If you’re like most people, you probably have a box of baking soda in your kitchen cupboard and/or in your fridge
This simple, useful, natural product has so many uses in health, personal care and household chores that it’s really a “must have” for just about everyone.
Baking soda is a vital part of green cleaning and has so many uses in the house, but what about the garden.
In this article, we will share some great ideas to help you get even more use from versatile, affordable baking soda in your yard and garden. Read on to learn more.
What Is Baking Soda?
This simple, natural product is made up entirely of sodium bicarbonate, a highly alkaline substance.
When it comes in contact with acidic substances it bubbles. The bubbles give off carbon dioxide gas. This is the property of bicarb soda that makes it a good leavening agent for bread baking.
This property also makes it a good choice for settling upset stomachs. Its cleansing and mildly abrasive properties make it a good cleaning agent. It also possesses the ability to absorb and neutralize odors.
How Can These Properties Be Helpful In Your Garden?
When it comes to using baking soda for:
- Natural Cleaning
- Soil Amendment
- Plant Care
- Weed And Pest Control
- Fungal Diseases
- And More
The humble sodium bicarbonate can be a powerful ally
6 Ways To Use Baking Soda To Care For Your Plants
#1 – Clean Plant Leaves
Plants need photosynthesis to survive and thrive. To help your houseplants make the most of the sunshine they receive, keep their leaves clean by wiping them gently with a damp sponge or soft cloth dampened with a very dilute solution of baking soda and water. Add about half a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda to a liter of pure, filtered water to make this gentle cleaning solution.
#2 – Give Your Plants A Boost
If your plants are looking listless, try watering with a combination of:
- 1 gallon of pure, filtered water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp Epsom salts
- ½ tsp ammonia
Do this on a monthly basis to perk up all plants. Roses are especially appreciative of this treatment.
#3 – Stimulate Blooming
Geraniums, Begonia and Hydrangeas all like alkaline soil, and baking soda is an alkaline product. Make these plants a special monthly tonic consisting of one tablespoonful of baking soda and two quarts of water. You’ll soon see enthusiastic blossom production.
#4 – Keep Cut Flowers Fresh Longer
Two quarts of water and a tablespoonful of bicarbonate of soda is also an excellent solution for keeping cut flowers fresh. Be sure to change the solution every couple of days for best results.
#5 – Grow Sweeter Tomatoes
Use baking soda to make the soil in your tomato patch less acidic. Also add some Epsom salts for a “sweet” tasting tomato. Just sprinkle baking soda lightly over the surface of the soil surrounding your tomato plants and then water as usual. Less acidity in the soil adds up to less acidity in your tomatoes.
#6 – Use Baking Soda For Soil Testing and Amendment
Perform informal pH testing on your garden soil. Your garden plants absorb minerals from the soil through their roots. If your soil is too alkaline or too acidic, this process could be hampered. To get an idea of your soil’s pH, use baking soda and white vinegar to perform a home experiment.
Begin by collecting a couple of soil samples in small cups from your yard or garden. Pour half a cup of vinegar into one sample. If you see the soil bubbling, you know that it is alkaline and has had a reaction with the acid in vinegar. This typically means that it has a pH level of 7 or more.
If there are no bubbles, try testing your other sample with about half a cup of water and a tablespoonful of baking soda. If this causes bubbling, you will know that soil sample has a pH level of 7 or below. This soil is acidic and has had a reaction with an alkaline substance.
If your testing reveals acidic soil, you can amend it with baking soda by sprinkling the powder over the surface of the soil just before watering (as you would when sweetening tomatoes).
This should gradually reduce the acidity of the soil. Test your soil occasionally as described here. When it no longer bubbles when exposed to baking soda and water, you will know that you have been successful.
Video: DIY Soil pH Test without a Test Kit
Related: Over at “The Creek Line House” Courtenay, shares how she used baking soda to improve her “sad-looking” hydrangeas.
4 Baking Soda Recipes to Cure and Prevent Plant Diseases
#1 – Prevent Fungal Disease Growth
Baking soda does not kill fungus, but it does create pH conditions that are hostile to its growth. [source]
As a preventative, mix a liter of water with a few drops of dishwashing soap and a teaspoonful of baking soda. Mix well and decant the mixture into a spray bottle.
Spray both the top sides and undersides of leaves in the cool of the morning so that the leaves will have plenty of time to dry during the day. This is a good treatment for all manner of garden plants.
Video: How to Make a Baking Soda Anti-Fungal Garden Spray
#2 – Treat Powdery Mildew
If mildew or fungus have already set in, make a stronger mixture consisting of:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 tablespoonful of baking soda
- 1 tablespoonful of vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoonful of dishwashing liquid
Spray affected plants once a week on cooler, overcast days. Spraying this mixture in the heat of the day or when the sun is very strong can cause plants to burn. This is an especially effective mixture for use on zinnias, squash, cucumbers and lilacs.
#3 – Treat Tomato Diseases
Make a spray with an aspirin and baking soda solution to prevent and treat fungal infections and other diseases in tomato plants. Use this formula weekly.
