11 Secrets You Won’t Learn at the Garden Center

You can grow beautiful, healthy plants by using these common, inexpensive household items when you garden.

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Newspaper makes excellent mulch.

Newspaper makes excellent mulch.
• Lay several sheets of newsprint over soil and then cover with mulch; they'll help retain moisture and suffocate weeds.
• Ripen end-of-season tomatoes perfectly by wrapping in a couple sheets of newspaper once they're off the vine. Store in an airtight container in a dark cabinet or closet, checking every few days.
• Add wet, shredded paper to compost to remove odor.

Tea is natural plant food.

Tea is natural plant food.
• Water your ferns and acid-loving plants like hydrangeas with brewed tea for luscious-looking leaves.
• For an added boost, sprinkle new or used tea leaves around these plants and cover with mulch—when you water, nutrients from the tea will release into the soil.

Banana peels are a rosebush's best friend.

Banana peels are a rosebush's best friend.
• Keep aphids off your rosebushes by burying dried or cut up banana peels an inch or two deep around the base of the plant. (Whole peels will attract animals, who will dig them up.)
• If you want more butterflies in your garden, place overripe bananas or other fruit on a raised platform. Be sure they're above head level and not centrally located, because they will also draw bees and wasps; and bring the food indoors before sunset to avoid unwanted hungry critters.

Aluminum foil deters insects.

Aluminum foil deters insects.
• Mix strips of aluminum foil with mulch and you'll keep bugs away. The foil will also reflect light back on the plants, which encourages growth.
• If crows or birds are a problem, hang foil strips on plants to scare them away. You can also take strips of foil or foil-wrapped seashells, and string them from branches to startle bigger animals. 

Salt is a natural pest killer.

Salt is a natural pest killer.
• Kill snails and slugs by dousing them with salt—they won't survive long.
• You can also prevent the growth of weeds in walkway cracks by making a solution of 1 cup salt to 2 cups water, and pouring it directly on the plants.

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