Tag Archives: gardening

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: Brown Lacewing.

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.

Companion Planting with Allium.

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.

Allium Allium:

Allium is the Latin word for garlic and pertains to chives, garlic, leek, onion and shallots. There are also flowering allium that are excellent to plant among roses because they repel aphids and moles. Some of the larger varieties of flowering allium, such as Jewel of Tibet, grow to a height of five feet, and have a flower head up to eight inches in diameter that come in several colors.

Alliums are winter hardy, but should be mulched in colder climates. They like plenty of compost, but don’t like to by soggy. Plant onions, garlic and chives around the base of fruit trees to stop mice and moles from girdling them during the winter months when food is scarce or buried under a lot of snow. Girdling will kill trees, and rodents love to chew the bark of fruit trees like apples, cherries, peaches and plum when they are handy.

Garlic bulbs planted around plants that are prone to grub worms and cutworms will repel the worms, such as sunflowers and corn. Any member of the allium family will repel aphids.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Hot Peppers.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Hot Peppers: Whenever handling hot peppers, be sure to wear gloves because the oils in the peppers will soak into your skin and if you rub your eyes or face, it will burn for hours.

Some people claim sprinkling cayenne pepper around ant hills will chase them away. Ants protect and harvest aphids, so you want to keep them away from grapes, roses and other plants aphids love or where you see ant hills around your prescious plants.

Make a potent spray by putting one clove garlic, 2-3 hot peppers like jalapeno or cayenne and 1/2 an onion in a blender. Blend and let set overnight, strain through a coffee filter so it can be used in a spray bottle. Keep refrigerated until you need it, or pepper juice spray can be frozen for months and work just as well. If beetles plague your dahlias, use this spray on the flower heads.

You can also mix cayenne pepper with a little soap for very effective protection against ants, spiders, cabbageworms, caterpillars, and tomato hornworms. The pepper will repel a larger variety of insects if mixed with onion and garlic as in the recipe above.
Pepper spray will also work against a number of viruses such as cucumber mosaic virus, ringspot and tobacco etch. It’s a popular eco-friendly concoction with orchardists.