General Tips

Always moisten the compost of pot-grown plants before transplanting, teasing out the roots and discarding the top in/2cm of compost to reduce the risk of `importing` weed seeds. This applies equally to home-grown and purchased potted plants. Most compost in pots contains weed seeds which will germinate and multiply in their new surroundings.

For cheap plant supports, pull a wire coat hanger into a square, straighten the hook, turn it at right angles and push it into the top of a cane. Gradually raise the cane as the plant grows.

Porous terracotta pots are attractive but lose moisture quickly in hot weather. Line the pot with several thick layers of newspaper before adding compost. The paper conserves moisture.

Split the contents of a grow bag into four pots rather than using the usual three holes. It makes the compost go further and makes more room for the roots.

Cut up old margarine tubs and yoghurt pots and use them as plant labels.

Get free used shotgun cartridges from your local clay pigeon club. Place them over the ends of canes so you don`t blind yourself!

When transplanting, remember to water plants ten minutes before you dig the holes for them.

A cardboard toilet or kitchen paper tube coated in peanut butter and rolled in birdseed makes a good re-cycled bird feeder which can be slipped over the branch of a tree.

Thoroughly wash newly acquired pond plants to prevent introducing even the tiniest piece of duckweed which would multiply.

Batch-sow your favourite annuals throughout spring and early summer to prolong the flowering period.

Pine cones make great lightweight drainage material in pots and troughs.

If the basket surface gets too dry and the water runs off, add a few drops of washing-up liquid to the water which will then be able to penetrate the surface.

Avoid lifting heavy watering cans up to hanging baskets by using a one litre plastic water bottle which contains just about the right amount of water for the task.

Put an empty jam jar by the sprinkler. When there is one inch of water in the jar it`s time to move the sprinkler.

Use water at room temperature to water house plants, seedlings and other greenhouse plants to avoid shocking them. Fill your watering can the night before and leave it to warm up.

When buying plants, don`t be afraid to knock plants out of their pot to check their root ball.

Avoid plants with moss, algae, liverworts or weeds growing in their compost. This usually means they have been in their pot for too long.

If you come across a shrub that has been pruned in an odd fashion, don`t touch it. It probably means that the plant was damaged in some way.

Plant foxgloves next to azaleas and rhododendrons; it is said to keep them healthy.

Viticella clematis are bred from a species found in southern Europe, particularly Spain. They tolerate

drier conditions naturally and they never suffer from clematis wilt.

Pot up young clematis plants bought in spring and summer. Keep them well fed and watered and plant them out in September with some bone meal and they will establish well.