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 Egg Shells To Keep Pests Out
It won’t keep out all kinds of pests, but egg shells can really help with keeping soft-bodies pests like snails and slugs out of your garden. The sharper edges of the shells will deter them from eating your plants, as they won’t want to risk injuring themselves. Just encircle any pest-sensitive plants with a roughly crushed layer of these eggshells.
Make A Self-Sharpening Garden Tool Holder
If you need to keep your tools sharp, this is actually a good method to keep them that way without needing to take the time to do it yourself. Take a pot, preferably terracotta, and add abrasive sand and mineral oil to it. Then, when you’re not using your gardening tools, thrust them into the sand. The mineral oil will also serve to clean your tools while the process helps to keep them sharp.
Use A Milk Gallon To Make A Watering Can
Need a watering can but don’t have one? No problem (as long as you aren’t also lactose intolerant). Take an old plastic milk jug, or any similar type of container, and poke holes in the lid. It’ll water just like a normal watering can. Just make sure you don’t mistake it for a normal milk carton or hold it upside down.
Prevent Diseases Using Cinnamon Powder
Cinnamon powder actually has anti-fungal properties. So spreading it on your seedlings will help prevent them from contracting any diseases. And as an added bonus, the cinnamon smells really nice.
Self-Water Your Plants With Full Bottles
If you’ve ever heard of the product Aqua Globe, you’re probably familiar with how they function. You put the water in the device then stick it in the soil. The plant will then only take water as its needed as its absorbed into the soil, preventing over and under-watering (as long as you refill the Aqua Globe when it’s empty). As it turns out, you don’t actually need to spend money on that. Filling an empty water, soda, or even win bottle can give you the same effect. And you’ll be saving money and the environment by recycling.
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
This hack from Derek Gaughan, owner of Pittsburgh’s Prince Gardening, will ensure your vegetable garden is beautifully ordered. All you need is a cupcake/muffin pan!
“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.”
Spray Your Plants With Coca Cola
Combine the last two tips, but instead of using water, use Coke. Coca Cola is actually a useful and cheaper alternative to pesticides. It’s not that the sugar or caffeine actually kill pests, the sugar attracts ants, which they eat the larva of pest species without harming the plants.
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.”
Use Banana Peels As Fertilizer
Bananas aren’t just healthy for people, but they’re good for soil too. They’re high in potassium, a major component in fertilizer with nitrogen and phosphorus. Instead of just throwing it out, burry a discarded banana peel in your garden. It’ll help to strengthen the stem of your plants and help ward off disease.
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
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.
Use Old Cans For Drainage
Almost every household consumes a canned drink of some kind. Instead of throwing them out when you’re done, you can try using them in your garden. Place a few of the cans at the bottom of a planter before filling it up with compost. The cans act as a drainage aid so that your plants don’t start to wither.
Eggshell Seed Starter
Eggshells don’t just have to be used to ward off pests. They can help grow your plants too. They’re one of several materials that can be used to start growing seeds. Eggshells can keep your seeds a safe place for them to get started growing. Just carefully place soil and the seeds in the soil. They’ll also save you some money on a seed starter kit. If you already eat eggs, you should already have some shells lying around.
Old Tire Planters
You can get old tires at a scrap yard for practically nothing. Sometimes they’re even given out for free if they aren’t road worthy. Or you could just keep any old tires that you need to replace. Just line the tire and fill it with compost. Then it’ll make an excellent planter. You can get others as well, organize them in all sorts of different ways, and paint them to add in a little bit more color.
Plant Lemongrass For Mosquitoes
Everybody hates mosquitoes, but sometimes it can be hard to keep them away from you. You can try bug spray, but that has a notable and poignant smell. For a natural fix, try planting lemongrass. It produces citronella oil, which is a repellent used in candles and bug sprays. It’ll keep the mosquitoes from coming near you while you’re gardening. You can even extract the oil from the lemongrass and apply it to your skin. Just crush the leaves after cutting them from the stem.
Zip Tie Trailing Plants
Climbing and trailing plants grow the way they want to. It can be in any direction and they can be hard to maintain control of to keep your garden looking nice. That’s why you should buy a pack of zip ties. Fasten them to the plants’ stalks and strap them to anything stable. Don’t tie them too tightly though, they still need to be able to grow and move. You just have more control over what direction they grow in now.
Companion Planting For Better Results
Plants can benefit from having the right type of plant near them. Such as how strawberries are more flavorful when grown near thyme. Or Corn being grown near beans provides the bean plant with a natural trellis. Do some research on what you’re planting on your garden and see what should go next what before planting your seeds or saplings.
Regrow Green Onions
Depending on your level of green thumb, you may never have to buy green onions again. They’re actually very easy to continue to regrow. Just take some green onion scraps, put them in a sunny spot in your garden, and get some good soil or dirt. Place the scraps in a pot or raised garden and take care of them like normal. The roots and bulb have to be totally covered, but after you’re all set up, they’ll grow incredibly quickly.
Grow Corn From Popcorn Kernels
You’ll probably need a larger than average garden for this one, but it’s still worth taking advantage of if you can. There’s always a couple of kernels that don’t pop in a popcorn bag. As it turns out, you might be able to grow corn from these kernels. Place them between two damp paper towels to allow them to germinate. You’ll know its ready when it sprouts a tiny root and stem with leaves. Then plant them in the ground in blocks of three. Each short row should be spaced a foot apart. Then just keep the corn watered during dry periods while it grows. Leave the ears of corn that grow on the stalk until the leaves turn brown.
Dip Plant Roots In Honey
Honey already has plenty of health benefits for humans, but they’re beneficial for plants too. Specifically the unpasteurized kind. It has enzymes that can help promote root growth in plants. Boil two cups of water and add a tablespoon of the raw honey to it. Then, after the mixture cools, coat your plants’ roots with the mixture before planting. You can store the solution in a mason jar and store it in a dark place when not in use.
Save Cooking Water for Plants
When boiling vegetables or pasta, its pretty common to just dump the water when you’re done with it. But that’s really a waste. Instead, save the water to use on your plants later. You can’t use it immediately after the boiling of course, it’s still too hot. But water used to boil vegetables is especially rich in nutrients.
Kill Grass With Cardboard
If you want to clear out some grass for a garden, you don’t need to worry about digging it up. Get a few sheets of cardboard and cover the grass you want to get rid of with it. Then just put four to six inches of mulch or compost over the cardboard and water the area until has been compact. It’ll take around two month, but when you remove the cardboard, you’ll see that the ground is ready to accept the plants you want to grow now.