Monthly Archives: August 2014

Companion Planting with Birch Betula. (Gray Birch)


Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, one of the early advocates of the Bio-Dynamic Method of farming and gardening observed that compost piles benefitted from birch roots which excrete a substance that encourages fermentation. Even if the roots of the birch tree penetrate the compost pile, the compost suffers no loss of nutrients due to the added benefit of the gray birch.

It is recommended that you keep your compost pile at least six feet away from the trunk of the tree however, so as not to cause the the tree trunk or roots to rot.

Read more on Garden Circkles.

Companion Planting for Beets.


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.

Beets Beta vulgaris.

Beets grow well near bush beans but do not like pole beans. They also do well with onions or kohlrabi. Lettuce and most members of the cabbage family are good companions for beets but field mustard and charlock inhibit their growth.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Problems With Hormonal Control.

no roundup

For organic growers and those in the biological control field, the initial enthusiasm for hormonal control of insect pests has been diminished by the discovery that, “there is danger that developments in this field could follow the pattern resulting from the almost exclusive reliance on conventional insecticides,” states C. B. Huffaker in a research paper prepared for the 1973 conference on integrated pest management held in Berkeley, CA.

He goes on further to say that, “although it’s thought that hormonal chemicals disrupt processes peculiar to insects, and although insect hormones are structurally different from that of vertebrates, we should not conclude that vertebrates are safe. It comes to mind that developers and manufacturers of chemical products have been incredibly lax in the past in testing for long-term effects. If we’d known in 1945 what we know now about DDT today, we might not have covered the earth with a layer of the stuff.”

Given the above information, it would seem that we should try every natural means possible to control insects rather than resorting to chemicals or GMOs when even scientists admit that they don’t know the long term effects of so-called “safe” biotechnology. And really, there is no such thing as a safe chemical. The human body is not designed to run on chemicals at all, but strictkly organic matter, and scientists know this. The ones developing toxic chemicals for pesticides and herbicides are doing it strictly for the money.

Beneficial Insects: Green Lacewings.

lace wingOrder: Neuroptera. Family: Chrysopidae

Average Size: 1/2″ to 3/4″.

The alligator-shaped larvae of this beneficial look like a nasty pest but they use their curved mandibles to impale aphids and other soft-bodied insects and suck them dry. Hence their name of aphid lions. They also feed on spider mites (especially red mites), thrips, whitefly, leafhoppers, some beetle larvae, eggs and caterpillars of moths, and mealybugs. The larvae will eat for 2-3 weeks, spin a cocoon, and 10-14 days later, emerge as adults.

lace wing eggsGreen lacewings are available from some commercial gardening centers and are good at sticking around in your garden if you supply them with nectar producing plants and foliage to lay their eggs.
Pale green to gray eggs are attached to slender stalks. This protects them from cannibalism from the newly hatched larvae who emerge with such a veracious appetite they will even eat their own kind.

Adults feed on insects also but prefer nectar, and are usually found among weeds, grass and the leaves of trees. To encourage them to hang around, grow nectar-producing plants such as sunflowers, angelica, corn and some flowering weeds or herbs.

Photos from top: 1.) Adult lacewing. 2.) Lacewing eggs.

Read more on Garden Circkles.

Companion Planting: Beans (Phaseolus and Vicia).

bean plants-corn

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.

There are many different types of beans, but basically all will thrive when interplanted with carrots, beets and cauliflower and aid cucumbers and cabbages to grow.

Marigolds in bean rows will help to repel the Mexican bean beetle. Summer savory will improve the growth of beans and also deter bean beetles. Savory is also tasty to cook with beans.

Beans are inhibited in their growth by any member of the onion family, including garlic, shallots and chives. They also do not like being planted near gladiolus.

Broad beans are excellent companions to corn, vining up the stalks for support. The heavy vine growth may inhibit raccoons, or at least slow them up a bit when they get tangled in the vines trying to get at the corn. In turn, the beans add nitrogen to the soil for the corn which is a heavy feeder and requires a lot of nitrogen.

Bush Beans planted with potatoes will protect them against the Colorado potato beetle. In return the potatoes protect the beans from the Mexican bean beetle. This seems to work best when the beans and potatoes are planted in alternate rows. Bush beans do well planted with cucumbers which they are mutually beneficial with, as well as strawberries, with both growing more rapidly than when planted alone.

Pole Beans also do well with corn, but dislike kohlrabi and sunflower. Radishes and pole beans seem to derive a mutual benefit from each other.

Since beans and corn have the same growing season, sun and temperature requirements, they can be planted together at the same time of year.

Read More on Garden Circkles.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Bug Traps.


