Super easy and simple gardening tricks using plastic that actually work! Especially if you are new to gardening, or don’t have a green thumb (like me).
I’ve never proclaimed myself to be a great gardener. In fact, I’m much closer to the other end of the spectrum and consider myself lucky if my three remaining zucchini plants collectively produce just one zucchini for the season.
There’s a reason why I grow more food in water than in dirt!
Like the growing number of home gardeners, I’m all ears when it comes to learning the tricks to a successful garden and I’ve already learned a ton. In addition to watering the garden for free, I have new gardening tips to share!
5 Ways to Use Plastic for Gardening
Tip #1: Insulate tomatoes with plastic wrap
Tomatoes thrive in stagnant, hot weather.
Wrapping the bottom two rungs or steps of the tomato cage with plastic wrap simulates a greenhouse. The heat is trapped inside the plastic wrap and the plants are blocked from the wind. By the time the plants reach the top of the plastic wrap, they’re strong plants and well adjusted to the temperatures and wind!
How to do it:
Step 1: Have someone hold the end of the plastic wrap onto a vertical stake with two hands.
Step 2: Wrap the plastic wrap around one full time.
Step 3: Then continue wrapping around as you work your way down or up the cage (we started at the top and worked down).
Be sure to wrap at least two layers to get the full effect and make the plastic wrap stick to itself. I used the plastic wrap I had in the kitchen, but you might want to consider a 20″ heavy duty plastic wrap if you have several plants to wrap.
Tip #2: Insulate smaller plants with milk jugs
Here is another way, you can use plastic for gardening, MILK JUGS! It’s the same concept as the tomatoes, but we’re using it on bell peppers in our $15 raised garden bed. Bell peppers also need warm weather, but we’re hoping that insulating them with the milk jugs gives them a fighting chance through our cooler springs so maybe, just maybe, they might bear fruit come summer!
How To Do It:
Step 1: Using a pair of scissors, cut off the top and bottom of a used milk jug.
Step 2: Rinse it out well and place it over/around the plant. Be sure to pack a little bit of dirt against the outside edges of the milk jug so that it doesn’t easily knock over when the wind blows.
Tip #3: Catch pincher bugs with oil
Also known as earwigs, pincher bugs like to eat the leaves of the plants. We tried to lure them and drown them with oil – and it worked! Our three remaining zucchini plants are doing much better and now stand a chance to meet the goal of one zucchini for the year!
How To Do It:
Step 1: You’ll need an old plastic container with a lid. Think yogurt, sour cream or cottage cheese.
Step 2: Using a pair of scissors, cut a oval-shaped hole about 1″ from the top of the container.
Step 3: Repeat. So that there are 4-5 holes in the container.
Step 4: Bury the container in the garden so that the holes are ground level.
Step 5: Fill the container. Use 3 parts cheap cooking oil to 1 part soy sauce. The bugs will be lured in by the soy sauce and will drown and get stuck in oil. (To help gauge, we used about 3/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup soy sauce for a 32 oz yogurt container.)
Tip #4: Deter other bugs with cayenne pepper spray
While the homemade earwig traps are working well, there are still some bugs in the garden that are chomping on leaves. While the damage isn’t too bad, we’re taking precautionary measures and keeping them away with sticky cayenne pepper spray!
How To Do It:
Step 1: Combine 1 tsp of cayenne pepper with 1 cup of hot water.
Step 2: Stir to dissolve the cayenne as much as possible.
Step 3: Pour into a spray bottle and add about 1 tsp of liquid dish soap.
Step 4: Fill the bottle with water and swish gently to combine (don’t shake otherwise you’ll just make a lot of bubbles).
Step 5: Spray directly onto the leaves of the affected plants.
Note: Reapply the cayenne pepper spray every 2-3 days, or after watering, or as needed. I recommend getting durable spray bottles that you dedicate just for the garden and keep outside so they’re there when you need them. Otherwise it can be a pain walking back and forth from the garden to the house / garage / shed every time you see a bug.
#5: Deep water tomato plants with a broomstick handle
Plants need water down at the roots, and watering at the surface level is fine for most of the time, but tomato plants especially benefit from a really good, deep water every few weeks or so. I came up with my own method for getting down deep into the roots.
How to do it:
Step 1: Taking the handle of a broom, align it with the edge of the container and plunge it all the way to the bottom.
Step 2: Move the handle in a circular motion until you have a hole that is just a bit bigger than the broom handle.
Step 3: Remove the broom and repeat to make 4-6 holes in the dirt, depending on the size of your pot.
Step 4: Water directly into the hole until the plant is saturated!
Tip #6 (BONUS!): Fertilize the tomatoes while you’re deep watering
While you’re making deep holes near your tomato plants, go ahead and take advantage by adding a liquid fertilizer to the roots. I make fertilizer tea for free, otherwise I recommend an organic liquid fertilizer.
