Five Ways to Turn Household Waste into Garden Gold - Modern Farmer

Five Ways to Turn Household Waste into Garden Gold

Learn to transform cardboard, stale beer and bits of trash into DIY fertilizers, pest control and more

Slugs can decimate your greens. But you can feed them beer to keep them
Photography By Lisa S. /

Stale Beer = Slug Bait

No one loves the chore of cleaning up the wounded soldiers the morning after a party. But what if those partially-consumed beers had a higher purpose? Because snails and slugs are drawn to yeast, gardeners have long used beer as bait – and as a death trap. To make your slug pub, simply fill shallow containers with beer and leave throughout the garden. The slimy mollusks will find their way in and drown.

Old Bottles of Liquid Soap = Organic Pest Control

Sometimes we buy more toiletries than we need (you know who you are). Which means we don’t always use every last bit of that organic lavender body wash before we have six others accumulate in the shower. Fortunately, liquid soap is an extremely effective organic insecticide for soft-bodied insects, such as aphids, mealy bugs, whiteflies and mites. Simply mix one teaspoon of the soap (all-natural varieties only) in a quart-size misting bottle filled with water and spray away.

Cardboard and Newspaper = Weed Control

Got an ugly weed patch that you want to convert to a garden? Raid your recycling bin and spread a thick layer of cardboard and newspaper over the vegetation, then cover it with mulch (such as wood chips or straw) so it doesn’t look hideous or blow all over in the wind. Known as “sheet mulching,” this technique smothers the weeds, killing them and composting them in place. After several weeks, you can cut small holes through the layers of cardboard and newspaper to plant your seedlings.

Eggshells = Tomato Supplement

You can add your eggshells to the compost pile if you want, but you might consider saving them for plants that really benefit from the calcium they contain. Tomatoes, for example, are often slightly calcium-deficient when grown in average garden soil. Many gardeners swear that sprinkling the crushed shells of a dozen eggs around the roots of each tomato at planting time helps prevent diseases like blossom-end rot and produces a better-tasting crop.

Urine = Liquid Fertilizer

Admittedly, this one is for the hardcore DIY set. Pee is extremely high in nitrogen, which is the most important nutrient for plant growth. It’s so potent in fact that you need to dilute it at least four to one before applying as fertilizer. Most urine fertilizer aficionados simply collect it in a bucket or mason jar. Use it immediately or it will start to stink. If the concept intrigues you, you may enjoy our article on humanure.

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