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Outdoors and Garden :Cheaper, Better, Faster- Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day

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Barbecue—charcoal fire
To build a perfect charcoal fire for the barbecue, fill each slot of two or three
empty cardboard egg cartons with briquettes. Set them in the barbecue, light the
cartons, and you have a perfect charcoal arrangement with no lighter fluid
Barbecue—coals reused
After the food has cooked, don’t let the coals burn themselves out. Scoop them
up into an empty can and smother them by placing a nonflammable lid over the
can. They can be used again.
Barbecue—fire up with a pinecone
For a fast, hot, and fume-free blaze, set a dry pinecone in the bottom of the
barbecue. Build a pyramid of charcoal around it. Start your fire by igniting the
Barbecue—propane check
Never sure how much propane is left in the barbecue tank? Make a streak down
the side with a wet sponge. Moisture will evaporate from the upper, empty part
more quickly.
Barbecue—vinyl tablecloth cover
Fold an old vinyl tablecloth in half and sew up the sides to make a cover for your
outdoor barbecue grill.
Beach—bag for shells
Use mesh onion sacks for gathering shells at the beach. They’re strong and they
sift out most of the sand by themselves. When you get home, rinse the sack and
its contents under an outdoor faucet, and you won’t get a speck of sand in the
Beach—bag for wet suits
Take a large, resealable plastic bag to the beach with ¼ cup of baking soda
inside. Use it to bring home wet suits. Just put them in the bag and shake. The
soda absorbs moisture and helps prevent mildew and scary smells until you can
get the suits properly laundered.
Beach—pocket on a towel
Sew a coordinating washcloth to a beach towel along three sides and use a
Velcro-type fastener to close the fourth. Now you and your kids have an instant
pocket for keys, coins, or suntan lotion.
Beach—sand-free radio
When you go to the beach, carry your radio in a resealable plastic bag. You can
operate it without ever opening the bag. It will stay sand-free and completely
Now that you have a beautiful yard and garden, invite songbirds to splish and
splash and entertain you. Pick up a green 12-inch-diameter drip tray—the kind
used under a potted plant. Put the tray on the ground in a sheltered part of the
garden, positioning rocks or small logs around the perimeter. Put a large rock in
the middle of the bath to act as an island. Fill with water and wait for the action.
Flush and replace the water every 2 to 3 days.
A milk carton makes a good bird feeder. Cut out large windows on all 4 sides,
leaving 2 inches at the top and bottom. Poke holes through the top of the carton,
run a string through the holes, and hang the carton on a tree branch. Add a
dowel, stick, or skewer for a perch. Fill the bottom with bird food. Try
decorating the feeder with adhesive-backed shelf paper.
Birds—keep out of the fruit
Save dirty, yellowed, or torn lace curtains to cover your strawberry patch or
raspberry bushes to keep birds from stealing the fruit.
Birds—nest-building material
Help the birds with their spring nest-building chores. Collect the lint from your
clothes dryer, tie it up in a ball with string, and hang it in your backyard.
Smear a pinecone with peanut butter and hang it from a tree in your garden for a
bird treat.
Boating—floating keys
Tie a couple of corks to your key ring when you go boating. If you accidentally
drop your keys overboard, they won’t sink.
Bugs and such—ants
Follow the ants’ trail to their point of entry into your house and seal it with
caulk. Then find their nest at the other end of their trail and destroy it by pouring
several gallons of boiling water into the entrance, stirring it up, and pouring on
more boiling water.
Bugs and such—ants, on hummingbird feeder
Ants can’t climb up to a hummingbird feeder if you cover the pole or cord with
petroleum jelly or baby oil, reapplying every 2 weeks or after it rains. To keep
ants out of the house, seal the point of entry with toothpaste, caulk, or masking
Bugs and such—ants, spiders, and others
To prevent ants, spiders, and other bugs from entering your home or another
structure, spray the foundation and the grout within a foot of the wall with a
mixture of ½ cup ground lemon, including the rind (you can puree the lemon in a
blender or food processor), and 1 gallon of water. Apply with a garden watering
can. Not only is the weak solution versatile, it’s mild, cheap, and
environmentally safe.
