20 Unexpected Ingredients To Supercharge Your Garden This Spring

Natural Fertilizers for your garden

Kitchen scraps, leftover drinks, and even everyday household items can be transformed into surprising, effective natural fertilizers that can inject a new level of vitality into your spring garden.

This isn’t about throwing random things at your plants (though some might work unexpectedly well). Rather, it’s about nourishing your plants thoughtfully with what you may already have in your kitchen pantry and recycling bin.

In the process, your plants get quality nutrients, and you reduce the need for store-bought fertilizers. Let’s start turning everyday wastes into easy organic fertilizers.

1. Eggshells

eggshells as a natural fertilizer
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Don’t toss those eggshells. They provide a slow-release source of calcium, deter slugs and snails, and improve soil drainage. To use eggshells for your plants, start by rinsing them to remove any remaining egg white or yolk, which can attract pests. Once they are clean, let them dry and then crush them into small pieces or grind them into powder using a mortar and pestle, or a blender. The finer the eggshells are crushed, the more easily they will break down in the soil.

This method is particularly helpful for plants that require calcium-rich soil, such as tomatoes and peppers, as it can help prevent blossom end rot, a common issue caused by calcium deficiency.

2. Coffee Grounds

coffee grounds as a natural fertilizer
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Used coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, providing a boost to the soil as they decompose, which in turn can benefit plant growth. They make excellent green material for compost piles, helping to balance the carbon-rich elements such as dried leaves and paper. When added to compost, coffee grounds encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms and fungi, which are essential for a healthy soil ecosystem.

However, it’s important to use coffee grounds judicially. Direct application of fresh coffee grounds to the soil is not recommended, as they can be acidic and may inhibit the growth of some plants if used excessively.

3. Banana Peels

banana peel as a natural fertilizer
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Banana peels are a useful source of nutrients for plants, particularly due to their high potassium content, which is crucial for plant growth, flower and fruit development, and overall plant health. Potassium aids in the movement of water, nutrients, and carbohydrates within plant tissue.

If you’re looking to give your plants a natural boost, you can chop up banana peels and bury them in the soil near the roots of your plants, or you can steep them in water to make a banana peel tea. As the banana peels decompose, they release nutrients slowly, providing a steady supply of nourishment to the plants. 

4. Aquarium Water

aquarium water is nutrient rich for plants
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Don’t dump that aquarium water. It’s packed with nutrients from fish waste and decaying plant matter. This waste generates nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, essential nutrients for plant growth and commonly found in commercial fertilizers. Dilute aquarium water with regular water before giving your leafy friends a drink.

Using this water to irrigate indoor and outdoor plants provides them with an additional nutrient boost, helps reduce waste, and conserves water, aligning with eco-friendly gardening practices.

5. Newspaper (Shredded)

shredded paper as a natural fertilizer
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Line your garden beds with shredded newspaper before adding mulch. Shredded newspaper suppresses weeds and breaks down over time, adding organic matter to the soil. It also helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation, which is particularly useful during hot weather or in areas with limited water resources.

In the compost, shredded newspaper can help balance the nitrogen-rich green materials, aiding in the decomposition process and resulting in rich, fertile compost that can be added to garden soil.

6. Hair (Composted, Not Loose)

hair as a natural fertilizer
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Hair clippings (human or pet) can be composted. The added keratin provides nitrogen, a key nutrient for healthy plant growth. As hair breaks down slowly, it provides a long-term source of nitrogen for the compost, which, once fully decomposed, can be mixed into garden soil or used as a top dressing for plants. When using hair in compost, it’s best to spread it thinly to prevent clumping, which can slow down the decomposition process.

7. Epsom Salts

epsom salt as a natural fertilizer
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Gardeners often apply Epsom salt to plants that exhibit signs of magnesium deficiency, such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth, particularly in crops like tomatoes, peppers, and roses. To boost magnesium, dissolve a tablespoon of Epsom salts in a gallon of water and occasionally water your plants with it. It can be dissolved in water and used as a foliar spray, offering a quick nutrient boost. Do a soil test first to ascertain that magnesium levels are indeed low before adding Epsom salt.

8. Apple Cider Vinegar

apple cider vinegar is good for plants who like acidic soil
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With its acetic acid content, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) can lower the soil’s pH, making it more acidic, which can benefit acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries. Mix 1 tablespoon of ACV with 1 gallon of water and apply the solution to the soil around the plants.

ACV also works as a natural fungicide. To combat fungal problems, spray a mild ACV solution directly on affected leaves. First, spray a small patch to ensure no harm to the leaves.

9. Used Tea Bags

used tea bags
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Don’t throw out those used tea bags. Open them up and sprinkle the tea leaves around your acid-loving plants for a nutrient boost. The contents of used tea bags are rich in tannins and nutrients, including nitrogen, which is vital for plant growth.

10. Chalk

add chalk to combat soil acidity
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Chalk, primarily composed of calcium carbonate, can be used in the garden to combat soil acidity and provide calcium to plants. Calcium is an essential plant nutrient that plays a key role in cell wall structure, enzyme activation, and stabilizing cell membranes. If your soil test indicates low pH levels, meaning the soil is too acidic for the desired plants, apply finely crushed chalk to raise the pH and make the soil more alkaline. This is particularly beneficial for plants that thrive in alkaline soil conditions. 

