Simple gardening tips to improve the health of your plants

Home Sweet Home is presented by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission

Home gardeners to expert gardeners all want the best for their plants so they can grow strong and healthy. However, the current dirt in your pots and garden may not be giving your plants the necessary nutrients. Check and improve your plant’s nutrition with these easy steps and tips.

Steps to Improve Your Soil Nutrients

Try it.

Buy home kits online or at improvement stores, or send the soil to a local cooperative extension. You can also do a home test. describes how to use a jar to measure the amount of silt, sand, and clay in your dirt and test the alkalinity with vinegar or baking soda for acidity.

Add the necessary nutrients

Soil testing will determine if your soil needs more nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, or other minerals. Compost, natural manure and fertilizers are some of the best ways to add these nutrients. We’ve shared ideas for making your own, along with some other gardening tips below.

Add mulch

Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from competing with your plants for nutrients. Garden mulch options include wood chips, pine straw, grass clippings and newspapers, each with their benefits.

Tips for adding nutrients

source of manure

As mentioned, manure is one of the best sources of nutrients your garden needs. You can buy bags at garden centers and home improvement stores. You can also ask local farmers or anyone who raises cows, chickens, horses, goats, sheep or rabbits if they give manure for free. Never use fresh manure as it will be hot and can burn plants. It is best to compost or age it first.

start composting

Compost can also be purchased from local stores or made in your garden. Composting is free and good for the environment because you add less waste to landfills. To make your own compost you will need a place or bin to store it, high carbon materials such as dry leaves or straw, high nitrogen components such as clippings grass or overripe fruits and vegetables, and water for moisture.

Photo: Alexander Raths via 123RF

Add ground coffee

Not ready to start full composting yet? Start by using leftover ground coffee instead. It’s a great way to start using something that most of us have around the house all the time. Plus, they contain the nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus your soil needs. Be aware that some plants like tomatoes are not a fan, that without caffeine is better overall, and for plants that don’t like acidity, wash the soil first.

Fish emulsion

Using fish emulsion (the liquid remains of processed fish) as a fertilizer to add nutrients to your soils has several benefits. First, it uses a natural resource, fish. It provides the primary nutrients for healthy soil (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). It contains micronutrients like calcium, magnesium and sodium that plants also need. As a mild additive it is less likely to burn or damage your plants.

Save your grass clippings

Gather grass clippings after mowing the lawn and add them to your garden. Wait for the clippings to dry out and use them sparingly as mulch in your garden. Or mix with other composting ingredients to add extra nutrients.

Sprinkle eggshells on your floor

Eggshells add calcium and other necessary nutrients to your soil and can reduce acidity levels. They are known to repel deer, prevent blossom end rot and promote root growth. How you prepare the shells will depend on whether you are using them as mulch, compost, fertilizer, or pest control.

Water with Club Soda

A University of Colorado study found that plants watered with club soda grew faster and had healthier shades of green. This is probably because soda contains minerals that plants need, such as phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and sodium. So before tossing that non-carbonated drink, consider watering your plants with it to give them a little extra pep.

Water with Epson-Salt solution

Epsom salt is useful to add to soil that is low in magnesium. It can also help seedlings grow hardier, increase the uptake of needed minerals, prevent root shock, and control pests. Epsom salt is perfect for tomatoes, peppers, houseplants and roses. It’s always a good idea to test your soil first to make sure it needs more magnesium. Mix a tablespoon of Epsom salt with a gallon of water, wear gloves, and keep the salt and the mixture away from pets and children.

Ready to improve your soil so your plants can thrive? Get that soil tested so you can add the necessary nutrients with these fun and creative tricks!

Home Sweet Home is brought to you by the Washington Homeowner Assistance Fund of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. The Homeowners Relief Fund helps homeowners who have fallen on hard times due to the pandemic. Call 1-877-894-4663 for more information on how they can help you.

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