Monthly Archives: July 2014

Best Way to Protect Brussels from Aphids.

Garden Tricks: Best way to Protect Brussels Sprouts from Aphids.

The only way to manage to get to harvest season with your crops is to keep them away from the deer, various other critters, the hail, the drought and if they survive all of that, the bugs. Brussels Sprouts are particularly difficult to keep from the aphids. With all the little leaves and crevices on the sprouts, there are an infinite number of areas for aphids to hide from insect sprays, predators and you. For years, we tried all kinds of sprays, dusting powders and protective covers. The protective covers worked against the aphids, but they also shaded the brussels too much and they needed much more sun in order to mature.

Finally we arrived at this concoction; which keeps aphids off the part of the brussels you eat (the tender young sprouts) but lets the rest of the plant have all the sun it craves. For the last 5 years, our brussels have donned ladies knee-hi stockings throughout the summer. It wasn’t much of a fashion statement, but it worked like a charm.

Buy the cheapest, lightest-colored nylon knee-high stockings you can find at Walmart or Kmart. White stocking work the best, but if you can’t find those, nude color is good. White will reflect the most sun and heat of course, and you want to keep your produce cool. If you can find the ones that come ten to a package, they are the most economical.

Cut the toe end off the stockings, place it over the stalk of the plant before they get too large. You can tie the ends to the stalk with string or twist ties, or, I twisted the ends tight and clamped them in this picture. Whatever you use, just make sure it is tight enough at both ends to prevent the aphids, or anything else, from crawling up inside the stocking and having a feast while you least suspect it.

This trick holds up all year under any conditions. You don’t have to keep applying insect sprays all summer long, the stockings are reusable from year to year, and we have yet to find anything that works better. For so many years, we waited in anticipation for our brussels harvest – because I love brussels and nothing in the supermarket tastes as good as homegrown – but every year, until this trick, we had to throw all our brussels away because they were coated with aphids. Sure, we would soak them in water to try and get the aphids off, but there were always plenty of them in between the tiny leaves of the sprouts and I just couldn’t get passed the idea in my head of eating them. Now….it’s not a problem.

© Redstone Promotional Communications/

Companion Planting: Landscaping plants.

Companion Planting: Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests and disease.

Good plants for landscaping: Azaleas, holly and rhododendrons are good companions for a landscape planting because they like acid soil with humus.
DO NOT plant azaleas or rhododendrons near black walnut trees because a substance called juglone washed from the leaves of black walnuts is detrimental to them.

Bay: Bay Laurel leaves put in stored grain bins or containers such as wheat, rice, rye, beans, oats and corn will eliminate weevils. Bay belongs to the same family as cinnamon, camphor, avocado and sassafras.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Powdery Mildew.

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Powdery Mildew affects a wide variety of plants, usually in high humidity areas, and is caused by a any variety of fungi in the order Erysiphales. It’s also one of the easiest diseases to diagnose since the white powdery spots on the leaves or stems of an infected plant are very distinctive.

Powdery mildew is unattractive and it can affect the flavor and reduce yields of some fruits and vegetables. Although plants are unsightly and can be weakened by an infection, they do not usually die. Powdery mildew on ornamentals is an aesthetic issue, and not usually worth treating. Prevention and control is more important for vegetables.

Powdery mildew of wheat thrives in cool, humid climates and proliferates in cloudy weather conditions. The pathogen can also be an issue in drier climates if wheat fields are irrigated. Ideal temperatures for growth and reproduction of the pathogen are between 60 °F (16 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C) with growth ceasing above 77 °F (25 °C). Dense, genetically similar plantings provide opportune conditions for growth.

Milk has been popular with home gardeners and small-scale organic growers as a treatment for powdery mildew. Diluted 1:9 (1 part milk to 9 parts water) and sprayed on susceptible plants at the first sign of infection, or as a preventative measure, with repeated weekly application often controlling or eliminating the disease. Any milk can be used, even skim milk. Studies have shown milk’s effectiveness as comparable to some conventional fungicides, and better than benomyl and fenarimol at higher concentrations. Milk has proven effective in treating powdery mildew of summer squash, pumpkin, grapes and roses.
New Zealand also found out about this new cure and has started to see changes on the grapes that are used for wine production.

Spraying leaves with baking soda (1 teaspoon in 1 quart water) raises the pH, creating an inhospitable environment for powdery mildew.


Beneficial Insects: Thrips.

