organic gardening

Organic Hacks To Improve Your Garden


Hacks That Will Forever Change How you Garden

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs


Every gardener has their own handful of tips and tricks and by sharing these neat hacks – gardens everywhere are reaping the benefit. There’s the “by the book” way of gardening and then there’s the back road “unorthodox” way. I’ve found that most of these little tricks that work better that the step-by-step instructions from Gardening For Dummies. We’ve selected 5 organic gardening hacks that will not only change the way you garden but better your garden all together:

1. Save your coffee grounds! Believe it or not, coffee is for more than just giving your body a jump-start. Rather than throwing away your coffee grounds, save them for your garden. They are an amazing organic resource and provide nitrogen to your compost as well as assisting in improving your soil structure. If you are adding your grounds to a compost pile, combine it with equal amounts of leaves and grass clippings. When adding coffee grounds to a static compost bin, combine it with a carbon source (such as shredded paper or dry leaves) in equal amounts. For both composting methods make sure to mix the components together for the best results. If you are adding coffee grounds to your soil, make sure the soil is wet and apply a nitrogen fertilizer simultaneously. Coffee grounds in your soil will encourage microorganism growth. It has also been found that coffee grounds in the soil can also repel pests such as snails and slugs while at the same time attracting earthworms.


2.  Save your eggshells! If you place crushed eggshells around your garden plants and vegetables, this will help deter slugs and will take your plants off their lunch menu! There really is no science behind this little hack; it’s simply that slugs do not like sharp edges as their soft bodies could easily be punctured. If you notice the obvious slime trails on your vegetative materials, its time to break out the eggshells (pun intended)!

3.  Epsom salt for your tomatoes. Epsom salt has multiple health and beauty benefits for us, but who knew that it could be useful in the garden? Epsom salt is actually a naturally occurring mix of sulfate and magnesium. So when adding Epsom salt, in small quantities, to your tomatoes, can actually help the plant develop better fruit! Magnesium and sulfate are important ingredients when it comes to plant growth. It has also been found that adding Epsom salt around stressed plants can actually help them to recover.


4.  Aluminum foil comes in handy! Every gardener is concerned about crawling pests when it comes to their vegetable gardens. Simply wrap a collar of aluminum foil around your tomatoes or squash – this will help deter these pests and prevent them from tasting your vegies before you even get the chance. Again, there is no science behind this hack; most crawling insects are not fond of moving across metal surfaces. The foil also acts as a physical barrier, preventing stem-harming pests such as borers from attacking your plants.

5. Baking soda is a multipurpose product! Baking soda can also be used in the garden as an organic fix for fungal diseases. The sodium bicarbonate properties in baking soda actually act as a natural fungicide. All you need to do is take 1 teaspoon of baking soda and dissolve it in 4 cups of water, add a few drops of liquid dish soap (so the solution can stick to the plants). Spray this solution on plants to prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew, rust and black spot. This method can be repeated ever week to two weeks (or after rainfall).

There are so many garden hacks out there that can make your gardening experience easier and your garden happier. These hacks are heard mostly by word of mouth, so if you have any hacks of your own, please share them on our Facebook. We can all benefit from anything and everything that will make our lives better and easier. Happy gardening!

More Garden Hacks

Using Soda In The Garden

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Share a Coke With Your...Garden?

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

         Coca Cola is one of, if not the most, popular carbonated beverage of our time. Most people enjoy Coke as a sugary carbonated soda but that is not all it could be used for! Coca Cola actually has a multitude of uses due to its sugar content and low pH level. It can be used as a cleaner for your spark plugs, car engine, toilets and tiles – it can clean up old coins and jewelry as well. It has also been used to relieve the pain associated with a jellyfish sting! With all of these different uses for this hallmark soda pop, could it possibly have any use in the Garden?

         Originally, Coca Cola was derived to cure a Confederate colonel of his ailing addiction to morphine that began after he was wounded during the Civil War. He was initially seeking an alternative pain reliever and his searching led to the invention of Coca Cola. Now, since Coke was originally being used as a health tonic, you might be asking, “what possible use could it have in our gardens?” It turns out that Coke can actually be used to kill slugs! Some gardeners use beer while others use poison, but Coca Cola will work just as well.


         Slugs start devouring your garden in the spring before most other insects are even close to causing their own damage. The suspect is easily identified as slugs leave behind a trail of silvery slime wherever they go. They feed on the foliage of your plants; they chew ragged holes into the leaves and can sometimes devour an entire seedling. To use the Coca Cola method to control slugs in your garden, simply fill a low bowl or cup with Coca Cola and leave it in you garden overnight. Just like using beer, the slugs will be attracted to the sugar in the soda and lure them into the bowl. The slugs will then find their way into the sugary drink and suffer a death comparable to drowning in acid. This method works on wasps as well; the homemade wasp trap is similar to your slug trap, you could use a low bowl filled with the soda or even an open can or bottle of Coke will do. The wasps are also attracted to the sugar and travel into the container and drown. Coca Cola can also be sprayed on insects (such as cockroaches and ants) as a pesticide.

