Quick Tip – Two on Tuesday/Apples, Vase Scum, and Baking Soda

My grandchildren love apples cut into wedges for snacking. Unfortunately, apples are on the list for ‘dirty’ fruits due to pesticide residue. The apple my youngest grand-daughter is holding in the photograph is an organic Gala apple. If it was not grown organically I could remove most of the outer pesticides by a baking soda soak. Washing away what has been absorbed by the inner fruit is pretty much impossible.

“The longer pesticides sit on fruits and vegetables, the deeper they’re absorbed, and the harder it is to remove them, he says…consider submerging your produce in a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda and two cups of water for two minutes or more (the longer you soak, the more chemicals you get rid of). Rinse in tap water again before eating.” ~ Consumer Reports/Easy Way to Remove Pesticides.

I also put baking soda to use when removing soap scum from vases. I try soaking first in bleach, but if that doesn’t work I sprinkle in a little baking soda and add straight white vinegar. Be prepared for some quick foaming action.

This is a good trick if you misplace your bottle brush. (Mine is hiding from me right now.) If needed, I will repeat the steps until the scum is gone.

Quick Tip – Yard Walkabout/Storm Repair

Monday’s Yard Walkabout had me cringing as I checked all my garden beds. We had a spring rainstorm last night that rivaled a mid-summer downpour. I found my top-heavy hyacinths lying on their sides.

To the rescue, twigs from last year’s Rudbeckia daisies.

I rarely cut these tall stems down in Autumn. They retain seeds on the spent flower heads for a good part of the winter, a food source for birds, and in the spring and summer their tall stems, turned wood-like in the winter weather, are perfect stakes for zinnias and other tall border plants. I usually break off the smaller twigs and discard, this year they will come in handy; I’ll poke the end in the ground and let the branches hold the hyacinth up until time to cut the faded flower away.

My propped-up hyacinths are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Quick Tip – Easter Tree

My Scrub Pine Christmas tree is now doing its triple tour of duty as a holiday tree. First it was decorated for Christmas, then Valentine’s Day, and now I have covered it with Malted Robin Eggs for Easter.

Once again I made good use of leftover Christmas ornament hooks. (Next year I intend to buy several packages to have on hand for projects.)

I created a small indentation with a miniature Phillips Head screwdriver, then pushed one straightened end of the hook, dabbed with a spot of glue, into the malt. Voilá! The hooks work perfectly to hang the small eggs on the tree. A few of the eggs did crack while I attempted to insert the hook, but I confess, the evidence of their demise was quickly eaten.

Quick Tip – Stinky Scare Sticks/Repelling Pests in the Garden Organically

A chill is still in the air, but I know that as the temperature rises the pesky critters will wake up too. Right about the time I plant out small sprouts and plant seeds they will be roaming about with voracious appetites. This year I am prepared in advance with a new idea: Stinky Scare Sticks.

I gathered some good repellents: eucalyptus essential oil, cayenne or chili pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Organic coconut oil mixed with the eucalyptus oil was my glue. A toothpick dipped into the oil, and then into the spice mix, made the perfect stinky stick. Placed in garden pots and beds, the haze of pungent smells will hopefully hinder the munchies of the chipmunks and other pests.

I made quite a few and stored them at the ready on a garage shelf.

Another idea I’ve used in the past has been rocks and shells with a drop of eucalyptus, peppermint, cinnamon or other essential oil loathsome to small critters placed somewhere on their surface.  This also works as an unobtrusive repellent.

This post wouldn’t  be complete without a bit of a giggle. I also wrapped some of my kitty-cat’s  fur (rodents recognize the smell of a predator in the fur) around a toothpick, added some googly eyes, and placed it in the same pot for added scare appeal. I wonder if the chipmunks will run or just laugh at my silly creation.

Quick Tip – Marker Fun & Removal

This week on the Home & Family show on the Hallmark Channel, I found a timely tip on how to remove markers from wood floors. In my case the markers bled through thin paper onto the wooden bench beneath the masterpiece-in-the-making.

Ordinary toothpaste, not the gel types, rubbed gently into the marker with a soft rag, will remove markers of all types, even the permanent variety. I needed to add a bit of dampness to my rag in order to remove all the pigment.

