Archive for the ‘Make It At Home’ Category

A Non-Toxic Approach to Shower Mold

I noticed some mold spots growing on my brand new pebble shower floor and of course didn’t want to clean it up with a harsh, toxic commercial moldicide. Even the word is scary! So I consulted The Naturally Clean Home – 150 Super-easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning book and tried the following recipe. The mold wiped right off!

Here it is:

Mold Deterrent

1 1/4 cups white vinegar

3/4 cup water

4 drops cinnamon essential oil

6 drops patchouli essential oil

2 teaspoons tea tree essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bottle.  Spray surface well.  If you have mold buildup, allow the spray to rest on the surface for a few hours.  Wipe off with a soft cloth, then respray and let dry without rinsing.  You can use this recipe as the name suggests as a mold deterrent and spray surfaces without rinsing.

I used peppermint essential oil in place of the cinnamon and patchouli since I didn’t have the others.

A Little Information About Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil comes from the Australian paperbark tree and is an all-around remedy long valued for its anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

Some Common Uses:

Around the house tea tree oil can be used as a toothbrush cleaner, mold treatment, natural pest control (the strong smell naturally repels ants and other insects), and laundry freshener.  For body care, tea tree oil helps control acne, fights fungal and bacterial infections, treats athlete’s foot, dandruff, lice, and gingivitis.  In aromatherapy, tea tree oil can be helpful in alleviating chest and head congestion, stuffy nose, and other symptoms of colds and flu, especially when used in steam inhalation.

unnamed-3A bottle of this little household wonder can be found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or other natural food stores.


White vinegar (and apple cider vinegar) besides its obvious uses in cooking, is a completely safe all around cleaner, disinfectant, weed killer, pet cleaner, odor neutralizer, clothes whitener, glass cleaner and many more.  No pantry should be without a huge container of vinegar!  

For more green cleaning tips, click here.

Some information compiled from:

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Gardening with Baking Soda



Cheap, effective and OG (the original “green”), baking soda bakes, cleans, heals, disinfects, scrubs, deodorizes, exfoliates, and brightens just about everything in the home.  But did you know baking soda works in the garden too?



I recently came across the following fabulous tips from

1. Make a Non-Toxic Fungicide

Mix 4 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 gallon of water. Use on roses for black spot fungus and also on grapes and vines when fruit first begins to appear.

2. Spray to Treat and Prevent Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is causing major problems with impatiens this year, but also can be a problem for other plants, like lilacs, cucumbers, squash and zinnias.

Spray Recipe: 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 gallon of water, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid

Mix all the ingredients together and spray plants weekly. Apply on overcast days to prevent any potential foliage from burning.

3. Discourage Gnats In Soil & Fungus on Leaves

Mix in 1 gallon of water, 4 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon biodegradable soap. Mix well, spray infected foliage or soil as needed.

4. Discourage Weeds

Pour or sweep baking soda in a thick layer into cracks on a sidewalk or patios. The baking soda should kill any small weeds already sprouted and prevent new ones from coming up.

5. Kill Cabbage Worms

Mix equals parts flour and baking soda and dust plants (cabbage, broccoli, kale) being eaten by cabbage worms. They munch on the leaves and die usually in a day or two. Repeat as needed.

6. Kill Crabgrass

Simply wet the crabgrass, pour a heavy dusting of baking soda on the weed. The crabgrass should start dying back in 2 or 3 days .CAUTION: When applying baking try NOT to get it on your grass as too much baking soda can burn and kill it.

7. Clean Your Hands

After a day in the garden and dirt, clean your hands by rubbing and scrubbing wet hands with baking soda. Rinse.


To those comprehensive tips, I add:

8.  Garden Mildewcide 

Another simple recipe to combat powdery mildew on cucumbers, zucchini, melons, roses, and lilacs.  Fill a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1 pint water.  Spray as needed.

 Baking Soda Bonanza by Peter A. Ciullo


And I really like this ingenious tip:

9.  Test your soil PH. 

Wet the soil and take a small amount of baking soda and sprinkle it onto soil.  If the baking soda bubbles, your soil is acidic with a PH level under 5.


You clearly can’t go wrong with tried and true baking soda, in the home and garden!


For more green living tips, visit



Hot Tea!

Tea is tasty, nutritious, medicinal and “hot” right now.  So is compost tea for your lawn, trees, gardens and shrubs!

What is compost tea?

Compost tea is a natural organic fertilizer made from compost, or more specifically a water extract of compost that is brewed to give the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes a chance to increase in number and activity using the nutrients present in the water.   It is also a highly effective natural insect and disease inhibitor.  Compost tea is inexpensive and often an easier method of applying compost, especially to your trees and shrubs.

How is compost tea made?

Aerobic water steeps the biology off of the compost through an extraction process. Food-grade molasses, garlic, kelp, and fish emulsion are then added to the mix. The foods activate and cause the biology to multiply, creating a powerful, nutritious food for your plants.

How do you apply compost tea?

