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There are few things as rewarding as growing your own vegetables. If you’re like me, though, you want your garden to be as natural as possible — and that means no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. But what to do when pests or disease threaten your vulnerable seedlings? Luckily, there’s natural help no further than your own kitchen. Coffee grounds, egg shells, beer, cinnamon, and vinegar can all help keep your vegetables thriving, sans chemicals.
The grounds you make every morning have several uses in the garden. Because they contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, you can mix them into your soil to act as a fertilizer. Coffee is acidic, so it can be particularly beneficial for acid-loving crops such as tomatoes and roses. Don’t use it on crops that need more alkaline soil, though, such as peppers or watercress. The aroma of coffee (grounds or brewed coffee sprinkled on the soil) is also said to repel pests.
If you’ve ever had a whole tray of seedlings wiped out in one night by slugs, you know that “sluggish” is hardly an apt description of these garden pests. And if you’ve had an unusually warm winter, as many parts of the country did this year, you can expect more slugs in your garden come spring.
However, don’t despair—slugs can be deterred with broken eggshells. Start saving eggshells a few weeks before you intend to start your garden, break them into small, sharp pieces, and sprinkle them on the soil around your seedlings. When your plants are past the seedling phase, just turn the shells into the soil. Here’s a bonus: When the shells decompose, they will add minerals to the soil. Some people also start seeds directly in eggshells, or use them to make a decorative border in the garden.
Another way to control slugs is to make beer traps around your plants. Bury a shallow container, such as a small sour cream tub, and fill it to an inch below the rim with beer. The slugs are attracted to the yeasty smell of the beer, fall in, and drown.
Cinnamon is another versatile garden helper. First, it can serve as a rooting agent for cuttings. Sprinkle cinnamon on a damp paper towel and roll the stems in it before planting. Second, it can help control fungus. Make a spray by mixing cinnamon in water, and steep it overnight. Strain the spray through a coffee filter and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray it on the stems and leaves of plants afflicted with fungus, or treat the soil of plants that have fungi growing near them.
Why spray chemicals on weeds when you can douse them with vinegar instead? It’s an effective weed killer, but is totally safe for people, pets, and the planet. Here’s a recipe for making your own vinegar-based weed killer:
Just keep in mind, vinegar kills plants indiscriminately, so don’t get it on your vegetables!
And remember, while there’s no foolproof way to avoid pests, one excellent method for reducing pest damage is to grow your vegetables in a Tower Garden®. What tips and tricks do you have to keep a flourishing garden? Share in the comments below!