8 Easy DIY Gardening Tips & Tricks

8 easy, DIY gardening tips & tricks for the beginner and seasoned gardener. Simple ways to make your time spent in the garden more enjoyable!

Everyone loves shortcuts or out-of-the-ordinary ways to solve problems. Sometimes the simplest household items, or using an item in a different way, can be the solution. Here are eight DIY gardening tips to make your gardening chores easier and less expensive. Sometimes it pays to think outside the box!

8 Easy DIY Gardening Tips

Use soap shavings to keep away squirrels.

Some people think squirrels are cute…however, I am not one of them. I really have no use for squirrels at all! There is nothing more maddening than planting lovely containers, raised beds or a regular garden only to have squirrels dig up the soil and sometimes even the plants. An easy and inexpensive way to keep the squirrels away is to grate a bar of Irish Spring bath soap around your plants. Depending on the amount of space you need to cover, just a few bars should be enough. Unless you receive record amounts of rain, the soap shavings should work for a few weeks. Even after the soap dissolves, the scent lingers and keeps the squirrels away. 

plastic forks in garden pot of lettuce plants diy gardening tips

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Put plastic forks in containers to keep away animals.

A great solution to keep squirrels or bunnies out of your containers is to stick plastic forks in your soil with the tines pointing up. It doesn’t harm your plants at all (or the animals) and there is literally no room for them to dig.  I use this method every spring when my container dirt is new and the plants are small. In the past, I have had squirrels dig out half of my container soil and it makes the biggest mess. This fork trick really does keep most of them away. 

Use egg cartons to start seedlings indoors.

It’s very exciting when winter is over and spring is just around the corner…and it’s time to start seedlings for the garden. One of the easiest ways to do that is to plant them in egg cartons! Each egg well holds the perfect amount of potting soil. Just make sure to put the cartons on a water-proof surface. 

plastic bottles in bottom of planter

Use packing peanuts or plastic bottles in large containers.

Large containers pack quite a punch when it comes to curb appeal. Filling them with potting soil can be expensive and it also makes the containers very heavy. To lighten the load and cut down on the potting soil, fill the bottom half of your containers with packing peanuts. A small amount of soil will slip down through the peanuts but most of it will stay at the top. Another option is to fill the bottom of a large container with plastic soda or water bottles. 

Update: I heard from a reader that it’s best to put the packing peanuts in a mesh bag (like onions or oranges come in) before you add them to your container. This will keep the peanuts contained and they won’t float around in your dirt. 

Use plastic bins for container gardening on a budget.

Plastic bins are a convenient and budget-friendly option for container gardens. They come in a variety of sizes and are very durable. Just make sure to drill holes in the bottom for drainage, and use the plastic bottle trick to cut down on the amount of potting soil needed to fill your bins. 

Make your own weed killer.

No DIY gardening tips list would be complete without the mention of weeds. Sometimes weed killer is necessary, especially in the spring when weeds seem to be the only things growing. If you need a lot, it can get very expensive. A homemade recipe that works great is to combine one gallon white vinegar, one cup table salt and one tablespoon Dawn dish soap. Mix it all together in a garden sprayer and show those weeds who is in charge!

Update: I heard from a few readers who said that using salt can deplete the soil. If you are killing weeds in a spot where you aren’t planning to plant, go ahead and use the salt. If you are using the mixture in a place where there are existing plants, or where you plan to plant, just leave out the salt. In this case, you will need a different ratio. For every cup of vinegar, use 2 tablespoons of dish soap. The vinegar will kill the weeds, and the dish soap helps it stick until they are dead. 

pinching off basil plant diy gardening tips

Pinch back herbs and flowers for fuller plants.

Pinching back the tops of some plants is a good way to stimulate growth and encourage the plants to fill out. Pinching is a type of pruning that can be done with your fingers on tender stems. Find a set of leaves and pinch the stem right above them. Do this when the plant is young and you will end up with bushy, lush plants.  

Related:

coffee filter in garden pot diy gardening tips

Line containers with coffee filters to keep in the dirt.

Container gardening is becoming more and more popular but with it comes certain challenges. Rule #1 when planting a container is that it must have proper drainage. That means a hole in the bottom of your pot. To prevent all your potting soil from slipping through the hole, line your container with a coffee filter. It will let the water through but not the soil! Don’t have any coffee filters? A double layer of paper towel will work too!

I hope you have learned a new DIY gardening tip or two. Now go out and do some digging!

