Pest Deterrent, Seed Incubator, and Other Country Lore

A woman who uses rhubarb in her garden as a pest deterrent and a man who uses an old used icebox as a seed incubator are among the country lore tips readers submitted to this ongoing feature.

| March/April 1979

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    Rhubarb stalks and leaves worked exceptionally well as a garden pest deterrent for one Minnesota woman.
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    A New Hampshire man figured out how to use a two-man saw by himself using a tree branch, rope, and 20 lb counterweight.

  • 056 country lore 01 pest deterrent.jpg
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The following housekeeping tips and other bits of country lore were submitted by readers. 

Rhubarb Pest Deterrent

Anna Laitala of Ely, Minnesota learned by accident about the strange powers of "Rhubarb Magic." Weeds and quack grass were invading —successfully—every side of her beloved garden except for the one edge lined with a row of rhubarb plants. Curious, she moved some of the tasty-stalked (but poisonous-leaved) pie plants over to another besieged border. The rhubarb "wall" blocked attacking underbrush there, too!

Before long, Anna was using those potent perennials everywhere. Discarded leaves and flower stems eliminated weeds and pests between the rows of her crops. Huge rhubarb blades draped over cabbage and cauliflower plants thwarted cabbage worms. And slit fronds—wrapped around her young broccoli shoots— successfully checkmated cutworms.

Any plant that can do all that must be—as Anna says—"truly magical."

Icebox Seed Incubator

Most folks wouldn't think a refrigerator would grow much other than mold on bread. But William Kiewel of Crookston, Minnesota made a perfect spring seed-sprouter out of a "well-used" icebox that he got for only $20. Bill simply unplugged the food chiller and installed a small thermostatically controlled heater (set at 75°F). Then all he had to do was add the seeds and shut the door. The dark, humid atmosphere proved to be perfect for sprouting all his tomatoes, cukes, squash, peppers, etc. (A plant starter like Bill's would be especially helpful to folks whose homes get pretty chilly on spring nights.)

But Bill doesn't stop there. Come fall, he takes the heater out, plugs in the fridge (set at about 40°F), and uses it to force flower bulbs. With this method, he has fragrant hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, and crocuses decorating his home even when it's 20 below outside!

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