Gardening Tips I Haven’t Tried (Yet!)
- I heard you can deter ants by boiling citrus peels in water. This might come in handy since they’re in the flowers of my zucchini plants quite often.
- I also want to make a watering can out of a milk jug for the kids, so that when they help me water, more water ends up in the plants than the ground!
- We tried the “newspaper trick” in order to keep the earwigs away (where you roll up a newspaper, get it slightly damp, place it in the garden bed, then bright and early the next morning you remove the newspaper and dispose of the bugs). Apparently “bright and early” is much earlier than when we wake up, so there were never bugs inside.
- If you want a more potent yet natural solution, I highly recommend Neem Oil. One bottle lasts at least a full season, and it’s taken care of a whole array of garden pests for us!
Milk jugs for watering, milk jugs as a mini greenhouse (as shown above) and you can also create a garden scoop,, a plastic bottle into a planter with a self watering system, the possibilities are endless!
Yes, you can!
Use plastics that are free from BPA and other harmful chemicals.
Yogurt, sour cream, egg cartons, tupperware, bins, etc.
More Gardening Advice:
- 10 Ways to Regrow Food in Water
- How to Vacation Proof Your Garden
- 50 Ways to Fertilize the Garden For Free
- How to Build a Raised Garden Bed For Under $15
For bugs eating th leaves of spinach ,you can sprinkle a mixture of turmeric powder and black pepper powder .
The best fertilizer for tomatoes when first planting tomato plants is a small amount of powdered milk mixed with the dirt The tomatoes love the nutrients in the milk They grow bigger and healthier
That pic with all those dead earwigs… ugh. Lol. Those are my #1 most hated bug.
A 2 liter bottle works great for watering plants. Just use an ice pick to put small holes in the lid.
I cut off three sides of the milk jugs, but leave one side attached. Flip it backwards, set the jug over the plant, and put a heavy rock on the flap. They won’t blow away.
I’ve tried making a milk-jug watering can. It kind-of works, but you really need a hole in the top for air to come in place of the water.. its like pouring a jar of oil. A lot of water, then none, then a lot. You get air bubbles. I didnt like it so much.
Thanks for letting us know Julie! I haven’t tried that method myself yet. 🙂
I used mason jars over my plants when they are small to have like a small green house over the plants.
When I was starting my herbs in a pot I plastic wrapped the top of it to be like a garden house to start them and they growing great now.
Love all your tips.
Ps. But we don’t have milk jugs in canada 🙁
Not sure where in Canada you are but I am in B.C. and we have milk jugs in 250ml, 473ml 1 litre, 2 litre and 4 litre.
Hi if you want more than one zucchini per plant you might want to pollinate by hand….Just get a childs paint brush and gently poke it into the male flower and then transfer it to the female flower (the one with the miniture zucchini behind the flower. I use this technique and regularly get an over abundance of fruits.
I take the little dinky pots that plants from the store come in and bury them with the top level to the ground on each side of my squash and everything actually ( we have very clay loamy soil impossible to deep water) I add fertilizer, Epsom salt so they taste yummy to the pots also when I water.
What a natural gardener needs in one post. Thank you. This is great!
You use tea for a fertilizer, but no recipe. I made some horse manure tea using 10 gallons manure with 40 gallons water, but it seemed pretty strong. I watered it down about half and half, but didn’t seem to work well. A recipe I’m not afraid to use would help.
Hey there Cliff – if you follow the link to the article I was referring to, you’ll find a recipe for fertilizer tea.
If you have a lot of ants around your home or in your garden, it is most likely because you have aphids on tender plants. The ants are attracted to the honeydew produced by the aphids. The best remedy for aphids is ladybugs, released to the dirt at the base of the infected plant at NIGHT during warm weather. Speak to your garden center, You can buy them by the container and store in fridge till needed.
Any tips on keeping rodents or raccoons from devouring my tomatoes! At first I thiught it was birds so I covered my entire garden in netting but large bites in my tomatoes are still occurring.
Hi Paulette! I don’t have any experience with large rodents yet, but my best guess would not be netting over, but maybe a small chicken wire type fence around them?
My parents use rubber snakes the birds and small rodents are scared to come near.
I use grow bags. On tomatoes and peppers I would use the white ones. You put it over each fruit, I do it as they grow, and they have like twisties on top that you tighten around the stem. It works so far for me. I use it on my fruit trees too. The best part is they are reusable next season. They come in different sizes. I use the really large ones for my cucumbers. It keeps the moths from laying their eggs and turning into worms that bore into your cukes.
I went to the store and bought three large container of cinnamon and sprinkled it everywhere and even the bunnies don’t bother the garden anymore. Definitely helped
Hair clippings (or from a brush) usually help deter all manner of rodents. So does protein laden urine (I know, it’s gross). Male works the best. Eat protein rich foods the day before. Mimics the smell of a predator. Cat and dog hair also work. Put it in nylons (make little pouches) and hang around the perimeter of the garden at varying heights. Replace every 2-4 weeks depending on rainfall. Hair is also good for the soil. Even works for deer
We live on a farm with a large tree grove and large pests! We play a radio in the barn next to the garden and it keeps the critters away!
