Monthly Archives: February 2015

GREEN TIPS: Going back to using bar soaps.

How-To-Make-Soap1-660x444Liquid soaps, including shampoo, all have the same basic foundational ingredients as bar soap, so in essence, you are paying extra for the water added to liquid soaps and the plastic bottles they are packaged in.

Bar soaps work just as good, and today, they have been modified with extra moisturizing ingredients and herbal oils and scents to be even better than most liquid soaps and shampoo. So why pay extra for the water and plastic packaging.

There are many homemade or artisan crafted bar soaps on themarket now that are wonderful. Plus, many of them can be purchased in bulk and don’t even come with any wrappers, or just paper packaging at most. These are much more economical than any liquid soap.

But you are saying to yourself, “What about the mess and when the bar gets too small to use, you end up throwing that part away and it’s wasteful.” Our response: “True, but take all those small, unusable pieces of soap, put them in a bottle of water, shake, and use the liquid soap you just made to wash your hair with. Always put your bars of soap in a soap dish to make the mess easier to clean than if you just put them on the sink.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Tulip Fire (botrytis blight).

tulipfireA common disease in areas that get a great deal of rain in the spring. Spotting and collapse of the stems, leaves and flowers is usually accompanied by brownish gray mold. This fungus will stay in the soil and infect next year’s flowers as well.
Once plants are infected, they should be pulled and burned. Do not plant tulips in the same spot year after year. Dig up the bulbs of healthy plants in the fall (or get new bulbs) and keep them in a cool, dry place over the winter. In the spring, start a new tulip patch each year.

Beneficial Bugs: Trichogramma Wasp

trichogrammaOrder: Hymenoptera. Family: Trichogrammatidae

Changing color from yellow to orange to dark brown with bright red eyes, these wasps are parasitoids of the eggs of othr insects, destroying the eggs of fruitworms, hornworms, loopers, cabbage worms and other insects before they destroy your crops.

The parasitized eggs often turn black and the adults will feed on insect eggs, nectar and pollen. Four or Five of these tiny wasps will fit on the head of a pin, so seeing them with the naked eye may not be possible. To keep this almost microscopic predetor close to your garden, provide a variety of plants such as Queen Anne’s Lace, caraway, fennel, tansy and herbs.

There are many different strains of this wasp depending on climate. You can purchase them from a retailer to benefit your garden, just make sure you get the variety that suits your climate best.

Companion Planting: Chives

chivesPlants 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.

Chromatography has been used to explain why some plants like or dislike being planted with other plants. It is possible to make a specific chromatographic test to find out why, or if at all, a plant is helping or hindering its neighbors. Chromatography has also been used to prove that plants do significantly better with compost than without.

Chives are good companion plants for carrots and will improve their growth and flavor. Chives are also beneficial if planted around the base of fruit trees in an orchard to deter mice and to prevent apple scab.
Make a tea of chives to spray on cucumbers, apples and gooseberry against powdery mildew.

Companion Planting: Chervil

chervilPlants 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.

Chervil is one of the few herbs that grows better in shade, so planting it among taller plants is beneficial. It does not take well to being transplanted, so pick your spot and direct seed it in the spring. It is a good companion plant to radishes and will improve their growth and flavor.

The leaves resemble parsley in appearance and taste, with delicate overtones of anise.  Sow seeds directly into the gardenabout three to four weeks before the last spring frost and again in late summer; thin seedlings to 6 to 9 inches apart.

Preventing Ants from Taking Their Aphid Harvests into Your Orchard Trees.

ants_aphidsAnts will protect and actually harvest aphids to serve their food supply. The ants eat the sticky, white, sweet substance secreted by the aphids and so the aphids are literally harvested by the ants and protected for the food they offer. Ants will collect aphids and put them under leaves for future food storage use.

One gardener I recently talked to found a clever way to prevent ants from taking their aphid harvest up into his cherry trees. He put a non-drying adhesive or sealing compoundaround the base of the trunks of his trees. The ants would get stuck in the compound and not go any further, however, ladybugs, who feed on aphids were not disturbed by the sticky barrier. The ants would drop their aphid cargo at the base of the trees and the ladybugs would eat them up.

Beneficial Bugs: Ichneumon Wasp

ichneumonOrder: Hymenoptera. Family: Ichneumonidae

These wasps have thread-like waists and very long antennae. They vary greatly in color from red and orange to many shades of brown and some have stripes and some not. There are over 3,300 known species in North America alone.

The larvae take up residence in caterpillars and sometimes spiders. The larvae then develops inside the host feeding on it and killing it.

Adults drink nectar and water, so to encourage them to stay, plant umbrella-shaped flowers such as tansy and lovage. They also prefer higher humidity. They range in size from 1/8 inch to 1 5/8 inch.