Beneficial Insects: Thrips.
Order: Thysanoptera. Family: thripidae

Bad thrips eat plants, but good thrips such as six-spotted thrips, banded-wing thrips and black hunter thrips eat other bugs. These thrips are fond of spider mite eggs, nymphs, aphids, other thrips and the eggs of corn earworms, peach borer, whiteflies, leaf miner and scale insects.
Thrips are extremely small, usually 1/20th o f an inch, and nearly unnoticeable to the eye.
To attract good thrips, have plenty of flowering plants around, such as caraway, because thrips will resort to eating pollen when insect prey is scarce.

Companion Planting with Asparagus.

Companion Planting: Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests.

Asparagus officinalis:

Parsley planted with asparagus gives added vigor to both. Asparagus also does well with basil as do tomatoes, which will protect asparagus from asparagus beetles.

Since asparagus usually is harvested well before tomatoes can be planted, harvest the asparagus spears in early spring, then plant tomatoes on both sides of the spears when they are no longer big enough to harvest. Spears the size of a pencil or smaller should be left to grow into fronds to feed the roots for next year. It’s these fronds that you will find the asparagus beetles on.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Mosaic Virus:

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Mosaic Virus:
Unlike fungicidal chemicals used to control fungal diseases, to date there are no efficient chemical treatments that protect plant parts from virus infection. Additionally, there are no known chemical treatments used under field conditions that eliminate viral infections from plant tissues once they do occur. Practically speaking, plants infected by viruses remain so. Thus, control of tobacco mosaic virus is primarily focused on reducing and eliminating sources of the virus and limiting the spread by insects. Tobacco mosaic virus is the most persistent plant virus known. It has been known to survive up to 50 years in dried plant parts. Therefore, sanitation is the single most important practice in controlling tobacco mosaic virus.

Control for Seedling Growers and Gardeners
The most common method of transferring the virus from plant to plant is on contaminated hands and tools. The most common sources of virus inoculum for tobacco mosaic virus are the debris of infected plants that remains in the soil and certain infected tobacco products that contaminate workers hands. Cigars, cigarettes, and pipe tobaccos can be infected with tobacco mosaic virus. Handling these smoking materials contaminates the hands, and subsequent handling of plants results in a transmission of the virus. Therefore, do not smoke while handling or transplanting plants. Workers who transplant seedlings should refrain from smoking during transplanting and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. Tools used in transplanting can be placed in boiling water for 5 minutes and then washed with a strong soap or detergent solution. Dipping tools in household bleach is not effective for virus decontamination. Any seedlings that appear to have mosaic symptoms or are stunted and distorted should be removed and destroyed. After removing diseased plants, never handle healthy plants without washing hands and decontaminating tools used to remove diseased plants.
Persons purchasing small tomato plants for transplanting should beware of any plants showing mottling, dwarfing, or stunting. Avoid the purchase of any affected plant. Gardeners are advised to follow the same procedures recommended for greenhouse workers when handling tomato transplants. Other control methods for home gardeners include roguing (removal of diseased plants), destruction of diseased and infected plants, and control of weeds and chewing insects. When roguing and destroying mature diseased plants from the home garden, be sure to wash hands and decontaminate any tools used in the process before contacting healthy plants.
Common plant hosts for the mosaic virus are tomato, potato, pepper, petunia, snapdragon, delphinium, and marigold. Tobacco mosaic virus also has been reported to a lesser extent in muskmelon, cucumber, squash, spinach, celosia, impatiens, ground cherry, phlox, zinnia, certain types of ivy, plantain, night shade, and jimson weed. Although tobacco mosaic virus may infect many other types of plants, it generally is restricted to plants that are grown in seedbeds and transplanted or plants that are handled frequently.

Beneficial Insects: Spined Soldier Bug also known as Stink Bugs.

Beneficial Insects: Spined Soldier Bug also known as Stink Bugs. Order: Hemiptera. Family: Pentatomidae

About 3/8″ to 1/2″ in size, the adult spined soldier bugs are shield-shaped, yellow to brown with black speckles and pointy shoulders with a distinctive black line on the top of each wing. The nymphs are wingless, smaller of course, and more oval shaped. They are also usually red, orange, cream or black. Spined soldier bugs usually inhabit crop fields and gardens, being found on garden plants and wild plants.
Their favorite prey is caterpillars, cabbage loopers, sawfly larvae, grubs, beetles, Mexican bean beetles and Colorado potato beetles.
Although they are mostly a “good bug,” they will also prey on other beneficial insects such as ladybugs. They have also been known to eat their own young.

Their eggs are also spined – which makes it easy to remember that they belong to this bug – and usually a silvery color.


