Magic potions, powders for the garden

Submitted Photo These items are said to be magic potions to help whatever ails your garden or lawn.

Looking for a magic potion or powder for whatever ails your garden or lawn? How to get rid of bugs and weeds are hot topics right now on social media. You can even find books and articles regarding these so-called sure-fire remedies. Potions that you can make right up in your own kitchen with ingredients you have on hand and will solve all your problems in the garden and lawn. The best part, they say, is that these potions are safe for people, pets, and the environment.

For whatever the reason, one gardener after another says that these everyday household products have magical effects that control pests, make plants grow better, or kill weeds on the spot. Of course, they do not work and there is no scientific research to base these claims on; however, many people believe that they do work, often without seeing any results. Here is a look at the most popular myths and magic that have taken hold.

Epsom Salt

It contains magnesium, which is believed to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes. Magnesium is only a minor element that the plant needs. It has been shown ineffective in the prevention of blossom end rot in tomatoes and in overall plant health.


Despite videos on YouTube showing slugs crawling right across eggshells, people are convinced they work as a barrier. Others believe that eggshells are valuable for adding calcium to the soil; this may be true, but it will take several years of constant use before it is beneficial.

Coffee Grounds

Another supposed barrier to slugs, even though videos show otherwise. Some believe coffee grounds suppress weeds; that too, is false. Coffee grounds are most useful in compost, as it helps to lighten up heavy soil; otherwise it is completely useless.


Lab research has shown cinnamon to have slight fungicidal activity, but it is impractical as a fungicide in the garden. It is, however slightly helpful as a wildlife deterrent.

Dawn dish soap

Recommended for all kinds of applications, ranging from bug killer to weed killer. Dawn dish soap is really only good as an emulsifier, which is not needed in the garden. Many gardeners use it as an aphid spray; while, it does help some, a strong stream of water is just as effective, which shoots the aphids off the plants.


First claimed to be a weed killer because it burns leaves. It is useful for killing newly germinated weeds, but older plants will just grow back from the roots. Some also claim that spraying it on leaves deters slugs and insects.

Corn Meal

Often confused with Corn Gluten, a poor-quality pre-emergent weed killer; corn meal is completely useless in the garden.

Diatomaceous Earth

It kills insects by dehydrating or drying them out. It does work, until it gets wet and then you will have to reapply.


The opposite of helpful. It contaminates the soil and takes years to clear. Salt is bad for most plants and too much will make it impossible to grow anything.

Irish Spring Soap

Often it is used as a deer deterrent. It does help, until the deer get use to the scent.

I know this is a very touchy subject, as some of these ideas have been passed down for generations. Many garden clubs even advocate some of these magic potions and powders. Remember, companies are out to sell their products and will always say how amazing it is. Do your homework and use the products for their intended purpose.

Extension provides information that has been researched and tested by universities across the country. We do not recommend using household products as an alternate, safe, or environmentally sound option in the garden. Please look at all of your options, before you break out the sprays and powders.

If you have questions, contact your local Extension office or use reliable online resources, such as the NDSU Extension Master Gardener site, found at www.ag.ndsu.edu/mastergardener or the Extension – Ask an Expert site at https://ask.extension.org/.

Peonies are in full bloom right now. Here are a few fun facts about this fragrant, spring beauty. A peony does not need ants to help the buds open. Ants are attracted to the bud’s sticky sap. Though ants are not necessary for a peony to bloom, they are usually found in close association with one that is blooming nicely. Peonies are native to Asia, Europe, and Western North American. The number of species differ, ranging between 25 to 40, although the current consensus is 33 known species. Peonies are among the most popular garden plants in temperate regions. The flowers have a short bloom time usually only 7-10 days. Their color can range from purple and pink, to red, white, or yellow. Peony plants have been recorded to live over 100 years and still produce flowers in ideal conditions.

Happy Gardening!


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