Money-Saving Ideas for Plant and Flower Food | Reader's Digest

Money-Saving Ideas for Plant and Flower Food

Grow healthy plants and flowers with these gardening remedies.

from Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things

Ammonia Give the alkaline-loving flowering plants and vegetables in your garden — such as clematis, lilac, hydrangea, and cucumbers — an occasional special treat with a shower of 1/4 cup ammonia diluted in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. They’ll especially appreciate the boost in nitrogen.

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Ashes Wood ashes have a high alkaline content and trace amounts of calcium and potassium, which encourage blooms. If your soil tends to be acidic, sprinkle the ashes in spring around alkaline-loving plants such as clematis, hydrangea, lilac, and roses (but avoid acid-lovers like rhododendrons, blueberries, and azaleas). Avoid using ashes from easy-to-ignite, pre-formed logs, which may contain chemicals harmful to plants. And be sparing when adding ashes to your compost pile; they can counteract the benefits of manure and other high-nitrogen materials.

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Baking Soda Give your flowering, alkaline-loving plants, such as clematis, delphiniums, and dianthus, an occasional shower in a mild solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda in 2 quarts (2 liters) water. They’ll show their appreciation with fuller, healthier blooms.

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Bananas Banana peels, like the fruit itself, are rich in potassium — an important nutrient for both you and your garden. Dry out banana peels on screens during the winter months. In early spring, grind them up in a food processor or blender and use it as a mulch to give new plants and seedlings a healthy start. Many cultivars of roses and other plants, like staghorn ferns, also benefit from the nutrients found in banana peels; simply cut up some peels and use them as plant food around your established plants.

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Castor Oil Give your sickly ferns a tonic made by mixing 1 tablespoon castor oil and 1 tablespoon baby shampoo with 4 cups lukewarm water. Give the fern about 3 tablespoons of the tonic, then follow with plain water. Your plants should be perky by the time you use up your supply of tonic.

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Club Soda Use club soda to water your indoor and outdoor plants. The minerals in the soda water help green plants grow. For maximum benefit, try this tip about once a week.

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Coffee Grounds Don’t throw out those old coffee grounds. They’re full of nutrients that your acidic-loving plants crave. Save them to fertilize rosebushes, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens, and camellias. It’s better to use grounds from a drip coffeemaker than the boiled grounds from a percolator. The drip grounds are richer in nitrogen.

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Epsom Salt Want those Big Boys to be big? Add Epsom salt as a foolproof fertilizer. Every week, for every foot of height of your tomato plant, add one tablespoon. Your tomatoes will be the envy of the neighbor-hood. Epsom salt is also a good fertilizer for houseplants, roses and other flowers, and trees.

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Potatoes A raw potato can give a fledgling geranium all the nutrients it could desire. Carve a small hole in a potato. Slip a geranium stem into the hole. Plant the whole thing, potato and all.

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Saltshakers If you use dry fertilizer, try putting it in a saltshaker to use when fertilizing seedlings. It gives you lots of application control so you can prevent fertilizer burn on your tender babies.

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Tea

  • Sprinkle new or used tea leaves (loose or in tea bags) around your rosebushes and cover with mulch to give them a midsummer boost. When you water the plants, the nutrients from the tea will be released into the soil, spurring growth. Roses love the tannic acid that occurs naturally in tea.
  • Schedule an occasional teatime for your ferns and other acid-loving houseplants. Substitute brewed tea when watering the plants. Or work wet tea leaves into the soil around the plants to give them a lush, luxuriant look.

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