Washing Machine Water for the Garden, Baking Soda for Stains and Eliminating Fire Ants

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To clean tough household stains, store this baking soda mix for future use in a large glass jar.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers share their farming advice, fun tips and country folklore, including watering the garden with washing machine water, a baking soda mix to remove stains and eliminating fire ants by feeding them dry grits.

Farming Advice: Garden Washing Machine Water, Baking Soda for Stains and Eliminating Fire Ants

Wash Water Irrigation?

My father-in-law and I put in a garden every year, but as
anyone living in Kansas knows, our summers can get pretty
hot. We had a drought last summer and had trouble
conserving water and watering the garden. So we went to the
hardware store and bought some PVC pipe which we hooked up
to the drain on the washing machine. While washing the
clothes, I also irrigated the garden so that all the crops
could profit from this rig. The soap (which is
biodegradable) also helped keep the bugs off the plants.

Chad Ratliff
Fort Scott, KS

Homemade Stain Remover

To clean tough household stains, store this mix for future
use in a large glass jar.

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup powdered detergent
1/4 cup salt

–Amy Ceader
Danville, IL

Insider Garden Galoshes

I save the bags that my newspaper is delivered in. Whenever
I go out to work on “my little acre” I slip a pair of these
little bags on over my socks, then put on my work shoes.
This keeps both my feet and socks clean when I’m finished
with a day’s gardening and yard work.

–L. B. Felton
Chesapeake, VA

Homemade Play Dough & Paints

Here is a recipe for play dough for parents or caregivers
who don’t wish to pay the ridiculously high price for such
a product. I have also included a cheap, fun recipe for
finger paints.

Play Dough:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
2 cups of water
1/4 cup of oil
1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
1 package (small) of Kool-Aid or flavored drink crystals and corresponding food coloring.

Mix all ingredients over medium-high heat until they are
dough-like. Remember to stir constantly throughout the
process. Add drink crystals and food coloring until you get
the color you want. Knead and store in an airtight
container. The drink crystals will give the dough a
delightful smell (of the flavor) as well as color. It will
keep for about one to two weeks if you store it in an
airtight container when you’re not playing with it.

Soap Flake Finger Paints
2 cups of soap flakes (not powder)
Food coloring

In a bowl gradually add water to soap flakes while beating
with a rotary or electric mixer. The soap should be the
consistency of beaten egg whites with soft peaks. Add food
coloring to make desired color.

If anyone is interested in play dough recipes or fun, safe
activities for kids, you can E-mail me.

–Selena Simonoff
simonf (at) soonet.ca

Milk Jug Fly Trap

Trap flies and bees without pesticides by using recycled
materials to create a lure. You’ll need three plastic milk
jugs or similar containers. Using sharp scissors, cut the
handles off two jugs. You’ll have an elbow-shaped tube; cut
the long leg of each tube diagonally into a slant so you
can place the tubes. Using a utility knife, cut one
vertical slit on each of two sides of the jug, about
two-thirds of the way up. Make the slits just large enough
to accommodate the tubes. Cut a horizontal line through the
center of the vertical slits. Take the long leg of the
tubes with the elbows pointed up and force them part way
into these openings.

Bait the trap with sugary juice, filling about one-third of
the jug. Add a protein bait–cooked egg, chicken
bones, or meat–into the inner portion of the tube.

Be sure to replace the cap on the jug and place it in an
area where the pests have been congregating. Hang the jug
up by the handle to keep out of reach of children. Yellow
jackets enter the trap, but their natural instincts cause
them to fly up. The tube structure is too difficult for
them to maneuver, and they quickly drown in the juice at
the bottom of the jug.

–Amy Fiorilla
Milltown, NJ

Beachcomber’s Compost

The next time you head out to the beach, bring one
recyclable trash bag to clean up after yourself and another
to collect goodies for your compost heap. Seaweed is one of
the best additives I can think of to boost the slow simmer
of a heap, not to mention a mineral boost to the black gold
you’ll be harvesting. The broken bits of crab shell you
almost always come across can be crushed and added to the
heap as well.

S. A. Daynard
Hudson, NH

Snaky Scarecrow

One of the simplest methods I’ve found in keeping small
garden “thieves” from sampling my vegetables is to lay a
few segments of an old garden hose (six to eight inches
long) here and there among the beds. If you feel like being
creative and have the time, you could paint a few stripes
on them. The animals apparently mistake the hose for snakes
and stay clear. I’ve always had great luck with this and
end up each season with more than enough vegetables to
share with my good friends and neighbors.

S. A. Lennon
Tewksbury, MA

Exploding Fire Ants

I just thought you’d love to know how we get rid of some of
the most pesky insects known to man, but first let me say
that I love your “Country Lore” section and I feel that it
gives many people inexpensive, down-to-earth solutions.
Here’s mine. During the summer, fire ants huddle up around
the porch and cause a general nuisance. Well, down here on
Tobacco Road, we just sprinkle a handful of grits around
the densely populated ant holes or areas where ants are the
most troublesome in our yard. The grits expand in their
stomachs, and soon they … well … explode. I know it sounds
barbaric, but it works.

–Alice Davis
Goldsboro, NC

Bright Yellow Clothespins

I use a good clothesline to dry my clothes. Out here in the
country, though, it can be difficult to find clothespins
that drop onto the vegetation underneath my clothesline. I
use the one-piece wooden ones. (They’re strongest.) They
blend right into the vegetation. I solved that problem
years ago by spray painting them bright yellow.

–Joseph Kaye
Phenix, VA

Lemon Skunk-Odor Remover

To get skunk odor out of clothes, wash clothes in the
washing machine with laundry detergent and a large bottle
of lemon juice.

To keep new clothes from fading so quickly, wash them in
the washing machine with laundry detergent and salt.

–JoAnn Lawson
Upper Sandusky, OH