from the air and water around them. Their flowers come in bright vibrant combinations of red, yellow, purple and pink but they look good even when they are not in bloom, besides, there are so many types we are spoilt for choice.

Looking after them seems easy enough - so maybe this could be an addition to your container gardening space you've not considered. Let me know if you want to find out more about these fascinating plants.

The soil in containers and pots can get compacted over time, and when this happens, it’s best to aerate the soil, loosen it up a bit so that all the elements of growing can perform optimally.

You water the roots which support the plant growth but they need air to do so as well. So, as you like Chinese now and then, I guess you may have a chop stick or two lurking somewhere. Perfect. If you don’t have said chopstick lurking anywhere then use a pencil instead, but regardless of what you use, be careful not to damage the roots of your plant.

Gently poke the chopstick or pencil into the soil and inch by inch (or so) apart and about 1-3 inches deep (difficult to say) and work your way around the pot starting at the outside and going in to the centre as best you can. You will know it’s time to aerate when the water sits on top of the soil for too long before draining through … a sure sign that the soil is compacted.

More herb info anyone? It always useful. Today I thought we could look Calendula. Of course you know that it is a herb, but it doesn’t particularly look like this in a container, you know, all green and wispy and good for you. With its bright orange daisy-like flowers it looks as if it could be a favourite colour plus that you meant to grow to offset the purples and whites you may have lurking about. It is often used as an alternative treatment for everyday worries – you can make your own creams, toners and lotions.

CALENDULA – Quick facts.

Likes rich well-composted soil and needs full sun. Allow 20cms between seedlings. It is the flower that is mainly used and edible (tangy) and the plant will grow to around 12-14 inches high with bushy green leaves.

Medicinal uses include: Calendula oil has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that makes it useful in healing wounds. It soothes eczema, and relieves nappy/diaper rash and it can be used as an antiseptic.

You can add the petals to your cooking and salads for colour and taste and you may find rice colouring up nicely.

When last did you check your tools? Yes, I know, I have a friend who says ‘but you just put things in pots, what do you need garden tools for?’ Got to feel sorry for a person like this who doesn’t know one end of a plant from the other!

Your best tools of course are your hands.

I have several pairs of gloves to suit different jobs and have gathered these from listening, learning and looking. Doing too. I have some throw-away latex gloves for when I am painting or cleaning or using chemicals (for any reason) or to protect fingers from sap or plant juices which are yucky or could be poisonous. I throw these way after I have used them once.

I have some every day gloves that have stretchy tops, and green reinforced fingers. I use these when I am digging or maybe planting or just doing general work. I have some leather ones (took a while to ‘break’ them in), but now they are so comfortable they’re my favourites. Lastly I have some elbow length gloves which I use when I am pruning roses and bougainvillea and other thorny customers. They are hardly used, but they do protect even if they get in the way.

I hope you find this chatter helpful. Bare fingers in the soil? Of course, there is nothing quite like it and anyway, you can’t tell if you need to water with gloves on!

Have you had a look at your container gardening space recently? I mean the area you ‘store your pots’ as they say. Describe it to yourself now.

It’s this big, this shape. The floor is paved/cement etc, the north/south side is open and looks over the city/a park. I have 3/6/10 containers of mixed plant types. The pots are various designs and sizes and types. The flowers/plants are over-wintering now/looking good/in full bloom. Okay, you see what I mean. Carry on soldier.

Now, what can you do to ring the changes for the new year? Are there improvements to be made? Plants to replace? New ones to try? Might changing the colour of the walls make a difference? Wall cladding? Growing a creeper? Can you add other features like a trellis or rocks or varying sizes and colours of pebbles? Garden art? Mosaic? An umbrella?

Stand back in your mind now. Smile. Start planning!

Got a spare planter? A window box? If you are buying or swapping, choose a long and rectangular container with a drip tray. I envisage this would go onto the balcony wall. Sometime go when I had this configuration available to me, I nailed the drip tray into place onto the balcony wall and there was no ways the container was going to fall.

So what should we plan to plant or plant today? I thought I would say some LAVENDER. Oh yes? Well why not? Usually people think of swathes of Lavender gracing the countryside, or side hedges or in big round containers ad ye to al of these, but if you don’t have the space then planting up a window box is a pretty thing to do, it’s possible, it works hard in your container garden, and you can reap what you sow!

Look out too for the different lavender plants that are out there … there are some 27 varieties, different shaped flowers, colour shades, fragrances, blooming times - we are spoilt for choice. Plant up your window box with only lavender, that’s the plan and done so it will serve as a screen and a focal point making its own statement in no uncertain terms. There is a lot too that you can do with the dried flowers … here’s one:

Lavender Lemonade.

Bring 2-21/2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar to the boil. Take off the heat an add 1 full tablespoon or dried lavender flowers and allow to infuse for about an hour. Strain, remove and discard the lavender then stir in 2-21/2 cups of cold water and 1 cup of fresh lemon juice. Pour into your favourite glass (not a tin mug okay!) and add mini ice-cubes. Enjoy.

We have spoken about your hands being your most important garden tools but of course you need others to help you do what needs to be done. There is a great deal to be said about how to care for spades and forks etc. including general maintenance tips, but one quick one for today is this.

I have a fire bucket hidden at the back of my containers in which I have river sand which has been mixed with a little boiled linseed oil (you know, the same oil we used to use to care for cricket bats way back when). Add enough oil, but the sand must not be wet. I would guess you will find boiled linseed oil in a hardware store near you, or even in the in the big chain stores.

At the end of every day's use, rinse off the soil/mud and dry them then plunge them into your bucket. The oil will keep them from rusting (if this is possible) and the sand will keep them sharp. Remember here, we are talking about oily soil, not soil soaked in oil. When you want to use them again, there should be hardly any oil residue.

Anyway, it used to be fashionable to use old car oil, drained and obtained from your local service garage. DON'T. This will introduce petroleum into your soil. I am not sure which is worse ... cigarette butts or car oil!
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