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season, give each plant a single spritz of vinegar in its midsection, or in the middle of the flower before the plants go to seed. Aim another shot near the stem at ground level so the vinegar can soak down to the roots. Keep an eye on the weather, though; if it rains the next day, you’ll need to give the weeds another spraying. Try these other chemical-free ways to clean your home. Some animals—including cats, deer, dogs, rabbits, and raccoons—can’t stand the scent of vinegar even after it has dried. You can keep these unauthorized visitors out of your garden by soaking several recycled rags in white vinegar and placing them on stakes around your veggies. Resoak the rags about every 7-10 days. You can use vinegar to treat a host of plant diseases, including rust, black spot, and powdery mildew. Mix 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in 2 quarts water, and pour some into a recycled spray bottle. Spray the solution on your affected plants in the morning or early evening (when temperatures are relatively cool and there’s no direct light on the plant) until the condition is cured. 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. The sudden appearance of yellow leaves on plants accustomed to acidic soils—such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and gardenias—could signal a drop in the plant’s iron intake or a shift in the ground’s pH above a comfortable 5.0 level. Either problem can be resolved by watering the soil around the afflicted plants once a week for three weeks with 1 cup of a solution made by mixing 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in 1 quart water. 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 warm water. Next morning, remove the seeds from the solution, rinse them off, and plant them. You can also use the solution to start many herb and vegetable seeds. 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.