“I read in your column that you use vinegar for inside cleaning and even in the garden. I’ve since learned that it’s a healthy alternative for lots of things. Could you write about vinegar?” — Jan K., Maryville

I do love using vinegar! I clean windows, counters, sinks, and mop with it, deodorize the litter pan, the washer, the dishwasher, and whatever else that stinks. Vinegar is my first go-to for inside.

Vinegar is as old as recorded history. It was found in Egyptian urns from about 3,000 B.C. or earlier. It was known as “poor man’s wine” and carried by Roman soldiers. The word “vinegar” comes from the French word for “sour wine.” It has been used as a cure-all, a food preservative, and a flavor enhancer all over the world. It’s been used as a medicine as far back as ancient Greece. Samurai warriors believed it to be a tonic that would increase their strength and vitality. In WWl, vinegar was used to treat wounds.

Today I use it on cucumbers and onions for a summer salad, or a light salad dressing. I love sauerkraut! Pickled ginger! I use it in the water for my chickens. Healers today will tell us that fermented foods, including vinegar, are great for our bodies. I think vinegar is a true one-size-fits-all creation.

In the garden it’s been used for ages for lots of things. Vinegar is an acid and is an effective killer of weeds and other things. Be careful what you spray it on because it will kill. The recipes below are all made with white vinegar, but I use both kinds. They’re mixes for a 2-qt spray bottle. Stir each mixture well before use. You may need to spray more than one time for total effect. The older the plant to be killed is, the more times it’ll take to kill it.

A garden insect spray: 1 QT water, 1 C vinegar, 1 tsp dish soap (make sure its soap, not detergent). Weed killer: 1 qt vinegar, 2 TBSP rock salt, ½ TBSP dish soap, 1tsp lemon juice. Mix and spray on plant pests. Killing weeds in a wall or walkway: straight undiluted white vinegar. Spray onto the offending plant, taking care to not get it on anything else, because it will kill whatever it touches. Ant control: 1 C water, 1 C vinegar. Spray over the nest area.

Happy acid loving plants (a quick boost): 1 QT water, 1 C vinegar. Spray around stems and roots. Clean rust from tools: 1 QT undiluted vinegar. Soak tools 3 hr. Scrub. Dry well. Deter fruit flies: ¼ C sugar, ½ C apple cider vinegar, 1 TBSP molasses. Pour into a cut down can or bottle. Hang in a tree where the problem is. Deter rabbits: soak several old corncobs in a bowl with about 1 cup of vinegar. The cobs should be submerged/soaked with the vinegar. Plant fungus: 1 C brewed chamomile tea, 2 tsp vinegar. Spray to point of run-off. Help germination: 1 C water, few drops of white vinegar. Soak seeds overnight in mixture. Remove seeds and plant. Water in. Clean clay pots: 4 QT water, 1 QT vinegar, 1 tsp dish soap. Soak pots overnight. Scrub. Rinse. Remove water lines from vase: 1 TBSP salt, 1 TBSP vinegar. Rub the line and scrub gently. Leave 10 min and rinse. Extend life of cut flowers: 1 QT water, 1 tsp sugar, 2 TBSP vinegar. Insert cut flower stems.

Kill slugs and snails with straight vinegar spray. It’s also said you can deter snakes and animals with straight vinegar spray. I’ve never tried it. Patio furniture can be cleaned with straight vinegar, then rinse well.

A TBSP of vinegar into a QT of cold water will make a great fresh produce wash. If your greens started wilting before you could process them, put them in cold water with a splash of vinegar and they’ll perk up.

Do you want to test your soil for alkalinity? Put a bit of soil into a container and add a half a cup of vinegar. If it bubbles, it’s alkaline (sulfur can help correct that). How about a day of being exposed to who-knows-what in the garden? Washing your hands in straight vinegar can rid you of allergens, toxins, and even poison ivy sap! My uncle uses pickle juice (vinegar with garlic in it) for indigestion. It’s also used for scalp treatment of about anything you can imagine.

Don’t be put off by the smell. It will go away. But if vinegar is as good as it’s praised to be, it’s pretty darn good stuff! Try it. If you do, let me now and I’ll put in a future column!

Sherrie Ottinger, a.k.a. “The TN Dirtgirl,” is a regenerative Earth thinker, teacher, columnist, author and speaker. Her passion is all things “dirt.” She may be reached at velokigate@yahoo.com with comments or questions.

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