Rusty Nails and Coffee Grounds

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Ginger ale in cut flowers. Epsom salts in the watering can. Rusty nails in African violet pots. Odd remedies perhaps, but the results can be amazing.

For years, gardeners have been using household products to boost the growth and blooming of houseplants. A woman in California uses water drained from soaking bean sprouts to boost her Christmas cactus. She eats the sprouts, the cactus drinks the water.

A local reader of my newspaper column informed me she puts pencil shavings from her children’s pencil sharpener on top of the soil around her houseplants. She claims it repels aphids and mites. Another reader works a spoonful of used coffee grounds in the soil of large houseplants such as pothos, dracaena and ferns to keep the soil loose, much like our mulching the garden.

We try these ideas whenever possible, enjoying houseplants, knowing they make a valuable contribution to a healthy, pleasant home. We’ve had a wide variety of plants throughout the years. Some do well, others don’t.

My grandmother always kept African violets. For years we tried them to no avail. Then a friend whose windowsills were overflowing with blooming violets mentioned that her pots had rusty nails in them. Rifling through cans of rusted nails in the garage, we planted them in the violets. The violets thrived, blooming almost continually.

From my childhood I remember vines of pothos wrapped ‘round and ‘round large pots here and there in the house. Upon moving ten years ago, I tossed out the one sickly pot that came with us from our old place, only to find hubby digging it out of the trash. He nurtured, repotted and watered it with chlorinated water and dug in some coffee grounds. Last winter we had to shift the winding tendrils across the carpet as it headed for the front door and beyond.

Orchids didn’t do well in my first apartment, but pothos and fern did. I even accepted a hand-me-down flowering Maple, four feet tall. It did well with coffee grounds. There have been Boston ferns and Dallas ferns, palm trees, philodendrons, angel-wing begonias, pine trees. At present, the table is full of Christmas cactus. Hubby’s pothos was split and some crawls along the wall in the kitchen. Coffee grounds still nourish it. The cacti have to do without the bean sprout water, we’re not much on sprouts. Muffins go well with morning coffee. Remember to save the grounds.

Fruit Muffins

1-3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

1 cup frozen blueberries or one cup diced, drained peaches

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line with cupcake papers a 12-cup muffin pan.

In mixing bowl, combine flour, soda and salt. In another bowl, beat together oil, egg, sour cream and sugar.

Stir wet ingredients into dry. Stir in fruit. Batter will be very thick. Divide it between the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and cool.