Wash Berries with Vinegar, Use Plastic Six-Pack Rings as a Net for Vines, Remove Rust with Broken Bricks, and More Country Lore

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Wash berries in vinegar to chase out any lurking tiny insects.

Wash Store-Bought Produce with Vinegar

My mother taught all her children to wash store-bought berries (especially strawberries) in tepid water with a dash of vinegar in it before rinsing them. Try it; you may be surprised to see the numbers of tiny insects that are flushed out of their comfortable hiding places by the sting of the acidic vinegar. I often remember my experiences with these stowaways when I see people eating fruit right off the supermarket shelf. In addition to swallowing pesticides and herbicides, they may be getting some “bonus” protein, too.

–Lillian S.Murphy, Rohnert Park, California

Use Six-Pack Rings as Garden Netting

It would be hard to imagine a product with less redeeming social value than the “sixpack net,” that assembly of plastic loops used to hold beverage cans together. Not only is the material all but indestructible in the environment, it also poses a potential threat to pets and wildlife that might get caught in its nonbiodegradable nooses.

Several years ago, though, I visited a local restaurant and asked them to save their plastic horrors for me. When I had a ready supply of the six-packers, I used a stapler to assemble them into a dandy net for my peavines–a support that laughs at weather and even lets sunlight through. Best of all, every one of these monstrosities that goes to work in the garden is not littering our roadsides or waters.

–Ketcher N.Southard, High Point, North Carolina

Protect Hands from Weathered Tool Handles with Garden Hose

The wooden handles on hoes and other garden tools tend to weather after a few years, especially if the tools are accidentally left outdoors through a rainstorm or two. And once that weathering sets in, the once-smooth wood becomes booby-trapped with splinters and is generally pretty hard on gardening hands.

You can avoid blisters (or worse) by simply slipping cut sections of old garden hose over traumatized tool handles, providing a secure and comfortable grip. If the hose has to be split to fit, just secure it with tape.

–Fred A. Race, Euclid, Ohio

Remove Rust with Brick

Broken shards of brick can serve a useful purpose in garden cleanup. Simply dip the chunk in water, and use it to remove rust from spades, shovels, hoes and so forth. The brick will remove a surprising amount of corrosion, and whatever remains should disappear as the tool is used.

Herbert Ducote, Bunkie, Louisiana

A Use for Soap Slivers

Ever wonder what to do with the little bits of leftover soap by the sink or in the shower? We save these too-small odds and ends until we have a handful or so, then knot them into one leg of an old pair of pantyhose. Tied to the outdoor faucet nearest our garden, this stuffed stocking offers no-slip cleaning for garden-dirty hands. We’re also happy to be able to reuse items that would otherwise be thrown away.

–Sammy Reese, Good Hope, Georgia

Repel Worms with Cedar Infusion

Back in the late teens and early 1920s, I watched my dad cut cedar twigs and simmer them in a pot of water for a few minutes, then use another branch to sprinkle the cooled liquid over his small garden plants to repel cutworms. It sure seemed to do the job.

Years later, when my own garden was plagued with corn earworms, I tried the same formula on my maturing ears. The worms (which, after all, are larval moths…and cedar is famous as a moth repellent) left for less aromatic pastures.

Just pour the tea into a small plastic spray bottle, and douse your seedlings (to prevent cutworms) or newly appearing silks (to repel earworms). Keep spraying every day or two until pest danger has passed. It’s a surprisingly simple and natural remedy, but it’s sure worked for me.

–D. D.Smith, Beebe, Arkansas

Prevent Beetles with Bone Meal

My spud crop has been virtually free of potato beetles for the past 10 years, and I attribute this minor miracle to a simple bit of pest prevention. Simply roll your moist potato eyes (or seed spuds) in bone meal, then let them sit overnight before planting.

Be sure, thereafter, to cut and remove any volunteer potatoes from the prior year’s crop. In my experience, those untreated plants will be crawling with pests, while the bone meal-treated potatoes will grow pest free.

–Norma Cowden, Shawnee, Oklahoma

Collect Garden Debris in a Coffee Can

I hang an empty three-pound coffee can from the handle of my rotary tiller while I turn the soil in my garden. Then, as stones, pieces of wire, hunks of metal and so forth come to the surface, I collect them and dump them in the trash.

–Richard L. Haynes, Stroud, Oklahoma

Use Plastic Drainpipe to Guard Woody Plants

Bushes and small trees can be damaged by the whirling nylon line of a weed trimmer. To protect my woody plants, I cut thin plastic drainpipe (standard four-inch-diameter is fine) into six-inch sections. Each piece is slit all the way down one side and placed around a stem or trunk.

–Steve Bloxham, Stokes Valley, New Zealand