Monthly Archives: November 2014

Companion Planting: Celery

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

celery plantsCelery grows will with cauliflower, leeks, tomatoes and cabbage and seems to be mutually beneficial with bush beans. Cabbage butterflies are repelled if celery is planted near cauliflower or other cabbage plants.

Both celery and celeriac are reported to have a hormone similar to insulin which makes them an excellent seasoning for diabetics and since celery is high in natural salts, it is good for anyone on a salt-restricted diet as well.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Catnip

cat-catnipCatnip naturally contains an oil that is an insect repellent called nepetalactone. Fresh catnip when steeped in water and sprayed on plants will send flea beetles scurrying. Freshly picked catnip placed on shelves will repel black ants.

Catnip has a chemical compound similar to certain predatory insects such as the walkingstick – which ejects a spray similar to this compound to deter it’s enemies. However, be careful where you plant catnip as cats really do love it and will rub themselves on it sometimes crushing the plant and others around it.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Beneficial Insects: Encarsia Formosa

whitefly_encarsiaEncarsia Formosa
Order: Hymenoptera. Family: Aphelinidae

These little guys have been used for over 60 years to control whiteflies especially in greenhouses. They adults are very tiny, only about 1/25th of an inch. To tell you just how small that is, they lay one egg inside an immature whitefly, and you know how small whiteflies are. As the egg grows, it kills its host. The adult wasps also eat young whiteflies.

You can tell if whiteflies have wasp pupae inside because they turn brown or black instead of being a pale yellow.

Not native to North America, but these wasps can be purchased for greenhouse use. They are not hardy in cold climates but may survive a garden in warmer areas.

Photo: Encarsia moth about to infest a whitefly with an egg.

Raspberry Varieties Compared. On our October Health Circkles issue.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Companion Planting: Castor Bean

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.

Castor BeanCastor Bean.

Experiments show that castor beans will repel moles if planted around a garden. They are also a good mosquito repellent. Be careful when using this plant however as all parts of it are extremely poisonous to livestock and humans. Just 2-3 seeds ingested by a child can cause death.

Castor bean plants can get quite tall, up to 8 feet, and there are many varieties. Some have a beautiful fall foliage.

If using it to repel moles, plant them every 5-6 feet around the perimeter of the garden.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Powdery Mildew and other Types of Mildew

powdery-mildew-grapesQuite common in greenhouses, humid climates and you may notice it more in the fall when the air is cool and damp. Powdery mildew spores live in the soil and the mildew itself is caused by too much humidity. It rarely ever kills a plant, but it can stunt it and kill emerging blossoms and fruit.

Garlic Spray: Will kill many types of mildew. Crush 3-4 large cloves of garlic into a jar. Fill with 2 cups boiling water and let sit for 24 hours. Strain out garlic and put into a spray bottle. Keep refrigerated.

Do not overhead water. Over head watering will just make the mildew thrive. If possible, try to increase air circulation around the affected plants and water near the roots only.

Beneficial Insects: Braconid Wasp

braconid-wasp_eggsBraconid Wasp
Order: Hymenoptera. Family: Braconidae

Average Size: Very, very tiny. Only about 1/10 th to 1/2 th of an inch in size.

Resembling flying ants, these “good guys” are usually too small to be noticed. You may see their eggs on a host before you ever spot an adult braconid wasp.

They lay their eggs on other insects and the larvae feed on them as a host. They will parasitize such insects as tomato hornworms, armyworms, cabbage worms, codling moths, gypsy moths and caterpillars of many kinds.

When adults, they feed on nectar from small blossoms such as sweet alyssum and crocuses, so keeping these flowers around will help keep these beneficial pals around as well.

Photo: A tomato hornworm infested with braconid wasp eggs.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Mosquitoes

mosquitoIt is said that mosquitoes are never found in swamps or ponds where Calamus, also known as sweetflag or sweet root is growing. If you have a backyard pond, many pond supply stores have this great stuff called “Mosquito Dunks.” You can also order them online. They are little donuts made of BT that you can float in your pond to control mosquitoes. Fish will also eat mosquito larvae.

Mosquitoes are heat-seeking missiles. They pick up on body heat, so the warmer you are the quicker they will pick you out of a crowd. They are also attracted to carbon dioxide when we breathe, so if you are breathing heavily, they will find you. Because they are attracted to these two things primarily, there isn’t a particular herb or smell that will deter them. However, they are attracted to body odor.

Everyone knows they hang out around any little source of water, so keep rain barrels covered, empty any receptacle in your yard that holds water after a rain or cover it. f you have horse troughs or large containers for livestock, empty them every 7 days before any mosquito larvae in them has a chance to hatch.

Lactic acid in skin care products:Have mosquitos been buzzing around your face and head a lot? It could be your body care products that are attracting them. Alpha hydroxy used in many facial products is an attractant.

If there isn’t water readily available, they like tall grass, so keep it mowed.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Beneficial Insects: Aphidiid Wasp

Aphidiid WaspAphidiid Wasp
Order: Hymenoptera. Family: Apidiinae

Average Size: They vary in size but are just slightly larger than an adult aphid: about 1/8 inch.

As the name implies, these wasps love aphids. They are all black and look similar to an ant with wings. The females lay their eggs inside the aphid and when they hatch, the young feed on the aphid eventually killing it. Almost (almost) makes you feel sorry for aphids. But not when they are chewing up your potatoes or brussels.

Active in the late summer and fall, aphidiid females can parasitize hundreds of aphids per day. You’ll know you have these wasps around if you see “aphid mummies” or paper-bag colored aphid shells stuck to leaves.