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10 gardening old wives' tales, tips and tricks - but which ones actually work?

From a rusty nail in the
watering can to garlic
under the roses, Paul
Clements asks if the tips
we swear by really work
From a rusty nail in the watering can to garlic under the roses, Paul Clements asks if the tips we swear by really work Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

A horticultural hack – what used to be called a “useful tip” before the internet took over – did the rounds again recently, on social media. Surely you’ve heard this one before: dousing plants with water from a can that’s had an old nail or pan scourer soaking in it can magically transform drooping foliage, especially for plants in ericaceous soil, by delivering a nourishing shot of iron.

Even to my inexperienced ears, “A Rusty Nail in the Watering Can” sounds more like an episode of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads than useful gardening ­advice, and Gardeners’ Question Time regular Pippa Greenwood confirms my suspicions.

“It’ll just make your soil go red. I don’t think rusty rainwater will do a...

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