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Gardening Tips: Home remedies

June 7, 2019 12:11 pm Updated: June 7, 2019 12:14 pm


The weather remains wetter than most of us would like, but our gardens actually prefer moisture more than drought, generally. I hope you are taking advantage of the surplus rain by collecting rainwater in barrels for future use.

Make sure you use something to deal with mosquitos that will quickly breed in any standing water. There is a product called Mosquito Dunks that releases a type of bacteria into water which selectively kills mosquito larvae. This bacteria is harmless to humans and wildlife and lasts for up to a month. Any place that has even a few inches of standing water present for more than a few days is a potential mosquito breeding ground and should be emptied or treated. An alternative to using this product is to add enough vegetable oil to cover the surface of the water holding container. Mosquito larvae need to breathe air and the oil covering the water surface suffocates the larvae.

Temperatures dropped into the low to mid 40s (39 at my house) in much of the region last week. Warm weather crops like tomatoes may be showing signs of nutrient deficiencies brought on by the cold. Purple or yellow leaves, sluggish growth, failure of seeds to germinate are all signs of cold soil. The good news is that all these odd symptoms will miraculously go away once we get a few consecutive days of 80 degree days and 65 degree evenings. These symptoms may look like nutrient deficiencies but resist the urge to apply extra fertilizer.

I am beginning to think that Facebook is turning into an electronic version of the National Enquirer with lots of pictures and testimonials that claim to be “proof” of how some home remedy is a modern miracle. In many cases these “miracle” cures are pretty harmless and just a waste of time, money and effort but sometimes they can be downright dangerous. I mentioned the danger of using substances such as Vaseline or dish soap to get ticks to “pull out” of skin instead of yanking them out with a tweezers, as is recommended by legitimate medical professionals. The former “home remedy” actually increases the odds of getting infected. Lately I have seen suggestions for home-made insect repellents (tea tree oil) that are also potentially dangerous in the sense that they may cause people to forego repellents that are proven to work, in lieu of something that may or may not work. I have seen people suffering from Lyme disease because they opted for some home remedy repellent instead of a proven product. Home

remedies are often preferred to “chemicals” because people are suspicious of “chemicals.”

Since everyone has household bleach and ammonia under their sink, they are often considered far safer to use to kill weeds than a “chemical” which is “suspected” to cause cancer. Well, bleach contains “chemicals” that are proven to cause cancer and if you happen to mix bleach and ammonia, it will produce a toxic gas that can kill you if you inhale enough of the fumes. Vinegar is an effective household cleaner at the 5 percent ascetic acid concentration that it contains, but concentrated ascetic acid (20 percent) can also kill you if you inhale the fumes. Lemon juice is an effective cleaner, but high concentrations of the citric acid in lemons are used to kill plants as well! Be especially wary of mixing household cleaners together. Bleach should never be mixed with anything but water! Mixing baking soda with vinegar is a closed container may even cause an explosion!

I am a supporter of many home remedies, in general, but I think it is important to evaluate options on a case by case basis. Be wary of any home remedy that is touted as a “miracle” or of anything untested that simply seems to “make sense.” Consider “risk versus reward” first and foremost. The “reward” of using tea tree oil as a tick repellent is avoiding using a pesticide that has negative environmental side effects, but the “risk” of contracting Lyme disease far outweighs that reward.

Just because you saw it posted on Facebook, (many, many times) don’t assume it is true. If it is a harmless remedy, such as mixing Epsom salts, vinegar and dish soap to kill weeds, why not try it yourself before “sharing” with hundreds of others.

Reach Bob Beyfuss at