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April 26, 2009

Different uses of vinegar

For Pets and In the Garden

Test soil acidity or alkalinity
To do a quick test for excess alkalinity in the soil in your yard, place a handful of earth in a container and then pour in 1/2 cup white vinegar. If the soil fizzes or bubbles, it's definitely alkaline. Similarly, to see if your soil has a high acidity, mix the earth with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup baking soda. This time, fizzing would indicate acid in the soil. To find the exact pH level of your soil, have it tested or pick up a simple, do-it-yourself kit or meter.

Clean a hummingbird feeder
Hummingbirds are innately discriminating creatures, so don't expect to see them flocking around a dirty, sticky, or crusted-over sugar-water feeder. Regularly clean your feeders by thoroughly washing them in equal parts apple cider vinegar and hot water. Rinse well with cold water after washing, and air-dry them outdoors in full sunlight before refilling them with food.

Speed germination of flower seed
You can get woody seeds, such as moonflower, passionflower, morning glory, and gourds, off to a healthier start by scarifying them-that is, lightly rubbing them between a couple of sheets of fine sandpaper-and soaking them overnight in a solution of 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 pint (half liter) warm water. Next morning, remove the seeds from the solution, rinse them off, and plant them. You can also use the solution (minus the sandpaper treatment) to start many herb and vegetable seeds.

Keep cut flowers fresh
Everyone likes to keep cut flowers around as long as possible, and there are several good methods. One way is to mix 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar with the vase water before adding the flowers. Be sure to change the water (with more vinegar and sugar, of course) every few days to enhance your flowers' longevity.

Wipe away mealybugs
They're among the most insidious and common pests on both houseplants and in the garden. But you can nip a mealybug invasion in the bud by dabbing the insects with a cotton swab dipped in full-strength white vinegar. You may need to use a handful of swabs, but the vinegar will kill the fluffy monsters and any eggs left behind. Be vigilant for missed targets, and break out more vinegar-soaked swabs if you spot bugs.

Eliminate insects around the garden
If the bugs are feasting on the fruits and vegetables in your garden, give them the boot with this simple, nonpoisonous trap. Fill a 2-liter soda bottle with 1 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup sugar. Next, slice up a banana peel into small pieces, put them in the bottle, add 1 cup cold water, and shake it up. Tie a piece of string around the neck of the bottle and hang it from a low tree branch, or place it on the ground, to trap and kill the six-legged freeloaders. Replace used traps with new ones as needed.

Encourage blooms on azaleas and gardenias
A little bit of acid goes a long way toward bringing out the blooms on your azalea and gardenia bushes -- especially if you have hard water. Both bushes do best in acidic soils (with pH levels between 4 and 5.5). To keep them healthy and to produce more flowers, water them every week or so with 3 tablespoons white vinegar mixed in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Don't apply the solution while the bush is in bloom, however; it may shorten the life of the flowers or harm the plant.

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