It worked! I buffed the area with a soft cloth to remove any excess moisture or toothpaste.

Hallmark’s Home & Family show has a good mix of recipes, household tips, home improvements, garden segments, pet rescue highlights, and craft projects. In my area the show is aired twice a day and is also available On Demand.

Quick Tip – Small Spatula

“It’s largely accepted that the original version of the familiar smiley face was first created 50 years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts by the late Harvey Ross Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man.” ~ Smithsonian Magazine

I’ve always loved smiley faces, they remind me of cartoon characters. Created in 1963, they’ve been around for most of my lifetime. The current emojis, especially the smiling face, have always reminded me of the smiley faces of my childhood.

FYI – “The first emoji was created in 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita.” ~Wikipedia

I baked almost all of my Christmas cookies for gift-giving over the weekend. It was rainy and dreary, a perfect day to hibernate indoors. I had all the ingredients on hand, and best of all, while shopping the outlet mall for gifts and stocking stuffers, I found the perfect spatula for removing the cookies from the baking sheet. My generation would probably say this spatula was based on a smiley face, a large percentage, if not all, of the younger generation would say it resembles an emoji.

The edge of the small spatula is angled, easily slipping beneath the warm cookies. I’ve had many cookies destroyed by overly large, blunt-edged spatulas. The smaller size of this smiley face spatula keeps its edges from ruining adjacent cookies when you scoop the cookie off the pan.

If you like the look of the Neapolitan cookies you can find a good recipe here:

Taste of Home Neapolitan Cookies.

I make these every year and change up the recipe a bit, leaving out the nuts and the almond extract. We have a grandchild with a tree nut allergy. The Neapolitans are amazing made without the nuts and flavoring…always a favorite.

Quick Tip & Pheathers – A Gritty Helping Hand

Today while running some errands I stopped at the local pet store and bought some bird grit. I don’t have pet birds, but recently was reminded while reading through Country Wisdom & Know How that birds are vulnerable to digestion problems when they can’t scratch up and ingest grit from the frozen earth.

“Grit is necessary for birds to grind the food they eat and for some mineral value. Offer ground oyster shell, sand or ground eggshell either alone in trays or mixed with seed or recipes." Country Wisdom & Know-How

We had snow yesterday, and while it is pretty and seasonal, it also makes life a bit harder for the backyard birds. When I fill the feeders I will add a bit of the grit to the tray. When the snow melts I’ll sprinkle a small amount beneath the feeders each day where the birds can easily find it.

Quick Tip – Sprouts!

The first snowfall was pretty, but also makes me resigned to the long winter ahead. For those of you who, like me, enjoy standing in the garden eating peas right out of the pod, I’m posting a reminder about sprouts. I love sprouts. The batch above was especially delicious, although definitely odd in appearance, when I used them on hummus for lunch this week. The meal might look a trifle strange, but it is full of health benefits and a good percentage of your daily vitamins and minerals.

Amazingly, the sprouting seeds I used were purchased in 2015 from The Sprout House through Amazon. After three years almost all the seeds in the packet I chose to use still sprouted. The Sprout House offers an amazing variety packet that will last for months, if not years.

“There are tremendous health benefits from including sprouts in your diet: … Vitamin, such as A, B, C and E, and essential fatty acid nutrients increase in sprouting and minerals bind to protein, making them more easily absorbed. Sprouts alkalize the body and protect it from disease including cancer.” ~Longevity Wellness Worldwide

The Sprout House on Amazon. Here’s the link to the variety package I purchased in 2015. You can also find smaller products through Amazon offered by The Sprout House.

This post is part of Kammie’s Oddball Challenge

Quick Tip – Tuesday Tip/Replacements

“If like many people, you are afraid to try roses in your garden, you need to try the revolutionary Knock Out® Family of Roses. The only rose that doesn’t need special care from you, these shrub roses will reward you with a season long show of blooms from spring to frost.”                                                                                           KnockoutRoses.Com

 

If you are like me you have some empty spots in your garden that could use a quick fix. There is still time to find amazing bargains as big box stores and garden nurseries slash prices to make room for Christmas trees and outdoor decor. This past weekend, I found Knockout Roses, an almost problem-free shrub rose, for less than 5.00 each. I bought four to plant in an area that needs many plants to fill it. The Knockout Roses should quickly grow and fill in the area with beautiful pink flowers. I was lucky to find the double bloom variety. The bonus is the roses I purchased still have some bloom and buds to enjoy through Autumn.

