If you love gardening, you can never have too many tips and tricks at your disposal. There’s always something to learn that will make your fingers just a little greener.
We spoke to gardening professionals and enthusiasts for the very best lawn, gardening and landscaping hacks. They’ll save you time and money, and the best part is — they’re super simple.
Use Old Newspapers To Block Weeds
You could spend money on expensive weed-blocking cloth, or you could just take an old newspaper and spread over it over the area that’s prone to weeds — a top tip from Pol Bishop, a gardening and landscaping expert from London-based Fantastic Gardeners.
“Cover the newspapers with dirt, mulch and grass clippings to keep them in place,” Bishop says. “With time, the newspapers will smother the weeds beneath them.”
Avoid Floods With A Rain Garden
If you live in a rainy area, protecting your lawn from flooding will be a top priority. Bishop recommends doing a bit of digging to create a slightly sunken area.
“Fill this area with perennial plants,” he advises. “Rainwater will flow toward that part of the garden and nurture the plants planted there. It’s a win-win situation.”
Spray Your Lawnmower With Cooking Spray
Tired of grass sticking to your mower’s blades? Bishop swears by cooking spray: just apply it to your mower’s blades before use.
“This prevents clumps of grass from sticking to your blades,” he explains.
Use A Cupcake Pan To Perfectly Space Out Vegetable Seeds
“When you’re ready to plant, simply press the bottom of the pan into the soil to make depressions,” Gaughan says.
Make DIY Horticultural Spray
To keep pests out of your garden, you’ll need insecticidal soap (horticultural spray). But if you don’t want harsh chemicals on your plants, you can go down the DIY route. Gaughan makes his own, completely natural product that works great against aphids and spider mites — two pests that can completely decimate a garden. He mixes 1 cup vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon pure, unscented dish soap. Mix 2 teaspoons of this soap mixture to every cup of water, add it to your spray bottle, and coat the leaves of your plants as necessary.
Mulch Your Leaves
Lots of people believe that fallen tree leaves will insulate their lawns during winter, but this doesn’t work if they remain unshredded.
“Don’t let tree leaves smother your grass,” warns Phil Dwyer from the Scotts R&D team. Instead, ditch the rake. Mulch your leaves to dime-sized pieces with your lawnmower before applying one of your fall feedings to help the soil microbes break down the leaves.
Mow Your Lawn Shorter As The Weather Gets Colder
The length of your lawn should vary by season, says Dwyer. In late fall, he recommends dropping your mower down and cutting your lawn 1 to 2 inches shorter than you have the rest of the growing season. This keeps it healthy and unmatted.
“Continue to mow shorter until your grass stops growing in early winter, when both you and your lawn head into hibernation mode,” he says. “For that final mowing, go even a little bit lower.”
While there are some predators you want to keep out of your garden, there are others you should welcome. “One of the best ways to prevent pests eating away at your crops is by introducing natural predators,” says Peters. “Birds eat a wide variety of pests like caterpillars, slugs and aphids. Attract them to your garden by putting out birdseed and a place to bathe.” Birds also love places to shelter, like bird boxes or dense bushes. And if you have a greenhouse, Peters suggests introducing ladybugs into it to help keep aphids and disease at bay.
Water Your Garden In The Morning
Watering your garden in the early morning allows the water to soak deeply into the soil, with little evaporation.
“Unless you water with a drip-irrigation system, avoid watering in the evening,” says gardener Melanie, from family-run business Factory Direct Hose. “Plants often remain wet throughout the entire night when watered in the evening, which is a recipe for plant disease.”
Use Mulch To Reduce Weeds
Bare soil is an open invitation for weeds to come and lay root, warns Melanie. She recommends using straw or leaves as mulch in your vegetable garden to fill in bare space.
“Straw is particularly easy to clean up at the end of the season and will last the entire growing period,” she says. “If you have a perennial or shrub garden, bark makes a perfect mulch and will greatly reduce your weeds.”
Line Your Potted Plants With Coffee Filters
If you’re tired of sweeping soil off your patio, there’s a simple solution.
“Lining your potted plants with coffee filters will keep the soil in the pot,” says Melanie. And don’t worry about drowning your plants — the filter still allows water to drain out of the hole in the bottom.
Protect Your Plants With Plastic Forks
If your garden is turning into the neighborhood cat’s litter box, you probably want to strangle every kitty you see. But there’s a simpler, kinder way to deter those pesky felines.
“Bury plastic forks around your plants — with their prongs poking up out of the soil — to deter unwanted visitors,” says Melanie. “This will stop unwanted cats and other four-legged friends from digging up your precious plants.”
Utilize Your Leftover Morning Tea
Don’t put your leftover tea and tea grounds in the trash! Instead, add it to water for your acid-loving plants and let it enrich your soil.
“Acid-loving plants include blueberries, potatoes, rose bushes, ferns and magnolias,” says Melanie. “Tea grounds and tea leaves contain many nutrients and also tannic acid, which improve oxygenation levels and soil quality.”
Let Your Hose Run Before Watering
Before you water your garden or let your kids drink out of the hose, let your hose run for several seconds to make sure the liquid isn’t too hot or cold.
“This will wash out water that has been sitting stagnant in your hose, and also prevent you from scalding your plants with hot water,” explains Melanie. You don’t want to scald your kids either, obviously. Overly cold water can shock the roots of your plants, so you can avoid that as well.
Store Your Garden Hose Out Of The Sun
Speaking of hoses, it’s wise to store them away from sunlight.
