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ASK MARTHA

I am interested in building a sturdy outdoor clothesline. How do I go about it?

Clothes and linens dried in the sunshine smell fresh and feel crisp. A clothesline is a wonderful addition to any backyard. One type is a simple, single line that is easy to take down and put back up. Another is a loop ed line strung between two pulleys. Both are easy to tighten if they sag.

Look for the necessary supplies at hardware stores. For either version, you can use a cotton or plastic clothesline rope. I prefer the look and feel of cotton, but the plastic rope will hold up better in a humid climate.

The height of the line depends on how tall you are -- make sure the line is comfortable for you to reach, and high enough that your laundry won't touch the ground. The length of the line depends on the size of your backyard, but 20 to 25 feet is average. You'll need two strong supports, such as trees or a post of your porch. Choose an area of the yard where the clothesline won't get in anyone's way.

For the single line, you'll need a heavy-duty hook; a metal eye hook; a cleat, a small metal fitting that you'll wrap the rope around to anchor it (imagine the device use d to secure a rope on a flagpole); and a metal ring.

Start by marking the height you want the line to be on each support. On one support, screw in the hook at the point you marked; start the hole with a drill. On the other, screw in the eye hook. Twelve inches below the eye hook, install a cleat. Using a tight knot, tie one end of the rope to the ring. Loop the ring over the hook, and walk the rope over to the other support. Thread the other end through the eye hook, pull it tight, and wind it around the cleat to secure.

For the double-strung line, you'll need two heavy-duty hooks; two pulleys; a line tightener, which allows you to take up the slack in the line; and a line separator, which keeps the top and bottom lines separate but parallel. Screw the hooks into the supports at the height you want the line to be.

Tie one end of the rope securely to the ring on the end of the line tightener. Thread the other end of the rope through the pulley, the line separator, the other pulley and the line tightener. Hang the pulleys from the hooks on your supports, pull the end of the rope through the tightener until taut and cut away the excess rope. Hook the line separator around the bottom rope.

Is there an organic method of getting rid of weeds?

Mulching is an effective way to prevent weeds from growing, and it also benefits the soil. Mulching deprives weed seeds of the light they need to grow. Organic mulches include straw, chopped leaves, buckwheat hulls, pine needles, fine-textured wood or bark chips, cut grass, and compost. Additionally, these will break down and enrich the soil. They also keep the soil moist and cool, so you won't need to water as often.

Begin by weeding the bed thoroughly. Then lay down a layer of whatever organic mulch you choose -- 2 to 4 inches is generally sufficient. For a flower garden or a bed of shrubs, you'll want to use one of the better-looking mulches, which include all of the above except cut grass and compost, which can be layered on and covered with another material. Some weeds will make their way through the mulch and need to be pulled out -- but compared to the chore of regular weeding, this will be easy.

How can I clean my rusty wrought-iron outdoor furniture and protect it from the weather?

Light rust can be removed with a wire brush, fine 600-grade sandpaper, or steel wool dampened with a little paint thinner. The coarser the abrasive used, the more scratched the metal becomes. Some people like this effect, but if you don't, use a finer steel wool or sandpaper.

If your furniture has heavy rust, you'll appreciate the help of a product like Naval Jelly , which dissolves rust (follow package directions), though you will still need to finish the job with steel wool, a wire brush, or sandpaper.

A good coat of paint is the most effective protection against rust, but there's no way to prevent it entirely. For the long est -lasting results, use rust-inhibiting spray paint, or prime furniture with a metal primer. Then top with an oil-based outdoor paint. When the furniture is not in use, cover it with plastic and store it in a dry place.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd Street, New York, N.Y. 10036. Questions may also be sent by electronic mail to: mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Martha Stewart regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually. For more information on the topics covered in the Ask Martha column, visit www.marthastewart.com.

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