WHAT’S BUGGING YOUR GARDEN


By Engrid Winslow

Cartoon of a person armed with cans of pesticide spray.

Image by André Santana from Pixabay

Mysterious holes in the leaves of your favorite rose? Earwigs buried deep in the leaves of your lettuce? Flea beetles mangling your perennials and vegetables? Most people are averse to creepy crawlies in their gardens but, please, BEFORE you reach for the chemicals to blast them into the stratosphere, consider that all of the insects are essential to having a healthy garden and planet. So here are a few suggestions for less toxic remedies to try in your garden.

Slugs – small saucers of beer tucked under leaves will attract them and they will fall in and drown. Slugs aren’t picky so don’t waste a craft brew on them – Coors works just fine.

Earwigs – There are a couple of things you can try for these and one is a small saucer of soy sauce with a little bit of vegetable oil and you’ll get the same results as with the slugs, above. You can also roll up several sheets of newspaper and get them fairly wet. Slide them under your plants in the evening and throw them away in the morning.

Aphids – These are a very weak, soft-bodied insect that feed on tender new foliage and buds. You can bet that if you have aphids, you will soon have a host of ladybugs feasting on them. If you can’t wait, then use soapy water with a few drops of oil and spray or dab on the foliage. You can also use garlic spray.

Cartoon drawing of an aphid.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Flea and other beetles – Diatomaceous earth is a mineral composed of the skeletal remains of tiny sea creatures. It has edges that are sharp and will pierce the bodies of beetles and cause them to dry out. It will harm beneficial insects and earthworms, so use sparingly. Also, don’t breathe it into your lungs.

Cartoon drawing of a grasshopper.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Other insects – Use a lightweight row cover to protect young plants and the ones that are being chomped on the most.

There are other products available at most garden centers now that gardeners are more aware of the consequences of the use of most pesticides to insects, animals, fish and even people. Some of the best tools in your arsenal are: (1) creating biodiversity and selecting plants that attract pollinators and (2) nurturing the soil by using products such as compost and nettle teas. Recognize that most pests run their course if you are patient and wait for their predators to show up.

HERBAL SALVE FOR YOUR BEST FRIENDS PAWS

Close of of furry dog face.

Photo of Cute fluffy dog compliments of M. Cosselman.

By Engrid Winslow

It’s clearly winter and we can tell because our skin gets drier and we use more lotions and balms to combat dry, chapped skin. But what about your dog? Winter means cold, ice and salted roads, all of which can dry out your furry friends’ paws. Did you know that there are herbs which are particularly healing for dogs and can be mixed into a salve? Here are a few ideas and the master recipe for turning them into a creamy topical application for your dog. If you didn’t save any of these from last year’s herb garden or have never grown them, this will give you some ideas for the next growing season. Also, there are herbal apothecaries in many towns or you can order the ingredients from https://www.rebeccasherbs.com/. You should gently massage the salve into the skin before your dog spends long periods outside. Also, these are safe on humans as well as dogs so when you apply it to your dog’s paw pads, you will get the benefit too.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) flowers are antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial and very healing. It is ideal for treating all skin irritations and wounds for humans and dogs. It can, however, be potentially toxic to cats, so refrain from sharing it with feline house members.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile) flowers don’t just make a calming tea. It is also antibacterial and can help soothe irritated skin. Occasionally, a dog will have an allergic reaction so proceed with caution to be sure your pet is not one of those unlucky few.

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) leaves, stems and flowers is a versatile herb for cooking as well as having anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. It works well in treating abrasions and is antifungal.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) leaves or flowers have both cleansing and antiseptic properties and are very healing. It is also a very safe herb as long as you take care for to use Artemisia (Artemisia spp.) sages.

Slippery Elm’s (Ulmus fulva) inner bark is healing for topical wounds and soothes irritation. Rarely, a dog will have an allergic reaction so, once again, be in-tune with your dog and watch for any signs of itching sneezing or other allergy symptoms.

MASTER SALVE RECIPE

5 oz. coconut oil

3 ½ oz. powdered or finely ground herb from the list above

4 oz. beeswax

Heat the coconut oil and herb in the top part of a double boiler and let the water boil for 1 ½ hours to infuse the herb.

Strain the herb out of the oil with cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Return to oil to the double boiler and add the beeswax. Heat over boiling water, stir frequently until the wax is melted and thoroughly combined.