“The sun will age your garden hose faster,” explains Melanie. “Also, the heat will greatly increase chemical leaching.”
Chuck A Tennis Ball In Your Pool
Rick Patterson, founder of pool care blog Poolonomics.com, has over a decade in the pool business. His favorite pool cleaning hack couldn’t be simpler.
“If you find your pool has a lot of film from sunscreen or just looks a little oily, throw a tennis ball in,” he says. “The tennis ball fuzz picks up the top layer of oil sitting at the top of your pool, and it acts as a focal point for smaller debris to stick to.” Just don’t throw it in when the family dog is nearby, or you’ll have other problems to deal with!
After the tennis ball has collected as much as it can, simply use a skimmer to remove it from the water, along with any debris it’s caught.
Water Plants With A Diluted Aspirin Solution
To upgrade your plant-watering game, Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, recommends aspirin.
“It works as a repellent for pests and averts rot and diseases for your plants,” he explains. Simply dissolve one aspirin in 4 liters of water.
Use Irish Spring To Keep Garden Intruders Out
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When it comes to gardening, getting your plants to grow is only half the battle. The other half lies in keeping them alive, healthy, and out of the mouths of common garden visitors like rabbits, chipmunks and deer! One easy trick involves Irish Spring soap. That strong scent many of us humans enjoy in the shower? Garden intruders hate it. To keep these hungry visitors at bay, first set stakes around the perimeter of your garden. Then chop or grate several bars of Irish Spring soap, wrap the pieces in cheesecloth or drop them into a drawstring bag, and staple them to your stakes.
Use Diapers To Maintain Soil Moisture
Gardening enthusiast Anna Nielsen, marketing director at Our Good Living Formula, has a genius hack for keeping moisture in plant soil.
“I use diapers,” she says. “I peel the top layer that goes against the baby’s bottom, and put the diaper at the bottom of the plant pot. Just make sure that the absorbent side is facing up and the plastic side is facing down. I use two pieces of diapers for the big pots, but most of the time, one diaper is enough.”
Nielsen doesn’t use this hack for all her plants, but finds it useful for plants that like moist soil, such as irises and Japanese primroses.
Leave Grass Clippings For A Healthy Lawn
Mike Wilson, a landscaping contractor from Madison, Wisconsin, says a common gardening mistake is to remove leftover grass clippings from the yards. Instead, you should leave them on there, he says. Eventually, the clippings decompose and provide nutrients to the soil, which means the soil texture will improve and you’ll need to use less fertilizer.
Add A Sponge To Your Plant Pot
Wilson has a creative way to avoid root rot in plants. Simply add a sponge to the bottom of your plant pot before you start to grow it.
“The sponge soaks up water that would otherwise be lost and helps keep the soil healthier,” he says.
Place Coffee Grounds In Your Soil
If you like to plant a lot of acid-loving plants in your garden, such as azaleas, rhododendrons and daffodils, it’s important to make sure the soil is acidic enough for them to thrive. Wilson recommends placing coffee grounds in the soil to increase those acid levels.
“It’s a simple hack to make them easier to grow,” he explains.
Use Water To Attract Bees
A wide range of flowering plants will help attract bees, but another thing you can do is place very shallow dishes of water around the garden.
“Bees do get dehydrated sometimes, so if you have some dishes of water around it’s a great way to get these pollinators to visit your garden to hydrate themselves,” explains Wilson. So spare a thought for those thirsty bees, and keep the water coming.
Create Your Own Landscape Edging
A clean landscape edge makes for a professional look, but steel edging is expensive and plastic bender-board isn’t the most attractive. Fortunately, Tina Huffman, landscape designer and blogger, has a great hack for making your own inexpensive yet professional-looking edge. You need a couple of stakes, twine, a can of landscape paint and a standard garden spade shovel with a squared-off base and sharp edges.
“Place the stakes with taut twine placed low to the ground along the line you want to create or maintain for your planting bed, then spray a line along the ground following the twine,” says Huffman. “Next, dig into the soil and create your edge following along the straight, painted line.” If you cut a good amount of grass, Huffman recommends back-cutting the new edge perpendicular to your edge cuts while standing in the planting bed. Then, rake from the edge into the planting bed to pick up the edge bits and pieces and compost.
“Your new edge will stay clean and straight with periodic maintenance,” Huffman says. “The process of shoveling down to make the edge naturally compacts the soil, which prevents grass and weeds from easily growing in.”
Divide Your Plants
If you didn’t quite buy enough plants or if a couple die at a later date, don’t fret about the hassle and expense of buying new ones.
“If the plant is herbaceous (i.e. soft and green rather than woody) and multi-stemmed, you can usually just cut an existing plant in 1/2 to create a new replacement plant,” says Huffman. She recommends carefully digging up the plant, then using an old serrated kitchen knife or garden knife tool to cut through the plant.
“If it’s naturally separated into clumps, use those as a guide and just cut between them to separate,” she adds. “Plant the new division where needed and replant the old.”
Go Easy On The Salt For De-Icing
You might automatically reach for the rock salt to de-ice paths and pavings in gardens and around plant life during the winter months. However, this can lead to sodium overload in the soil when the snow layer melts and is absorbed into the soil base – leading to toxic shock for many plants. Instead, horticulturist and botanist Andrew Gaumond recommends a light layer of sand on well shoveled pathways.
“This will help to improve traction and is also a lot friendlier to the soil when absorbed,” he explains.