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57 Comments

  1. Sheila DelCharco says:

    These are so good! I wish I knew a way to keep the squirrels out of my bird feeders!

  2. Love these garden hacks! I live in Kenya so will have to hack your hack for a few to make them workable for me – but you’ve gotten my mind going! I love the fork idea! We don’t have squirrels here but we do have other critters that like to dig. Appreciate your creative and helpful ideas. Asante! That’s Kiswahili for “thank you!”

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I love all of your ideas! Very good tips on gardening. I have had a big costly problem with squirrels. I was having electrical problems with my Hyundai including car shaking while driving. A rep. from my insurance company arrived and informed me that SQUIRRELS have chewed all my electrical wires from left to right. Popped the hood and YES you could see chewed wires. The cost to repair $1,648.00. Then in our local newspaper an article appeared.
    “Squirrels love the new Chevy Traverse, but there’s a way to stop them”. The insulation om many wires is made from Soybean based compounds that squirrels, mice find appealing. Honda had such a problem and even developed a Tape made with Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili pepper. Amazon sells the Honda tape.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Oh my gosh this is terrible! Squirrels have chewed many things around our home. They tend to go for the plastic, of course. I am so sorry about your car!

  4. Lucia Donahower says:

    Hi Ann,
    These are great tips. Thank you.
    Have a great week.
    Lucy

  5. Great tips! One trick I learned from a fellow gardener is to use the metal coat hangers you get from the dry cleaners. Take off the paper if they have any. Stick one corner of the coat hanger in the soil, at a slight angle, deep enough so it will stay upright, but tall enough so it will deter any creatures. Then do the same for the next hanger, until you have a row of them. I have used this with great success to protect a border of pansies. The hangers pretty much disappear into the background, and are only visible when you get close up. Plus it is a great way to recycle all those hangers!

  6. Cecilia from Georgia says:

    Oh rats! I just planted all my urns and pots yesterday and wish I had known about the coffee filters and plastic bottles. I used styrofoam peanuts one year and when I emptied the pots the next year peanuts went flying all over the yard! I have put a disposable diaper in big pots and it keeps me from having to water so much. My dog is an excellent squirrel and varmint chaser! Thanks for the tips!

  7. leslie cook says:

    great ideas! For large pots, I have used the plastic bottles, broken pieces of styrofoam, and swimming pool noodles! They are cheap and work really well in very large pots!

  8. Thank you for all the gardening tips. I also like your previous post regarding hostas. Jean

  9. Sweetie wife Jemney says:

    Those were great gardening tips thanks. Water bottles and packing peanuts , weed killer , coffee filters we’re my favs Thanks

  10. Wonderful ideal. I can use all of them. Thank you for the great easy ideas

  11. Thank you Ann! Your posts are such an uplifting breath of fresh air this year! I utilize empty milk jugs (rinsed) in my big planters. Before I put in the dirt, I put 3 to 4 sheets of newsprint on top. I then poke several holes in the newsprint (usually with one of my husband’s screwdrivers!) for water drainage. Then the potting soil. The newsprint keeps the soil from sinking around the jugs making clean-up in the fall so much easier. Thanks again for sharing your talents and in such a welcoming and friendly way. You make me feel as if we’re BFF!

  12. Lynnette Husted says:

    I agree with you 100% – squirrels are terrible!! They destroy plants and roofs!! I have tried plastic owls and pepper sachets. Thanks for the soap idea – that’s my next attempt!!

  13. Great tips. I usually cut pieces of landscape fabric to cover the holes in the bottom of my flower pots. Sometimes I have used a used dryer sheet. I use styrofoam peanuts in my large pots, but i didn’t know about the mesh bag idea. I will have to do that this year. Last year i put plastic forks in my hanging baskets to deter birds from nesting. It worked. (I have nothing against birds nesting, but that can make it impossible to water the plants and by the time the babies leave the nest the plants will probably be dead.)

  14. Georgia Bingham says:

    Help! My back slope is being over run with wild onions/chives! I have no clue how they got there other than from mulch? There are too many to pull by hand. Perhaps the vinegar/ salt weed killer combo will work? I have noticed at my daughters in Greenville, S C many lawns are full of onions. Very new to me in Michigan.

    Thoughts????

