13 Really Weird Things Organic Gardeners Do That Actually Work

From burying beer in the backyard to singing to plants, you’ll be surprised by these wacky yet effective gardening techniques.

March 29, 2017
weird gardener
harpazo_hope/getty

You may think some of your friends have weird habits, but organic gardeners are truly in a class of their own. Some of our gardening techniques are common knowledge, but we also have a cache of secret weapons that we’re willing to share. Welcome to our world of weird!

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)

singing to plants
Harold Lee Miller/getty
We Talk And Sing To Our Plants

The theory that plants can actually benefit from humans talking to them was first published in an 1848 book, Nanna (Soul-Life Of Plants) by German professor Gustav Fechner. No, it’s not the CO2 you’re emitting when you breathe on them, scientists actually believe that plants respond to the vibrating soundwaves of your voice. Same goes for music played on a radio. My herbs enjoy Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel (duh). While this all may sound far fetched, the Mythbusters proved it to be plausible! Sound waves replicate windy conditions, which helps stems grow sturdier to support the plant. This is the same reason many people will set up a small fan near their indoor seedlings.

worm composting
ROL Staff
We Consider Worms To Be A Viable House Pet

Dogs and cats? You can’t feed them all of your table scraps. A few hundred worms? They love your scraps. Bring those worms inside the house with a vermicomposting bin, and start making some sweet, sweet compost. 

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snail drinking beer
Alex Bramwell/getty
We Bury Cups Of Beer In The Garden

This one is obvious. We’re clearly playing tribute to Brother Brassica the Bountiful, the almighty king of kale, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables. Ok, not really… but it is a great way to save those crucifers from slug damage. Slugs and snails are attracted to both the yeast and the carbohydrates in beer. They crawl into the cup and drown because they are unable to crawl back out. Here’s how to build beer traps, plus 5 other natural techniques for wiping out your annoying slug problem.

stacks of old newspaper
Vladimir Godnik/getty
We Save A Bunch Of Things Some Might Consider "Trash"

If this was a list of the top 13 things organic gardeners do that annoy their spouses, this would be number 1. Gardeners are inherently savers of stuff. That stuff often includes things that we may or may not find in the trash. Some favorites include cardboard and newspaper, which are very common mediums of weed control. If you have a lot of perennial weeds (such as thistle), cover the entire area with several layers of newspaper or cardboard, and cover that with a layer of mulch or compost. We also like to use these as a base layer when starting a new raised bed.

We also hoard chopsticks, one of the most versatile gardening tools you can find. Here are 14 ways to use chopsticks in the garden.

Yogurt containers are also fair game. If you wash them out, you’ve just found yourself a simple little container that can be used as a planter (just poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage), as plant labels (if you cut them into strips), as seed collection containers, or as small harvesting vessels for your tiny crops, such as cherry tomatoes, berries, beans, etc.

outdoor goldfish
Jiàn Feng Gao / EyeEm/getty
We Consider Goldfish To Be A Viable Outdoor Pet

First we bring worms into the house, and then we send our goldfish outside? Welcome to Crazytown! You’re probably familiar with the concept of a rain barrel. But you’re probably also familiar with the concept of mosquitoes loving pools of stagnant water. Enter goldfish. If you add a couple of goldfish to your rain barrel, they will help quell your impending onslaught of mosquito larvae.

Related: 8 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes Naturally

 
 
really dirty bucket
tiburonstudios/getty
We Make Compost Tea

If you ever come across a gardener stirring a bucket full of brown sludge, your first instinct might be to just turn around and walk away. It’s ok, we’re just brewing up a batch of compost tea! Many organic gardeners will make this concoction as an all natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. Check out these easy instructions for how to make your own batch of compost tea.

