For home gardeners, late summer brings a happy burst of activity around the fruits–and vegetables–of their labor. Many gardeners can and store foods to prolong the enjoyment of their home-grown staples. Some are preparing the garden for a fall crop, benefiting from the last of the mild weather.
It is good to be mindful of a handy technique that, used judiciously, can increase the success and enjoyment of the backyard, the garden and its bounty. It’s the use of something that’s found in many home laundry rooms–an old standby–chlorine bleach*. Bleach is a great example of “chemistry in a bottle.” Dilute bleach solutions can be used prudently to help destroy plant and animal disease-causing microorganisms–on surfaces.
Here are some fall tips for the backyard gardener/farmer/canner/birder:
- Keeping Halloween Pumpkins Fresh
- To keep your Halloween pumpkin looking fresh longer, wipe away any soil on the pumpkin surface and then dip the gourd into a solution of 9 parts water and 1 part chlorine bleach. This will help reduce post-harvest rot.
- Garden Tool Disinfection
- Soak garden tools and shears in a solution of 9 parts warm water to 1 part chlorine bleach to help avoid spreading plant diseases. Rinse, dry and oil to prevent corrosion.
- Terra cotta Pot Disinfection
- After removing all soil and plant debris, wash pots and saucers, and then soak them in a solution of 9 parts warm water to 1 part chlorine bleach to reduce the spread of plant diseases. Rinse and allow to air dry.
- Canning Fruits and Vegetables
- Before canning your summer fruits and vegetables, clean then disinfect kitchen work surfaces with a solution of ½ gallon of water + ½ tbsp. of chlorine bleach.
- Bird Feeder Disinfection
- 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 9 parts water and 1 part chlorine bleach. 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 9 parts water and 1 part chlorine bleach. Let stand for 2-3 minutes. Pour it out and allow to air dry, then rinse it well and air dry again.
- Keep Cut Flowers Fresh
- Cut flowers last longer when ¼ tsp. of chlorine bleach is added to each quart of water in a vase.
Here’s to a productive and enjoyable fall!
Joan Rose, PhD, is the Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University and a member of the Water Quality and Health Council.