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Nails, PVC, Beer, and Sensitive Documents – Gardening Hacks You May Not Have Considered

Did you know that cheap beer, nails, and tin cans could protect your plants from three major garden pests?  Have you ever thought of polyvinyl chloride pipe and fittings as garden accessories? Did you buy a paper shredder to dispose of your sensitive documents? Those make nice mulchers.  Sometimes, if you just look around the house and think creatively, you can repurpose and reuse to save some money and ensure that your garden flourishes.

Tin cans and nails

Cutworms, which are really caterpillars and not worms, live underground. When they get hungry, they come to the surface and start eating whatever part of a plant that they encounter first, which is usually the stem. Seedlings are especially vulnerable. If you’ve ever gone to your garden and seen young plants cut off at the base and lying on the ground, you probably have a cutworm problem. If you have some large (4 to 6 gauge) nails, just stick one in the ground on each side of each plant’s stem. They need to be up against the stem. Cutworms wrap around the stem and cut it off when they eat. If they wrap around a stem with nails on two sides, they can’t cut it off and the plant survives the attack.

Perhaps you have no large nails. That’s not a problem if you drink canned drinks or buy canned food. Just cut both ends out of the cans and slip them over your seedlings, sinking them a couple of inches into the ground. The tops of your seedlings should be poking out above the tops of the cans. Unless a cutworm happens to already be in the immediate area of the plant and surfaces inside of the can, it won’t have access to the stem to cut it off.

Egg shells

Some say crushed eggshells protect your plants from slugs and snails because they don’t like to slide their slimy selves across the sharp edges. Others disagree, saying eggshells lose whatever effectiveness they may have as deterrents when they get wet and soggy. But gardeners do agree that, if you apply them directly to your garden soil, eggshells are a great source of calcium. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants (ironically) are especially fond of them. You can also add them to your compost pile to ensure that your mix is infused with calcium when you get ready to use it.

If you’re going to put eggshells directly into the garden without composting them first, you’ll need to dry and crush them. You can either let them sit somewhere out of the way until they dry or pop them into the oven at a fairly low temperature to dry them out more quickly. If you have a dehydrator or something like a NuWave cooker, those also work well for drying shells.  Once dried, you can put them in a bag and crush them or drop them in a chopper.

Got a beer?

As it turns out, while they may shy away from eggshells, snails and slugs apparently love beer. To resolve a slug and/or snail issue, you’ll need enough plastic cups, dishes, or other containers with fairly high sides (at least three inches deep) to cover your garden area when they’re placed three feet apart. Sink them into the dirt leaving an inch of the top above ground. Fill each one halfway with beer. Snails and slugs evidently aren’t picky, so cheap beer is fine. They will slither up the sides and dive into their beer pools where they’ll drown. These pests aren’t bothered by decomposing remains of their relatives floating in their beer, so you don’t need to empty and refill the containers every day. Every three days is enough. And remember, you can cut the ends out of the empty beer cans and use them as cutworm deterrents.

Compost in the kitchen

Are you throwing away vegetable peelings, used coffee grounds, the aforementioned eggshells, lettuce gone bad, and other food scraps (not including meat)? If you’re into composting, a container like one of those large plastic ones that ground coffee comes in is a better place than the trash can to discard those wastes, so long as the container has a resealable lid. Just keep it handy in the kitchen and empty it into your compost bed every few days. Why waste the valuable nutrients these scraps will yield once they’ve decayed? Just don’t let your container go unemptied for more than a few days. You could end up with irritating little gnats. Also, wash or at least rinse out the container each time you empty it.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as a gardening aid

PVC pipe and fittings are great. PVC is easy to work with, affordable, and it lasts a lifetime. They’ll never rust and there are no welds to corrode and break.

  • You can get T-connectors, elbows, 45-degree couplers, and anything else you need to put together a frame with legs to support the plastic sheeting that protects your plants from frost.
  • You can use it to build sturdy, long lasting tomato cages, or even build a one-piece row of cages that you can use year after year.
  • If you grow berries that birds enjoy, like strawberries, you can build a frame on which to place a net or cage wire to prevent your harvest from being pilfered.
  • You can also use it to make an irrigation system, which is the kind of application it’s intended for, anyway.

Depending on the application, you may not even need to glue your PVC pieces together. If you don’t glue it, you can take it apart and put together a new configuration if needed.

Next time you’re in the hardware store, check out the PVC section and you’ll find puzzle pieces just waiting to be assembled into configurations that meet your particular needs. If you’ve never worked with PVC, it’s easy. Just watch a quick how-to video online or ask someone at the hardware store.

Document shredders make great mulch

You can’t be too careful these days. There are ne’er-do-wells who will go through your trash looking for things like account numbers and pre-approved credit card offers that they can misuse at your expense. For that reason, many have purchased document shredders to protect their sensitive information. You can get a decent one for less than $50.

If you only shred paper and not plastic or other inorganic materials, those shreds make good mulch. The primary function of mulch is to sit on top of your garden soil and hold in moisture and paper shreds will do a good job of that. Yes, your garden will look a bit strange with mostly white shreds covering the ground, but it will perform its intended function and eventually decompose into beneficial nutrients. If you don’t want to use the shreds as mulch, you could put them in your compost pile to decay.


If you can make beneficial use out of things around the house that would otherwise end up in the landfill, why not do so? If you have a few nails or cans or some cheap beer that could eliminate the need to apply pesticides to plants that will be a food source, why not use them? Yes, PVC is an inorganic material, but it lasts a lifetime and will, over time, save you money on things like tomato cages. Take a look around your place. Perhaps you’ll find some other things you can repurpose if you think outside of the box.

Unusual materials:

Kitchen compostbin

Beertraps for snails

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