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5 Common Kitchen Ingredients For A Great Green Garden

Updated on May 6, 2015

The Green Garden

Who doesn't love vine ripened tomatoes, or fresh juicy strawberries? What room isn't brightened by a bouquet of freshly cut flowers? In pursuit of all those tasty treats and beautiful blooms, the gardener often finds that there is a need for soil amendment, fertilization, and pest control. These problems are often solved by a quick trip to the store to pick up a manufactured chemical solution. Suddenly, the green garden we treasure is not so green.

Natural ingredients commonly found in the kitchen can help reduce, and possibly even eliminate the need for chemicals in the garden, not only providing great natural food, but also lightening the load on the environment surrounding your home.

1. Chili Pepper

Make Your Garden Hot, Hot, Hot!

Capsaicin is what brings the heat in hot peppers. This natural chemical compound causes a burning sensation to any tissue that it comes into contact with. Because of this irritation, unwanted animals are discouraged and repelled.

Sprinkling cayenne or red pepper flakes around your garden beds helps to deter rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks from digging around your prized plants. If you have pets, cats and dogs will avoid areas that have been treated with chili pepper, but is completely nontoxic to your furry friends. Make sure to dust areas well so that any nose that goes to the ground, goes far away! Reapply as needed after heavy watering or rain.

Although capsaicin will not kill insects, it is an effective insect repellent. It can be used on edible plants, as well as ornamentals to discourage aphids, spider mites, thrips, whitefly, lace bugs, leafhoppers, as well as other common pests.

To use as an insect repellent, the capsaicin must be sprayed on plants. The good news is, you probably have everything you need to already in your kitchen!

  • 1 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
  • 1 quart (4 cups) of water

Mix the cayenne pepper and liquid dish soap in the water. When the solution is thoroughly mixed, pour into a spray bottle. Spray leaves of plants on both sides. If you're plant has already fruited, avoid spraying the fruit. Reapply as needed after heavy watering or rain.

2. Black Pepper

The Powerful Pepper Mill

Ground black pepper packs a powerful punch in the garden. It's spicy heat is due to the naturally occurring chemical compound piperine.

Since most animals dislike the smell and taste of black pepper, sprinkling a generous dusting of finely ground black pepper on the ground will discourage unwanted critters from poking around your beds. Be sure to reapply after heavy watering or rain.

Have an ant problem? Well, ants have a problem with black pepper! Dust your plants with finely ground black pepper, and the ants will leave. Once you have driven the ants off of your plants, put a protective line of pepper around the base of plants you wish to protect. Always be sure to refresh your line of defense after a heavy watering or rain.

Several plant ailments occur due to bacteria that is naturally present in soil. Black pepper is a natural antibacterial agent that promotes plant health. Adding ground black pepper to the soil before planting, or carefully adding to the soil around the base of established plants, will kill bacteria in the soil. The plant will also benefit after watering, as the plant absorbs compounds from the black pepper that help provide further protection against disease.

3. Egg Shells

An Egg-cellent Choice

Don't throw another eggshell away! Chicken egg shell is comprised of approximately 96% calcium carbonate. This high rate of calcium, coupled with the shell's rapid rate of natural deterioration, make egg shell a great fertilizer.

For new plants, you can add crumbled egg shell to the bottom of your plant holes and work the shells into the soil before setting your plant. To prepare vegetable garden soil, during the winter, spread crushed egg shell over your gardening area. In spring, mix the egg shells into the soil before planting seeds.

Egg shells also make great containers for seedlings. You can plant the shell right along with the seedling, the shell will decompose and fertilize the plant.

  • Removing the lid of an empty egg carton.
  • Place one half of an egg shell in each empty space of the bottom portion of an egg carton.
  • Fill the egg shells with potting soil.
  • Plant seeds such as tomato, hot pepper, sweet pepper, or broccoli.
  • When time to plant in the garden, gently crush the shell and break open the bottom.
  • Place the seedling along with the egg shell into a planting hole in the garden.

If you are battling slugs or snails in your garden, sprinkle a generous amount of coarsely crushed egg shell around your plants. The sharp edges of the egg shell are uncomfortable to slugs and snails, thus discouraging them from crossing the line. Not only does this method deter the pests, it fertilizes your plants as the shells decompose. Be sure to regularly refresh your line of defense to keep nice sharp egg shell pieces around your plants.

Oh, dear! You have deer! These beautiful creatures find many garden plants tasty, and can quickly wrecak havoc with your roses and hostas. One thing deer are not particularly fond of is eggs. The odor of egg shells seems to discourage some deer.

But if egg shell on the ground proves not to be effective enough, you can spray your plants to keep them safe from being nibbled.

  • Lightly beat one egg yolk.
  • Mix egg yolk and one tablespoon of baking powder into one quart (4 cups) of water.
  • Place the mixture in a garden sprayer and apply to the plants in your garden and yard.
  • Reapply every two weeks.