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Hi Georgia…how frustrating. I honestly am not sure what to tell you. I haven’t had any experience with something like this. The vinegar/salt spray may work…it’s definitely worth a try. Although master gardeners (which I am not) frown greatly on commercial weed killers, that may be the only thing that works for something like this, if you are comfortable with it. Good luck…let us know what happens!

      1. Georgia Bingham says:

        Thanks Ann for finding time to respond. I really appreciate that! I may just have to sit with my trowl and work a section at a time to dig them up. I’ll take a pic and share when finished…☺ g

  15. Deborah Lee Peeters says:

    Thanks for all the great gardening tips. I would have never thought if the coffee filter trick. Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blogs. Deborah P

  16. Leslie May says:

    Thanks for the great tips, Ann! I really look forward to your blog posts and today’s was everything I needed to work outside again ! Happy gardening!

  17. Karen Mary says:

    I hadn’t heard to coffee filter idea – good one (for next year)! About the soap — plants don’t mind their roots getting washed in Irish Spring when it rains? I only like squirrels from a distance, and definitely not in my flower pots! Thanks for the good tips, Ann!

  18. Thank you for all the great ideas!!

  19. Hi Ann…thanks for the tips. Just want to say that the crushed egg shell do nothing for your garden. The calcium in the eggshells is negligible. It does deter the rabbits, squirrels little paws though. I follow Empress of the Garden and she looks up scientific evidence for old wives tales.She has debunked quite a few of them with evidence from different Universities.
    I love gardening..looking forward to making my veggie garden when it gets warmer.

  20. Cookie eddings says:

    Ann, I simply LOVE your blog!!!!! I’m mixing up the vinegar & salt etc. to kill weeds. Thanks so much for all the info. etc. that you give out. The printables are loved, in fact I’m getting ready to make a group of 8-12 pics to fill one of my walls in the den with seasonal pics so I can change them out for each season.
    Did Elizabeth move into a different house? It seems as if I read sometime ago that she moved.
    I’m going to try to make simple curtains for my daughter’s short windows in her den. If you can render any help I’d surely appreciate your ideas/help since I’m not good at sewing. I’d like rings at the top to close.
    Thanks for all the help that you give. Cookie

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Oh gosh Cookie I haven’t made curtains in years. I usually buy panels or use blinds! Honestly, installing the rods is just too hard for me. Yes, my daughter sold her little house and is building a new one. She has not moved in yet so is sort of homeless right now! I will try to take some pics and share after she moves in.

  21. Susan Still says:

    If you use packing peanuts in the bottom of pots to keep them from getting too heavy, enclose them in a mesh bag…like onions or oranges come in. If they are uncontained, you will be picking them (individually) out of the soil for years, every time you change the plants or add potting soil. Actually, it’s better to go with the empty plastic bottles.
    Thanks Ann for the great hints!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Thank you for the tip! It’s brilliant. :)

  22. We love squirrels and birds that visit our backyard and have a squirrel feeding platform and 4 different kinds of bird feeders and a bird bath. The squirrels bury the peanuts that we leave out for them but that isn’t much of a nuisance to us. They don’t seem to bother any of the plants.

    I have an herb garden in a big barrel and my biggest nuisance is the slugs that eat my basil! Any suggestions? maybe the eggshells? Thanks!

  23. Kathy Menold says:

    Ann,
    Definitely will try the soap tip to discourage squirrels. Some where I read hot pepper flakes would keep them out of window boxes so I sprinkled some in each box. All I got was a lot of little pepper seedlings and squirrels in sombrero s having a fiesta while they dug up my plants!😁

  24. Lorri RAUSCHER says:

    Good tips Ann.I think the fork idea is funny looking but I am sure it works well. Being an animal I certainly wouldnt want to be caught in that space.LOL!! Another idea for tomatoes is crushing egg shells around the plant. FIrst for the nutrients it gives to the plant but secondly if you have critters it hurts their paws. Happy Gardening!

  25. Kelli McFarland says:

    Thank you so much for a better weed killer. I try to be very conscious about the environment and safety for others when using products that could hurt our environment but sometimes there ate not too many options to choose from.

  26. Lucia Donahower says:

    Hi Ann
    Thank you for these great tips! I’m an avid Gardner and will put these to good use, especially the squirrel tip!
    Have a great week
    Lucy

  27. I love squirrels so appreciate your humane tips for keeping them out of planters and flower beds. This year we have an all white squirrel living in our neighborhood.