Bugs and such—aphids
Mix 1 gallon water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons Ivory Liquid.
Spray on plants where aphid damage is evident.
Bugs and such—aphids, on roses
Add 2 drops of liquid dish soap to a quart of water. Pour into a spray bottle and
spray plants periodically. This is especially effective on rose-loving aphids.
Bugs and such—bees, on hummingbird feeder
If you apply Vaseline to the feeding spouts of your hummingbird feeder, the bees
will not bother it. The Vaseline makes the bees get stuck, which they don’t like.
The hummingbirds are unharmed by this sticky situation.
Bugs and such—cutworms, infestation
If your garden is infested with ants or cutworms, sprinkle used coffee grounds on
the affected area.
Bugs and such—cutworms, shield
Remove the bottom out of an empty tuna can and sink the “ring” that’s left into
the soil around a young seedling. This will keep cutworms away from the plant.
Bugs and such—flies (bay leaves)
Crush bay leaves between your fingers, and then rub your fingers over your skin
to repel gnats. Crushed bay leaves are good for repelling flies and mosquitoes
Bugs and such—flies (rubbing alcohol)
Rubbing alcohol makes a great fly and insect spray. The fine mist evaporates
quickly and is not harmful to anyone but the pests. This doesn’t necessarily kill
them, but it anesthetizes the little guys, so once they’re asleep, dispose of them
Bugs and such—flies (sweet basil)
Pots of sweet basil placed strategically around your patio, swimming pool, or
doorway repel flies.
Bugs and such—flies on garbage cans
Sprinkle dry soap or borax into garbage cans after they’ve been washed and
allowed to dry; it acts as a fly repellent.
Bugs and such—mosquitoes
Plant basil and pansies around your patio and house to repel mosquitoes. Mint
planted around the house repels flies. Keep basil well watered so that it produces
a stronger scent. Dried ground basil leaves left in small bowls or hung in muslin
bags are also effective.
Bugs and such—repellent, all-purpose
Mix 1 clove garlic chopped, 1 small onion chopped, and 1 tablespoon cayenne
powder to 1 quart of water. Allow to steep 1 hour, then add 1 tablespoon of Ivory
Liquid. This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only 1 week, so use it
Bugs and such—repellent, dryer sheets
A Bounce fabric softener dryer sheet rubbed over your skin or pinned to your
hair will keep certain insects such as gnats away as you work in the garden.
Bugs and such—repellent, marigolds
It’s true, marigolds really do discourage insects. No scary chemicals involved.
Just plant these beautiful flowers among your vegetables for natural pest control.
Bugs and such—slugs, snails, cutworms, and grubs
Protect flowers and vegetables from slugs, snails, cutworms, and grubs by
scattering lettuce leaves or citrus rinds around them. The pests will attach
themselves to the food, which should be removed daily and replaced.
Bugs and such—wasps
In a pinch use hair spray to kill wasps. As long as you get some of the product
on their wings, they’ll go down.
Bugs and such—whiteflies, spider mites, mealybugs, cinch bugs,
and aphids
Mix 3 tablespoons Ivory Liquid in 1 gallon water and mix well. Fill a sprayer
with the soapy solution and mist the leaves of plants and bushes to kill these
little pests.
Bugs and such—worms, on cabbage and broccoli
Here’s a safe way to bust pests that bother your cabbage and broccoli plants!
Dust the plants in late afternoon with baking soda. The mixture of morning dew
settling on the soda will form an antiworm enzyme that won’t harm humans. It
will wash off easily with a little water.
Bugs and such—worms, on tomatoes
Worms won’t bother your tomatoes if you plant a few sprigs of dill nearby.
Critters—cats, in the garden
To keep cats out of the garden, put fir boughs around shrubs or spray the area
with a weak dilution of vinegar and water.
Critters—cats, in the window box
If your cat is digging in a window box, put pinecones around the plants. If the
window box contains seedlings, staple screening over the top of the box until the
plants mature a bit.
