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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.

 

7 PLANTS TO KEEP THE MOSQUITOS AWAY

by Heather Stone

Purple lavender flowers attracting honey bees.

photo courtesy of pixabay

 

The long, warm days of summer are meant to be enjoyed. Sitting poolside, bar-b-queuing with friends or just relaxing in the garden. But sometimes pesky mosquitoes have a way of taking the fun right out of our outdoor activities. Instead of dousing yourself and your loved ones in chemical bug sprays try planting some of these mosquito repellant plants around your garden and patio to help keep the bugs at bay.

 

  1. Lemongrass- Lemongrass is an ingredient in citronella oil and its strong lemon scent is a proven mosquito repellant. This tropical grass is best grown in pots as an annual or brought indoors during the winter months.
  2. Marigolds- The strongly scented flowers of marigolds repel mosquitos, flies and even rabbits. These beauties come in an array of colors that will brighten up any spot. Keep pots of marigolds near seating areas and doorways to deter mosquitos. In the vegetable garden, marigolds repel many of the insects that attack tomato plants.

    Bright orange marigold bloom.

    photo courtesy of pixabay

  3. Lavender- The aromatic, purple flower spikes of lavender not only repel mosquitoes but moths, flies and fleas too. Use the fresh or dried flowers directly on the skin or dry them and hang them indoors to repel moths and flies inside. Don’t forget, the bees love lavender!
  4. Basil- Who doesn’t enjoy the smell and taste of fresh basil? Mosquitos, it seems. Unlike many of the other mosquito repellant plants, you don’t have to crush the leaves or flowers of basil to receive the mosquito deterring properties.
  5. Catmint- Catnip and many other plants in the mint family are excellent at keeping the mosquitos at bay with their strong scent. Ticks and biting flies also avoid catmint. You can rub the leaves and flowers directly on your skin for added protection. Catmints are easy to grow plants that do well in sunny and dry spots in the garden. The lavender-blue flowers bloom all season and attract a wide array of pollinators.

    Fuzzy green catmint leaves.

    photo courtesy of pixabay.

  6. Rosemary- Cooking out? Toss a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill and let the aromatic smoke drive the mosquitos away.
  7. Peppermint– the strong scent of peppermint deters flies and mosquitos. Keep a few plants in pots on your patio to deter insects and enjoy the fresh leaves in your iced tea.

    Blue flowering rosemary plant.

    Photo courtesy of pixabay.

All these plants deserve a place in your garden or on your patio not just because they deter pesky insects, but for their beauty, fragrance and attractiveness to our pollinator friends.

 

 

Here is a simple herbal bug spray recipe you can make at home using essential oils (“eo”).

  • ½ white hazel
  • ½ cup of water
  • 20 drops Eucalyptus eo
  • 30 drops Citronella eo
  • 10 drops Rosemary eo
  • 20 drops Lavender eo
  • 20 drops Tea tree eo

If you don’t have one of these simply leave it out or substitute with another. A few other essential oils that will work include lemongrass, catnip, clove, mint and geranium.

 

 

 

Apples

by Sandy Swegel

Two things I learned about apples this year.

Reduce codling moths in your trees.
A few years ago, I started following the advice of a local organic farmer to pick up the bad apples under my apple trees. I’ve always left them there to compost in place or waited until they were all down to pick them up. My delicious McIntosh apple tree had lots of codling moths which left unappealing frass in the apples as well as the occasional worm. The tree was too tall to spray clay and I didn’t want to use anything toxic. So I did start religiously picking up the apples as they fell. Now, some five years later, I’ve noticed that while codling moths still attack the apples, they are MUCH fewer in number affecting maybe only 10-20% of the apples. What a difference sanitation made.

 

Bake awesomely easy gluten-free Apple Crisp
The second thing I learned came from the new “problem” of what to do with so many apples. If you pick up the apples soon after they fall from the tree, then you notice the apples are in pretty good shape if you cut out the bad parts right away. So now I had a surplus of apples. The freezer was full of sauce and still, the apples came. Fortunately, I gave the apples to a baker friend who made a gluten-free apple crisp that was better than anything I had ever had. And that’s when she taught me a professional secret. You have to bake the apples first before you put the crisp topping on. When you just layer apple pieces in a pan and sprinkle with your crisp mixture, you can end up with apples that are too crunchy and/or a burnt crisp top.

So here’s the basic recipe:

Cut up apples into pan. Bake until mostly soft.

Crisp topping:
Oats, cinnamon, nuts (almond meal, tiny pecan pieces) Optional: butter, brown sugar.
Sprinkle topping on baked apples. Put the pan back in the oven until the crisp is browned and crispy. Twice-baked apples melt in your mouth (without lots of extra sugar) and the topping is crispy delicious. The perfect foil for vanilla ice cream.

So now I spend more time working to clean up apples…..but am rewarded with more apple crisp!

Photos:

http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/htm/fruits/fruit-insect-disease/apple-pear-control03
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/229088/apple-crisp-with-oat-topping/

 

Earwigs

by Sandy Swegel

If I were making a low-budget movie about alien invaders, I’d definitely use close-ups of earwigs to make the scariest monsters with their pincers coming at you.  And no fan of Star Trek can help but shudder and remember the image of the earwiggy centipedy thing Khan puts into Mr. Chekov’s ear.  Earwigs actually get their name from going into ears of corn, not human ears, but there’s a primitive cringe factor that rises in us anyway.

Most people never notice earwigs, but if you do get an infestation, you’ll quickly find they can wipe out new seedlings by chewing the stems and leaves.  And in large numbers, they have no problem climbing corn stalks or fruit trees to get at yummy food.

It’s usually easy to catch earwigs…they gather under anything dark and damp such as mulch or an old board. Rolled up wet newspaper is pretty good because it’s a disposable container….just toss the whole thing in the trash.  I personally let a couple of chickens loose and they find the apparently delicious earwigs in minutes and eat them as fast as they can scratch them out.  If you have a serious infestation of earwigs, UC Davis has the best scientific integrated pest management protocol.http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74102.html

This week  I went to a bug talk by our local extension entomologist Carol O’Meara and learned a new tip about trapping earwigs. Trapping is usually the best way to deal with earwigs.  O’Meara’s twist to catch the critters is to put out little bowls of vegetable oil and soy sauce.  The soy sauce is an attractant and the earwigs are suffocated in the vegetable oil.  An old tuna can and a couple tablespoons each of soy sauce and oil (some people add a little molasses), and you have a great trap.  The folks at Deep Green Permaculture designed this little trap to give you an idea of the concept.

http://deepgreenpermaculture.com/diy-instructions/strange-brew-homemade-garden-sprays/

Happy Earwig Hunting!