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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

Lay several sheets of newsprint over soil and then cover with mulch; they’ll help retain moisture and suffocate weeds.

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Water ferns with tea

Water your ferns and acid-loving plants like hydrangeas with brewed tea for luscious-looking leaves. Have you tried these other surprising uses for tea?

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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.)

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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. These are other creative ways to use aluminum foil.

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Salt is a natural pest killer

Kill snails and slugs by dousing them with salt—they won’t survive long.

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Ripen end-of-season tomatoes

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.

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Kill compost odor

Add wet, shredded paper to compost to remove odor.

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Tea enriches your soil

Sprinkle new or used tea leaves around ferns and acid-loving plants and cover with mulch—when you water, nutrients from the tea will release into the soil.

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Fruit attracts butterflies

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.

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Hang foil to scare birds away

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.

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A salt solution kills weeds

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.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest