Category Archives: Organic Pest Management

Japanese Beetles Are HERE! Control them naturally.

Japanese beetles are here, a bit late but they arrived overnight.

I only saw one on my blackberry canes and one landing on the ground (both dead by my hand) so you may be thinking I’m overreacting. I’m not!

In previous years, I went to war with Japanese beetles and I lost. But for the last 4 years, I have used a secret weapon that pretty much makes all Japanese beetles bypass my yard.

Surround stops Japanese Beetles.

Japanese Beetles hate Surround!

Why don’t they belly up to my buffet?  I use a product called  Surround.

Surround is 95% kaolin clay (5% inert) which is mixed with water and sprayed on plants. It is a beautiful organic solution to the beetle invasion.

Once again, this year, all the blackberries and the blueberries in my yard are wearing coats made of Surround which I mixed and sprayed this morning.

Blueberries covered by Surround.

Beetle free blueberries coated by Surround.

Surround works but ONLY if you spray it at the first sign of Japanese Beetles in the back yard.

When I say “first sign” I mean it. Apparently, Japanese beetles release a pheromone when they find good food. Any beetles in the vicinity fly in and start feasting.

How does it work? Surround doesn’t harm any other insects. But Surround does make berries and leaves taste really bad to the beetles! The proof is on the plants and in coming days, it will be in my bucket of sudsy water.  This year I have only gotten about 45 beetles, total.

Very few Japanese Beetles in 2016 thanks to Surround

Surround meant fewer than 45 Japanese Beetles last summer!

Last year, I plucked morning and evening and only got 45 beetles the entire season!

The year before I discovered Kaolin clay, I literally got thousands of Japanese beetles in my bucket and still lost all my blackberries, beans and apples.

The only difference was Surround!

Surround also keeps my 10 most hated bugs, including Colorado Potato Beetles, Cucumber and Squash beetles, off of plants so, yes, every squash and cucumber plant in my garden is also sporting a beautiful coat of kaolin clay.

FYI the beetles will drop by to check out my Borage, planted for bees, and my Pussy Willow but they don’t stay long. .

Borage without Surround equals Japanese Beetles.

Borage is one plant I didn’t spray!

Based on early application of Kaolin clay, I expect that the Japanese beetle population is going to be looking for greener pastures and tastier food somewhere else.

If Iwin the war this year,  I will once again give all the credit to Surround. If you’re being “bugged,” consider giving it a try.

Figs This Summer!

It’s official! My Chicago Hardy Fig is going to give me figs this summer, lots and lots and lots of figs!

Chicago Hardy Fig
Very happy Chicago Hardy fig.

This fig has only been in the ground for 2 years. This is her 3rd summer. And this year, she appears to have come into her own.

Baby figs on my Chicago Hardy fig tree
Baby figs on Chicago Hardy fig

Every single junction between stem and leaf has a nascent fig tucked into the crotch. If they all come in, I may be a bit overwhelmed but I will also be happily eating them, making jam with them and maybe even making fig newtons.

I have two other fig trees but they are true Mediterranean babies. They have to have hot days and warm nights and a lot of both to set fruit. In the 22 years they have been in my backyard garden, they have only produced edible figs 3 times!

I love these fig trees for the cover they provide but I really love to eat figs so I am excited to see just how many figs the Chicago Hardy fig tree will give me.

BTW, my figs and my blackberry canes appear to be of great interest to the Spotted Lantern Fly nymphs. While I struggle to figure out the best way to manage these pests, I spend some time every morning and evening, crushing them…with my fingers. It’s gruesome but it’s necessary.

One product I am considering is BotaniGard 22WP. The active ingredient in it is Beauveria Bassiana, a naturally occurring fungus. The fungus doesn’t kill the nymphs, immediately. It invades them and grows in their bodies which then kills them.

My only concern is that it is potentially pathogenic for honey bees, too. More information and exploration is needed but this may work against these invasive spotted killers.