Critters—gophers and deer
Dog hair, available from a dog groomer, will repel gophers and other annoying
furry pests. Human hair (get clippings from the local beauty salon) will repel
deer, rabbits, and other garden invaders.
Critters—in garbage cans
Sprinkle a small amount of household ammonia in your outdoor garbage cans.
Animals will be repelled by the strong odor.
Sprinkle dried red pepper around the base of plants to keep rabbits away.
Snails will turn around and go the other way rather than cross a protective border
of sand, lime, or ashes.
Critters—snails and slugs
To keep snails and slugs out of your garden, sink pie pans into the soil so the
rims are flush with the ground. Fill with beer. The slugs and snails will be
attracted to the beer, which will be their final undoing. (This is a lovely object
lesson for kids who think it’s cool to drink beer!) Simply empty the pie pans
when they get full.
Critters—squirrels, and attics
To keep squirrels out of your attic, get rid of any tree branches that hang over
your house and outbuildings so the squirrels can’t use them as ladders.
Critters—squirrels, and bird feeders
If your bird feeders are being pillaged by furry marauders, divert their attention
with this simple ploy: Hang dried ears of corn, a favorite food of squirrels, from
a tree some distance away from your bird offerings.
Florist-prepared plants
When you receive live floral plants in those beautifully wrapped containers, the
wrapping materials may become deadly to the plant. The pot in which the plant
is planted has holes at the bottom, but the foil or plastic wrapping prevents
drainage. To eliminate this problem, hold the wrapping high, punch a hole in the
center, tear outward, and with scissors carefully cut all around to within an inch
or so of the edge. The overall appearance is left undisturbed, the water can drain
properly, and the plant will be able to thrive.
Flower cutting
The best time to cut flowers is in the early morning while they still have some
moisture from the cool night air and the morning dew.
Furniture—cleaning resin
Make a good lather with dishwashing detergent, household ammonia, and warm
water. Sponge the lather on and wash gently. Don’t use an abrasive sponge. For
heavy stains, use a solution of bleach and water, but don’t allow the bleach and
ammonia to come in contact with each other. Restore the furniture’s shiny finish
by applying a coat of car wax.
Furniture—protecting plastic
The bright colors of outdoor plastic furniture, kids’ gyms, and so on can fade
from regular exposure to the sun. But you can prevent them from fading with a
protective coat of car wax. The wax also repels dirt and grime, which makes for
quick and easy cleanups.
Garden—temporary for kids and beginners
Make a temporary garden out of a plastic kids’ pool. It’s just the right size for
beginners and children because it can be placed in the best light and can be
disassembled and put away for the winter.
Garden hose—leather belt holder
Use an old leather belt to store your garden hose. Wind up the hose, slip the belt
through the loops, buckle it, and hang it from a nail in your garage or basement.
Garden hose—old tire holder
Keep your garden hose rolled in an old tire. It will stay clean, dry, and ready to
Garden hose—sticking
To prevent the hose end from becoming attached to the spigot so tightly that you
can’t remove it without tools, rub a light coating of petroleum jelly on the garden
hose nozzle and the spigot to keep them from sticking.
Use a child’s plastic snow sled as an off-season garden cart. It glides easily over
the grass for cleanup chores and is especially handy when it’s time to lift and
divide clumps of perennials.
Gardening—cleanup with denture cleaner or sugar
Two ways to remove garden soil from your hands and from beneath your
fingernails: (1) Soak your hands in water in which one of those denture-cleaning
tablets has dissolved. An added bonus: soft cuticles; (2) After a day of
gardening, wash your hands with soap and water and a teaspoon of regular table
sugar. The rough granules will scour your hands clean.
Gardening—cleanup with soap on a rope
Put a bar of soap in the toe of a pantyhose leg, tie a knot over it, and tie the other
end to an outdoor spigot. You can easily wash up after working in the garden.
Gardening—cleanup with soapy hands
If you don’t wear garden gloves when gardening, coat your hands lightly with a
mild liquid soap. The dirt washes off easily.