Compost tea can either be applied as a foliar spray or as a soil drench. As a foliar spray, nutritious compost tea deposits beneficial organisms to plant surfaces so disease-causing organisms cannot find infection sites or food resources. As a soil drench, compost tea develops a biological barrier around roots to prevent root disease-causing organisms from being able to find the roots. The tea introduces organic matter, which provides nutrients for the roots to improve plant growth and moisture retention.

Where can you get compost tea?

If you are in the Boston area, our tree care company, Boston Tree Preservation, offers compost tea treatments and serves as a tea center where homeowners can purchase the tea to apply themselves.  As the organic movement grows, many tree care and landscape companies understand the value of compost tea and are starting to offer compost tea treatments.  You can also find recipes on-line to make it yourself if you have access to healthy, rich compost.

Click on the video below for a demonstration on how to make compost tea.

Compost tea is vibrant, alive and wakes up your soil!  This spring, give your garden a treat with compost tea.

For more green living tips, visit

Information compiled from

Are Frozen Dinners Worth the Convenience?

We live in a busy, fast-paced society where taking the time to prepare a delicious and healthy meal is not always possible.  Pre-prepared foods and frozen dinners offer a quick and easy alternative, but at what price?

Typical frozen dinner

Most frozen meals are loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives with low vegetable and fiber content.  Though we need sodium in our diet, about one teaspoon a day or 2300 milligrams, for fluid balance, muscle strength and nerve function, most of us get far more than that with our consumption of frozen and processed foods.  We are all well aware of the dangers of too much salt and sugar!  The right kind of salt is important too.  Click here for more information about salts.

Certain frozen dinner brands, and specific meals produced by those brands, are worse than others.  Hot pockets, chicken potpies, and turkey and gravy dinners are among the worst.  Usually organic frozen meals are better, but it’s important to take the time to read the labels carefully, as with all processed foods.  Just because a product says “natural” doesn’t mean it is, even with frozen veggie burgers. Be on the lookout for salt’s various disguises like sodium alginate, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium benzoate, as well as added sugars under the name of high fructose corn syrup or natural cane sugar and unhealthy fats.

As Oscar Wilde said, “everything in moderation including moderation”, so the occasional frozen dinner won’t hurt you.  There is no substitute however, for a fresh, home cooked meal seasoned properly with healthy herbs, enhanced with a small amount sea salt, and prepared with love.

For more green living tips, visit


Information compiled from:,

Recycling Batteries and Winter Bird Feeding

Continuing my series on subjects of interest to men, but obviously pertinent to all, below are two questions from a male reader.

Question:  What can I do with old batteries?  Is it necessary to recycle them? Alan C., Loon, NH

Answer:  In 1997 Congress mandated a mercury phase-out plan for all types of batteries. Some people think since they no longer pose as great a threat to the environment as before, they can simply be thrown away with your trash.  Some communities even recommend throwing them away.

Regardless of whether there is less mercury, it is important to recycle all single-use batteries –  AA’s, AAA’s, C, D and 9-volt.  The batteries still contain trace elements of mercury as well as other possibly toxic materials; they don’t biodegrade and they take up space in the landfill.  Any batteries from earlier than 1997 contain 10 times the amount of mercury in newer batteries and should be taken to hazardous waste collection in your town.

How do you recycle them?  Some towns accept single use batteries as household hazardous waste and many battery companies like Batteries Plus will take spent, disposable batteries for recycling free of charge. is a great website for finding out how to recycle just about everything including batteries.  Go to “Recycling Guides/Electronics/Single Use Batteries/Recycling Locator” and enter your zip code to find locators near you.

Rechargeable batteries from cell phones, MP3 players and laptops, contain potentially toxic heavy metals and should never be thrown away with your trash.  Again, most communities have an outlet for recycling or disposal, but if not, go to  Hope this helps!

Question:  I like to feed the birds.  Any suggestions for bird food other than seed?  How do you make seut?  Alan C., Loon, NH

Answer:  Bird feeding and bird watching are great entertainment, especially in winter!  Peanut butter, cornmeal, meal worms and fruits and fruit seeds can be food for birds.  Most kinds of beef fat, also called suet, can be safely fed to birds and is attractive especially to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and starlings.  Animal fat, a high-energy food, is easily digested and metabolized by many birds.  Beware – raw suet becomes rancid when temperatures are above freezing, so it should only be fed to birds in winter in a cold climate.

Below is an easy recipe from the Old Farmer’s Almanac for making your own suet.

Suet Cake

  • 2 parts melted fat (bacon fat, suet, or lard)
  • 2 parts yellow cornmeal
  • 1 part peanut butter

Mix all ingredients together and cook for a few minutes.  Pour into small containers (tuna fish cans are perfect), and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Mixture can also be stuffed into 1-inch holes drilled in small logs to hang from trees.  The recipe can be made all year long as long as you accumulate fat.  Fasten containers securely to trees or feeders.  Enjoy!

Information compiled from:


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Have You Heard About the Health Benefits of This Ancient Spice?

Turmeric is finally getting the attention it deserves.

English: Turmeric root. Photo taken in Kent, O...

A member of the ginger family, this orange-colored spice is the main ingredient in curry and has been used for centuries in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking.  It’s also a remedy in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines and, along with ginger, is now being recognized as one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories available.

