Is Spring about to happen in your neighborhood? Before you start getting pansies or collecting daffodils, stop and put out your yellow jacket traps…if yellow jackets are a problem for you in the summer.
The yellow jacket life cycle is pretty simple. Almost all the yellow jackets die off in winter. Single queens that already “mated” go into winter hibernation…in the ground, or your shed, or woodpile. Once warm weather starts in the Spring the queen wakes up, builds a new nest and starts laying eggs for this year’s yellow jackets. One little queen easily lays 500 eggs. Conservatively, every queen you catch now means hundreds fewer yellow jackets gathering at your picnics in the yard this summer. It is so much easier to catch one queen now than to tackle nests full of angry yellow jackets under your picnic table in July.
A simple pheromone trap works great…it lures the queen to those yellow plastic hanging traps. This is no time for simple soapy water. You’ll be glad you spent the $5 for the pheromone lure refills. And the lure doesn’t affect honeybees.
Catching the queens isn’t always predictable. I put up more than one trap. Last year the trap by the BBQ grill caught ten queens. And a trap under a tree caught two. It seems to differ every year. But I will be grateful come summer.
It’s definitely the time in this warm March we’re having in Colorado. It was 80 degrees today…I got stung cleaning up debris in the perennial bed. The queen rolled over from her winter nap and sunk her stinger into me as revenge. Ouch. Yellow jackets hurt so much more than other wasps. If you don’t go outside in the summer, then let the yellow jackets live. But since they don’t play well with others, I believe in a strong birth prevention policy.
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 to give your house plants 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.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Sandy Swegelhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngSandy Swegel2017-03-06 10:59:182021-02-11 13:08:19Give your House Plants a Spa Day
Chickadees are out and about on warm winter days. They are the tiny white birds with black heads that are flittering and chirping vocally on sunny January days. I often see them in the top branches of evergreens.
Chickadees are small birds that don’t migrate but hunker down in tree cavities to survive the winter despite their tiny bodies. You can have lots of chickadees in your garden if you keep a simple tube feeder with seeds (they love black sunflower seeds.). You can also feed them with your garden by leaving the seed heads on all the plants for the chickadees to sit on or hunt and peck for. Chickadees need a lot of food …. the eat about a third of their body weight per day.
And that is why you want them to live in your garden. They may rely on seeds in winter but come early spring and mating time, they get about 80% of their diet from insects. They eat so many insects, some wildlife fans call them the pest exterminator of the forest. And their favorite insect? Aphids! Tiny aphids are the perfect food for tiny chickadee beaks. The birds are very systematic and will cling to a plant stem eating one aphid after another until they clear the entire stem. In spring before your plants are even sending up new stalks, the chickadees will pick in leaf litter finding the baby aphids just as they hatch or even just eating the yummy aphid eggs.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Sandy Swegelhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngSandy Swegel2017-01-27 11:19:362021-02-22 13:38:34Attract Chickadees to Your Garden
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.
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)
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2016-04-20 12:02:262021-02-23 15:53:51How To Deal with Troublesome Pests In Container Gardens
I was chatting with a local bird habitat specialist hoping for some tips on what I could plant or build that would attract more birds to my new garden. I was surprised as she struggled to think of flowers that might work. Then she blurted: “The biggest obstacle to birds in the garden is the humans.” If the humans would just quit “improving” the garden, more birds would automatically come.
Don’t deadhead so much.
She elaborated, the first most important thing to do for birds is to quit deadheading so much and leave the seed heads of spent flowers on the plant so the seeds can mature. You can do some deadheading to keep your plants making more flowers, but especially at the end of the plant’s season, you need to leave the seeds on. I used to throw the seed heads into a corner of the garden near a bird feeder, but I learned that birds don’t like to eat off the ground unless they are desperate. They like to land on the top of the seed stalk and bend over and pull the seeds out one by one. Up on top of the plant, they feel safer from predators and can fly off at a moment’s notice.
Learn to Tolerate Some Pests
The other mistake gardeners make that discourages birds is being too diligent about getting rid of all the pests and larvae in the garden. Leaving some pests may damage a few plants, but birds need caterpillars and bugs in the spring to feed their hungry babies. A pest-free garden is not a healthy habitat. And you won’t have to worry about the pests overtaking your garden in most cases because the birds are going to eat them!
So to attract more birds to your garden, let your garden look a little more unruly. I did get a couple of plant ideas of seeds birds particularly like: coreopsis, sunflowers, coneflowers and cosmos are all seed heads that birds consider especially yummy.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Sandy Swegelhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngSandy Swegel2016-04-15 13:32:452021-11-29 11:31:10Two ways to have more birds in your yard
Reading our Facebook posts lately on how yummy eggs from backyard chickens are got me thinking about what makes homegrown eggs taste so much better than store eggs.
A varied diet helps a lot. Commercial chickens pretty much get a straight corn-based diet with vitamins and minerals added in. Happy home chickens can still eat commercial food, but they usually get lots of food scraps too. That’s when the eggs start tasting better. When the chickens get lots of protein like bugs and worms, that’s when the eggs get really good.