Gardening—compost bin
To make a compost bin, all you need are four wooden pallets (free, or really
cheap, from stores or warehouses). Stand the pallets on their sides and wire them
together into a square. When you need to remove compost, open one side like a
Gardening—fertilize with ashes
Ashes from a wood-burning stove or fireplace make wonderful fertilizer if you
need to raise your soil’s pH. Collect the ashes and scatter them around shrubs
and bushes. Use ashes with caution, though, because applying too much can
create serious soil imbalances. Limit applications to 25 pounds per 1,000 square
Gardening—hosiery for tomatoes
Save old pantyhose, nylons, and tights for your garden. Cut them into long strips
and use them to tie tomato plants to stakes or tomato cages. They are also great
for tying other vegetables like string beans, cucumbers, and climbing plants to
fences. Nylons are better than string because they “give” and don’t cut off the
plants’ circulation the way string, wire, or twist ties do.
Gardening—melon pedestals
Set baby melons and cantaloupes on top of tin cans in your garden. The melons
will ripen faster and be sweeter.
Gardening—photograph your hard work
Take pictures of your garden in bloom. This is a great way to keep a record of
what grew well and what plantings you particularly enjoyed.
Gardening—pickle juice for acidic soil
Work leftover pickle juice into the soil around an azalea or gardenia bush or
around any other plant that needs acidic soil.
Gardening—tools, avoid rust with car wax
Prevent rust on garden tools by cleaning them with car wax.
Gardening—tools, avoid rust with petroleum jelly
To keep garden tools from developing rust, rinse and dry the tools, then coat the
metal parts with a thin layer of petroleum jelly.
Gardening—tools, brightly colored handles
Paint your garden tool handles bright red so you can spot them easily in the grass
or garden. If your neighbor has taken notice of this terrific tip, you might want to
select a color other than the one he chose.
Gardening—tools, cleaning with sand
Keep a bucket of sand sprinkled lightly with mineral oil in the shed or garage
where you store your garden tools. When you’re done using the tools, scour
them with a bit of the sand to keep them clean and rust-free. The oil will leave a
light protective coating on the blades to prevent rust.
Gardening—tools, gear hut
Get a large weatherproof mailbox, roomy enough to hold small garden tools and
gear. Stake it in the ground in a convenient spot under a tree or near a hedge.
Gardening—tools, grips
Put a pair of kids’ bicycle handlebar grips on the handles of your gardening tools
to give yourself a firmer, more comfortable grip when doing yard work.
Gardening—tools, rust spots
Rub the rust spots with a new steel-wool pad soaked with soap, then dipped in
turpentine. Finish by rubbing with a crumpled piece of aluminum foil.
Gardens need an inch of water a week. But how do you know how long to water
to achieve that goal? Place a can, pot, or glass under your sprinkler and see how
long it takes for the container to collect an inch of water. Once you have this
information, install automatic timers on your watering systems. Watering less
often for a longer period of time allows deep penetration and reduces the amount
of water consumed.
Gardening—weeds, grass clipping prevention
Place grass clippings around plants to keep down weeds. The clippings also
retain moisture and are a good source of nutrients.
Gardening—weeds, under carpet
If you want to set out vegetable plants but are overwhelmed by the immensity of
the project because your garden is covered with weeds, try this unorthodox
tactic: Take a large piece of old carpet and lay it over the garden patch. Make X
cuts with a utility knife at the location where each plant should grow. Lift up the
cut carpet flaps, dig a hole beneath, and sink the seedling. Water as usual and
watch your plants grow. You won’t have to worry about weeds because they
won’t be able to penetrate the carpeting.
Gates—seat belt those gates
While you’re at the junkyard, pick up a few seat belts from discarded cars. The
straps make great gate latches. Just nail one to your wooden gatepost and the
other to your gate. If it is metal, attach both strips to the post, then pass one
buckle end around the upright member on the gate and back to the other. Seat
belts are weatherproof, easily installed, don’t cost much, and never get out of
alignment the way most conventional latches eventually do.
Lawn—cheap sod
If you have more time than money and need a new lawn, visit your local sod
farm and purchase their “scraps,” which are the odd-sized roll ends. You will
have to patch them together, which takes time, but you can pick up these odd
pieces at a tremendous savings.
