Home Gardening Hacks – 19 “Zero Dollar” Garden Hacks Walk into any garden center and you’ll find gadgets and gizmos for almost any outdoor ailment. But did you know the solution to many backyard problems may be stashed in the garage or hiding in your recycling bin? Whether your garden suffers from poor soil, dry and arid conditions, cold snaps, or more—there’s an almost free solution to almost anything that ails it. Read on to discover our favorite garden hooks.

Keeping plants adequately hydrated during the dog days of summer is practically a full-time job. This is where this trick comes in handy. Designed to mimic a drip irrigation system, it delivers water straight to plant roots using nothing more than a plastic bottle and a sock. Poke holes around the edges, then stuff a sock into it—the fabric will absorb and retain the water, slowly distributing it to plants. Unscrew the cap and fill the bottle when you are ready to water.

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Here’s a trick to eliminating garden weeds without ever lifting a trowel. Place plastic pots directly in landscape beds. Then drop seasonal plants—pot and all—right into the hole. When the flowers fade or the season changes, remove the old pot and switch in a new plant. Be sure to choose pots with adequate drainage holes. To make your temporary plantings look at home next to perennials, cover beds with a layer of mulch.

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Turning lawn area into a low-maintenance planting bed doesn’t have to kick your ass. Simply cover the grass with cardboard, overlapping the sheets as if they were shingles. Then lay about four to six inches of compost or mulch over the cardboard. Water the area until it is compacted. Then wait. In two months, the soil will have acquired the soil structure and nutrients necessary to support edible or decorative plantings of your choice.

Did you know that plants have best friends? Many plants benefit their neighbors in different ways. For example, strawberries taste more flavorful when grown near thyme and corn provides a natural trellis for bean plants. Planting a bright marigold border around squash plants discourages squash from devouring your crop.

Don’t call it lazy gardening – it’s simply a genius time saver! By growing a vegetable garden straight from a bag, you will eliminate the need to till and improve poor soil. Not only that, but you can save hours that you would normally spend on weeding. This trick works for shallow-rooted plants like lettuce and tomatoes. For plants with deeper root structures, opt for raised beds or deep containers instead.

Sowing your seeds just got easier! Rather than digging individual holes all along your garden bed, enlist the help of recycled materials to turn a garden rake into a makeshift planter. Just push an old wine cork onto each prong so it’s just as long as you want your holes to be deep, then push the tool into the ground. When you pull it back, you’ll be left with a row of holes ready for seeds.

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Keeping caterpillars and bugs away from ripening fruit can be a daunting task if you don’t want to use chemical sprays. Protect that fruit quickly, easily and cheaply by sliding a ziplock baggie over apples or pears once the fruit has set. Seal it as tightly around the stem as you can, then let it be. As the fruit grows and turns downward, the baggie will go with it, and you can harvest everything spotless when ripe.

Seed tape is a convenient way to deposit very tiny seeds, such as carrots, quickly and neatly. It is expensive to buy but easy to do. Just roll out some toilet paper and mist it with water from a spray bottle. Place your seeds in a line at the appropriate distance from each other. Then fold one third of the paper over the seeds and miss to make them stick. Fold over the opposite third and miss again to complete the job. Roll it up on a toilet paper tube and store it until you’re ready to plant.

Get vegetable seeds spaced evenly and quickly by using a muffin pan to make planting holes. Simply press the can into the soil to make depressions in the soil. Then pour in the seeds, cover with soil and water.

Plastic forks aren’t just for grabbing a bite at your family barbecue; they are also great for the garden. If you’ve noticed stray cats, rabbits or mice in your garden, stick a few forks into the soil around their favorite hangout. The sharp teeth will deter most small animals and keep young plants out of the way.

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If you need a cheap and easy alternative to soil, look no further than the straw bale. A bale of straw costs as little as $2, and provides the necessary nutrients to the plant as it decomposes. It is also incredibly low maintenance. Virtually weed-resistant, absorbent bales require less water than soil and successfully grow all kinds of summer favorites from tomatoes to strawberries.

Drought and water shortages mean that gardeners are increasingly mindful of conservation. Use your resources wisely—and lower your water bill!—by reusing when you can. For example, the water you use to cook eggs or rinse vegetables is perfect for refreshing outdoor plants. Allow hot water to cool to room temperature before using it on your plants.

Many vegetable plants such as beans and cucumbers do better if they have a trellis to support them as they grow. You can make a trellis from natural materials on your property without spending a penny. Use the pruned limbs of trees, or other found material such as saplings. Lay out the material in a grid, fan or ladder shape on the ground. Then tie them together where they cross with sturdy rope. Your pile of garden waste will be smaller and your plants will be happier. And you won’t have spent time or money shopping for something.

Insecticidal soap is a non-toxic solution for spraying plants that are bothered by insects. Mix 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil, 1 tablespoon of pure liquid soap, such as Castile soap, per 1 liter of water, and put it in a spray bottle. Avoid dishwashing detergent, as the additives can damage plants and be ineffective on insects. Keep the bottle handy and use it whenever you need to protect your garden from creepy crawlies.

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There are many plants that you never need to buy. Instead, take a cutting or two, root it in your garden and wait for it to grow. Jade, lavender, chrysanthemum and butterfly bush are just a handful of plants that can be propagated from cuttings. Just cut a 6- to 8-inch piece of green growth, then remove all but a few leaves at the top and stick it in the ground or in a pot of soil. The plant should take root within a few weeks and will be well established by next season.

If a late frost threatens to burn your tender seedlings, here is an invaluable lesson. Protect young shoots by turning terra cotta pots upside down and covering growth. The pots will insulate the plants, increasing their chances of living through frost and high winds. Be sure to uncover them once the danger has passed.

The cheapest garden is one grown from seed, but your garden will be short-lived this year if you delay until spring. The solution? Turn empty milk jugs or plastic bottles into mini greenhouses. Cut the container in half, leaving half an inch uncut to serve as a hinge. Make holes for drainage and ventilation, then add a few inches of soil. Plant your seeds and leave the pots outside already in January. When seedlings emerge in the spring, replant them as soon as they are mature enough.

If snails were house guests, you would never want them to visit again. Once established in your garden, these slimy pests will help themselves to your homegrown vegetables, destroying seedlings and feasting on your plants’ leaves until they look like Swiss cheese. To get rid of them for good, skip the toxic pellets and opt instead for a natural alternative like beer or oatmeal. To make your own trap, pour some beer into a shallow can like a tuna can. Snails love the smell of a cold brew, so you’ll have your garden back in no time.

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When starting seeds indoors, ditch a fancy setup in favor of these free and fully compostable seed pots. Cut slits in one end of a toilet paper roll and fold the ends together to form a closed base. Fill the tube occasionally with soil, seeds and water until the seed sprouts. Once the seedling is strong enough to be placed outside, fold the lower flaps aside to allow the roots to pass through, and plant the entire roll directly into the ground.

If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household chore, go ahead. But if you want to hold on to your cash and be self-sufficient, check out these smart products that solve a million and one small problems around the home. Go now! These smart and easy gardening hooks

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