Secrets Of A Cheapskate Gardener

By Mary Hunt

February 24, 2017 4 min read

I love a beautiful yard, but I hate spending money to get it that way, which explains why I am always looking for do-it-yourself cheap ways to kill weeds, grow flowers and feed lawns.

I have come across some very clever tips and tricks, not the least of which is to reclassify the dandelion as a low-maintenance, exquisite ground cover!

While you ponder that suggestion, take a look at these clever ideas to make your own landscape supplies.

*Lawn Food

Mix 4 pounds magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) with a bag of your favorite lawn food that covers 2,500 square feet. Now feed your lawn only half the amount of this mixture as recommended on the lawn food bag. You'll save a lot of money because you'll be using less than half the normal amount of fertilizer, and this formulation cuts down on the nitrogen, which makes your lawn grow so fast. You'll have the wonderful deep-green color, better root structure, and you won't have to mow as often.

*Lawn Snack

Try this on your lawn every three weeks during the summer. (With every third snack, add 1/2 cup clear corn syrup or molasses to the mixture.)

--1 can beer

--1 cup children's shampoo

--Household ammonia

Pour the beer and shampoo (and corn syrup when it's the third snack) into a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer jar; fill up the jar with ammonia and apply, following the instructions on the hose-end sprayer. You're going to have very happy grass.

*Yummy Treat for Vegetables

If you want some startling growth in your vegetable garden, mix up a batch of this artillery punch. All of this smelly stuff goes into that 20-gallon hose-end sprayer:

--1 can beer

--1/2 cup molasses

--1/2 cup household ammonia

--1/4 cup fish emulsion (available at garden supply store)

--1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide

--1/4 cup whiskey

--2 tablespoons children's shampoo

--1/4 teaspoon instant tea granules

Apply to vegetables (using the hose-end sprayer, of course) early in the day, one time halfway through the growing season.

*Bug Zapper

This is a preventive measure to keep diseases and bugs away. Start using it early in the season on everything -- lawn, flowers, shrubs, vegetables and fruits.

--1 cup antiseptic mouthwash

--1 cup flea and tick shampoo (make sure it contains "pyrethrum" or "pyrethrins")

--1 cup chewing tobacco juice

Wait! You don't have to start chewing and spitting to make this recipe. Sneak into the store and buy a container of chewing tobacco. Dump it into an old nylon stocking, tie it off and steep uncovered in one quart of boiling water until the water turns disgustingly brown. Put a cup of it along with the other ingredients into your trusty 20-gallon hose-end sprayer; fill balance of jar with warm water and apply to about 2,500 square feet. Keep the kids and pets away while applying. Any remaining mix or tobacco juice should be clearly labeled and kept out of reach of children.

*Backyard Birdbath

As long as you have a beautiful yard and garden you might as well invite some songbirds to splish-splash and entertain you. In addition to hanging bird feeders, delight your family with a birdbath.

Pick up a large 12- or 16-inch diameter drip tray (the kind used under a potted plant.) Put the tray on the ground in a sheltered part of the garden, positioning rocks or small logs around the perimeter. Put a large rock in the middle of the bath to act as an island. Fill with water and wait for the action. Flush out water every two or three days.

For more information on the ingredients mentioned above, please visit

Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at

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