Fig updates will be shared and I’m hoping they will be happy updates!

2020 Organic Garden Update

June 2020 Garden

2020 Garden Growing!

It’s heading for the end of June and my garden has taken off!

Like most gardeners, May and early June are spent in a holding pattern, wondering if the plants you nurtured from seed would survive. They did. And they thrived and are setting fruit all over the place!

Let’s start with tomatoes.

Tomatoes on the vine

Glorious tomatoes!

The only hard part about growing tomatoes is deciding what kind to plant! That’s probably why I have 23 tomato vines in my garden right now.

These are Rutgers slicers on the vine! I have 3 of these plants and I am excited about them. I don’t usually grow slicers but I am looking forward to tomato and cucumber sandwiches!

Kangaroo brown tomatoes

Atomic Grape tomatoes

These babies are Atomic Grape. I saved seeds from last year and they sprouted and grew these gorgeous tomato plants.  Clusters of 5 tomatoes will turn green, red and purple…Atomic seems like an appropriate name for these beautiful fruits.

Below, plump plums are enjoying the cool mist of the morning.

Plum tomatoes

Plump plums on the vine

 

Who doesn’t need plum tomatoes? I make sauce, paste and scallopine from my tomatoes and we savor the summer flavors all winter long!

Yum!

 

Cucumbers reaching for the sun

Cucumbers are absolutely loaded with flowers and the beginnings of baby cucumbers just poking out from the plants. The bigger plants were started indoors and transplanted gently – cucumbers resent transplanting. The second set were planted from seed and will hopefully extend my cucumber harvest and season, my shot at succession planting.

Sweet red peppers

Sweet peppers for eating and canning.

Sweet red peppers

Sweet peppers for eating and saucing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight pepper plants in their inverted tomato cages are also enjoying the warm days and nights. There are 3 different varieties, all sweet, in this bed. Diced and added to tomatoes and blueberries, these make a meal for me on hot summer afternoons.

I somehow ended up with 10 eggplants this summer but I love them and eat them all summer long. I also braise and freeze them for mid-winter eggplant parmigiania.

Eggplant in the truck bed

Eggplant enjoying the heat!

There are 2 varieties, Bianca Rosa and Green. I put the Green eggplant in one of the truck beds and they are really enjoying their time in the sun. In fact, the Green eggplant are already setting flowers.

Green eggplant with flowers

Green eggplant soaking up sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of flowers, every single flower in the garden this year is a volunteer. And I love them.

Flowers for the bees

Flowers for the bees!

Dill growing tall

Dill growing tall for the bees

Bachelor buttons, Fennell, Borage, Dill and Sunflowers are all welcome to grow right along with all my other beautiful plants.

These flowers are loved by bees – honey bees, bumble bees and all manner of tiny “back yard” bees.

 

Lettuce and spinach bolting

Lettuce & spinach setting seed.

Finally, all the plants in my lettuce and spinach bed are bolting! It’s too hot for these cool weather crops but that’s good news. Each of these spiky plants will grow all the seeds I need for this fall and next spring!

And letting these plants bolt means that the aforementioned bees get yet another plant full of tiny flowers and brimming with pollen and nectar.

Bolting also means that I get seed which I share with the goldfinches and other beautiful birds who live in my garden.

 

I will close with pictures of my blueberries, got the first picking yesterday and my blackberries, setting fruit and preparing to be a delicious add to my jam collection.

Blueberries

Blueberries with dew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackberries on the cane

Blackberries on the cane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTE: when you look at the pictures, you will see that almost everything looks like it has a light coating of powdered sugar. What you are seeing is Kaolin clay. Bought as a powder and mixed with water, clay effectively keeps Japanese beetles from dining at your buffet and it helps manage cucumber, bean, and squash beetles…and all it is is clay in keeping with my all organic all of the time.

Happy gardening everyone!

 

Defending My Garden!