Eco Garden Design: Chinampas.


Eco Friendly Garden Designs: Chinampas. By L.J. Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Editor.

Chinampa is a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico. The word chinampa comes from the Nahuatl word chināmitl, meaning “square made of canes.”
Sometimes referred to as “floating gardens,” chinampas were artificial islands that usually measured roughly 98 ft × 8.2 ft. Chinampas were used by the ancient Aztec Indians in Tenochtitlan, and ranged from 300 ft × 15 ft to 300 ft × 30 ft. They were created by staking out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the rectangle with wattle: Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, eventually bringing it above the level of the lake. Often trees similar to a willow or a cypress were planted at the corners to secure the chinampas which were separated by channels wide enough for a canoe to pass. These “islands” had very high crop yields with up to four crops a year.

The earliest chinampas have been dated back to the Middle Postclassic period, (1150 – 1350 CE) and showing use primarily in Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco near the springs that lined the south shore of those lakes. The Aztecs not only conducted military campaigns to obtain control over these regions but, according to some researchers, undertook significant state-led efforts to increase their extent. With the destruction of the dams and sluice gates during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, many chinampas fields were abandoned, although remnants are still in use today in what remains of Lake Xochimilco.
Among the crops grown on chinampas were: maize, beans, squash, amaranth, tomatoes, chili peppers, and flowers. It’s estimated that food provided by chinampas made up one-half to two-thirds of the food consumed by the city of Tenochtitlán.

Today many horticulturists have adopted a modern version of the chinampas and call it hydroponics. While occupying a great deal less space, no soil whatsoever, and often being used indoor such as in a greenhouse setting, the principle is basically the same as the ancient chinampas except it has been made more efficient and convenient. Using the chinampa method can have many benefits: such as practically no weeding and watering as well as protection from animals and certain pests. Building a chinampas in your backyard pond can certainly be an entertaining and efficient way to utilize a decorative space for edibles. While nutrients must be continually replenished in conventional hydroponic gardening, chinampas are more self-sufficient in that the soil materials they are built on supply the nutrients for plants, and the water that permeates that soil offers nutrients as well in a more natural way. So supplementing the water periodically is not necessary as with hydroponics. As mentioned above, the Aztecs often constructed their chinampas with dung, which would offer a constant supply of natural fertilizer to their floating gardens.

Plants that we believe would do well with this type of planting are lettuces and Asian greens because you can plant a large number of them in a small area, they would do well with the added humidity of the surrounding water, and slugs can’t swim!


©2013 Redstone Promotional Communications/

Companion Planting with Nasturtium.

Companion Planting: Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests.

Nasturtium Tropaeolum:

Nasturtiums have beautiful flowers and a low, bushy habit. They do not get bigger than 24 inches and make an attractive decorative plant in borders and hanging pots, but they also make an effective companion plant.

Nasturtiums planted with squash will repel squash bugs, but the nasturtium must be started well before the squash in order to flower when you need them too since squash grows so fast. In a greenhouse, nasturtium will repel white flies and when planted next to broccoli will keep aphids away. This colorful benefactor will also benefit potatoes, radishes, cucumbers and any member of the cabbage family. When aphids see the yellow color of the nasturtium blossom they will avoid it. This is something to keep in mind since nasturtium come in several different colors from reds to oranges.

Also, did you know you can eat the leaves of the nasturtium plant? They have a slightly radishy flavor and are good in salads.

Leaf Curl.

Leaf Curl on Peach Trees and other fungus:
Peach leaf curl causes leaves of peaches and nectarines to discolor, thicken, pucker, curl, distort and eventually fall off. The fungus overwinters in these trees as spores, usually in the new buds. The rains splash these spores onto the emerging leaves, causing more problems.

Onion spray is very effective against disease organisms such as molds and fungus. California fruit grower Roger Dondero mixed up his own spray to see if it would help the leaf curl on his peach trees. Within a few weeks, the fungus on the leaves turned black and fell off after just spraying the trees heavily for three evenings in a row. Within a few weeks, all the fungus turned black and fell off. This spray can also be used on vegetables being destroyed by cutworms or aphids. One gardener states that he just ties the stems of wild onions to his plants to get rid of cutworms.

Put a few onions in a blender with water. Let this puree sit overnight and then strain the onions out so it will go through a spray bottle. Keep refrigerated so it doesn’t spoil. This will have to be re-applied each time it rains. You can add a few drops of dish soap or vegetable oil to the spray to get it to stick to the leaves better. Shake well before each application.