Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? One trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth and weed killer can pretty much zap all of the joy for the expense that can represent. That’s why I love today’s tips, tricks and, back by popular demand, homemade weed killer.

But first, check out my garden—spring flowers and a few weeds I treated only yesterday.

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GARDEN VITAMINS. While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden would love them. Used coffee grounds are like mega-vitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds 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. Starbucks has a program called Grounds for Your Garden, where they package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners, for free. Pre-packaged bags of Grounds for Your Garden may not be available in all stores. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your local Starbucks.

FREE CALCIUM. Every day you throw away egg shells, and why not? They’re not good for anything, right? Wrong! They are a 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.

WEED “CLOTH.” Once you’ve spent hours upon hours hunched over hand-weeding a garden or flower bed. Newspaper makes the best weed cloth. Basically, it’s free, 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. Prepare your garden, lay a thick layer of newspaper over the entire area, 8-10 sheet 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. 

WEED KILLER 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 liquid dishwashing soap like 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, and 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.

WEED KILLER 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 ordinary table salt with one gallon of white vinegar. Do this in a container that is larger than one gallon capacity so you have room for the salt. Apply the lid and shake to dissolve the salt. Salt dissolves more quickly in vinegar than in water, but it takes a bit of doing. It may not completely dissolve, but that’s okay. Add 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap. Pour into any kind of garden sprayer or spray bottle. 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.

Notes: 1) Ordinary distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity (the kind you find in the supermarket) is cheap and works great. If you can find a higher acidity even up to 30% (I find this at Home Depot for about $2 for one-half gallon) it is going to work faster, but the end results will be the same. 2) It is the presence of salt in the second recipe that will eventually bring permanence to your weed killing. The salt will penetrate and leach into the soil. It may take several applications, but in time the salt will “sterilize” the soil in this area so that nothing will grow there. Plan well before you go this permanent route.

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