I also found a flat of succulent plants that I greatly admired in the Spring, but wasn’t willing to spend the asking price at that time. Oh the joy of finding bargains. This flat was a steal at under 4.00. I wonder how many projects and plantings I can squeeze out of it. I’ll post a few of my ideas through the next few weeks.

Quick Tip – Bubble Wrap Upcycle

In the Autumn of the year, I hang this sweet welcome sign on my front door. The scarecrow and greeting are painted with acrylics on a heavy piece of slate making the piece very durable. My problem over the years has been the racket the plaque makes by banging to and fro when the door is opened or shut. At some point, after years of bouncing around, I’m concerned the slate will crack and be ruined.

Bubble wrap to the rescue! In this age of massive online purchases and mailings, bubble wrap envelopes are abundant. A good way to recycle a few of these is to cut out cushioning strips and put them on the back of items that might be broken by movement. To safeguard the plaque, I cut a few bubble wrap envelope strips and glued them onto the back with my glue gun. The whole process took about five minutes, and the strips work great. The racket is diminished and the plaque is protected.

Inspired by my success, I googled recycling bubble wrap. Two of my favorite ideas were found on The Secret Yumiverse: 9 Poppin’ Uses for Bubble Wrap. One was practical: put bubble wrap inside empty handbags/purses to help them keep their shape. The second just made me laugh: make a primitive burglar alarm by putting bubble wrap under the doormat/rugs near your front door. Funny, but hey, it just might work!

Quick Tip – Driftwood Plant Stakes

I’ve been repotting orchids using driftwood twigs in place of ordinary plant stakes. I prefer the natural appearance of the driftwood vs. manufactured plastic or dowels. One problem with any type of garden stake is the possibility of catching it in the eye while watering or grooming the plant. I have many plants and believe me, there have been many close calls in garden and house with plant stakes. Also, as someone who received sixteen stitches in my leg as a child due to a stake hidden in tall grass I am always aware of the danger of stakes.

Thankfully, the fix is easy for my houseplants. To go with the seashore theme of the driftwood I placed a few small moonshells over the end of the plant stakes. Anything will do as a protective piece, a bead, string wound around the tip, a drilled acorn or nut, clay fashioned into small birds, the possibilities are almost endless.

Quick Tip – Inexpensive Garden Pots

Dollar stores are the perfect choice for good prices, after all, everything is a dollar. This year, I planted eight dollar store oil drip pans, (large, shallow plastic pans) with plants suitable for pressed flower harvesting.

I expected the plants in these pots to be spent and dried out by the end of June. What an unexpected surprise to find that these containers, planted with four plants each, have thrived and are still lushly growing. Careful watering is the key to success with shallow pans.

I might empty a few soon and try them out for an Autumn lettuce crop. Give the dollar store a try for unique containers that can be turned into inexpensive planters.

Quick Tip – Potted Plant Stabilizing/Grooming

I have a large potted palm that spends the winter months in my home. During the summer, the palm is ‘vacationing’ in my backyard beneath the pines. While it is outdoors I will take a pair of scissors and snip away the browned ends of the fronds.

Potted plants, large and small, tip over easily in the high winds and heavy rains we have been experiencing this week in my area. I tried weighting the surface of the palm’s pot with rocks, but during the first strong breezes the pot tipped over. To better stabilize the plant I ran a garden stake through the top of the pot, threaded it through the side (or bottom) drainage holes, and hammered it into the ground. I used four stakes for the large palm, smaller plants will stand firm using only one.

I’ve shared this tip in the past, but it is worth repeating for those who are new to gardening outdoors.

Quick Tip – Saturday Reruns/Using the Heat at Hand

Some of my best tips are buried, way, way back in the archives of the blog.  Give this flash-drying tip a try, you will be amazed at how well it works.

Using the trunk of my car to flash-dry parsley and other herbs has been one of my better “quirky” ideas. Gently rinse fresh herbs, dry on a towel, lay in a single layer on a metal cookie sheet, place in your HOT car.

