Gardening may be a practical pastime, but it’s also a profoundly rewarding one. Whether a casual hobby or an outright passion, it allows you to spend time outdoors, play in the dirt, and express your creativity.
Generations of gardeners and growers have passed down tricks for more bountiful, beautiful crops. Though some of these DIY tips are based on old superstitions, others work quite well and can help solve some of the common problems gardeners face.
It’s true. Cinnamon contains alkenes, esters, ketones, and other compounds that can deter ants that invade your garden, greenhouse, or houseplants.
Some gardeners recommend sprinkling a thick line of cinnamon around your plants as well as on top of the anthill. Others swear a spray of ¼ cup of vodka, ¼ cup of water, and 20 to 25 drops of high concentration cinnamon oil is a super-effective option for getting rid of garden ants.
For decades, gardeners have been adding kelp to their gardens, lawns, containers, and houseplants. Kelp contains high levels of cytokinin, a natural growth hormone that stimulates cell division and improves the overall health of your plants. Add it to the soil when planting.
Alternatively, create a kelp tea to add to the soil around any plants. It will give a boost to plants that aren’t thriving. Some gardeners even soak seeds in kelp tea for a few hours before planting them.
Some tomatoes are sterile, but you can sometimes propagate a new tomato plant from a tomato slice — though they won’t always bear fruit. Nonetheless, it’s a simple process and worth a try.
Romas, beefsteaks, and cherry tomato slices usually work best. Fill a container with potting soil. Place tomato slices — cut to about ¼ inch thick — in a circle over the soil’s surface. Lightly cover with additional potting soil. Within seven to 14 days, you’ll see lots of tiny seedlings ready to replant.
If you live in an area where the local critter population wreaks havoc on your beloved garden, plant plastic forks, pointy sides up, in the soil around your plants. The goal is to cut down on the available ground space around your plants. This method creates a less pleasant space for animals to explore and tromp through and they’ll move on to easier pickings.
If you’re plagued with snails, slugs, red spider mites, aphids, cutworms, whiteflies, or any of the thousands of other insects that love to feed on your plants, you can try ending the problem with a simple but effective DIY spray.
Mash up two heads of garlic and three cups of mint leaves, add two teaspoons of dry cayenne pepper, then bring it all to a boil in a large pot of water. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit overnight. Strain the mixture into clean spray bottles or a larger gallon sprayer, add a few squirts of dish soap, and mist the plants well.
If you lack yard space or time for a full-size garden, create a compact, vertical version that you can hang just about anywhere. The pockets in a shoe organizer are the perfect size for planting a collection of your favorite herbs.
Poke a few tiny holes in the bottom of each compartment to provide adequate drainage, then fill them with soil, and plant your choice of herbs. You can even label each pocket with the name of the herb it contains.
Many gardeners don’t consider the best ways to store their garden tools, even though they’ve invested money in and depend on them throughout the growing season. To keep equipment rust-free, clean, and ready for garden chores, spray them with a bit of mineral oil after each use and store them in a bucket of sand.
The coarseness of the sand combined with the mineral oil keeps them clean and sharp. And, the bucket makes for easy transport in and out of the garage and around the garden.
Research shows that adding cornmeal to the soil provides a food source for fungal species that fight off common plant pathogens like Rhizoctonia, the cause of root disease.
Cornmeal is a source of carbohydrates and provides energy to microbes and earthworms. Another product, corn gluten meal, works well as a fertilizer in home gardens and container plants.
Weeds and grasses pushing their way through cracks in sidewalks, porches, and driveways are not only unsightly, but they can also permanently damage the masonry or concrete.
Pouring salt inside the cracks, then pushing it into the soil, will eliminate any vegetation growing in them. The plants’ root systems absorb the salt, which disrupts their growth cycle, although it may take around 10 days. Some experts suggest using vinegar as well.
Take a six to eight-inch cutting from a mature rose cane that has flowered or produced a bloom. Keep it moist in a can or jar of water. Some growers label the jars with the name of the rose bush they cut them from.
Cut a round hole into the end of the potato. Dip the end of each rose cutting into a root hormone compound, then stick them immediately into the hole you made in the potato. Plant the entire potato and the rose cutting under about three inches of soil.
Weed killers may control unwanted plant growth, but there are disadvantages and side effects, and not everyone is comfortable with the process.
Instead, lay sections of cardboard or newspaper around the plants in your garden, wet them down, then spread a layer of mulch over them. This easy, environmentally friendly hack will not only prevent weeds from popping up but will help regulate the temperature of the soil around your plants and conserve moisture.
In the spring and early summer months, slugs emerge from the soil and start feeding on the ornamental plants, fruits, and vegetables in your garden. They especially love those plants that grow in full shade.
If you spot the slimy critters, create a beer trap: fill a small container with beer and set it on the ground in the areas of your garden where you see them hanging out. Drawn to the beer, they usually crawl into the dish, take a sip, and die.
If you've ever planted your garden, only to find that some plants just don't look right in the spot where you planted them, this hack is for you. When planning your garden, place your plants in two pots before burying them at ground level.
If you don't like the way the plants look in a particular spot, you can lift out the top pot and move it to another spot. This is also a great way to change out seasonal plants and experiment with different colors.
Make good use of those citrus rinds from oranges, grapefruits, pomelo, and tangerines. Remove all the fruit from the rind and fill it with potting soil. Add two seeds, then water.
Once the seedlings have sprouted and reached some height, separate them into two rinds. When they've matured enough to transplant, replant in a larger pot or into your garden, along with the rind. The citrus peels compost in the soil for added plant nourishment.
