Angie's List: How can I get a healthy garden using household ingredients?

By Diana Crandall
Angie's List

Spring frosts are disappearing from the forecast, which means it’s a good time to get started on coaxing your garden back to life. Whether you’d like to give your outdoor space a little extra shine — or you want to keep critters away from your hard work — there are a few simple household ingredients that can help.

Mix coffee grounds into your compost pile: If you start out the day with a freshly brewed cup ‘o joe, don’t toss the coffee grounds and filter in the trash. They’re a great addition to your compost pile, according to Oregon State University’s Extension Service. They recommend layering one-third coffee grounds, one-third leaves and one-third fresh grass clippings. Paper coffee filters are a carbon source, and you can speed up decomposition by tearing the paper into pieces.

Natural household items like coffee grounds, baking soda and water can help you protect your garden from build-up from grime and pests.

Blast concrete stains with baking soda: Before peak patio season hits, brighten up your cement with a natural rinse. Mix one-half cup baking soda into one gallon of water, then add in a dash — about one-eighth of a cup — of liquid dish detergent to the mix. Give your patio a spray with the solution and wait for about a half an hour. Then, rinse off with the hose. If you have stubborn stains or mildew, you may need something stronger — like a professional power washing — to get rid of it.

Protect your plants from aphids with the hose: If you notice small insects on your buds, plant tips and the undersides of leaves near the veins, you likely have aphids in your garden. While they can sometimes cause foliage distortion and stunt plant growth, the University of California Cooperative Extension notes that they can also be beneficial insects to the ecosystem since they’re the natural enemies of parasitic wasps and spiders. To control the population of aphids in your garden, bring out the hose and spray sturdy plants with a heavy stream of water. This rinses away aphids and the honeydew they secrete. If part of your plant is severely damaged, the UC Cooperative Extension recommends trimming the area and throwing away the debris. (Don’t compost it.)

Keep animals away from fruit and vegetables with netting and fencing: Fresh citrus, cucumbers, strawberries and potatoes make a delicious summer snack – both for your family and hungry raccoons, skunks and opossums. If you see evidence that an animal is taking a bite out of your harvest before you get a chance to, fencing or netting is the most effective way to keep them out, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. You should also bring any pet food and picnic leftovers inside, the Almanac recommends, as they may attract the uninvited guests to your yard.

Call in for back-up when you need to: If natural ingredients aren’t doing the trick, or if you need a hand with landscaping, you can always call a pro for help. If you’re hiring now, you can use technology to connect with pest control and lawn and garden experts, and you can send photos and video chat to show them what you’re working with versus meeting in-person to discuss the details of your project. You can also ask about online payment options, so you and the pro can both avoid handling cash, checks or credit cards.

Diana Crandall is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit