Archive for the ‘Non-Edibles’ Category

This is a probably unnecessary but something we overly scrutinous gardener-types love. A cheap and easy formula that makes us feel like we are more caring than those other gardeners who just use plain water–oh the horror–on newly transplanted plants.

Whether it actually does anything is up for debate, but if it makes you feel proactive, like me, then go for it.

1-2 gallons warm water
2 tea bags (regular black)
1 12 oz can of beer (cheap kind is fine)
1 tsp dish soap

Put warm water in a bucket and add the tea bags. Let steep overnight. Then the next day, remove the tea bags and add the other ingredients. One could probably substitute regular coffee grounds for this but I haven’t tried it.

Pour over newly transplanted plants, as much as one would water according to their type. For example, a tree would get as much as a half gallon, but a tiny tomato plant would get only a cup full.

The tea contains caffeine which may or may not perk up drowsy plants, and the beer contains slight carbonation, which makes CO2 immediately available to the roots, like a breath of fresh air. It also contains slight sugars which could turbo charge root growth. And dish soap breaks water’s surface tension making the ingredients easier for roots to absorb. Yummy.


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For those who caught on, this picture of me inspecting our bare root tree order also shows me with a foamy bucket and some sticks (trees) sticking out. This is the magic formula for soaking your bare root plants prior to planting out.

Why should you soak your bare root plants prior to planting? Well, The roots are dormant and have been out of the ground for an undefined amount of time. Soaking helps them get soft and tender again, and tells the plant to get ready to wake up and start growing! It also washes off any chemicals or water retention pellets they may have been packed with. It also helps kill any mold that may have accidentally started to grow on the roots (I found mold on my strawberry and asparagus roots back in the day–not pretty). All in all, soaking is a healthy habit to start if you are ordering bare root plants.

Soak for anywhere from 2 to 24 hours prior to planting.

1-2 gallons warm water
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp dish soap
1 tsp bleach

Combine ingredients in a bucket, being careful not to splash any bleach back onto your clothes. Be sure to use warm water, not hot. Add your bare root plants, being careful not to overcrowd. I don’t recommend immersion of the whole plant, just the root portion, so adjust the water level accordingly.

Soak for 2 to 24 hours prior to planting, then plant as usual. The same or next day, water your new plants with some Transplant Water.

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This recipe is to spray on your plants and acts as a spicy slug deterrent, not a pesticide. Makes 2 cups

1 bulb garlic
½ a medium onion, preferably not a sweet onion
1-2 whole habanero peppers
2 cups water
1 tsp dish soap

In a blender or food processor, add in garlic, onion, and pepper with water and puree. Let steep for 1 hour or longer. Then strain into a clean container and stir in the dish soap. Pour into a spray bottle.

Spray onto affected plants, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves as well. Let dry. Repeat after a rain or as needed. Store any unused (and clearly labeled) mixture in the fridge.

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Why make homemade Dishwasher Detergent? If you make your own laundry soap, you will already have most of the ingredients on hand, so it’s no additional cost. You know what’s in it, so there’s no added chemicals or harsh detergents. It’s safe and easy.

These bowls held sloppy joe mix and were left to air dry. Very crusty stuff.

After using this recipe for a half year or so, I’ve found that it works best if you run the “Normal” cycle instead of the gentler “Light Wash.” It tends to leave a film if run with Light wash. Pour straight white vinegar in the rinse compartment to ensure a clean rinse and no lingering odors in the dishwasher. Makes 40 loads.

1 cup borax
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup washing soda
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp citric acid powder

Combine ingredients. Store in a resealable zipper bag or plastic tub. Use 1 tbsp per load. Remember to add white vinegar to the rinse compartment.

The same bowls after being washed in the dishwasher on "Normal" cycle. Squeaky!

Breakdown of Cost (using Amazon prices. If you buy in a local store, you can get them even cheaper):

$1.05/7 oz____20 Mule Team Borax, 76 oz_________$11.49
$0.26/1/2 cu Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 13.5 lbs____$13.71
$0.73/4 oz____Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, 55 oz___$9.99
$0.16/2 oz_____Kosher Salt, 3 lb_________________$3.84
$0.43/2 oz____Citric Acid, 1 lb__________________$3.44
$2.63/batch or $0.07/load

$0.10/load (50 loads) Finish/Electrasol Powder, 50 oz____$4.99

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So why make homemade Fabric Softener? It’s cheap, safe, and super effective. We recently put this to the test: Scott and I both warmed ourselves in front of a smoky fire pit twice in a week. Our clothes stunk like smoke as you can imagine. I washed our clothes like normal, using my homemade liquid Laundry Soap and Vinegar Fabric Softener. I used normal quantities of each. Our clothes came out smelling fresh and clean.

You can add 10-15 drops essential oils per batch, but I find it to be pointless. The vinegar removes odors, including essential oils. One gallon makes 60 loads or so.

With each batch you make, you will get better at combining the ingredients, so no explosions will happen. I admit I exploded my first batch, but haven’t had a problem since.

