Garden: 11 ingredients that can help your plants grow

Did you know that some of the ingredients in your pantry (baking soda, vinegar, and olive oil…) are also good for the garden? Here are a few tips to encourage growth, keep pests at bay and ensure the best looking garden on the block…

Encouraging flowering with baking soda

If there were an award for the most versatile pantry ingredient, baking soda would surely be among the candidates in the running. In addition to the various clever ways to clean with baking soda, you can sprinkle it on the surface of the soil to make your geraniums, echinaceas, daylilies and clematis bloom abundantly. The reason is simple: baking soda is alkaline, and these flowers grow well in alkaline soil.

Keeping ants away with cream of tartar

No one wants to share their outdoor table with ants, but if you don’t like using chemicals to keep them away, you can use cream of tartar instead. Just sprinkle some around the table or anywhere you want to “erase their tracks,” recommends the Farmers’ Almanac.

Keeping squirrels away with cayenne pepper

Squirrels are adorable…until they start digging up your daffodil and tulip bulbs! To discourage them, sprinkle cayenne pepper around your bulb plantings. (This is one of our tricks to keep squirrels away for good.) Reapply if you notice the squirrels are back.

Eliminating algae with white vinegar

No need to rent a pressure washer! All you need to do to get rid of that slimy green stuff on your patio is to spray it with distilled white vinegar. Vinegar, like baking soda, is a pantry star.

Using baking soda to grow sweeter tomatoes
More alkaline soil makes for sweeter tomatoes. To do this, simply sprinkle bicarbonate on the surface of the soil in your tomato garden. Once harvested, your sweet tomatoes will steal the show in a variety of recipes.

Cleaning garden tools with olive oil

Rub olive oil on the sharp or stinging surfaces of your garden tools and lawnmower blades. This will remove dirt and rust and make it easier to clean next time.

Opt for these plants for a colorful shade garden.

Fighting Fungus with Baking Soda

While baking soda won’t eliminate fungus, you can use it to prevent it, as its alkalinity creates a hostile environment for fungal growth. Simply mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a liter of water and spray the leaves of your fungus-prone plants, such as tomatoes and lilacs.

Turning pink hydrangeas into blue hydrangeas with vinegar

Unlike baking soda, distilled white vinegar is acidic, and acidic soil is the key to turning your pink hydrangeas into blue hydrangeas. (Note: this trick does not work for white hydrangeas).

Vinegar also improves the soil of acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons and gardenias. The recipe to use: one cup of distilled white vinegar in a gallon of tap water.

Say goodbye to beetles with dish soap

The biggest problem with Japanese beetles is how quickly they can literally turn beautiful zinnia leaves into rags. They also decimate over 300 other types of garden plants.

The best way to get rid of them is to manually remove them from your plants one by one…and drown them in a mixture of water and dish soap.

Attracting earthworms with coffee beans

Adding coffee beans to your soil will benefit the soil by attracting earthworms and microorganisms (both of which enrich the soil and make it more fertile). Note, however, that while fresh coffee beans are acidic, coffee grounds are neutral. If you are enriching the soil of a plant that likes alkaline soils (such as geraniums or sweet tomatoes), you should use coffee grounds.

Controlling Weeds with Cornmeal

Skip the chemical herbicides and go for an all-natural solution. Cornmeal – the ingredient you use to make cornbread or, more accurately, gluten meal – is great for eliminating weeds, but only if they haven’t sprouted yet. It’s best to remove the mature weeds first, then sprinkle the gluten meal to remove the seeds. Otherwise, you may unintentionally provide additional nutrients to the weeds.