Pour into small jars and allow to cool, then seal.  If stored in the refrigerator, the salve will keep for at least two years.

 

Give your House Plants a Spa Day

By: Sandy Swegel

Right about this time of year is when your indoor plants are all stressed out. It’s been months of winter and dry heated air. Outdoors in nature, wild plants are enjoying spring rains that clean off their leaves and freshen their soil.

Once again, we plant lovers know to mimic nature if we want our plant friends to thrive in the odd conditions we try to grow them in. Growing plants under a roof without moving air or overhead moisture is definitely odd.

The plants I’m wintering over are the most stressed. The hibiscus has aphids. White fly that I thought I eradicated shows up in the sunroom. Scale is appearing on the underside of waxy leaves.

Time for a Spa Day.

Take any plants that are moveable and bring them into your shower. Don’t forget a good drain catch…you don’t need perlite in your sewer pipes. Bring in the non-buggy plants first. You don’t need to spread pests and disease. Clean off dead or diseased leaves and give the whole plant a good overhead shower. Use the hand sprayer to get the underside of leaves.

Pretend you are a spring thunderstorm and really soak the soil so that water runs out the bottom taking away some of the built up salts. Use soapy water to treat any soft-bodied pests. Use your fingernail or a Q-tip with alcohol to remove scale sacs.

After the bathing and dripping dry, add a layer of clean compost — earthworm castings work great. Then douse the soil with a good natural liquid fertilizer—I like seaweed based fertilizers because then everything smells ocean fresh.

Your plants will be grateful for their Spa Day and perk right up from all that moisture and a good meal.

Of course, you might need your own Spa Day after you finish cleaning up the mess. But we all enjoy a good Spring shower.

 

Photos:
www.ourhouseplants.com/guides/cleaning-your-plants
www.thesmallgarden.com.au/blogpages/how-to-holiday-proof-your-garden-this-summer

 

Aphid-Eating Wasps

by Sandy Swegel

There’s yet another reason not to try to kill off aphids outside, even with “safe” organic treatments like soapy water. If you kill the aphids, the aphid-eating wasps, another of those native beneficial insects, won’t have anything to eat and they’ll leave your garden.

Aphids are eaten by so many beneficial insects that it’s rather amazing that we see any aphids at all. Yet there are so many aphids on our plants sometimes. This week I’m seeing thousands on the new growth of roses. And while my first instinct is to kill the aphids in some way, I have finally learned to just watch them. I know what I am seeing is a mini population explosion of aphids that will usually be followed in a week or so by mini-population explosions of predators that eat aphids. If we try to kill off the aphids which are the bottom of the beneficial insect food chain, then the beneficials will fly away to another garden.

 

I knew about many of the predators of aphids like ladybugs and lacewings, but I learned yesterday that tiny native aphid-eating wasps eat a LOT of aphids. In addition to wasps that just eat the aphids, there are the parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside the aphids. When the eggs hatch the tiny larvae eat their way out of the aphid. A bit gory, but effective guaranteeing enough food for baby wasps.

So I challenge you to a two-week experiment. Leave the aphids be when they show up and just watch the plants for a few days. See who shows up to dine on your aphids. Some possibilities include wasps, both large and small, hoverflies, ladybugs and lacewings. It will be a fascinating discovery of how many small beings live in your garden, there to help you keep everything in balance.

Photo credits
http://www.small-farm-permaculture-and-sustainable-living.com/natural_pest_control_aphids.html
http://forhumanliberation.blogspot.com/2013/06/1088-why-closely-related-species-do-not.html
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060925070245.htm

How To Deal with Troublesome Pests In Container Gardens

by Angela Thomas04.20.16a

Many gardeners choose to grow plants in containers for the ease of planting and for the convenience of placing the containers anywhere they want. Maintaining healthy plants in a container garden is no different from plants in a garden.

However, container plants need more care. Taking care of them slightly differs from regular plants. They have limited soil volume and are subject to more stress than garden plants which requires constant monitoring for pests. If you’re looking to save time and the stress of having to find the pests that may of intruded into your garden. It could it be worth checking out the best home security camera deals on the market to make finding the pests and what they’ve left behind easier for you.

