Q: What are some natural ways to deodorize my home?
A: Before attacking an offensive odor, try simply opening a window. Fresh air alone can eradicate many unpleasant smells. For persistent problems, find the source of the odor and address it. This is favorable to masking smells with a commercial air freshener, which can contain toxic chemicals. As explained in “Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook,” household odors can be separated into two groups, based on their pH level: acid odors and alkaline odors. Acid odors, such as smoke, can be mitigated with an open box of baking soda; while alkaline odors, such as fish, are neutralized by vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. Other options include orange oil, cloves and eucalyptus. Here is a guide for how to use these natural elements to combat lingering odors in your home.
Use to: eliminate strong odors from cooking fish or vegetables that give off a sulfuric smell.
Try: simmering half a dozen lemon slices and a handful of cloves in water for 10 minutes.
Use to: invigorate a room that has a stale or musty odor (the leaves can also help clear sinuses).
Try: displaying a few branches to scent a room for up to two weeks, or simmering the leaves in water for 10 minutes to cleanse the air.
Use to: neutralize cooking odors, musty smells in drawers and even cigarette smoke.
Try: filling a deep glass dish with a half-inch of white vinegar and setting it in the offending room or drawer until the odor dissipates.
Use to: spice up closets and drawers that need a little freshening.
Try: studding oranges with whole cloves, spaced evenly and close together. Keep them in a drawer or closet for up to a year.
Nurturing a lime tree
Q: What advice can you give me on caring for a lime tree outside its climate? I would love to have a little piece of my Texas childhood here in Illinois.
A: Lime trees can thrive indoors when they're in the right spot. They need full sun and excellent drainage to grow. For starters, plant a two- to three-year-old tree: It will yield fruit much sooner than one started from seed. The plant also should be placed in a south-facing window with a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight per day. (Otherwise, you'll have to supplement natural light with grow lights.)
Once you know where your tree will live, choose a planter that is just a couple of inches larger than the root-ball and has plenty of drainage holes. Repot with a soil mix that drains well. Typically, the plant will require a deep watering once a week. The biggest concern with citrus trees is their finicky roots: They need to stay moist, but overwatering can damage them, too. Keeping the soil damp but not soggy is especially important; exactly how much to irrigate will depend on the conditions in your home and the size of your pot. Use a moisture meter at root level to avoid overwatering when only the topsoil is dry. (Many people make the mistake of watering when the topsoil is dry but the soil at root level is still wet.) Put pebbles in the tray under the planter to elevate it from the drainage area. Feed the tree regularly, too: Get a citrus-specific fertilizer, or simply look for one with a nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium ratio of at least 2 to 1 to 1 and up to 4 to 1 to 1.