Blight's a common headache for gardeners, turning healthy plants into withered, wilted, dying ones. Blight often occurs in areas where there is lots of rain. This fungus affects tomato plants, watermelons, and fruit trees, and different types of blight can affect other plants, too.
To prevent it, some gardeners swear by the penny method. Prune plants, secure them, make a cut in one of the stems and insert a penny into the cut, making sure it fits securely. Those who use the method say it's the copper in the penny that controls the blight.
Critters like deer and rabbits may be delightful to watch, but they can wreak havoc on your garden. To keep them at bay without hurting them, shred bar soap using a grater or food processor and scatter it around your precious plants. The animals aren't fond of the scent of the soap and will avoid the areas you've covered. Replenish the soap shreds as needed.
Gardeners who use weed spray are constantly on guard, cautiously avoiding mishaps and spraying plants they didn't intend to. A spray collar created from an old can or plastic bucket can remedy the problem. Just cut off the bottom of the container to create a cylinder. Place it over the plant you intend to spray.
This helpful hack prevents the weed spray from accidentally bombarding other plants in your garden.
Plant spacing is crucial not only for the health of your garden plants but also for the overall aesthetic. A muffin tin, pressed into the soil, creates an evenly spaced grid that serves as a guide for your planting area. Repeat the process for larger areas. Plant the seeds in the middle of each of the round imprints. Soon, you'll see perfectly spaced seedlings emerging from each spot.
Instead of throwing them away weeds you've pulled from your garden, consider creating a fertilizer tea with them. Weeds are a valuable source of nutrients: the ones they've stolen from your garden plants. Throw the weeds into a bucket of water. A good formula is eight cups of water per pound of weeds.
Allow them to stand for four weeks, but make sure you stir the mixture at least once per week. Strain the tea using a cheesecloth or sieve to remove any plant material or seeds. Dilute one part tea to 10 parts of water and pour directly into the soil around your plants to nourish them with potassium, nitrogen, sulfur, copper, phosphorus, and boron.
Irritating mosquitoes, gnats, and flies buzzing around your head can mess with your serene gardening vibe. To keep them away, try adding fly tape around the brim of your gardening hat. It's an inexpensive and easy way to catch pesky bugs and allows you to enjoy your hobby in peace.
Instead of pouring that cooking water down the drain after cooking veggies or pasta or boiling eggs, reuse it. A lot of nutrients remain in the water after cooking these foods and the water can be a great source of calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other micronutrients. Just let the water cool down first before using it to water your plants.
You’re not only providing a nutritive boost for your garden, but you're doing something nice for the planet by conserving water use.
Aluminum cans have three times the amount of recycled content of glass or plastic, making them the most sustainable beverage containers. They’re also great for a wide array of DIY, around-the-home hacks. Before planting new shrubs or flowers in planters, place a few old beverage cans in the bottom and add the planting soil on top. The cans create air pockets beneath the soil providing aeration and better drainage, which lead to healthier growth.
Banana peels contain 42% potassium and 3% phosphorus, two of the most important components of plant fertilizers. Researchers have found that when added to the soil, banana peels assist plants in fighting off diseases, survive drought, and boost their overall health.
Eggshells contain 95% calcium carbonate. Studies show that when pulverized, eggshells can reduce the acid content in the soil.
Plastic containers are one of the most cost-effective tools in a gardener’s arsenal, as long as you wash them thoroughly before using them. Those clamshell containers from your grocer’s deli department are great for starting new seedlings. Plastic milk bottles become soil scoops, trowels, seed trays, or seedling labels with a few easy snips with the scissors. Leave the milk container intact, poke a few holes in the lid, and you’ll transform it into a watering can.
Creating a nice clean line around your yard or garden is easy if you have a 2X6 board lying around. Place the board where you plan to create an edge or clean up an existing edge. Step on it to prevent it from moving. Take a shovel and press down firmly into the ground along the edge of the board, moving it up and down until you’ve reached the end of the 2X6.
Repeat the process until you’ve made your way around the garden’s edges or along the borders of your lawn.
If you’ve got some weeding chores ahead of you, make things easier by soaking the ground with water beforehand. It’s a lot messier, but it will take less brute strength to pull up those annoying, unwanted weeds. You can also put off your weeding project until after a good rain shower.
If you have a small houseplant that requires tons of water, such as a peace lily, place a sponge in the bottom of its pot when replanting. The extra water soaked up by the sponge can help the plant stay hydrated.
Note. though, that this hack can backfire when used for most houseplants. The sponge may cause a pool of water to build up, and prevent the flow of water out of the pot’s drainage holes. Stale water can breed fungus and bacteria and lead to root rot.
Create mini greenhouses using empty two-liter soda bottles. They create excellent environments for growing seeds and cuttings. Just remove the labels, cut off the tops, and position them over the soil in the pot.
You can also use these in the garden to protect new plants just emerging from the soil. Instead of cutting off the top, cut off the bottom of the bottle and press it into the soil to cover the plant. Remove the lid to allow the bottle to recycle the humidity and maintain a consistent temperature.
Create an insectary, a habitat for beneficial insects that will help you control harmful garden pests. Good insects need water to drink. Create a tiny watering hole, using a small dish with a few rocks on the bottom. Add a small amount of water and place it near the garden.
Be sure to add some leafy plants and cover the ground with mulch so good insects can hide from predators. Beneficial insects, like bees, ground beetles, lacewings, and ladybugs will hopefully find their way to your garden.
Concrete cinder blocks are affordable, durable, and have a ton of uses in the garden. Build a raised garden by stacking cinder blocks around the edges of your planned garden. Fill the holes of the cinder blocks with soil, then fill the area surrounded by the cinder blocks with soil. The cinder blocks create the borders of the raised garden and support the higher soil levels.