  28. I tried your packing peanuts idea in my pots and during the first rain fall they floated up to the top of the soil and it was such a mess to clean up. I would rather not be able to move the pots than go through that again. I just thought you might want to know what can happen.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Thanks Carole…what a mess. This happened to me once when I put the packing peanuts in a container with no drainage holes. Did your containers have holes?

      1. Yes they did however they must have gotten clogged up or maybe were too small. I live alone so I am always looking for help with things like heavy pots that I can’t move myself. Oh well I guess I will have to be satisfied with their location and leave it alone.

  29. Always enjoy reading your blog Ann!

  30. Carole Thomas says:

    Hi Ann,
    We have lots of squirrels in our yard, we feed birds and have a very active yard. Squirrels dig my plants up and even carry sea shells and other potting ornaments and drop them around in the yard. We have found tomatoes in our oak tree, just a battle, especially in the spring. I use moth balls in my containers to keep the squirrels at bay until the plants get established. Thanks for the Irish Spring soap idea. That would certainly give a more pleasant aroma.
    I always enjoy your blog and have used lots of recipes, ideas and learned many tricks from you. You make me smile.

    1. Lorri RAUSCHER says:

      Did you ever try crushed egg shells around your garden? It does work especially if you put alot around…like little razors blades on their paws.

      1. Thanks for your suggestion, Lorri. I have used crushed egg shells to keep snails and slugs out of planted pots, but now spread “used” ground coffee around the edges of the pots and that has been successful. Maybe I should use more egg shells for the squirrels. I will certainly give it a try.

  31. Hard to have gardens or flowers here in Florida with all the deer, squirrels,armadillos and other wild life.I have used Irish spring for the deer but never heard about the forks,I’ll have to try that one.The only sure thing is to keep all plantings in the lanai,safe behind screening ! Good luck with your gardening.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Yes I agree. A fence of some kind really is the only sure thing.

  32. Great tips! I will use them. I am not a very seasoned gardener and have a lot to learn so I can use all the tips you have to give.😁 Thanks!

  33. What unique tips, Ann! I hadn’t thought to use forks in early spring to keep away the squirrels – brilliant. :)

  34. Love the idea of putting a coffee filter at the bottom of
    flower pots. Great idea!

  35. Terrific tips. Thanks so much for sharing.

  36. Hey Ann …. thanks for the tips!!!!! I am certainly doing the weed thing!!! Gardening is not up my sleeve, so I know nothing about it!!! but, am willing to give it a shot!!! and I can pinch off petunia’s?!! OK. I dead-had them, but now I will pinch some of the stragglers off – right?! I am getting a little excited! I thank you and I will let you know how my “garden grows! LOL

  37. jeannette says:

    Great tips Ann! I will pass on the one to keep squirrels at bay…..my daughter lives in a neighborhood that feels like the invasion of the squirrels! lol
    Have a great day

  38. Love your website, go to it for many tips and tricks love the things you post, and your style.

  39. I will try the soap shavings and plastic fork tips. A chipmunk has been digging in my pots and making a mess on my deck. I have used the coffee filter trick and the packing peanuts in my large deck pots. I have a roll of leftover landscape fabric that I cut to size to put at the bottom of my pots, but sometimes when I am planting a smaller pot I will also use a used fabric softener sheet.

  40. Elizabeth Bender says:

    Wow! I’m saving all these tips! Thanks so much Ann.

  41. Catherine says:

    These are great gardening tricks, everyone of them. I’ve been gardening for a long time but many of these are new to me. Very helpful post Ann.

  42. Ann, I love the gardening tips but especially the coffee filter tip. I have so many filters and finally a way to use them. So clever of you. Thank you!

  43. I love your ideas! I just wish you posted the coffee filter a month ago. I have all my pots planted already. I”ll keep this in mind for next year.

  44. Marcia Marcoux says:

    I love the tips for keeping squirrels out of my freshly planted pots! It gets so frustrating to see the plants disturbed and soil all over.
    Thanks, Ann!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Frustrating indeed! I know exactly how you feel. :)

      1. We feed all the birds which includes the hummers as well. For the most part the squirrels hang out on our slope which is covered in gazanias with 2-3 trees as well. I appreciate their quirkiness and they have not destroyed anything that I’ve planted. I do become a little uncomfortable if they come closer to the yard instead of remain on their slope though. Also, if they were to make themselves at home on our new roof, that would be a deal breaker. Thank you for the Irish Spring soap trick. I have heard that it also repels rats as well.

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