         If that wasn't enough, Coke can also be used in composting! Again, thanks to the high sugar content of the soda, it attracts the microorganisms that aid in jump-starting the break down process. The acids in the beverage also aid in the breaking down of compost. Pouring Coca Cola into the soil around your acid-loving plants is also said to reduce the pH level due to the acids in the beverage. So not only can you drink this enjoyable soda pop on a hot summer day, you can use it in your house, in your car and in your garden as well! With its nuisance pest control capabilities and its positive addition into your compost, your garden can enjoy this delightful drink as much as you do!

Oh Deer! My Garden Is A Buffet!

How To Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

When I was a child, I adored Bambi just like every other girl I knew. Now as a landscape designer and avid gardener, I find that sweet little Bambi is a destructive creature that devours my landscape each year. As deer populations continue to increase and as more land is being developed, New Jersey residents share in my frustration towards this nuisance pest problem. Deer will eat just about anything vegetative and boy do they eat a lot – and comparable to humans, they become less picky about their menu the hungrier they are.

The average adult male deer can consume more than five pounds a day! So, how do you keep deer from turning your backyard into their new favorite restaurant? The key to keeping deer out of your garden begins with early intervention. Taking preventative measures before the deer move in will prove for better results and keep your hosta safe. There are several different methods of organic and natural deer control to help you protect your landscape when the herd begins moving through.  

The most natural form of deer control is planting specific flowers that deer have been known to specifically avoid. If you are designing your garden and you know that deer are a concern in your area – take the safe route and plant deer resistant plants. Colorado State University says that plants such as Rudbeckia, Daffodils and Virginia creeper. If you are designing your garden and you know that deer are a concern in your area – take the safe route and plant deer resistant plants. Although deer do steer clear of certain plants and there are those that deer do not typically chow down on – keep in mind that if they are desperate enough or if food is sparse, they will eat just about anything. 

Another method of deer control is by using fencing or netting in or around your garden. Fencing is probably the best solution to your deer problems however it is not the most aesthetic and can become pretty pricy to build and install. Typically a deer-proof fence is about 8 feet high and is made of woven wire. It is possible to get away with a shorter fence being that deer are opportunistic feeders as they tend to avoid barriers especially if there is alternative food source. Netting is a safe and humane way to keep the deer out – it works best for small trees. It allows for sunlight and rain but protects them from those pesky deer. 

There are also devices that you can use in your garden to repel the deer and prevent them from wanting to come back to dine on your arborvitae. You could try using a motion-activated sprayer for example. When the device is triggered it shoots out a cold blast of water – the sudden noise and unexpected spray will scare any foraging animal and at the same time teach them to avoid the area in the future. Another option is using an ultrasonic device. This device emits a noise that the deer can’t tolerate. The deer will react negatively to this sound similar to how we would react to someone scratching their nails on a chalkboard – they simply can’t stand it!

Lastly, if those methods do not work or you’d prefer to try a different tactic, there are always deer repellents. Deer repellents can be a spray, dust, granule or anything left around your plant material to keep the deer away. Everyone has a different opinion on which deer repellent is most effective and honestly the best way to find out which one works best in your garden is by trial and error. Deer can also become less deterred by a repellent overtime so what used to work could become less effective over time – this can be remedied by switching up your repellents year to year.

Repellents can range from a bar of scented soap that you hang near your plants to sprays containing the urine of predators (such as coyotes). There also homeowners who make their own deer repellent; there are a huge number of recipes for this type of repellent, but again you have to find which deterrent works on your deer. Repellents do need to be reapplied every so often depending on the time of year and the amount of rain you receive. Some repellents work by making the plant material smell and taste bad so take care when applying it near food crops – if it tastes bad to the deer it will taste bad to you as well. 

When all else fails, or you seem to be stumped on how to keep these pesky critters out of your yard, New Jersey does have a company that uses their own patented all natural environmentally friendly deer repellent. When it comes to keeping deer from dining on your landscape plants, the struggle is very real. I’ve been fighting this battle personally for quite some time; one year the deer must have really been starving because they completely leveled my carpet roses – thorns and all (if you can believe it). Taking action before the deer cause any damage and using one or more of these methods will absolutely help keep your garden plants off the menu!


Honey: The Confection With Life-Giving Qualities

How Honey Can Improve Your Health

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

When your child has a scraped knee, you wipe away their tears, clean the wound and apply Neosporin underneath the Band-Aid to sooth it and help with the healing process. Would you ever think to replace the Neosporin with all natural honey? Some people are aware of the benefits of honey but what most people don’t know is that honey does not only have healing properties, but it can also improve your overall health! There are a lot of sweeteners out there but honey is the only one that has life-giving qualities.

Native Americans figured out that honey had to be important if a bear was willing to continuously get stung by bees to retrieve it. Once they had retrieved the honey for themselves they realized that it not only had a great taste but that it was healing their bee stings, scrapes and cuts as well – they used it for colds, to sooth sore throats and to keep animal skin dry overnight. It was given to children to help them fall asleep and women used it as a facemask. Honey was used for just about everything, but its true potential had yet to be discovered.