Here’s what my chickens love:
Any and all scraps go to the chicken. Even meat if it is cooked. (The shocking secret I learned about chickens is that their favorite food is chicken….especially the scraps from fried chicken.) Chickens aren’t terribly smart in general, but they are savvy about food. If something is moldy or too full of pungent foods like onions, they just scratch it aside looking for bits of fruit or tomatoes or meat. Their favorite foods are things kids like. Noodles are a big hit. So are cherry tomatoes.
Weeds and Garden Waste
All the crab grass, dandelions, seed heads, dock leaves, grass clippings, etc go into the chicken run. They go for the greens and seeds first and push the other stuff around. Grass is apparently yummier in the Spring than in mid-summer when they just look at me and say “Meh.”
This is the best secret to having delicious eggs….lots of proteins especially from living crawling things. All those kitchen scraps and weeds that don’t get eaten get raked into the corner and turn into compost with lots of earthworms. At some point in their random scratching, the chickens figure this out and turn the compost pile with great delight. Somehow plenty of earthworms manage to survive. I throw in extra bugs too: slugs, cabbage worms, box elder bugs, maggots, anything I don’t want in the garden. One other icky-to-think-about critter they really love to eat are mice.
Spent beer grains
Our local breweries put out their spent grains and hops for farmers and gardeners to recycle. These grains are usually a bit fermented which makes the chickens very very happy. The fermentation adds extra nutrition, happy, slightly drunken chickens make delicious eggs.
My chickens have to stay in a fenced run because of the large number of foxes and coyotes in our area. So I plant food all around the edges of the run so they can reach their heads through the fence to nibble but not actually destroy the plants by pulling them up. Currently growing are comfrey, chard (their favorite, I think they like the salt), kale, and wild grasses and dandelions (they like the flowers).
So plant for your chickens and they will reward you with the best-tasting eggs and lots of entertainment.
We got a great question from a customer this week about controlling aphids. Her frustration resonates with most of us who garden.
Q. Aphids are terrible, tiny creatures and I fight them every year. I’ve been looking for the best ways to make sure they don’t screw with my garden this time. I thought I had a good way; planting garlic around the plants. “Aphids don’t like garlic,” one link said. “Aphids love garlic leaves, said another one. Soap mixture, Neem oil, rubbing alcohol mixed with soap and water, importing good bugs that love to eat the aphids. I refuse to use chemicals that poison everything, it makes growing organic pretty pointless. Does anyone have any SURE FIRE, tried, and true methods?
A. The key to reducing aphids in your garden is to understand their lifestyle. Controlling them is like cleaning the house. You can’t just clean a house full of people once and expect the house to still be clean a week later if you didn’t keep picking up stuff all week. When you use any treatment you might kill most of the adult aphids that day. But the ones you missed or who were eggs that wouldn’t hatch for another day, are still eating and reproducing. Reproduction is the key to aphid success. They reproduce both sexually and asexually. They lay eggs to survive the winter. And they have live births in warm weather. Each one can create up to 100 new aphids per month.
My best sure-fire, tried and true method (or as close to that as one can get) is this:
Accept that you are going to have some aphids. To kill them all, even if possible, means you would also kill all the beneficial insect pollinators and you don’t want to do this.
Understand how aphids die. Warning: graphic content ahead.
It is super easy to kill aphids, which is why plain water spray works great. Aphids feed by attaching to the plant with their mouths. When you spray water on the aphids, the force of the water tears the aphid off the plant. The head and mouthparts stay attached to the plant, instantly killing the aphid. Even just brushing off all the aphids on a leaf with your finger decapitates and kills all those aphids. That’s why you don’t have to poison them…if you can just mechanically remove them.
Be vigilant (every few days) about checking for aphids.
New aphids are hatching in leaf litter or being birthed by the aphids who were hiding out in the weeds next door. You have to spray the aphids every time you see them in large numbers. Each aphid can have dozens of generations…They are baby-making machines. You have to keep after them at least until you see you are no longer getting infestations.
Be careful not to eliminate beneficial insects. 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. They are eaten by so many beneficial insects that it’s rather amazing that we see any at all. Yet there are so many on our plants at times.
This week I’m seeing thousands of them on the new growth of roses. And while my first instinct is to kill them in some way, I have finally learned to just watch them. I know what I am seeing is a mini-population explosion 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 at 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 them. In addition to wasps that just eat the aphids, there are parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside of them. When the eggs hatch the tiny larvae eat their way out of the aphid. A bit gory, but effective in guaranteeing enough food for baby wasps.
So I challenge you to a two-week experiment. Let the aphids be when they show up and just watch the plants for a few days. See who shows up to dine on them. 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.
Nature does provide a natural balance if you have a healthy garden that supports beneficial insects. If you are aggressively treating aphids with garlic or neem sprays, you are also killing all the other insects that eat aphids.
Alter the conditions in your garden that reduce the number of aphids.