The spray is safe for plants that are fruiting, and will not affect the taste of your crop. The spray is safe for the deer as well, making this a win-win!

Nontoxic Deer Repellent

Pesky Pests

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4. Used Coffee Grounds

How Far Can A Cup Of Joe Go?

Grounds For A Great Garden

That cup of coffee that gets your morning off to a great start has a great by-product to get your garden off to a great start. Used coffee grounds are a great supply of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and copper, making the grounds a convenient and cost effective way to amend your soil. This means, the next time you brew a pot of coffee, you'll have zero waste!

The 2.28% nitrogen content of used coffee grounds means that there is sufficient nitrogen to meet the demand of soil microorganisms necessary to compost. This means that the overall chemistry and physical properties of used coffee grounds allows you to simply add the grounds directly to the soil, and they will naturally degrade. When preparing your garden soil, blend 25-35 percent by volume used coffee grounds with the soil to improve the overall structure of the natural soil. After planting, you can sprinkle coffee grounds on top of the soil at the base of plants to continue to feeding them.

If you don't care to have the grounds visible on the top of your soil, you can make a liquid fertilizer for your plants. Simply add two cups of used coffee grounds to a five gallon bucket of water and allow it to soak overnight. Use the resulting liquid to feed both indoor and outdoor plants.

Worried about acidity? Well, if you drank the coffee, you were the recipient of most of the acid in the coffee beans. With 7 on the pH scale being neutral, used coffee grounds are only slightly acidic with a pH of 6.2. This is no more acidic than natural rainwater and will not effect the pH balance of your garden soil.

The texture of used coffee grounds has an added benefit. Because coffee grounds are abrasive, slugs and snails avoid crossing over the grounds. The tender undersides of these slimy pests are also discomforted by the acidity of the coffee grounds. So used grounds are a double whammy to a slug or snail. To protect plants, pour a thick line of coffee grounds around the base of plants and around the perimeter of your beds.

If you're not a coffee drinker, you can still reap the benefits that used coffee grounds offer by collecting the used grounds from your local Starbucks, or other coffee shop. Most stores are happy to give their grounds away for free if you call ahead in the morning and pick up the grounds that same evening.

5. Banana Peels

Go Ahead And Go Bananas!

We eat bananas because they are packed with nutrition, but the nutrients are not limited to the fruit. The banana peel is a great source of potassium and phosphorus, two important elements in plant health. Potassium promotes the movement of water and nutrients at the cellular level, and phosphorus encourages healthy root growth, improves winter hardiness, and speeds up the flowering and fruiting process.

You don't need a compost bin to use banana peels in your garden. The nitrogen content of bananas encourages rapid decomposition directly in the soil. You can use either dried or fresh peels to amend the soil and feed your plants.

Dried banana peel is 42 percent potassium by volume. Potassium strengthens stems and helps protect plants from disease. A healthier plant generally flowers more. After flowering, potassium is beneficial for improving the quality and size of a plant's fruits. You can add 2 or 3 tablespoons of crushed dried banana peel to your panting hole when transplanting seedlings to the garden.

Banana peels are 3.2 percent phosphorus by volume. Because phosphorus is not mobile in the soil, it is important to deliver phosphorus near a plant's root system. A whole banana peel dug into the soil near an established plant's roots, or placed in the bottom of a planting hole at the time of transplanting a larger plant, is a great way to boost the health of your plant. The banana peel will quickly decompose, delivering the phosphorus right where it's needed, at the roots.

Egg Shell & Banana Peel Fertilizer

Great Green Gardening Solutions

Cayenne, black pepper, egg shells, coffee grounds, and banana peels are all green solutions to common garden problems. Using these readily available items found in your kitchen in place of manufactured products, will reduce the toxic chemical load in your garden and yard. Further, by reusing eggshells, coffee grounds, and banana peels in your garden and yard, you'll immediately reduce your kitchen waste.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and play in the dirt!


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your simple and easy gardening tips. I pinned this to my gardening board for future reference.

    • Cyndi Gibson profile imageAUTHOR

      Cyndi Gibson 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Twodawgs, that's a great question!

      Black pepper is antimicrobial, but less potent than other natural antimicrobials, such as garlic. Adding black pepper to the soil will not kill all the bacteria, but it will help neutralize some of the harmful bacteria, giving a plant a greater chance of fighting off disease.

      Adding black pepper to soil may possibly slow organic composting, but it will not halt it.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great info! I've already been putting milled egg shells, banana peels, and used coffee grinds in my compost and the worm tube I have out in my raised garden bed. But I never knew about using cayenne or red pepper flakes to keep those wascally wabbits from eating my lettuce and carrot greens. Will definitely try that.

      Re: black pepper in the soil to kill harmful bacteria... does it also kill the helpful bacteria that breaks down organic matter in the soil to keep it yummy for the plants?


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