- 2 tablespoons of baking soda
- 2 gallons of water
- 2 aspirin
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. You’ll need to let the soda solution sit for a few minutes to allow the aspirin to dissolve. Shake and spray.
Video: Baking Soda & Aspirin Tomato Prevention Spraying: Stop Leaf Spot & Early Blight from Showing!
#4 – Mix Up Your Own Cornell University Organic Spray
- 1 gallon of water
- 3-5 drops of Superthrive
- 1 heaping tablespoonful of baking soda
- 1 tablespoonful of seaweed emulsion or fish oil
- 1 tablespoonful of dishwashing liquid as an emulsifier
- 2 tablespoons of ultra-fine horticultural oil (e.g. Sunspray)
Mix all ingredients together and decant into a spray bottle or pump sprayer.
Spray plants monthly, late in the evening for best results. It’s a good idea to give your plants a good spraying with the water hose first to knock off beneficial insects as this mixture will kill them. Spray the entire plant, thoroughly to deal with fungal disease problems such as black spot.
Be sure to follow this recipe exactly, and don’t add vinegar (even cider vinegar) or any substance containing sulfur. If the Sunspray product you purchase lists “emulsifier” on the ingredients label, leave out the dish soap. [source]
8 Ways to Use Baking Soda to Discourage and Eliminate Pests Naturally
When used regularly, carefully prepared, homemade baking soda concoctions provide safe and effective defense against a wide variety of pests, such as spider mites, aphids, silverfish, cockroaches, slugs, snails and more.
- For a very gentle deterrent that will effectively combat spider mites and aphids but will not harm beneficial insects combine:
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 teaspoonful of baking soda
Spray this mixture carefully onto the affected areas of plants every few days until aphids and spider mites are gone. This concentrated mixture is also effective against black spot fungus on roses and grape vines.
- Eradicate harmful insect infestations. If your plants are swarming with harmful bugs try this combination:
- 1 gallon of water
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- A dozen drops of dishwashing liquid
Spray once every three days until the insects have been eradicated. Follow up with weekly sprays using one of the lighter formulations to prevent reinfestation.
- Eliminate ant hills. Use baking soda and powdered sugar to create a fatal bait. Just mix the two ingredients 50/50 and sprinkle the mixture over the offending ant hill. The ants will eat the mixture and carry it into their nest where others will eat it.
They will be attracted by the sugar, but the baking soda will kill them. Be sure to use powdered sugar (not granulated) so that the two ingredients are thoroughly blended. If you use granulated sugar, the ants will pick it out and leave the baking soda behind.
It may take a while to kill ants this way, but it will eventually kill them all because they will continue to carry the mixture into the nest to be consumed by one and all.
- Kill gnats in leaf piles or the smelly compost pile. Mix four teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda with a gallon of water and a teaspoonful of biodegradable soap (e.g. Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap). Pour or spray this mixture over your compost heap or leaf pile to kill off gnats lurking within.
- Repel a wide variety of insects. Mix up a concentrate consisting of:
- 1 teaspoonful of baking soda
- 1/3 cup of mustard oil
Store this in a plastic or glass container with a tightly fitting lid at room temperature. When you want to make an insect repellent spray, measure two teaspoons of this concentrate into one cup of warm water. Stir and decant into a small spray bottle to disperse around areas where you do not want bugs!
- Prevent ground dwelling pests. Sprinkle baking soda lightly on the soil around your crops to deter slugs, roaches and silverfish. Leave it dry and reapply after rain.
- You can also kill slugs on the spot by sprinkling slugs with baking soda, but don’t sprinkle straight baking soda onto your plants as it will burn the leaves.
- Get rid of cabbage worms. These hungry caterpillars love to eat brassicas such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale. To kill them off, mix white flour and baking soda 50/50. Put this mixture into a shaker container or a powder dispenser and dust your brassicas.
Because the baking soda is buffered by the flour and because brassicas are rather rugged, this mixture will not damage their leaves. Apply the dust every day for three or four days. The caterpillars will ingest it when they eat your plants and will soon die off.
2 Ways to Use Baking Soda to Combat Weeds
Weeds and crabgrass growing along the edges of your walkways and patios and in cracks between pavers can be dealt with easily with a generous application of baking soda. It burns back foliage and feeder roots to eliminate current weeds and prevent future weed growth.
- Kill crabgrass and weeds in your lawn. Begin by wetting down the weeds or crabgrass. Follow up by applying a thick coat of baking soda directly to the plant’s leaves and around its root base.
Be careful to apply it only to the plants you want to kill. Don’t sprinkle it around randomly. Avoid applying on a windy day. Apply it thickly in a focused manner.
- Get rid of weeds along walkways and patios and in cracks and crevices. To eliminate weeds growing around paved surfaces, pour baking soda heavily on and around the weeds. Use a whisk broom to sweep the powder into sidewalk cracks or the space between pavers.
