Country Lore: Natural Pest Control, Seed Starters, Removing Fence Posts and More

Readers submit folk remedies ranging from natural pest control and eggshells as seed starters to tips for removing fence posts and creative ways to use wood ash.

| March/April 1982

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    Chickens like to take dust baths in ashes to repel parasites.
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    Reader Roger Holinaty recommends using chains and a crowbar to help with removing fence posts.

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Readers from 1982 submit folk remedies ranging from natural pest control and eggshells as seed starters to tips for removing fence posts and creative ways to use wood ash.

Free Newspaper Rolls

"Our local newspaper gives away discarded paper 'roll ends' that are too short to run on the press. The remaining blank newsprint on the rolls (up to 100 yards of it!) makes an excellent wrapping paper for just about anything," writes Anna Marie Bobnar of Madison, Pennsylvania. "What's more, we often cover the dining room table with it and draw or do our homework. The heavy cardboard core of the roll burns well in our woodstove, too . . . and the clean, soft ashes it produces serve as an excellent litter for our kitten's box!"

Creative Ways to Use Wood Ash

Ashes are becoming an increasingly available commodity as more and more folks burn wood to heat their homes. And if you've been collecting the timber residue throughout the winter, readers Aune Hofsommer of Aurora, Minnesota and Lawrence Gladfilter of Windsor, Missouri have a few more suggestions for using your stockpile. (Please remember, however, never to burn any painted or pressure treated boards, as the vapors are toxic and the ashes can actually contaminate the earth.)

If kept in a covered container—in the back of a truck or in the trunk of a car—ashes can be lifesavers in ice and snow. By sprinkling some under a stuck vehicle's wheels, you can often get enough traction to get going.

Chickens like to take dust baths in a tub half full of ashes in the winter . . . and in the summer the same treatment will help keep parasites off the birds.

If you dust your tomato and potato plants and cole-family vegetables with ashes, you'll find that many garden pests will avoid the crops.

Lilac bushes bloom and thrive when given a spring "meal" of wood ash.

Sifted ashes make a fine scouring powder.

Finally, if your corn patch becomes an annual battleground for you and the raccoon population, try sprinkling ashes on the ears just before harvest time. If you apply the "dressing" in the morning, the dew will help it adhere to the husks (or you could combine the ash with water and "paint" the mixture on). Spread some on the ground around the stalks, too. Many raccoons would rather leave your corn alone than risk getting themselves dirty!

Garden Slug Prevention

Robert Zugelder found a way to keep slugs out of his strawberries. This resident of Springboro, Ohio routinely mulches his strawberry patch with pine needles . . . and he noticed that slugs either won't or can't crawl over the cones. Now, Robert surrounds each strawberry plant with pinecones: The slugs stay away . . . and the little "pest fence" allows better air circulation to the plants, which in turn helps the berries to ripen more evenly.

Companion Planting with Mint

"If you plant wild mint around your persimmon trees, you'll get bumper crops of fruit," writes Rob Saunier of Little Rock, Arkansas. "Better still, the bugs will tend to leave the persimmons alone! And if you have difficulty restraining the hardy perennial herb, try placing a ring of rocks at the desired boundary."


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