Parsley, and most other herbs, dry to a perfect crispness in only three days. The leaves lose none of their brilliant green color or sensational scent as they dry. I’m thrilled with the results.

In the photo above I’ve dried lemon balm, thyme, and basil. At this stage, the herbs are very dry. To further ensure they have no moisture left in their leaves I keep them in labeled brown lunch bag for a week or two longer, before final storage in a jar or plastic bag.

  • One note…basil does not retain its brilliant green color, but the flavor is still intact.

Give this easy drying technique a try…flowers work too!

Quick Tip – Garden Tips/Marking plants for Seed Harvest

The wildflower garden is full of beautiful bachelor buttons; there are many blues along with pink, lavender, and one or two white bachelor button flowers. I want to save the seeds of all of them but especially want to collect the white variety as there are fewer plants of this color.

As you can see in the photograph the plants are packed in, and after they bloom, it is hard to differentiate one from the other. A marker in the soil wouldn’t work, but something wrapped around the stem itself would be ideal. Aha, what about a self-adhesive address label? Most of us have these stored with our mailing supplies. I folded a label around the stem of the bachelor button, wrote the variety of plant on the end, and it is holding well. The marking might fade, but I am confident the label will stick. The glue is strong enough to withstand the mailing process, and I am sure even a little rain will not loosen the adhesive. Hopefully, I will be able to create my own wildflower mix with my favorites for next Spring.

Quick Tip – Transplanting Tiny Volunteers

Anyone who reads my blog knows I love plants that come up on their own in strange places. This week, in my front garden, I noticed several coleus sprouts beneath larger plants, volunteers from last year’s coleus. The coleus are extremely small and have no chance to thrive if left to grow beneath large trees.

After I spot a desirable sprout I dig a small shallow hole for transplanting. My favorite tool for removing the small plantlet is a putty knife. The knife slides into the soil easily and lifts the sprout right out of the ground. I don’t want to disturb the roots any further so I fill the transplant hole up with water, and while it is sinking into the ground insert the sprout into the well of water. The pull of the water plants the sprout without me having to touch it or crush it with a stream of water from a watering can or hose.

If you spot a small volunteer sprout in your garden and have a perfect spot for it to grow, give this technique for planting a try.

Quick Tip – Garden/Container Greenhouse Drainage

Here’s an easy way to create drainage holes in plastic disposable food containers. These containers come in all sizes and make perfect miniature greenhouses for stem cuttings and seed sowing, but creating drainage holes can be tricky. I’ve found that if I lay the container on the lawn to use as a stabilizer, an ice pick (screwdrivers and nails work great too) will easily pierce the plastic when hit with a hammer without tearing the bottom into shreds.

There you have it! Perfect drainage in less than five minutes with a minimum of fuss. Happy Gardening!

Quick Tip – Tip on Thursday/Volunteers

Among the clover…

…and the grasses of my back yard…I have been spotting and collecting dozens of garden volunteers. I call them volunteers, but they are in reality last year’s flowers that have self-seeded and sprouted in unexpected places.

This is the patch of Johnny-Jump-Up Violas the volunteers have sprung from this year. I have relocated enough of the flowers to plant a ten-foot border along my back porch. They will fill in and maybe self-seed more volunteers for next year. Hooray for Spring’s volunteers.

Any plant that the gardener didn’t put in, and is not a weed, is known by the term volunteer. In most cases gardeners consider these plants more than welcome, though they may need to be relocated or even shared. ~ Horticulture Magazine

 

Quick Tip – Tips on Thursday/Garden Repellent

This ladybug suet feeder never quite worked out as I hoped, with no easy perch for landing it was shunned by the birds. Instead of throwing it away, I filled the suet feeder with strands of cat hair, courtesy of the fur my cats shed when I brush them each day. The suet feeder seems to be doing the trick so far. I’ve also sprinkled a few red pepper flakes among the newly planted seedlings and this seems to be helping too. If you don’t have cats you can use smashed garlic cloves, onions, citrus essential oils as repellents.

Filling a suet holder with cat hair definitely makes this photo worthy of Cee’s Oddball Challenge.