Monthly Archives: September 2014

Companion Planting with Broccoli.

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.<

Broccoli close-upBroccoli.

All members of the cabbage family do well planted with aromatic herbs such as celery, dill, camomile, sage, mints and rosemary.

Do not plant broccoli with tomatoes, pole beans or strawberries. It will do well with potatoes, beets and onions.

If you use pyrethrum spray on broccoli, do so before the flower heads open.

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Beneficial Insects: Mealy Bug Destroyers.

Order: Coleoptera. Family: Coccinellidae
Average Size: 1/8 inch..

Sometimes called crypts (short for their scientific name Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) look very similar to ladybugs, but with an orange-red head area and tips of wings.

Although they will also eat the occasional aphid and scale insects, their favorite food is mealybugs. You will find crypts in areas that do not have severe winters and can also be purchased through some gardening catalogs to place in greenhouses.

Ants tend to destroy crypts because they in turn destroy mealybugs and ants protect mealybugs for the sweet, cottony substance they excrete. The crypt larvae look like giant mealybugs so be very careful which one you are destroying when you spray plants or squash the bugs.

Photos from top: 1.) Adult mealybug destroyer or crypt. 2.) The white, stringy-looking object is the larvae of the crypt or mealybug destroyer eating an aphid.

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Companion Planting: Borage.

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.

borageBorage (Boraginaceae).

Also known as starflower, this flowering herb can grow the size of a small bush with some compost mixed into the soil and regular watering, and if it does, it will be covered with blossoms and honeybees. A perfect example is the photo to the right.

The flowers are edible and have a slightly cucumber flavor that can be added to salads or squash dishes. Borage is high in potassium, calcium and other minerals. It’s also fairly high in vitamin C.

The seeds are used to make borage oil, one of the highest sources of Gamma-linolenic acid or omega 6 oils, however, you would need a great many plants to get enough seeds to make your own oil.

If you want to keep honeybees around, this annual herb is one of their favorites.

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Natural Insect and Disease Control: Spider Mites.

spidermite-webSpider mites are so tiny, you will likely not notice them until you see their webs all over your plants and the plant looking diminished like the sap has been sucked out of the leaves.

Some agricultural sprays and products will actually encourage spider mites in orchards and on plants. Sprays with copper and zinc will increase the numbers of citrus red mites. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers increases the number of red mites and two-spotted spider mites. The citrus rust mite likes copper.

Spider mites are very sensitive to any changes in their habitat and predators and some chemicals have been found to upset the natural balance that keeps mites in check. They favor hot, dry weather, so keeping plants well watered and using an overhead watering system will help keep them in check.

Homemade spray for control: Dr. G. Edward Marshall of Purdue University found mixing wheat flour with buttermilk coats the mites and suffocates them with their hind ends up in the air. They get stuck in the glue-like mixture and some of the mites appeared to have exploded when the mixture dried. He made his mix thick enough to stick to surfaces but thin enough to spray through a high-pressured sprayer. You will probably have to experiment with your spraying equipment and the consistency of the mixture to get it to work with your equipment.

The ladybug is also a natural predator of mites.

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Beneficial Insects: Ladybug / Ladybird Beetle.

ladybug-larvaeOrder: Coleoptera. Family: Coccinellidae

Average Size: 1/8″ to5/8″.

Something not many people know, even avid gardeners, is that ladybugs come in different colors and do not always have spots. They can also be brown, black, yellow, gray and orange besides their common red color with black spots.

The larvae of the ladybug looks nothing like the adult. They are more alligator-shaped and do not have a smooth shell, but once you spot one, you will remember what they look like. They are usually dark brown to black and have a 2 distinctive red bands on their back. They are voracious eaters of aphids, so learning to recognize them and protect them is a plus.

The adults like tall grasses, so it’s not always advantageous to cut every bit of grass in your yard. They also like borage, tansy, geranium and angelica.

Ladybugs purchased from garden suppliers don’t always stay where you want them and will usually fly away, but here are a few tips to try to make them stay put:
– Release them just before sunup or just after dusk.
– Lay them gently at the base of aphid-infested plants.
– Spray plants with water just before releasing them.

Photo: Adult ladybug and larvae chasing some aphids on the leaf.

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Companion Planting: Black Nightshade.

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.

black-nightshadeBlack Nightshade (Solanaceae).

Members of the nightshade family draw the Colorado potato beetle away from potatoes because they prefer the weed, even though it is poisonous. The beetles eat it and die. It’s also said that nightshade will grow when the soil is too exhausted or malnourished to grow root crops.

Members of the nightshade family include: eggplant, belladonna, bittersweet, capiscum, jimson weed, petunia, potato, snakeberry, tobacco and tomato.

 

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Natural Insect and Disease Control: Birds.

bluebird-bugInsect-eating birds are one of the best pest controls around the garden, however, you have to keep them away from your fruit and berries by covering your fruit bushes and trees before the berries are noticed by the birds and usually before they are even ripe. A Chinese deterrent is to hang sliced onions in the tress to deter fruit-loving birds.
Birds such as purple martins are very beneficial to have around and encouraging them to stay close to your garden is a big advantage since they have to catch and eat flying insects constantly in order to live. Many people build martin houses to keep them around. Bluebirds also eat many insects and are not known for going after fruit.

Putting bird houses of all different sizes around your yard and garden will encourage birds to nest close by and return every year to catch many insects to feed their young with. Certain birds, such as robins and towhees love fruit more than insects, and will forego eating insects if fruit is easier to get to, so the key is not to make it easy for them by using bird netting, mesh or other materials that you can use to cover your fruit crops but still allow the sun to get to the plants. We find coverings are much more effective than anything you can hang in a tree to scare or throw off the smell, because eventually the birds will figure out how to get around anything that just hangs in a tree to deter them. Birds are clever.

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Beneficial Insects: Ground Beetles.

ground-beetleOrder: Coleoptera. Family: Carabidae
Average Size: 1/8″ to 1″.

Ground beetles are usually found under rocks or other debris in gardens, fields and woods. You will also find them under a compost pile quite often. When disturbed they may give off a foul odor. They feed on other ground-dwelling larvae and insect eggs, but are partial to cutworms, gypsy moth larvae and root maggots.

The adults have a blue-black or dark brown hard outer shell with a bronze or green metallic sheen to it at times. To attract ground beetles, plant white clover as a ground cover or put down some stone or paving bricks as a path for them to hide under.

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