Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

5 Extreme Lawn, Patio and Garden Cost-cutters

For some of us, there are few spring joys that are as soul-satisfying as a healthy, lush green lawn. Or a pristine patio with clean furniture and accessories.

You may have noticed in the past that a beautifully maintained healthy lawn does not come without considerable cost, effort and care. And outdoor living areas don’t magically remain clean and inviting.

You can cut the cost of all kinds of products you need to keep your home and garden looking great, including lawn and plant fertilizers and foods and cleaning products, too, by making your own homemade concoctions.


Mix together 1 can full-strength beer, 1 can regular (not diet) soda, 1/2 cup mouthwash, 1/2 cup liquid household ammonia, 1/2 cup plain liquid soap (not detergent and not antibacterial) and 1 cup liquid plant food like Miracle-Gro.

This recipe is good for about 400 to 600 square feet of lawn and should be delivered through the use of a hose-end sprayer set at a 4-ounces-per-gallon application rate. Spray on lawn after mowing, just enough to wet the grass. Reapply every three weeks in the cool of the evening, during the hot season.

Just so you know, beer helps to promote microbial action in the lawn; the ammonia breaks down into nitrates that feed the lawn; and the soap helps to spread the solution more widely while encouraging absorption.

The alcohol in mouthwash acts as a deterrent to insects, and soap also encourages the plant material to absorb all the good stuff.


Pour 1 gallon of tap water into a container that will hold a bit more than a gallon. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons Epsom salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon household ammonia. Measure carefully; overdoing it could be harmful to plants.

This is a complete plant food and should be used only once every four to six weeks. Too much will harm and weaken plants. Can be stored and used on both outdoor and indoor plants.


Mix together 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 1/2 cups water and 2 teaspoons liquid dish soap (Murphy’s Oil Soap works especially well) and pour into a spray bottle.

Spray this homemade aphid control mixture on the aphids every few days until the pests recede. This concoction will suffocate the aphids. Treat plants in the cool of the morning or in the evening, not when they will receive direct sunlight, as the freshly applied oil may magnify the sunlight and burn the foliage.


Sometimes you want to make sure nothing will ever grow along a walkway, on a driveway, in the cracks of a sidewalk and between steppingstones and pathways. Just mix up a batch of this soil sterilizer and treat those areas where weeds are so prevalent. It’s cheap and easy. Just keep in mind that you’ll surely kill the weeds, but also every other living thing as well. Apply several times and the soil will be “sterilized,” meaning nothing will grow there for a period of time.

Mix together 1 gallon white distilled vinegar, 2 cups ordinary table salt and 8 drops liquid dish soap. Mix well to dissolve the salt. Dispense this weed killer using a spray bottle. Label the container carefully, and keep out of reach of children.

It will take several days after the first application for the vegetation to die. And you may have to apply several times for this mixture to work its way deep into the soil. But if you persist, that will happen.


In a bucket, mix together 2/3 cup Spic and Span powder, 1/2 cup Tide powder laundry detergent, 1 quart liquid bleach and 3 quarts hot water. Allow to stand for four to five hours. Pour into a garden hose-end sprayer and apply to vinyl siding, vinyl chairs, patio furniture and even umbrella covers. After about five minutes, remove the hose end sprayer and rinse the items with clear water by attaching a nozzle to the hose.

Nothing works as well as this cleaner. When you spray it on you can see the dirt, film and mildew just slide off. It is important that you use the brand names stipulated.

If you are concerned about landscaping, use this recipe instead: 1 gallon of water and 1 cup oxygen bleach mixed together in a bucket. The oxygen bleach will clean the vinyl without damaging your landscaping.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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