Tag Archives: sustainable gardening

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.

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.

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.

Beneficial Insects: Tiger Beetle.

tiger_beetleOrder: Coleoptera. Family: Cicindelidae

Average Size: 1/2 to 3/4 inch.

Varying in color from metallic blue to a bronze color, green or purple, tiger beetles can run pretty fast with their long legs. Their prey of choice is ants, smaller beetles, grasshoppers and aphids. Because they run so quickly, you will probably not be able to spot one in the garden or elsewhere.

Tiger beetles are attracted to lights and warmth. They will sun themselves along roads, the edges of well-warn pathways and bare patches of soil or sand.

The larvae are shaped like an “S” and have a humped back and strong hooks on their abdomens that allow them to anchor themselves in the soil to seize prey which they drag back to their burrow to eat.

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: 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.

For full articles on Gardening not shown on this blog, go to our Garden Circkles Page.

Companion Planting with Birch Betula. (Gray 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.