Slugs and Snails: Many people are familiar with the simple but effective trap for killing snails and slugs or putting some stale beer in a shallow dish. However, if you find these garden devourers are just taking a sip and slinking off, add a little flour to the beer to make it sticky.

Earwigs: Pour some bacon or hamburger grease into a tuna can or small plastic container to about 1/4 full. The earwigs crawl into the container and cannot get out.
You can also put boards or containers just about anywhere that earwigs love to hide under at night and the next morning scoop them up and place them in a container of gasoline or dish soap until they drown.

Coddling Moths and Worms: Mix molasses, water and sugar and pour it into small buckets. Hang the buckets from your fruit trees and they will act like a trap for the coddling moth whose larvae is so destructive to fruit trees. Hang the traps at blossom time in the spring. Coddling moths appear in late spring.

Fruit Flies, Maggot Flies, Cherry Fruit Flies: Many garden centers and online stores carry sticky plastic fruit as bate. Plastic oranges work the best because insects are more attracted to the color orange than a plastic apple. These commercial bates are treated with Tanglefoot or Stikem which makes the insects stick to the plastic fruit coated with it and leave your real fruit alone. However, Tanglefoot is made from a petroleum product and Stikem from a plastic-based glue, both of which can be washed off of the traps with every rain and end up in your soil.
To make your own sticky substance that won’t wash petrochemical glues into your soil every time it rains, try a sticky non-drying glue made from natural gum resins, vegetable oil and melted wax. Work with the combination of these to get a suitable sticky glue to coat anything orange with.

Beneficial Insects: Brown Lacewing.


Order: Neuroptera. Family: Hemerobiidae

Average Size: 3/8″ to 5/8″.

To camouflage themselves, the brown lacewing larvae sometimes carry debris – such as the remains of past meals on their backs which allows them to sneak up on prey while at the same time avoiding becoming bird food. This is what led to them also being called “trash carriers”.

Larvae eat aphids, mealybugs, nymphs of scale insects and other soft-bodied insects. Brown lacewings lay their eggs directly on leaves instead of on long filaments. Often found near or in forests and fields, adult brown lacewings have brown wings with a pattern that differentiates them from their cousins the green lacewing. The adults are also avid predators that keep plant-eating bugs under control.

Companion Planting: Basil.

basil_plantCompanion 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.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum). Not only is this a prized plant for any cook’s kitchen, this culinary herb makes for a very good garden companion plant as well because it’s very aromatic and will drive many types of bugs away. It benefits tomatoes against insects and disease, and some people claim it improves their flavor. You would have to be the judge of that.

Basil also repels flies and mosquitos, so its a human companion plant as well. Plant it in several pots on your patio where you usually sit.

Growing: There are numerous varieties of basil and they all will do the trick. Basil does better in pots rather than planted in the garden as it will usually get chewed up by slugs if planted in the dirt. In a pot, it has very few pests. Keep the soil semi moist and place the pots among select plants to act as a companion plant.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: BT.

cabbage looper

Bacillus Thuringiensis. Commonly referred to as BT.

BT is a selective bacterial disease effective against may insects such as the fruit leaf roller and various caterpillars, specifically tent caterpillars and other moths, the tobacco budworm, bollworm and cabbage loopers. The disease attacks the caterpillar in the larvae stage after they come out of their tent.

BT produces crystals during spore production that act as a stomach poison on insects eating the treated plants, but it is not toxic to plants, people or animals, and can be applied up to the day of harvest.

Plants that Benefit: Use on all members of the cabbage family that cabbage loopers just love to eat up. Fruit trees to stop tent and army caterpillars which in large infestation cycles can destroy whole orchards. Also good to use on lettuces and celery.


Beneficial Insects: Ant Lions. 

antlion-larvae-inhandOrder: Neuroptera. Family: Myrmeleontidae

Adult ant lions may resemble damselflies, but their antennae are longer and blunter at the ends. They have long, thin bodies and transparent, veiny wings. Their larvae are often called doodlebugs because of the odd winding, spiraling trails it leaves in the sand while looking for a good location to build its trap that look like someone has doodled in the sand.

ant lion_hole

The larvae body is covered with spines and they have pincher-like antennae in front. They eat ants, hiding at the bottom of their funnel-shaped traps for a curious ant to slide down the sloping sides of the pit. Both the larvae and adults eat small insects including ticks. Average adult size is one and a half inches to four inches.

ant lion_adultTypically found in southern and southwestern areas of the U.S. in sandy soils.

Photos: 1.) Ant lion larvae in palm of a hand for size ratio. 2.) Ant Lion pit or doodle.
3.) Adult Ant lion.