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Can we really know if homemade tonics work as advertised?
The Back Forty
By Roger Pond

I always get a kick out Jerry Bakerís gardening tips on public television. If you havenít seen Bakerís show, you might have to bear with me for a paragraph or two. The best way to explain it is to say Jerry doesnít do anything the county agent recommends.

Baker gardens by the seat of his pants. Everything comes right out of the kitchen - or the bathroom. His Timely Tree Tonic, for example, consists of 1 cup beer, 4 1/2 tablespoons of instant tea, 1 tablespoon gelatin, 1 tablespoon baby shampoo, 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon whiskey and 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide.

All of this stuff is mixed with 2 gallons of water and poured around the tree once a month. Who knows what this mixture does for a tree? I suspect the two gallons of water does a lot of good.

Iím always amazed that folks who wouldnít think of applying chemicals to their gardens will mix up a batch of common household items without the slightest concern that these are chemicals, too. And these things havenít been tested.

The homemade tonics are supposed to work, though. Advertising for Bakerís book includes a testimonial from a woman who revived a 20-year-old houseplant by watering with Bakerís houseplant tonic and a birth control pill.

He sprays plants with mouthwash, fights moles with Tabasco sauce, and fertilizes roses with dog hair and banana peels. And donít forget the Epsom salts. Epsom salts are good for most everything.

Thatís all fine and dandy, but Iíd like to know how Baker discovered these helpful remedies. Very few universities are researching dog hair and banana peels right now.

I suppose a fellow might be soaking his feet in the yard when he accidentally spills some Epsom salts in the flowerbed. Or heís sitting in the roses, eating bananas and combing his dog, when he suddenly notices how much roses like banana peels and dog hair.

Maybe heís just a sloppy eater. How else would a person learn that cola and beer are good fertilizers, or that bourbon makes the shrubs grow better?

That might explain the food items in the garden, but how the birth control pill got in the flowerpot has to be a story of its own.

Iím reminded of a farmer who told me his neighbor always carried some 80-proof bourbon when he went out to check the wheat. This was winter wheat country, and the crop often looked pretty ragged early in the spring.

ďI just walk the fields from one end to the other,Ē the neighbor said. ďAnd every once in awhile Iíll stop and take a drink.

ďBy the time I get back to the house, the wheat doesnít look half bad.Ē

This farm news was published in the April 5, 2006 issue of Farm World.

4/5/2006