Lawn—dog spots
To prevent those yellow dog spots in your lawn, feed your male dog a couple of
tablespoons of tomato juice every day. This also works for female dogs, but not
quite as well.
Lawn—mower care
If you won’t be using your mower for several months in the winter, drain the gas
and disconnect the spark plug. If you can’t drain the gas, add a gas conditioner to
the mower tank and your gas can to prevent the fuel from going bad.
Lawn—sawdust and seed
When seeding grass by hand, how can you tell if you’ve missed any spots? Mix
fine sawdust with your seed; you’ll be able to see the sawdust and the missed
spots easily, and the sawdust will not adversely affect the new lawn.
Picnics—ants can’t swim
Keep the ants away from the food on your picnic table by placing each table leg
into a bowl or paper cup of water. Ants can’t swim—they can’t even float—so
they’ll leave your food alone.
Picnics—ants hate coffee
Spread dried coffee grounds or whole cloves around the picnic area. If you are
on a solid surface, draw a white chalk line around the perimeter. For whatever
reason, ants won’t cross that line.
Picnics—basket cooler
Turn a picnic basket into a cooler by lining it with slabs of poly foam (from a
fabric store) glued in place. As long as you pack items that have been thoroughly
chilled, they will stay cool for several hours longer than in the uninsulated
Keep flies from the picnic area. Put a vase filled with sprigs of lavender, mint, or
elderberry in the center of the table. Be sure to rub the leaves frequently to
release their scent.
Planting—bulbs in a hurry
Here’s a quick way to plant 100 bulbs in less than 45 minutes. Instead of digging
lots of holes for lots of bulbs, dig out the area you wish to plant to a depth of 7
inches. Spread the bulbs out evenly with their tips facing up. Add compost to the
excavated soil; then shovel the soil lightly over the bulbs.
Planting—bulb markers
When you’re planting bulbs in your garden and can’t finish the project on that
same day or weekend, stick wooden Popsicle sticks in the ground to indicate the
exact location of each bulb. This way you’ll know where to continue planting
when you’re ready to finish the job.
Every time you use a head of garlic, take the last three or four little cloves from
the center, plus any that have started to show green, and plant them between
other plants and shrubs in your flower beds. Plant each clove about ½ inch deep,
flat end down, pointed end up. They will grow about 18 inches tall, and then
they will start to dry out. This is the sign it’s time to pull out a fresh garlic head.
It takes about 5 months to get your first harvest. If you’re always planting, you
will have plenty of garlic for yourself and others.
Drop a coffee filter in the bottom of a pot before repotting a plant. The water will
drain from the pot, but the soil won’t wash out with it.
Planting—root rehydration
Before planting bare root plants like roses and grapevines, make sure the roots
haven’t dried out. Unwrap the roots, remove any packing material, and soak the
roots in tepid water for 6 to 12 hours.
Planting—seeds, germination test
Test old seeds to see if they’re worth planting. Place 10 seeds on a dampened
paper towel. Cover the seeds with plastic to keep them moist. Check the seeds
after the germination time listed on the package has passed. If even some seeds
germinate, you can still use the packet. Just sow the seeds more heavily than
Mark the handles of your gardening tools with 1-inch increments. You will no
longer need a ruler when planting or spacing plants, shrubs, or flowers.
Planting—square-foot system
Plant a garden and reduce grocery bills. Consider the popular square-foot
gardening method, which requires very little time, space, and trouble. Check
with your librarian or online for a how-to book.
Planting—trees with purpose
Plant deciduous trees (the type that lose their leaves in winter) on the south side
of your house. They will provide summer shade without blocking winter sun.
Plant evergreens on the north to shield your home from cold winter winds.
Plants—acid lovers
For beautiful azaleas, gardenias, and other acid-loving plants, add 2 tablespoons
of white vinegar to a quart of water, and use to water these plants, occasionally.
