Hawai‘i Parent Hacks: 11 Tips and Tricks for Your Garden

Learn how to keep pests away from your vegetables, stop birds from eating your strawberries and which secret ingredient makes tomatoes sweet.

Photo: Thinkstock


If you have kids, you don’t need to have a giant garden to wish you had a green thumb. We all want our kids’ science project seeds to turn into plants, the cut flowers they give us to stay fresh and the slugs harboring rat lungworm disease to cease to exist. While some people are naturals, others, like me, need a few hacks to help them out. Here, we tried out 11 tips and tricks to get the sweetest tomatoes, keep fruit flies off your lychee and more.


What exactly is a hack? We define it as a quick trick that easily solves a problem or speeds up a process. Check out our 22 food and cooking hacks and 13 hacks for your home. Watch honolulufamily.com for more parent hacks and tips.


SEE ALSO: 🌱 Get Growing: 11 Tips to Start a Backyard or Lānai Garden in Hawai‘i


Our 11 Hacks


1. Kill slugs: With rat lungworm disease in the news, no one wants slugs near their veggies or their children. Set up a beer trap to stop them in their tracks. Slugs are attracted to the smell of yeast and if they get close enough, will fall into the beer and drown. See how to set up your own “Slug Pub” here.


2. Keep plants hydrated: Plants don’t need much: just water, sunlight and soil. But, over the hot summer months, it can be difficult to water them enough. Poke or drill holes in an empty plastic two-liter bottle and plant it next to your plant. Fill it with water and it will hydrate your plant slowly right down to the roots. See more here.


3. Make the most of your water: Put a coffee filter at the bottom of a pot to keep water from flowing out too quickly: See it here.


Keep birds away with spare mesh bags. Photo: Christi Young


4. Stop birds from eating your fruit: HONOLULU Family editor in chief Christi Young is growing strawberries in her garden and got tired of birds eating them as soon as they were ripe. She found a stash of jewelry bags leftover from gifts and “bagged” small bunches of strawberries. Now, they can ripen right on the plant until picking.


5. Make cut flowers last longer: Add a few drops of vodka and a teaspoon of sugar to cut flowers to make them last longer. Make sure to cut the ends of the stems at an angle while submerged in water – or the vodka, sugar solution – so air doesnʻt get in and stop hydration. Pennies manufactured before 1981 will also work too. They have copper in them, which keeps bacteria away.


6. Create a fruit fly trap: Put a bit of wine or apple cider vinegar in the bottom of a glass with a drop of dish soap to break the surface tension. Fruit flies will fly right in and get stuck, no lid or cling film needed.


SEE ALSO: 🍅 Find Local Seeds for Local Needs from the Hawai‘i Seed Growers Network


Photo: Jennifer Carlile Dalgamouni


7. Start seedlings in eggshells: If your kids bring home seeds but you don’t have anything to start them in, use empty eggshells. Gently cut the tops off, cook with the eggs, clean out the shells and poke drainage holes in the bottom. Fill each shell with soil and plant the seeds as directed. When the plants have started growing, gently crack the shells and plant them right into the soil. See full instructions and tips here. 


8. Get rid of ants: Find where your ants are coming from and put a plate of cornmeal nearby. Ants will eat the cornmeal but can’t digest it so they starve over time. It won’t work as quickly as a toxic ant killer but is kid and pet safe and very cheap.


9. Make kid-safe weed killer: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and vinegar. Kids can spray the weeds right at the surface of the soil, near the roots. Weeds will die in a day or so and the kids can pull them out a few days later. Be careful not to get any on plants you don’t want to kill.


SEE ALSO: 🍳 Hawai‘i Parent Hacks: 22 Cooking Tips and Tricks to Try at Home


Photo: Thinkstock


10. Grow sweet tomatoes: Sprinkle a little baking soda – less than a quarter cup per plant – on the soil around your tomato plants. But, be careful not to get the baking soda on your plants. See full instructions here. And, did you know that baking soda can sweeten canned tomatoes too?


11. Kill aphids: If these minuscule insects are invading your garden, spray a solution of two tablespoons of liquid dish soap mixed with one gallon of water onto the leaves. Be careful not to put too much dish soap. I gave a few extra squirts and burned the leaves of my okra plant. Follow these instructions better than I did and you should have good results.