Pine cones and other interesting tips!

Whilst we’ve been here we’ve had to get inventive, and with a policy to waste as little as possible, we try and think of different ways to use up what some would consider rubbish! There’s also some handy gardening tips here!

Collect up some pine cones, dry them out – free firefighters for wood burning stove or open fire! Don’t throw your ash from the fire in the bin – stick it around your garden plants, they love it!

Clover family ‘weeds’ and wood sorrel – fantastic for the garden, just don’t let them flower – pull them up, leaving the roots in the ground, and spread round the garden. They add nitrogen to the soil. I spent my life digging this up in our old garden!

Comfrey – grows easily from seed. Have several clumps around the garden and when you’re planting something, pull off a load of leaves and lay on the soil first – fantastic stuff. Add compost on top (preferably homemade!) The leaves will feed the new plants and the clump where you pulled them from will regrow really quickly.

Newspaper as a weed barrier – don’t bother buying the expensive sheeting from the garden centre – just wet some newspaper and lay it on the soil before planting (on top of the comfrey leaves) – dig a hole where the plant will go and then cover the paper over with mulch, wood chips or hay. Hay is better than straw for mulching.

Terracotta pot heater. We were sceptical, but I get so cold when I’m teaching in the spare room – 4 hours of sitting still – blanket over my legs and a hot water bottle – we had to try something! There are loads of videos on YouTube about different ways to make these, but all we did was find a tile to sit the four tea lights on and put a couple of smaller tiles either side of the tea lights. Then stand two terracotta pots over the tea lights, a smallish one first and then covered that with a larger one. It really does take the chill off and costs pence to run.

Food waste – we have a bucket with a lid in the kitchen for food scraps – we don’t put any meat in this, just fruit and veg. Every couple of days we take it out and simply bury it in the garden – we started a compost heap but the flies were bad and we read somewhere that just burying the scraps and letting them compost in the ground worked just as well. No messing about with compost heaps or barrels – works a treat! When we’re preparing a new vegetable bed we put some earth down, cover with kitchen scraps and the compost from the compost toilet, cover with more earth and leave for a couple of months. When we’re ready to plant we’ll top off with comfrey leaves, newspaper and wood chips.

Rusty old nails – don’t chuck them in the bin – make a stew! No, I haven’t gone totally mad! Stick them in a bucket or jar with some water and leave to soak for a week or so – feed the water to your plants – gives them a great boost!

Coffee grounds – if, like us, a pot of coffee is essential in the morning, don’t tip the used grounds down the sink. Fill up the jar with water and water your plants with it – great fertiliser.

Lights indoors in the evening – as it’s winter and getting dark early now we need lights in the house that don’t run off the batteries, as we have a finite amount of power each day. We have been using candles and a light that we can charge up in the day on a usb – but we can’t charge that if it’s a bit cloudy. So we have some outdoor solar lights – they don’t need brilliant sunshine to charge outside and give us a good few hours of light in the evening – some of the garden solar lights are so pretty now – just stick them outside during the day and bring them back indoors in the evening – cheaper (and safer) than candles, and for those of you with electricity, it might save a few pennies on the electric bill!

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