pennies in dirt
DaydreamsGirl/getty
We Bury Pennies In Our Garden

This is probably the most unusual, and least practiced gardening technique on the list. Pennies that were produced prior to 1983 were made of 95% copper. Copper is actually a common ingredient in fungicides, and can help fight tomato blight. When coins containing copper are buried in the garden, the metal will slowly leach out from them, and destroy any fungal spores that happen to be in the soil. The amount of metal the penny leaches out is enough to take care of the fungal spores, but is still low enough to not do any residual damage to your plants. Newer pennies are only copper-plated zinc, so they will not be as effective.

empty vinegar bottle
sommersby/getty
We Invest In Mass Quantities Of Vinegar

Household vinegar works as a mild herbicide on young weeds, and doesn’t have long-lasting effects on the soil, bugs, and healthier plants. There are plenty of DIY herbicide and pesticide recipes online that use vinegar as the base, but be careful not to use a recipe that includes salt, if you plan on growing in the sprayed area anytime soon. Salt will stick around for a few years and will prevent any kind of plant from growing in the area. Even roots of plants nearby will be damaged with salt. We also use vinegar in many other ways!

 
 
boiling broccoli
Linda Long / EyeEm/getty
We Save Cooking Water

The water you use to cook or blanch foods is often rich in vitamins and minerals that can benefit plants. Instead of dumping your water down the drain, let it cool off and dump it onto your plants instead. A word of caution: not all cooking water is created equal. If you added salt, sugar, or oils to the water as it was cooking, do not use the water on your plants.

Related: 9 Liquids You Can Use To Water Your Plants (And 10 To Avoid)

handful of flower seeds
Rebecca Johnson/getty
We Steal Seeds From Our Neighbors

Ok, we don’t really steal seeds from our neighbors. But, it’s a common practice to walk around one’s neighborhood and admire the varieties of flowers that your neighbors have on display. If you find something you like, such as a purple coneflower that you haven’t tried growing yet, go ahead and ask your neighbor if you can collect seeds from it before they prune them back in the fall. Carry a few envelopes and a pen with you on your walks, just in case you find that perfect flower that you’ve always wanted to grow.

Related: 6 Tips For Storing Your Saved Seeds

used coffee filter
kyoshino/getty
We Order A Bag Of Used Coffee Grounds Instead Of A Caramel Frappuccino

Coffee grounds can really kick up the nitrogen level of your compost pile, but you can also use ground coffee as a mulch. Use the rough ground coffee, not the fine ground, as the fine ground will cake up and prevent air and water from getting down to the roots of your plants. Some local and national coffee chains (yes, even Starbucks) give out their used coffee grounds, on a first-come, first-served basis. Just ask!

 
 
taking a houseplant for a walk
Hero Images/getty
We Celebrate Really Obscure Holidays

This doesn’t really help our gardens in the direct way that all the other things on this list do. But, in their own unique way, these holidays get us out of the house and into the garden. The year starts off with some fairly normal sounding holidays, but quickly takes a turn for the weird in the summer. Blame it on too much sun exposure. Here’s a list of a few of our favorite holidays that everybody needs to start celebrating:

January 10 - Houseplant Appreciation Day
March 28 - Weed Appreciation Day (the kind you pull, not the kind you smoke…)
First Saturday in May - World Naked Gardening Day
June 6 - National Gardening Exercise Day (here are the 6 best yoga poses for gardeners)
June 13 - Weed Your Garden Day (more like every day, am I right?)
July 15 - Cow Appreciation Day
July 27 - Take Your Houseplant For A Walk Day
August 8 - Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

bucket in the shower
David Oblas
We Keep A Bucket In The Shower

Does your shower take a minute to warm up? Think of all that precious water you’re letting go down the drain! Insert bucket. Placing a standard 5 gallon bucket in the shower while you’re letting the water run will collect most, if not all of the water that otherwise would have just gone straight down the drain, unused. This water can then be used on your houseplants, or you can take it outside and dump a little on any hanging baskets you may have, as they often require more water than in-ground plants. As an additional water-saving technique, we also recommend purchasing a low flow shower head. Most shower heads flow at 2.5 gallons per minute, but you can cut that in half with the Niagara Earth Massage 1.25gpm Low Flow shower head.