Turmeric powder 薑黃粉

Turmeric’s main healthful ingredient is curcumin and Western practitioners are acknowledging its possible healing properties with the following:

  • Relieves inflammatory conditions like arthritis and joint pain
  • Promotes a healthy immune system
  • Supports overall brain health and memory function, helping to remove plaque and improve oxygen flow
  • Improves digestion and stomach aches
  • Powerful antioxidant properties which fight cancer-causing free radicals, reducing or preventing some of the damage
  • Kills parasites
  • Dissolves gallstones
  • Alleviates menstrual problems
  • Helps detoxify the liver
  • Helps promote healthy skin
  • Natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent and can clear infections

For non-medicinal uses, its potent orange color makes turmeric a great all natural dye.  Try it for tie-dyeing or dyeing Easter eggs! Ironically, it’s also used to whiten teeth.

Though it comes in supplement form, (consult your doctor before consuming supplements) it’s best to use it as a spice.  I try to add it daily to my diet, which is easy now that I discovered this delicious recipe for turmeric tea from 101 Cookbooks.  You’ll be surprised how good it is.

Turmeric Tea

Turmeric tends to stain anything it comes into contact with, so be careful.

1/3 cup / 80 ml good, raw honey
2 1/2 teaspoons dried turmeric
lots of freshly ground black pepper (helps with absorption)

Work the turmeric into the honey until it forms a paste. You can keep this on hand, in a jar, for whenever you’d like a cup. For each cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot (but not boiling water) into the mug, and stir well to dissolve the turmeric paste. Add a big squeeze of juice from a lemon, and a good amount of black pepper. Enjoy! Stir now and then as you drink so all the good stuff doesn’t settle to the bottom, or top off with more hot water as you drink it.

Sprinkling turmeric on vegetables or in dressings is another good way to add this versatile and healthy spice to your diet.  Make sure you buy organic turmeric free from pesticides, heavy metals, artificial colors and lead.  The USDA recently recalled the brand Pran due to high lead content

Get healthy and stay healthy with turmeric!

Information compiled from,,,and The Okinawa Program by Bradley J. Willcox M.D.,D. Craig Willcox, Ph.D & Makoto Suzuki, M.D.





Recipes for Safe Weed Control

Happily spring is here  – trees are flowering, flowers and shrubs are blooming and lawns are turning green.  Oh lawns, we love them and we hate them.  They add beauty to the landscape and are a playground for our kids and pets, but to maintain a “picture-perfect” lawn requires a lot of time, money, energy, and usually toxic chemicals.    A conventional lawn is the largest irrigated “crop” in the country.  With an organic lawn you mow less, water less, thatch less and skip high nitrogen-based fertilizers and herbicides.  Organic lawns are clearly the safer alternative, but you have to be able to tolerate a few weeds as your lawn transitions from a chemical free lawn to an organic one.  

What can you do about those dreaded weeds?  First of all, realize that a monoculture, like a lawn, is not usual in nature.  With the more natural approach, there will be some weeds.   Change your perspective about them.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”  Weeds are a messenger of problems in your soil and will grow where nothing else will. Many are an edible and nutritious food.  If you really can’t stand them, try the simple and safe recipes for weed control I’ve listed below using ingredients right from your kitchen.


A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds.  Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.


Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible); Dishwashing Liquid (optional); Pump Spray Bottle


Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid).  Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant).   Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive.  This is a spot spray only!


Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed.  Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed.  This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness.  Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.


1-quart water; 1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol; Pump spray bottle


Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings or thin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.)  Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly.  (Avoid surrounding plants.)


Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns.  If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.


5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn; 1-quart water; Pump spray bottle


Mix borax in water.  Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too.  Spray to cover a 25-square foot area.  Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.


Brown or yellow rings that die out in your lawn, caused by rhizoctonia fungi, which comes from poor drainage, too much rain and/or too much nitrogen fertilizer, can be treated with this simple solution.


1 rounded tablespoon baking soda or potassium bicarbonate  (a better choice since it has less salt); 1-tablespoon horticultural oil; 1-gallon water


Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Spray lightly on your lawn.  Avoid overuse or drenching the soil.


For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen.  This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease  symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.


1 ½ tablespoons baking soda; 1-tablespoon canola oil; 1 cup plus 1 gallon water; 1-tablespoon vinegar; Backpack or pump sprayer


Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water.  Add the vinegar.  Don’t mix the  vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over.  Pour the mixture into the sprayer and  add 1 gallon of water.  Shake or stir to combine the ingredients.  Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.


If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.


3 garlic cloves; A blender; Pump Spray Bottle; Molasses (optional)


Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water.  Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of  spicy concentrate.  Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.


Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them.  This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!


1-pint water; Rind from 1 lemon, grated  (or orange or grapefruit rind); Cheesecloth; Pump Spray Bottle


Bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind.  Allow the mixture to steep overnight.  Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack.  (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)


Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks.  Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.


Teakettle or pan


Boil a full kettle of water.  Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them.

For more recipes, email me at

Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.


Information compiled from:



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