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Ask Martha

Setting up a window box, storing rhubarb and more

In filling flower boxes, place shorter plants and hanging vines in front and fill around the plants with foliage.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

In filling flower boxes, place shorter plants and hanging vines in front and fill around the plants with foliage.

Q. How should I arrange my window box?

A. If the box doesn’t have drainage holes, drill some. Then line the bottom with gravel and add potting soil mixed with organic fertilizer. Choose plants in colors that pop against your home’s exterior. And to compose an attractive arrangement:

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1. Start with plants, not seeds, so you can play around with the design before committing to planting.

2. Rather than lining the plants up in a row, stagger their placement to create a lush display without any gaps.

3. Use a mix of flowers and foliage — leaves act as filler and provide a neutral background for colorful blooms.

4. Place shorter plants and overhanging vines in the front of the box, where they won’t be blocked by taller foliage.

Q. Rhubarb season is so short. How can I store it properly for future use?

A. To enjoy rhubarb when it’s out of season, cut stalks into 1-inch pieces; lay them flat on a parchment-lined baking pan. Freeze until firm, a few hours. Transfer to freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to a year.

Use frozen rhubarb the same way as fresh — in sauces, pies, and crumbles.

Q. What is the proper way to get rid of grass stains on jeans?

A. As long as the item is machine-washable, follow these steps to remove grass stains at home. Act quickly, so the stains don’t have a chance to set.

1. Treat the stains with mineral spirits or acetone; work in a ventilated room. (Test on an inside seam first, to be sure the treatment won’t damage the fabric.)

2. Press cheesecloth on the wet spot, then tamp with a soft-bristled brush to remove as much grass pigment as possible. Repeat as needed.

3. Flush the area with rubbing alcohol, tamp with the brush, and let dry. Apply an enzyme detergent (check the label) to remove any residue before laundering.

Q. I tore my nylon raincoat. Can I fix it myself?

A. A needle and thread won’t help, because sewing through the fabric will poke holes in the waterproof coating. Send your coat back to the manufacturer to be mended, says Lindsey Stone of Rainy Pass Repair, in Seattle. Or, for a quick fix, try Gear Aid Tenacious Tape (at REI.com) — it works on tents, too.

How-to: Wipe the area clean and dry. Cut a piece of tape that overlaps the tear by at least 1 inch on all sides; Adhere it to the garment. For extra strength, match the patch on the inside as well.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
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