You must regularly inspect the foliage, bloom, and fruits to find out signs of infestation. You must also examine the underside of the leaves and stems as some insects hide in those places.
If the plants have any infected or dead leaves, you must immediately remove them. If you find few yellow leaves are on the bottom of the stem, do not worry as they naturally occur when the plants grow.

Mix a few drops of mild detergent in water and wash the foliage. Container plants will benefit from this if you repeat it every month.

If the infestation does not respond to soapy water, you may have to use commercial pesticides that are designed to control specific pests. These days manufacturers offer alternatives to chemical pesticides so visit the local store and buy the products if infestation continues. While using such products, you must always follow the instructions, and they must be kept out of reach of children.

To avoid pest infestations, do not reuse the soil especially if the plants were affected by bacteria. Even though the soil looks fine, it might be contaminated or have insect eggs which are hard to see. This infographic on natural pest control methods can give you the ideas to get it done on your own. However, if you would prefer to get some professional help, rather then do it by yourself, then you could always check out someone like pest control Des Moines.

04.20.16b

Clean containers will be helpful to prevent problems. When you are going to start a new planting, scrub the pots and containers using liquid detergent and water. To reuse an infested pot, soak it in a solution of one part household bleach to ten parts water for about an hour. Rinse all the pots thoroughly and dry them in sunlight before planting. Keep in mind that the area around the containers should also be clean as dirty surroundings is a way through which pests attack plants. After using the tools to treat the infested plant, thoroughly wash them, before you use it on other plants.

Healthy plants can fight off pests that attack them. So make sure you give the plants adequate sunlight, organic fertilizers, and water. There must be proper space between plants so that there will be enough air circulation. If pests infest a plant, keep them away from the rest of the plants because they will infest the healthy ones too.Many pests infect container grown plants especially spider mites. Stressed plants are most likely to be attacked by pests than healthy ones. So regularly monitor plants so that you will be able to detect problems in the early stages.

[http://i.imgur.com/RXdrB4W.jpg] (Plants in containers)

[http://i.imgur.com/QjYu9XV.jpg] (Cleaning container)

Kelp: A Gardener’s Best Friend

Kelp: A Gardener’s Best Friend

by Sandy Swegel

Our local garden club invited a rose expert from Jackson and Perkins to give us some winter inspiration this week. Rose growers are like tomato growers….they have their own little secrets and rituals to make their roses the best and the biggest. Our expert showed us pictures from his own garden that made me a believer in kelp. His plants treated with kelp and fertilizer were bigger and more robust than plants treated with just fertilizer If you are going to use soil amendments in your garden, kelp should be at the top of the list right after organic fertilizer.

So what does kelp offer?

Sea Minerals.
Kelp and other seaweeds are good sources of trace minerals that are often deficient in ordinary garden soil. So kelp is a good ingredient as a fertilizer…but not a substitute for your regular fertilizer.

Plant Growth Hormones.
OK, this is the real reason gardeners love kelp. Its natural plant growth hormones (cytokinins) stimulate extra growth in our plants and in our soil microbes. This is the “secret weapon” part of using kelp in your garden. Kelp stimulates roots, plant growth, flower production by virtue of the hormones even more than because of the vitamins and minerals.

Plant Health and Resilience.
Plants treated with kelp showed more drought resistance and bug resistance. Aphids, in particular, don’t like the taste of kelp and avoided kelp sprayed leaves. Anecdotally, I have found that a kelp foliage spray reduces powdery mildew.

How to Use Kelp
Kelp comes as kelp meal and as a liquid. An interesting thing about kelp is that when you apply kelp changes what kelp does for your plant. If you want sturdier roots, add kelp meal when planting to stimulate root growth. If you want more flowers on roses or tomatoes, apply it as a spray when your plants were budding. (Thanks researchers from the marijuana industry for these studies.) Some tomato growers use kelp weekly once tomatoes start to flower. If you are trying to improve your soil, apply meal or liquid to the soil once soil temperatures are above 60 or so when soil microbes are active. I like to use a weak kelp liquid spray weekly during hot spells in summer and spray all over the tops and undersides of leaves. It perks the plants up and gives the garden a lovely ocean smell. Plants absorb kelp better through leaves than through roots.