Check back and reapply as needed. Although a heavy application of baking soda will have some residual weed killing effect, be advised that rain and watering will dilute these effects fairly quickly. This natural powder works by desiccating foliage. It may not kill deep roots.
10 Ways to Clean Up Around Your Yard and Garden With Baking Soda
Bicarbonate of soda is a very safe cleaning product to use in the garden. It is non-toxic and will not harm birds and other desirable wildlife. Use it as a non-abrasive scouring powder or mix it up with other gentle ingredients to create custom cleaning products.
#1 – Deodorize your compost pile or bin. Add a tablespoonful of baking soda to a gallon of water to pour over your compost and/or simply sprinkle the dry powder over the pile and turn it in to help eliminate unpleasant odors. Don’t overdo it, though. Excessive amounts will slow down composting.
#2 – Deodorize your garbage cans. Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda in the bottom of the can to absorb odors.
#3 – Make a simple baking soda and water cleaning spray consisting of 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a quart of water to use when wiping down lawn furniture, gardening equipment and the like.
#4 – Make a baking soda and liquid castile soap paste for use when scrubbing up flowerpots, birdbaths and feeders and more. Allow these items to air dry thoroughly before storing.
#5 – Make an abrasive scrubbing paste with equal parts salt, baking soda and warm water.
#6 – Use plain baking soda as a soft scrub powder to clean just about anything safely. [source]
#7 – Clean your garden furniture. You can make resin garden furniture almost as good as new with a thorough cleaning using a simple solution consisting of half a cup of baking soda, a tablespoonful of dish soap and a gallon of very warm water.
Use a gentle scrubbing sponge to scrub the items and then rinse with the garden hose. For stubborn stains, make a scrubbing paste as described above. Use a soft scrub brush or soft scrubbing sponge. Don’t use a wire brush or steel wool (naturally) as this will damage the surface.
To clean outdoor furniture made of webbing material, rinse the item and then sprinkle baking soda over it. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then scrub it off as shown here.
Video: Use Baking Soda to Clean Patio Furniture
#8 – Clean your walkways and patios. Mix up a mild solution of baking soda and water (2 tablespoons/1 quart respectively) to wash down your sidewalks, driveway, patios and other paved surfaces. Tackle tough stains with a baking soda and dishwashing detergent paste.
Once you’ve finished scrubbing, rinse the whole area clean with copious amounts of water from the hose. This dilution will help prevent plant damage in the surrounding area.
Although some baking soda can be beneficial to soil and plants, don’t overdo this cleaning routine. Excessive buildup of bicarbonate of soda around your walks and patio could result in plant death in these areas.
#9 – Soak up oil stains with dry baking soda. Just sprinkle on a thick layer and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so. Sweep it up and finish cleaning up the oil stain with a baking soda, salt and dish soap paste.
#10. Wash and beautify your hands. Baking soda makes an excellent, gentle scrub for grimy garden hands. At its simplest, just pour a bit of the powder into the palm of your hand and scrub away. Use a nail brush to get dirt out from under and around your nails.
For a little more “oomph!” add a few drops of liquid castile soap. If you have sticky sap on your hands, mix baking soda and a few drops of olive oil (or cooking oil, mineral oil, baby oil or petroleum jelly) in the palm of your hand and scrub your hands. Rinse with very warm water.
As an added advantage, the mild abrasive properties of baking soda will help exfoliate the skin on your hands leaving them nice and smooth. Be sure to follow up with a good moisturizer or the skin will feel quite dry very soon.
Precautions When Using Baking Soda In The Garden
- Use baking soda concoctions carefully. Don’t spray them around willy-nilly or use them excessively because buildup can cause damage to your plants.
- Do a patch test before spraying any solution over your entire garden. Just apply the mixture to a couple of leaves and wait 24 hours before treating your entire crop. If the solution seems to burn the leaves, dilute it and try another patch test. Keep adjusting until you hit the right strength.
- Protect heating elements, electrical wiring and metal items from exposure to baking soda as it can cause corrosion.
What Are The Drawbacks of Using Baking Soda In The Garden?
Although baking soda can be a very effective tool in your collection of natural gardening techniques, you should not rely upon it entirely. If overused, its efficacy will dwindle with the passage of time. You will soon find yourself using more and more of it with less and less effect.
This is why it’s always a good idea to establish a schedule of sound garden management.
Be sure to plant your seeds, seedlings and grown plant specimens properly with the right kind of soil, drainage and sun exposure.
Keep your plants properly pruned for good air circulation. All of these steps will keep your plants strong and help prevent problems with pests and fungus.
Use baking soda in combination with other natural methods of deterring pests and weeds, such as heavy mulching with coarse organic matter to prevent weed growth and keep your plants’ roots well protected. Rotate natural garden spray recipes to prevent having pests and fungus build up a resistance to any single product.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. Baking soda and other natural garden remedies all work best as preventatives.
If you do not practice good garden management and your plants become heavily infested with pests and fungus, these types of solutions will probably not be of much use to you. Consistent care is key to success with all natural plant care products.