Don’t over-fertilize. Aphids love nitrogen. You will get a little aphid bloom every time you add nitrogen to your plants. Reduce the nitrogen and you don’t have so many of them.
Encourage earthworms and use earthworm castings. Earthworms produce an enzyme chitinase to help digest their food. Aphids are repelled by chitinase. Unfortunately, the chitinase doesn’t last long enough to be the only deterrent.
Encourage good environmental conditions like airflow and temperature. This works really well indoors. In my greenhouse, I can reduce aphids by keeping a fan going and shading the plants from the really hot afternoon sun. They are often in greater numbers on plants that are stressed.
Finally, if you do want to use “organic” sprays, simple soapy water works well. (1 teaspoon per gallon). Some people use the kitchen spray with garlic and Tabasco sauce. I think the science is not clear on neem. It definitely works but it works by disrupting insects’ hormonal systems and I’m not convinced it doesn’t adversely affect beneficial insects. Some studies say Neem only kills sucking insects. I would try gentler methods first before turning to Neem.
Kids love roly polys. There is no end to the fun of having these cute little non-biting bugs roll up in their hands. So cute.
Teachers love roly polys too. It’s a great teaching opportunity for a critter that is everywhere and the kids can open the rolled-up bug and count legs. Teachers can build terrariums. Amazon sells roly poly playgrounds! It’s a great entertaining moment when the kids learn the roly polys eat their own poop. “Ewww” or “Cool” depending on the kid.
Gardeners aren’t so impressed. In a year with a lot of spring rain, as much of the U.S. just had, pill bugs are the bane of our existence. In one night, a whole row of young beans can be toppled. Lettuce seedlings are so riddled with holes there’s no hope of a crop.
This is not a time to be entertained by stories that roly polys are related to crawfish. The gardener needs to watch out for pillbug infestations and act quickly if you want to save your veggies.
While there are poisons to use, it’s fairly simple to discourage the little beasties.
One, Keep the top of the soil dry.
Two, Remove all the leaf litter or mulch.
If you still have a lot of pill bugs, there are two more advanced techniques:
Trap them with Beer (little containers of beer buried to soil level).
Vacuum them up. One friend with a really infested garden went out each night after dark with her shop vac and sucked up hundreds of them one wet spring. After a week or so the numbers were down although the neighbors were puzzled.
Good luck with the garden this year. All the extra spring rains inspired population explosions of critters.
I visited a garden yesterday tended by my friend Lou. Lou has gardened for other people for many years and the heavy shade garden I visited has lots of color despite being in shade and the fact that we’ve been in high temperature, drought conditions.
As we walked around and she told me some of the secrets of the garden’s success, I found myself thinking, “But “they” say not to do that.” Things like “they” say native plants don’t want rich soil and shouldn’t be fertilized like other garden plants. Hah. Her well-fed natives were twice the size of mine. Or “they” say dahlias don’t do well in shade and need full sun. She had twenty magnificent blooming dahlias that begged to differ. And she used all kinds of plants the opposite of what the labels say: Euonymous species, sold as shrubs, were tough interesting reliable groundcovers when kept short by pruning.
My favorite gardeners have always been the ones ignoring what “they” say and think about what might actually work. My first experience was an older gentleman who had grown tomatoes for 70 years by the time I met him. He had tried all the tomato techniques I ever heard of. “Epsom salts,” he guffawed…”don’t do a thing except make the tomatoes taste salty.” “Water has to be consistent.” He had watered every day with soaker hoses since they had been invented. So as I watched him fertilize, I expected some down-home advice. Instead, I watched in horror as he just spooned tablespoons of dry Miracle Grow crystals right next to the tomato stem. “But, but…” I stammered, “Aren’t you going to burn the plants and kill them?” Nope….they just got watered in slow-release-like with each soaker hose watering and he had the best tomatoes in town.
That still didn’t match the shock of watching my friend Barbara. She definitely walks her own path and is agreed by all to be the best gardener we know. She never fertilized with fertilizers. She composts and mulches and puts goat manure and earthworm compost on everything, but she has never bought a bottle of something and put it on her yard. Geraniums bloomed in containers for fifteen years with only compost and maybe grass clippings in the bottom of the pot for the earthworms to eat. The most startling part of watching her garden was that she never treated pests. Sawflies came two years in a row and ate every single leaf on her six-foot-tall gooseberries. They looked terrible. She made sure the plants were watered and had lots of compost, but said the plants needed to figure it out if they wanted to survive. It was up to them to figure out how to defend themselves. She just made sure the garden environment was good. To my amazement, the plants survived and put out new leaves, and the third year the beetles didn’t return. Who knew?
I still do lots of things “they” say because much is based on someone’s research and experience. But I keep an open mind. Every time somebody gives me a lecture about the right way to garden or what “they” say I should be doing, I ask myself, “Who is this ‘they’?” “And who gave them all the power?”
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Sandy Swegelhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngSandy Swegel2012-08-03 00:30:582021-03-15 14:48:55Ignoring what “they” say.
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.
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