DIY Gardening Tips, Tricks, and Recipes

June 18, 2021 Updated: June 18, 2021

Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? But one trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth, and weedkiller can pretty much zap all of that joy with its hefty price tag.

That’s why I love today’s tips and tricks—including, back by popular demand, homemade weedkiller.

Garden Vitamins

While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden will love them. Used coffee grounds are like megavitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds (wet or dry) around the plants and work them into the soil. They’re even the right color.

If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, don’t despair. Many coffee shops package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners for free. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your favorite coffeehouse.

Used coffee grounds are like megavitamins for the soil. (Folga-tov/Shutterstock)

Free Calcium

Every day, you throw away eggshells, and why not? They’re not good for anything, right? Wrong! Eggshells are delicious calcium for your garden. Be sure to crush them well, and then work them into the soil right along with those coffee grounds. Calcium will help keep your garden soil and plants healthy.

Eggshells are delicious calcium for your garden. (Teeranont Piyakruatip/Shutterstock)

Weed ‘Cloth’

Newspaper makes the best weed cloth (only after you’ve read this column). It’s free, and it allows water to drain through it, and it is also biodegradable—very good for the soil. Newspaper will definitely last through the season, preventing unwanted vegetation from growing up through it.

First, prepare your garden. Next, lay a thick layer of newspaper over the entire area, eight to 10 sheets thick. Now cover with a thick layer of mulch. At each place that you wish to plant a seedling, cut an X through the mulch and paper and into the soil.

Weedkiller for Areas to Be Replanted

If you have weeds in areas you want to replant, do this: Fill an ordinary garden sprayer with white vinegar, and add about one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap such as blue Dawn. Apply sprayer top, and follow the instructions on the sprayer to get it ready to spray. That’s it. Seriously, it is that simple.

Pick a hot, dry day to spray weeds until saturated. They will wilt and shrivel up within hours, so be careful to not spray anything you want to live.

However, do not worry about the vinegar killing anything below the soil. Because vinegar will not harm the soil, you can safely replant the area once the weeds have died.

Homemade weedkiller is cheap and easy to make. (New Africa/Shutterstock)

Weedkiller for Areas Never to Grow Again

To kill all vegetation in walkways, driveways, and other areas where you don’t want any living thing to grow again, mix two cups of ordinary table salt with one gallon of white vinegar. Do this in a container that is larger than one gallon so you have room for the table salt (not Epsom salts, which are a soil nutrient found in lots of garden fertilizers).

Apply the lid, and shake to dissolve the salt. Salt dissolves more quickly in vinegar than in water, but it takes a bit of shaking. It may not completely dissolve, but that’s OK. Add one teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. Pour into any kind of garden sprayer or spray bottle; make sure to avoid including any undissolved salt, which can clog the sprayer.

Apply to weeds or grass on a dry, sunny day to areas you don’t want to see vegetation of any kind in the future.


Ordinary distilled white vinegar with 5 percent acidity (the kind you find in the supermarket) is cheap and works great. If you can find a higher acidity, even up to 30 percent (available at Home Depot, Walmart, and Amazon for about $2 for a half-gallon), it’s going to work faster, but the end results will be the same.

It is the presence of salt in the second recipe above that will eventually bring permanence to your weedkilling. The salt will penetrate and leach into the soil. It may take multiple applications, but in time, the salt will “sterilize” the soil in this area so that nothing will grow there for the foreseeable future. Plan well before you go this permanent route.

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021