But first …
The summer installment of my epic poem Next Year in the Garden:
Next year in the garden …
I won’t wander out after showering and changing clothes to admire my work and bend down to pluck just one errant weed, because I’ve learned that one good weed deserves another.
I won’t work with my shirt off, even though it feels so good, because I know the sun is bad for me. I will always put on sun screen (SPF 45 and wear a wide-brimmed hat.)
I will make myself smile by singing “Inch by inch, row by row…”, and not once will I think about the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I will, however, wonder what the Red Sox can do to shore up their bullpen.
Next year in the garden … I will do successive plantings so that I always have tender lettuce. I won’t say “What the heck” and empty the rest of the packet.
I won’t plant peas in August that don’t have a prayer of bearing fruit before the frost. Next year in the garden I won’t curse potato bugs, but will accept my responsibility for the pests I attract. I will outwit potato bugs by not planting potatoes. Next year, that is.
I will de-sucker the tomatoes religiously, and I will build those groovy bent-wood trellises I saw in the gardening magazine. I will say a prayer when I eat the first red fruit.
I won’t let the rogue squash grow, thinking it might turn out to be the elusive “great pumpkin.”
Next year in the garden …
Baking Soda in the Garden
(Editor’s note: We’ve known for year’s that baking soda is a miracle product that has 101 uses around the house, but now Suzy Scherr shows us as baking soda can be a great help in the garden, too.)
Compost Bin Odor Reducer
When I finally decided to start composting, I’d already spent a lot of time thinking about it. After we’d left the city, I had fewer and fewer excuses for not doing it. We had the space, we would be sending less waste to landfills, our struggling- but- brimming- with- potential garden would surely become amazing, and we’d likely learn something from the process. The concept, while somewhat intimidating, seemed like it would be satisfying and felt like the right thing to do. I worried about the smell, though. Would my house stink? My yard? As it turns out, composting isn’t a big deal at all, and if you’re doing it right, odor isn’t usually an issue. We keep a small bin in our kitchen that we dump into a larger heap in our backyard when it gets full. Most of the time there’s no smell, although we do occasionally find that the indoor bin can develop somewhat of a funk, something that I’ve learned is easily overcome with the help of baking soda, which reduces the acidity of compost. To keep your compost smells at bay, try this technique:
Makes 1 packet
1 old sock
1/4 to 1 cup baking soda, depending on the size of your bin
1. Fill the sock with baking soda, then close securely with twine, a rubber band, or a twist tie.
2. Place in the bottom of the compost bin.
3. Replace every 1 to 3 months.
Rx for Grass that Pets Love
Growing up, our family’s dog, Senorita Bandita (Bandi, for short), loved to frolic in our backyard. She was a sweet dog, but she’d flunked out of obedience school, partly for her lack of social skills, so she spent a lot of time on her own behind our house. Frolicking. Alas, with happy dog frolicking comes happy dog peeing. And with happy dog peeing comes not- so- happy brown spots on a lawn. Dog pee, which is heavy in acid and nitrogen, actually burns the grass, which is unsightly, to say the least. There are several chemical solutions to this very common problem but I recommend a natural approach. Pouring a baking soda mixture directly on burn spots neutralizes the intensity of the ammonia and nitrogen that are in the urine and restores the scorched grass to green beauty. It’s effective for the lawn and healthy for frolicking dogs, who might otherwise ingest toxic lawn chemicals when they lick their paws.
For 1 use
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 gallon water
1. Dissolve baking soda in a gallon of water.
2. Pour the baking soda mixture over the spot where the pet has urinated. The baking soda will neutralize the ammonia and nitrogen present in the urine, preventing the grass from turning brown.
Tomato Plant Sweetener
Treats 1 plant
1/4 cup baking soda per tomato plant
1. When tomatoes begin to appear and are about 1 inch in diameter, lightly sprinkle baking soda on the soil around each plant, being careful not to get the baking soda on the plant itself.
2. Repeat when the tomatoes are about halfway grown.
5 more uses for baking soda in the garden:
1. Eliminate powdery mildew: Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 gallon water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 1 tablespoon dish soap. Spray weekly on affected plants.
2. Refresh rose bushes: Water roses with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon clear ammonia, and 1 teaspoon Epsom salt in a gallon of water.
3. Make a fungicide: Combine a gallon of water with 1 tablespoon baking soda, 21/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of castile soap. Spray on the foliage of diseased plants.
4. Test your soil pH: Wet the soil and sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto it. If the baking soda bubbles, your soil is acidic with a pH level under 5.
5. Repel garden pests: Rabbits, ants, silver fish, and roaches don’t like baking soda. Sprinkle it on the perimeter of your garden to keep them away.
The Baking Soda Companion (Countryman Press, 2018), by Suzy Scherr is filled with useful ideas for using baking soda. Scherr shares helpful cleaning tips as well as some unique recipes for many things other than baking. Find this excerpt in “Outdoor Uses for Baking Soda.”