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Late Summer Tips for the Backyard Gardener
For home gardeners, late summer brings a happy burst of activity around the fruits—and vegetables—of their summer labor. Many gardeners are canning and storing foods to prolong the enjoyment of their home-grown staples. Others are preparing the garden for a fall crop. The cooler temperatures of late summer and early fall can be reinvigorating to those inclined to the outdoors, and for the industrious gardener, there always seems to be one more chore to do.
While we go about these satisfying seasonal tasks, it’s good to be mindful of a handy tool that, used judiciously, can increase our success and enjoyment of the backyard, the garden and its bounty. It’s a tool that’s found in many home laundry rooms—an old standby—chlorine bleach*. Bleach is a great example of “chemistry in a bottle.” Bleach destroys disease-causing microorganisms, such as bacteria, on surfaces by collapsing essential proteins in their cells. For that reason, many people use diluted bleach solutions in the home to control germs in the kitchen and bathroom as well as high-touch areas, like railings and door knobs, during flu season. But while it’s still harvest season and we’re still enjoying the backyard and garden, here are a few lesser known but useful tips for using chlorine bleach:
* Disinfect garden tools and shears to help avoid spreading plant diseases: Soak tools in a solution of 9 parts warm water to 1 part chlorine bleach. Rinse, dry and oil to prevent corrosion.
* Disinfect terra cotta pots and saucers between plantings to help avoid spreading plant diseases: After removing all soil and plant debris and washing, soak pots and saucers in a solution of 9 parts warm water to 1 part chlorine bleach. Rinse and allow to dry.
* Before canning summer fruits and vegetables, clean then disinfect all kitchen work surfaces with a solution of ½ gallon of water + ½ tbsp. of chlorine bleach.
* Cut flowers last longer when ¼ tsp. of chlorine bleach is added to each quart of water in a vase.
* Disinfection is for the birds too: Clean and disinfect feeders once or twice per month. Immerse an empty, cleaned feeder for 2-3 minutes in a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach and 9 parts water. Allow the feeder to air dry.
* Our feathered friends need clean drinking water too: Once every two weeks, scrub bird baths with dish detergent, rinse, then fill with a solution of 1 part chlorine and 9 parts water. Let stand for 2-3 minutes. Pour it out and allow to air dry, then rinse it well and air dry again.
Here’s to a happy and productive fall!
*Always keep chlorine bleach out of the reach of children and pets.