Chalk can also be used to deter slugs and snails from plants. Draw a line around your veggies with regular chalk to deter these pests. The scratchiness deters them from crossing the line.

11. Aspirin (Crushed)

aspirin for plants
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Got a wilting plant? Dissolve a crushed aspirin in a gallon of water and use it to water the plant. Aspirin can help relieve stress for plants experiencing shock. Aspirin contains the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid and is used by some gardeners as a home remedy to help boost plant immune systems and potentially ward off diseases.

The theory behind this practice is that acetylsalicylic acid can mimic salicylic acid, a naturally occurring chemical in plants that can trigger a defensive response against pathogens and stress.

12. Melted Ice Cubes

melt ice cube to water plants
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Using melted ice cubes to water plants can be an efficient and gentle method to hydrate them, especially for smaller houseplants that require a slow release of water to avoid overwatering. As the ice melts, it gradually seeps into the soil, providing a steady supply of water that the roots can absorb as needed. This method is particularly useful for plants that are sensitive to shock from cold water, as the ice will naturally come to room temperature as it melts. It’s also a convenient way to repurpose leftover ice from drinks or ice trays.

13. DIY Compost Tea

DIY compost tea for natural fertilizer
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Turn your kitchen scraps into liquid gold. Steep vegetable peels, eggshells, and coffee grounds in water to create a nutrient-rich compost tea that can be used to water plants or as a foliar spray. To make compost tea, simply fill a bucket with water, add compost, and let it sit for a few days, stirring occasionally to aerate the mixture, which encourages the proliferation of aerobic bacteria and fungi. Once the brewing process is complete, the liquid is strained and diluted with water to prevent nutrient burn or microbial overload when applied to plants. 

14. Egg Tray Seedling Pots

egg seedling tray as a natural fertilizer
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Skip the plastic. Reuse cardboard egg trays to start your seeds in an eco-friendly way. Fill the tray with seed starting mix and each section with one or two seeds. Cut the egg tray into individual seedling pots when the seedlings are ready for transplanting. Plant them directly into the soil. This reduces transplant shock since the roots are not disturbed, and the paper egg tray naturally decomposes in the soil, adding to the organic matter content.

15. DIY Plant Markers

popsicle stick to label plants
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Repurpose old spoons or popsicle sticks. Decorate them and use them to label your plants. Flatten old spoons and write the plant names with a permanent marker on the handle. Do the same with popsicle sticks before sticking them into the soil beside the plant. 

16. Wine Corks

cork as a natural fertilizer
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Line the bottom of your pots with wine corks to improve drainage and prevent root rot. Slice the corks into thin discs and scatter them on top of the soil around plants as a lightweight, moisture-retaining mulch. The cork’s natural properties help to suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, and insulate plant roots from temperature fluctuations. 

17. Beer (Flat)

beer as a natural fertilizer
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Flat beer can be a surprising source of nutrients for your plants. Dilute it with water and use it sparingly to give your plants a nutrient boost. Beer, surprisingly, can also be used as a pest control measure. Fill shallow containers with flat beer and place them around the garden to attract and trap slugs and snails drawn to the fermenting sugars in the beer, and they drown upon entering the liquid trap.

18. Wood Ash (Carefully)

wood ash as a natural fertilizer
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Wood ash, a byproduct of burning untreated wood in fireplaces, wood stoves, or bonfires, can be a valuable amendment to garden soil. It is a source of potassium that can benefit some plants, like tomatoes and beans, that prefer slightly alkaline conditions. However, improper use can raise soil pH too much. Research your specific plants and use a small amount very sparingly. Wood ash should also be stored in a dry, covered container to prevent the leaching of nutrients before use.

19. Diatomaceous Earth

diatomaceous earth as a natural fertilizer
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Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a naturally occurring, powdery substance made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. Due to its abrasive properties, it is widely used in gardening as a non-toxic insecticide. It can damage the exoskeletons of crawling pests like slugs, ants, and aphids, leading to dehydration and death. Sprinkle it around the base of your plants as a physical barrier against insects. Reapply after rain or watering, as DE works best when dry.

20. Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

homemade bird feeder
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Attract feathered friends who will help with pest control. Mix pinecones, peanut butter, and birdseed, then mold the mixture into shapes and hang them in your garden. As birds flock to these edible decorations, they benefit from the supplemental food source and help the garden by eating pests such as aphids and caterpillars that can damage plants. Moreover, birds contribute to the ecosystem by pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds, which can lead to a more robust and diverse garden environment. 

Experiment With Natural Fertilizers

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Some of these ingredients require research and dilution before using. Experiment with different ingredients and have fun transforming your everyday food scraps into organic natural fertilizers for your plants. So start raiding your kitchen and get creative with your plants’ food.

20 Signs Your Home Is Secretly Cluttered (Even If It Looks Tidy)

woman organizing pantry
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You might not always see the excess stuff, but you know it’s there, leading to the same clutter-fueled problems. See if you recognize any of these sneaky signs that your tidy home is more cluttered than it seems.

Quick Fix For Sagging Drawers

repair drawer bottom sag
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I was utterly frustrated with the warped drawer bottoms, so I decided to try this $6 fix I saw on Instagram. It worked so well on both IKEA and non-IKEA drawers. Here’s how to do it.