How Not to Use Kelp
More kelp isn’t better than small amounts of kelp. Don’t just throw it on your garden thinking more is better. Think about what effect you want. Do you want more tomatoes? Then applying kelp when the tomato is growing leaves but not making flowers yet will give you more leafy growth, not more tomatoes. On the other hand, a little kelp spray on your greens will increase the number and vitality of leaves.

Do Your Own Experiment
If you are going to add kelp to your repertoire, try a science experiment. Select a plant that you give kelp to and one a little further away that doesn’t get kelp. Do they behave differently?

Bring the Outdoors In

by Sandy Swegel

If early freezes haven’t killed all your plants, there’s still time to think about bringing some of your favorite plants indoors. You can bring in plants that thrive indoors to live on a sunny windowsill or you can bring in plants that will otherwise die and that you don’t want to lose, to overwinter in your cold garage.

First things First.

The first thing before any plant comes indoors is to make sure it doesn’t have bugs or diseases.  Fall often brings outbreaks of aphids so if your plant is full of aphids, treat the pests first:  hose off the bugs, or soak the entire plant, roots and soil and all in some soapy water. Once cleaned up, you can cut it to size if needed and bring it to a sunny spot.

– Watering Inside is Different –

My rosemary plant needs almost no supplemental water when it’s growing outside in the ground.  I’ve killed more than a couple of rosemary by assuming that’s the same conditions indoors.  The stress of heat and dry air of being indoors in a pot demands that I coddle the rosemary indoors a little and never ever let the soil dry out.

 

Saving plants in the dark in the garage.

Dahlias can be lifted. Pots of bulbs for spring can be planted and stored.  Even geraniums can be kept in moist peat and overwintered to bloom again next year. That’s what the Swiss do…they aren’t about to repurchase all those geraniums that hang from balconies every year.  If you live in a very dry climate, you may have to water the dormant plants every month so the soil doesn’t desiccate.

Plants that thrive indoors for me.

Geraniums – Continual color, almost no bugs, and forgiving if I forget to water. Great in sunny windows.

Angel wing begonia – I keep these in an indirect sun situation and water weekly.  They bloom and bloom all winter.

 Coleus – All the wild colored coleus and other foliage plants will do well in bright conditions if you keep snipping off the seed heads.  They can handle lower light but might get buggy.

Bougainvillea – is my favorite. Its natural bloom time is winter and it is a stellar performer. Messy though since it drops a zillion dead blossoms.

Hibiscus – So pretty, so ever blooming in a sunny spot.  So likely to get hundreds of aphids. Keep washing the aphids off and hibiscus will make you smile all year.  Some dogs love to eat the spent flowers….they’re edible so it doesn’t hurt them unless you’re using chemicals to treat the aphids.

An Herb Pot – Nothing beats fresh herbs for winter roasted vegetables and savory dishes. Rosemary, oregano, thyme all thrive with light.

Winter doesn’t have to be cold and gray….bring in some outdoor color and pizazz.

 

 

Photo credits

http://www.finegardening.com/plants/articles/rosemary-outdoors-and-in.aspx

 

http://www.bananas.org/f8/growing-flowers-indoors-12847.html

 

One Reason to Weed Right Now!

by Sandy Swegel

It’s the week after Thanksgiving and the beginning of a month of serious holiday celebrations. In Colorado, night temperatures are getting colder…my compost pile freezes at night.  I’ve given all the garden and especially the trees a good watering and turned off the irrigation system.  It is time for our well-earned winter rest. Even if you are in a warmer climate, it’s a good time to take a good winter rest.  People are thinking about festivities…not whether your garden is in perfect condition.  All of nature has cycles of dormancy where nature just takes a rest.  It’s the gardener’s turn to do that now.

I did see in the news one reason when it is absolutely essential to do some weeding if you have this problem.  A young toddler in China had to go to the doctor because a dandelion seed had flown into her ear and germinated.  It was starting to grow.  That’s about the only good reason I can figure to weed in December.  Otherwise, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the beauty and the bounty as we like to say at BBB Seed.

There is one other gardening-related task I do in December.  It’s time to try to recover the poor gardener’s overworked body. It is no longer OK to have dirt under my nails and cracked fingers and dirty feet from spending all my time working in the garden.  It takes a bit of effort, but you can heal those cracks in your fingers in time for holiday parties.  So use those gritty soaps and herbal lotions and get cleaned up and re-moisturized.  It’s the season to enjoy and celebrate. You deserve it. It’s been a good year.