Plants—no-drip watering
To keep hanging plants from dripping water, place a few ice cubes on top of the
soil instead of watering with water. The cubes will melt slowly, releasing only
the amount of water that the soil can easily absorb. By the time the cubes melt,
the water will be warm enough not to shock the plant. This method is not
acceptable for tropical or tender-leaf variety plants like African violets and
Plants—nutrition from boiled egg or pasta water
Don’t throw out the water in which you’ve boiled eggs or pasta. The calcium and
starches are great for watering houseplants.
Plants—portable when heavy
To transport a heavy plant or shrub, roll it onto a snow shovel. You can drag the
shovel across the lawn without hurting your back.
Plants—seedlings, detergent scoop incubator
Save plastic scoops from laundry detergent boxes for planting seedling starters.
(Of course, thoroughly wash the scoops before using.)
Plants—seedlings, grow lights
You don’t need to buy an expensive grow light for your vegetable and flower
seedlings. Regular fluorescent lights are just as effective, cost less, and last
longer than fancy grow lights. If you combine one “cool white” with one “warm
white” fluorescent tube in a standard shop fixture, your plants will thrive.
Plants—seedlings, plastic container hothouse
Those clear plastic containers with the lids attached that you get from a grocery
store salad bar or corner deli make great mini “greenhouses” for seeds you start
indoors. Fill the container with potting soil, add seeds, and water. Keep the lid
down, and place it on a windowsill in direct sunlight until seedlings shoot
through the soil.
Plants—seedlings, wagon hothouse
Baby’s first wagon can be recycled as a hothouse for seedlings. Fill it with dirt,
cover it with a piece of glass or Plexiglas, and move it into the sun.
Plants—trellis for support
Tie together plastic loops from six-packs of soda cans, attach to a fence or pole,
and use in the garden as a support for climbing plants.
Plants—warm shelter
Cut off the bottom of an empty plastic water or milk jug and place over young
plants to protect them from freezing.
Pool—aboveground repairs
If your aboveground swimming pool develops tears and cracks, patch them using
bathroom caulking, smoothing it onto the damaged, dry pool surface. Leave it on
overnight, and it will dry to a flexible, waterproof surface.
Pool—less slippery
Put bathtub anti-slip decals on the bottom of a kid’s pool to make it less slippery.
Pool—towel rack
A folding clothes rack makes a great poolside towel rack.
Spray vegetable oil on your snow shovel to keep snow from sticking.
If only a small amount of snow has covered your sidewalks, sweep the snow
away with a broom instead of shoveling it. The job will be completed more
quickly and with much less stress to your back.
If your outdoor canvas awnings are faded and ugly, refurbish them by first
cleaning them well and then repainting them with canvas paint.
Surfaces—concrete stains
Commercial cleansers such as Ajax and Comet work well to clean concrete that
has been stained by mold or leaves. Sprinkle cleanser on the cement, add water,
and scrub with a stiff broom. Allow to sit for a few hours, then rinse.
Surfaces—driveway oil stains
To remove oil stains from your driveway, sprinkle kitty litter on the stain and
“scrub” with a brick in a circular motion. Repeat for stubborn stains.
Surfaces—fake flagstones
Instead of using expensive flagstones for garden paths, use salvaged pieces of
cement, which you can find at apartment complexes or city streets where
sidewalks are being replaced. They create the same rustic effect when randomly
placed and edged with thyme or other greenery.
Surfaces—icy wooden deck
If your wooden deck gets icy in the winter, sprinkle it with cornmeal. This
provides traction and a snack for the birds when the ice melts.
Surfaces—ivy in bricks
To get rid of ivy rooting in cracks and mortar of bricks, cut the vine away, wait
for the suckers that cling to the brick to dry out, then simply brush them away.
Surfaces—washing bricks
Wash bricks with a mixture of household bleach and water—a 50/50 mix for
heavy deposits, a weaker mix for lighter ones.
Swings—rope burns
To keep kids from getting rope burns while playing on a swing, put foam
handlebar grip pads over the rope. They can be adjusted for height.
Tablecloth—for outdoors
When entertaining outdoors, use a clean, bright beach towel for a tablecloth.
Terra-cotta pots—cleaning
The white rings on the outside of terra-cotta pots, caused by minerals in the
water, can usually be wiped away with white vinegar.

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