These homemade garden tricks can help keep critters out, soil moisture in check

Common household items can help deter weeds, slugs and squirrels from destroying your spring lawn and garden

Coffee filters – check.

Ice cream cones, toilet paper, beer – check, check, check.

It might sound like your weekly grocery list, but these household items can also help deter weeds, slugs and squirrels from destroying your spring lawn and garden. Some can even help retain moisture in those drought-stricken potted plants on the deck.

"The gardening world is chalked full of home remedies or ‘hacks’ using many household products. Most of these hacks are passed down from generation to generation. Or they have their properties based on science but sometimes make a leap from fact to theory," horticulture agent Dennis Patton with Johnson County, Kansas, K-State Research and Extension.

Most of the below tricks are harmless and might be fun to try this spring if you are seeing issues with critters in your garden. 

However, the best approach to landscape care is good recommended practices.

"Properly cared for plants are less likely to have problems and the need for intervention," Patton said.

Newspaper and cardboard

A layer of three to four pages from your favorite newspaper can be used as mulch in the garden. You will want to secure the pages with a little soil, then cut a hole and plant directly through the paper. By the end of the season, the paper will break down and recycle.

A layer of cardboard can also be placed in paths and open areas of your garden to suffocate weeds.


Now, hear us out. 

Slugs love to feed on your garden plants. If you have any beer sitting in your fridge that you can dispose of for the betterment of your garden, this might do the trick.


Placing small saucers of beer around the garden at soil level will attract slugs by the aroma. A sip here and there, and they will fall and drown.

Bricks can also be placed around the garden to trap slugs. During the heat of the day, the slugs will crawl under them for a cool, damp spot. During a daily watering, check under the bricks for any unwelcome guests and dispose of them.

Butcher knives and forks 

Kitchen knives work great for undercutting dandelion and other weeds. It also can be used to cut apart plants when dividing.

Place old silverware forks – prongs up – in flower pots, which will keep squirrels and other animals from digging.

Ice cream cones and muffin tins

If looking for easy seed starters, ice cream cones are a perfect alternative for starting pots. You can plant the cone and all.

Muffin tins can also be used to prepare the soil for even spacing of plants.


Consider placing a mailbox in your garden. It could make a great place to store hand tools and other garden supplies for easy access.


Another useful tip: Fill a five-gallon bucket with sand to store tools upright. The sand helps remove the soil, keeping them clean and sharp.

Toilet paper, diapers and more

Cardboard toilet paper and paper towel tubes can be used as pots for starting seeds and plants.

You can also use rolled-up moistened toilet paper with carefully spaced seeds on it to transfer to the garden. Simply dig a trench and unroll to plant the seeds. 

Coffee filters are also good to use as a lining at the bottom of flower pots. It can keep the soil from leaching.

And those water-absorbing crystals in unused baby diapers can be mixed into the soil of small containers and hanging baskets to retain moisture.


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