1 cup baking soda
6 cups distilled white vinegar
8 cups water

Warm 4 cups water in a large sauce pan on the stove. Add baking soda to the warm water. Stir to dissolve.

Pour into clean gallon container, such as an old milk jug. Add 4 more cups water. Slowly add vinegar. Watch out for fizzing and or pressure building. Agitate gently to combine. Once combined, there is no further need to shake.

Leave the lid off overnight, as the mixture will become carbonated. Leaving the lid off will relieve any pressure from the released gasses.

Use 1/4 cup per load for HE machines.

Cost Breakdown (using Amazon prices. If you buy in a local store, you can get them even cheaper):

$1.50/6 cu  1 Gallon Distilled White Vinegar________$3.99
$0.51/1 cu Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, 13.5 lbs____$13.71
$2.01/gal or $0.03/load

Downy Free & Clear, 240 loads________$36.76

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So why bother making homemade Liquid Laundry Soap? You can control the ingredients, so there’s no surprises as far as chemical sensitivities or allergies. No added dyes, detergents, fragrances, or harsh chemicals. It’s safe. It has less impact on the environment (in terms of water, petro-chemicals, etc). And  it’s way cheaper: cost per load is very low.

I’ve been making and using this recipe in an HE machine for over a year and have had good results. It is very dilute, being mostly water, so it is less harsh than store-bought detergents. It is low sudsing, so it works in HE, and it gets my clothes clean. For actual stains, I still use a stain pre-treatment. For best results, use with a vinegar-based fabric softener.

Before: washcloth used to clean Chessie's litterbox.

Try your hardest to get a glycerin-free soap bar. Glycerin is a very sticky substance. It may get your clothes clean in the short term, but over long use, it will build up on your fabric fibers and make clothes dirtier. I do not recommend Fels-Naptha soap because it is sold as a laundry bar and therefore the ingredients are not listed on the package. I use the “red” Zest bars. This particular Zest is glycerin-free, but always double check the ingredient list. Do not use “beauty” bars like Dove or Olay. It has to be soap, so look for “saponified” oils as the first ingredients.

After: washcloth is now clean! (no pretreatment)

This recipe has been scaled down from a 3 gallon yield to a 1 gallon yield, convenient if you want to try a small batch. Makes 32 loads or so.


1 gallon water, minus 1 cup or so
1 oz soap (glycerin free)
3 tbsp borax
1/3 cup washing soda


Grate your soap on a cheese grater. It helps to wear a filter mask over your face while doing this. Then divide your soap flakes into 1 ounce (by weight) portions. I shred up 4 oz Zest bars, so I divide my soap flakes into 4 baggies with 1 oz each. This saves time for the next batch of Laundry Soap you make.

Dissolving soap flakes in hot water. Ignore my messy stove, please.

In a large saucepan, in about 4 cups hot water, dissolve grated soap by adding a little at a time, stirring constantly. Meanwhile, measure out borax and washing soda and combine in a clean bowl. Set aside.

Measure out borax and washing soda.

Transfer soapy water to a clean bucket for final mixing. Add about 11 cups more warm water.

Pour soapy water into bucket with more warm water.

Slowly sprinkle in remaining ingredients, stirring constantly.

Sprinkle in the powdered ingredients a little at a time.

Expect the mixture to thicken up, and/or start to get clumpy or chunky. Mine doesn’t usually do this, but it may depending on your soap. Whisk or use a hand mixer to remove lumps.

Whisk or use a hand mixer to stir.

Stir occasionally as the mixture cools. When cool, transfer to a clean gallon container (such as a clean milk jug). Gently agitate before each use. Use 1/2 cup per load for HE machines, or up to a full cup for top loaders. Always use in combination with vinegar fabric softener.

Breakdown of Cost (using Amazon prices. If you buy in a local store, you can get them even cheaper):

$0.28/oz___Zest, Tropical Fresh, 8 bars_________$8.89
$0.15/oz___20 Mule Team Borax, 76 oz_________$11.49
$0.55/3 oz__Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, 55 oz___$9.99
$0.98/gallon or $0.03/load

$0.22/load (256 loads) Tide Free HE, 400 oz____$55.26

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I read up on powdery mildew and found a bunch of “cures” for it. I decided to combine all the cures into one super powerful blend and applied it to the pumpkin vines yesterday. I should have brought out a sprayer and got the underside of the leaves too, maybe next time though.
Here is the final recipe:


4 cups chamomile tea
1 cup milk
1 tbsp epsom salts
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dish soap


Heat 4 cups of water to near boiling, then turn off heat and brew 2 chamomile tea bags for 10 minutes. In an empty gallon jug, add chamomile tea and all other ingredients. Fill the jug to the top with water.

Pour into sprayer and spray affected plant (be sure to get the bottom of the leaves too) at least once/day. Water plant with a generous glug at least every other day. Be sure to remove leaves that have more than 25% mildew. Be diligent. Continue to treat even when the plant looks to be thriving again. Store in the refrigerator.

P.S. You can omit the milk so it can store in the garage, or elsewhere. It works fine as well. I’m going to make it this way for convenience purposes.

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