Try Blood Meal, around your plants good for all plant as it is nourishing,the animals should not bother as the smell of blood scare them off, they smell it stronger than we do,, when I did this in my garden, I never had animals, although you will have to re dust after each watering or rain, but then you could always leave some spaces that do not get watered so much, or an electric wire around the perimeter , a few inches off the ground,, good luck,
for raccoons…….the only thing that has worked for us is a solar electric fence . Won’t really hurt the raccoons (if you are worried about that) but will give them a jolt and send them packing. I had to also install a low chicken wire fence outside the electric fence too for rabbits! 60 acres and they all want to eat ONLY my garden!! If you install a solar fence be sure to add a lightning arrestor and ground rods. ( available at most farm stores) We didn’t on our first fencer and lost it with the first storm. After adding the arrestor we have used the same solar fencer for over 20 years with good results. good luck!
For ants, you can also try cinnamon if you don’t have cornmeal. I used it in my flower beds when I noticed an abundance of ants. Just shake it all around your plants. From what I understand, it works like arsenic on ants but it’s safe for kids and pets. Just don’t water right after. It got rid of my ants.
Also, if you have slugs or snails, save your egg shells. You can let them air dry or bake them in the oven to dry. Then put them in a ziplock bag and crush them. Sprinkle the crushed eggshells in a circle around your plants. The snails and slugs won’t cross the shells because they are too sharp.
The eggshells also provide much need nutrients to prevent bloom rot on your tomatoes. You can till it into the soil when you plant your tomatoes (works in potted tomatoes too).
And thank you so very much for the earwig tip! I’ve been trying to find a safe way to keep them out of my veggies.
Great tips on the cinnamon and egg shells! I tried the cinnamon trick once in our garage and it worked – I hadn’t thought about the garden! So glad the earwig tip can help!
To get rid of ants, sprinkle corn meal on mounts, trails and flowers where ants are. The ants eat it and take it to the queen. Ants can’t digest corn meal, ants and queen will die in 2-4 days do not water when the corn meal is down and working. In a few days check the mound with a stick to see if there aren’t anymore ants if there are sprinkle more corn meal. Works for me every time.
I tried the cornmeal and it didn’t work for me. I’ve tried vinegar and water and epson salt with sugar.
I have been planting in window boxes for years. I like the trough window boxes with coco liners. In the beginning they were troublesome as I couldn’t figure out how to water appropriately. Before mixing my soil I lined the coco liner with maxie pads which keeps the moisture where you want it as opposed to leaking out the bottom too quickly. Now I can even skip a day or two as the soil stays sufficiently moist for a longer period of time.
I don’t have any new tricks to share, but I will testify to the milk jug method of protecting your starter plants. We started our tomatoes from seeds indoors one year, and we had given those weaker tomatoes up for a lost cause. I cut out the milk jugs, babied those little sprouts and voila! they produced just a much as the healthy ones 🙂
I definitely need to try those other tips for the leaf eaters. We have the same problem.
Awesome news on the milk jugs and your tomatoes! The olive oil trick is amazing – I hope it works for you too!
My trick for keeping milk jugs in place:
Once you’ve cut the bottoms off, use a nail to make holes in the four corners, then use landscape staples through the holes and into the soil to hold the milk jug stuck into the ground. Keeps them from blowing away or getting knocked over so easily.
My watering system is above ground in my bed and i had no problem last year with tomato growth or tomatoes. It all comes down to the soil imho. I laid out 3/4″ PCV pipe on top of the soil capped off the ends and drilled small holes on either side of my plants in the pipe. The plants were over 10 feet tall!
For watering tomatoes : cut small holes all around a water bottle, and bury it in the soil with your tomato plant. Make sure the “drinking opening” is coming out of soil… and pour water directly in the bottle when it’s time to water your tomato plant. This trick is great for plants growing in pots. Do not do this for zucchinis or cucumbers.
I need to remember to do this next year before I plant the tomatoes. Thank you for the note on zucchini and cucumbers – it’s so helpful for new gardeners like me!
Julie, I’ve tried something very similar to your method and it worked great! I guess the broomstick technique will do the same job. Based on my experience, the closer the water gets to the roots of the tomato plant – the taller it will grow!
Nikki Krakauer aka JustTabandMe
Why not with cucumbers?
They require really good scotch 🤪
I have used this for 2 years now, and it works well. I also use it for new shrubs etc that I plant.
Another trick is to bury a bucket with holes in it, place sheep pellets or similar in the bucket, then plant 2-4 tomato plants around it. This trick feeds as you water.
You can also use cinnamon to get rid of ants. 🙌🏻