By Gloria Ballard
The (Nashville) Tennessean
Garden stores are full of products that claim to make garden chores easier. This year, several writers set out to show that you can get effective results to some common garden problems by using products you find around the house.
"These are just simple things," says Sharon Lovejoy, the author of Trowel & Error: Over 700 Shortcuts, Tips & Remedies for the Gardener (Workman; $13.95). "I always think people need to start with the simplest, most benign solution."
They also can be a help for the budget-minded. Joey Green, the author of Gardening Magic, (Rodale; $14.95), writes that his book is "filled with quirky yet practical ways to save time and money using brand-name products you already have in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and garage."
Here is a sampling of end-of-the-season garden chores using common brand-name products and household items, culled from Lovejoy, Green and Eat More Dirt and Slug Bread and Beheaded Thistles (second edition), both by Ellen Sandbeck (Broadway Books; $10.95).
To spread a small amount of grass seed or fertilizer: Punch holes in the bottom of an empty coffee can, fill with seed or fertilizer, cover with the plastic lid, and shake the can as you walk around the lawn or garden.
To clean plastic patio furniture: Use Arm & Hammer baking soda, or spray it with Barbasol Shaving Cream and scrub it with a brush, wet rag or sponge. After the furniture is clean, spray it with a light coat of Pledge and buff it with a clean cloth. The Pledge keeps it smooth so dirt won't stick.
Fruit flies in your kitchen? Fill a small bowl with equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water. The fruit flies will line up on the rim and dive in.
Rabbits chewing the fall lettuce crop? Keep rabbits from chewing on your garden by misting it with a mixture of two tablespoons Tabasco Pepper Sauce, two tablespoons McCormick Garlic Powder, three drops Ivory Dishwashing Liquid, and two cups of water in a 16-ounce spray bottle. (Test this on a small area before spraying it on your entire crop, and be sure to wash all vegetables thoroughly before eating.)
Speed up composting process: Sprinkle ashes from the fireplace onto your compost pile.
To remove pine pitch, tree sap or grease from your hands: Rub mayonnaise on the sticky spot, let it sit a few minutes, then wipe it off.
Messy hose? Store a hose by coiling it inside a used tire to prevent kinks.
To clean garden tools: Use an old toothbrush to clean caked-on dirt from the crevices of garden tools. To prevent tools from rusting, spray the clean tools with a light coat of Pam cooking spray. After cleaning and lubricating your garden tools at the end of the season, wrap them in newspaper before storing them.
Indoor gardening: Give houseplants a calcium boost by crushing eggshells between two sheets of wax paper and adding them to the plants' soil at least once a month.
Flavored water: Save the water from cooking vegetables; let it cool and water your plants with it. You also can add leftover tea or used tea bags to your watering can to water acid-loving plants such as azaleas.
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