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Discover Six Eco-Friendly “Adders” & “Subtractors”

Written by Carolina Parra- Marketing Lead Eco Rep

Imagine this: you’re finally planting your long-awaited Gardenias in your garden, but when you get down in the dirt, you discover how poor the soil is and the many critters that may want to harm your prized plants. Most people would automatically resort to chemical fertilizers and pesticides, respectively, no questions asked. It’s meant to be the quickest and most effective treatment for plants and the area, so why settle for less?

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality developed a great comprehensive brochure to combat this overuse of chemical soil additives at home1. It recognizes the common dismissive idea of “my garden’s tiny- why should I care?” and counters with the notion that many small gardens equal a large amount of space on the Earth that, when medicated with too much fertilizer and pesticide, cannot absorb the excess and lets runoff flow into nearby surface water.

These chemicals pollute local streams and eventually lakes and oceans, and when soaked through the ground, they can pass right through into the water table, contaminating some region’s drinking water. Not to mention the negative impacts they have on local wildlife.

Alright, we get it! What should one use instead? Let’s break it down by “adders” (fertilizers adding nutrients into the soil) and “subtractors” (pest control methods subtracting pests from the area).


  • Bunny honey: although not as widely available, rabbit poop has 4x more nutrients than cow or horse manure, containing two mighty punches of nitrogen and phosphorus along with minerals and micronutrients not released in other manures2. The best part- these little spheres are considered “cold manure”, meaning they readily decompose and won’t burn plants.3
  • Chicken manure: rich in nitrogen! A little too rich, however, as it may burn plants without properly composting it, giving it the classification of “hot manure.” More widely available than rabbit poop, and, when mixed into soil, produce “larger and healthier” vegetables. 4
  • Worm castings: creating a vermicompost system is easy; all you need is a tub, dirt/coconut coir, newspaper shreds/dried leaves, leftover leaves and veggies, and the worms. Each worm consumes its weight in leftovers, meaning that a pound of worms (~1,000 worms) can produce a pound of castings (worm poop) each day in ideal conditions! Rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, one can spread it through their garden as-is or brew it into a “compost tea” to water the ground.


  • Diatomaceous Earth: made of the ground-up fossilized skeletons of microscopic single-celled silica-rich aquatic organisms called diatoms, it acts as a barrier of tiny glass that dares hard-shelled and soft critters alike, including slugs, beetles, and aphids, to walk on up. While this is a near-foolproof pest control method, it doesn’t discriminate- friendly bugs like ladybugs and bees may fall victim as well, so use discretion when applying.5
  • Coffee grounds: solidly repels snails, ants, and rabbits from eating the plant’s leaves and keeps cats from peeing on them, too6. Best of all, they’re as readily available after your morning coffee consumption.
  • Cinnamon: more useful for potted plants, it inhibits the development of grey mold, deters dark-winged fungus gnats, and can be used to fight ants.7

Hopefully, this short guide with effective alternatives to chemical additives will help you make more eco (and human) friendly choices when inspecting and remedying your beloved garden!


1 Water in Idaho Brochure

2 Bunny Honey as Fertilizer

3 Rabbit Manure

4 Chicken Manure

5 Diatomaceous Earth

6 Coffee Grounds in Garden

7 Cinnamon in Garden


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