No one likes having scabs and scars, but did you know that the antibiotic creams you apply to your scrapes end up killing some of the tissue surrounding your cut leaving you with scars?  A clinical trial was done in Calabar, Nigeria where they used unprocessed honey to treat patients with wounds and external ulcers. During this study they found that, in 59 of the cases, honey was more effective than your average antibiotic creams and ointments – they even noticed that infected wounds treated with honey (as a topical application) became sterile within a week where as the regularly used applications applied to sterile wounds simply kept the wounds sterile until they were able to begin healing.  It was also discovered that honey removed dead tissue from persistent wounds – this allows some patients to avoid skin grafts and amputations.

Aside from helping clear up infections and healing wounds without scars – honey also reduces inflammation and soothes the pain of patients with deep wounds and even burns! Dr. Peter Molan (of the Honey Research Unit in New Zealand) said, “It is a very effective means of quickly rendering heavily infected wounds sterile, without the side effects of antibiotics, and it is even effective against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.”

As if those life-giving qualities weren’t enough, there’s so much more that honey can do! Certain honeys have shown to assist in the treatment of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria (H-Pylori as it’s more commonly known). Some have found that just a tablespoon of honey twice a day can help sooth the pain of stomach ulcers. Due to the fact that honey enzymes energize the digestive process, you can avoid indigestion! A daily intake of honey can also aid in fighting off fatigue as well as helping your body’s recuperative abilities. Beginning a daily regiment of local honey intake a month before pollen season can help to minimize the symptoms of pollen allergies and hay fever related symptoms – say goodbye to sniffling runny noses! Honey can also be used as a moisturizer to help improve your complexion and ease away those annoying wrinkles. Simply use it as a facemask: splash your face with warm water then apply a thin layer of honey to form the mask and when you’re done just wash it off with some cold water.

It’s remarkable that something that tastes so good has so many incredibly healing properties and can actually improve your overall health. Honey is full of beneficial nutrients such as: potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and so many more! Honey simply makes everything easier; putting honey under a Band-Aid, for example, softens the skin and dampens the pain of the dreaded Band-Aid removal. Honey can heal your ailments both inside and out; there isn’t a single other sweetener around that can be placed in your kitchen as well as your first aid kit!

Lawn & Garden: Organic Weed Control

How to Control Weeds Using Items In The Kitchen

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs


           Everyone is aware that there is a seemingly never-ending battle being waged all across the globe against weeds. Whether they are in your garden or in your lawn, you will do whatever you can to control them. Nowadays, homeowners and avid gardeners everywhere are looking for more ways to go green, including using organic methods to maintain their lawns and gardens. So why not kill two birds with one stone by using an organic mixture of household products to control those pesky lawn and garden weeds? That’s right, the salt and sugar hiding away in your kitchen cabinet can be used to control those pesky weeds while at the same time being organic, affordable and easily accessible!

           When a saltwater mixture is applied to a weed it dehydrates the plant by interfering with the internal water balance of the plant cells. Start with a fairly mild mixture with a 3:1 ratio of water to salt and stir until the salt is dissolved. If the target plant is stubborn, you can strengthen the mixture daily. You can also add dish soap and white vinegar to your solution as these items will help to enhance its effectiveness by lowering the surface tension of the water and allowing the salt mixture to get absorbed by the weed. When using this solution to tackle the weed epidemic, make sure to be careful not to splash or spill it on any surrounding plant materials – you can use a funnel to help direct your solution during application. In the event that it is spilt on wanted plant material, watering the vegetation will help lessen the mixtures effect by pushing it down below root level.

         Another household item that acts as an effective weed killer is sugar. All plant materials grow best in nitrogen rich soils – it is the nitrogen that promotes the green leafy growth and healthy uptake of other important nutrients. Sugar contains no nitrogen and therefore when it is applied to plants, it limits plant growth. It is especially effective on fast growing and invasive weeds in this regard. When using the sugar method in your garden, take a cup full (or a handful) of sugar and simply sprinkle it around the base of the target plant – for stubborn weeds you can recoat as needed. For lawn weeds, use granulated or powdered sugar and sprinkle it over your lawn (you can also use a molasses spray, 1 ¾ cups to 10 gallons of water). Make sure to evenly cover the lawn and water it in lightly. This method is most effective when applied in the spring before the weeds go to seed.

           Inorganic weed control methods can be harmful to plants, pollinators and the environment as a whole. State regulations everywhere are being updated regularly regarding what pesticides can and cannot be applied to lawns and garden beds – the chemicals wash off the properties and into the storm water runoff and thus ending up in surrounding bodies of water. When homeowners then turn to organic products, they find them to be too expensive. Have no fear, we do have the solution for you; the products you need to organically maintain your property are either already in your kitchen or easily found at your local supermarket!