Dill growing in with tomatoes

2019 garden in progress

My garden feeds 4 families, every year. It feeds my soul every day.

It is a place of refuge for me, the birds and yes, even the rabbits. 

Recently, the husband of a dear friend of mine described my garden as a, “Junkyard.”

He will remain nameless (as his worth dictates) but I must defend the space that I call my garden.

 

Yes, I have 2 truck beds in my garden. And I love them. Anyone who gardens knows how expensive raised beds are to buy…especially the 3 foot high beds! Well, one of these truck beds was free; the other cost $100.

raised beds from truck beds

Truck beds for raised beds

Both warm up earlier than the ground does so I can plant early. Both keep my crops safe from rabbits and gophers. Both provide a windbreak for transplants which is very important on our property as we are on a hill. Both save my back from bending over to plant, water, pick or bug bust.

See the chain link fence bent in half in the left hand truck bed? I salvaged it from the side of the road and use it as a trellis for crops like cucumbers to grow along.

Found items for the garden

Free barriers

Baskets that were given to me by a friend cover baby plants when it’s cold out. I also use them to keep rabbits from eating tender new leaves on plants or shrubs.

See the yogurt containers on the right? I cut the bottoms out of them (in the foreground) and slide them over vulnerable plants like baby green beans or beets. They are free and they make great collars to keep rabbits and slugs off young plants.

An old screen from the sliding doors we finally had to replace (after 25 years) also provides protection from rabbits, groundhogs and yes, my two West Highland White terriers.

Screen door in the garden

A screen protects beans

Wherever and whenever I can I find and reuse items in my garden and I love being able to do that. I also follow Ruth Stout’s age old advice and use straw to mulch everything from the garden beds and soil to the blueberries, blackberries and herbs.

My garden is not regimented.  Okay, let’s be frank, I am pretty laissez faire when it comes to where some plants show up in my garden.  For example, when my lettuce and spinach start to bolt, I let them grow up and flower. I have 2 ulterior motives – I want the seeds and I want the bees!

Flowers seed themselves

Flowers seed themselves

Borage, dill and bachelor buttons grow together in clumps. Sunflowers grace the back fence. And dill is everywhere! I don’t use dill but it grows where ever its seed landed and I let it grow up and flower.  Why? I want the bees!

 

Volunteer tomato

Tomato volunteers in the sweet potato bed

If you look closely at this picture, you will see a volunteer tomato growing in the sweet potato bed with…yep, some dill.

Volunteer potatoes are growing around the zucchini which I tucked into blueberry patch along with summer squash.

Will this garden of mine win any awards? Probably not. But I love it and I love the food it puts on so many people’s tables.

I love the joy of just wandering early in the morning, the sweet sound of birds singing from morning til night and the beauty that surrounds me every time I step into my garden.

Fresh beets

Fresh beets

First tiny tomatoes

First tomatoes of 2019

Tiny cucumber

First, tiny cucumber of the 2019 season

2018 Garden is In – But Oy The Weather…

2018 Garden enjoying sun

2018 garden enjoying sun

So, my garden is now, totally in the ground.

This year I planted garlic, onions, lettuce, beets, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers (still considering zucchini), green beans, asparagus, of course and herbs like basil and Italian parsley.

I finished putting the last Bianca Rosa in the ground Saturday morning.

Bianca Rosa eggplant

Baby Bianca Rosa eggplant

Saturday evening, we got 70 MPH winds, driving hail and torrential rain with a side order of thunder and lightning and the threat of a tornado!

The baby eggplant survived…and seem to be settling in to their truck bed.

But I live outside of Philadelphia…in Pennsylvania! We don’t get tornadoes. Oh, wait, we do now courtesy of the non-existent global warming and the ever increasing turbulence of our weather and of the very earth itself.

It has rained every day since last Tuesday. It is going to rain again tonight. In fact, we are under a flood watch from 4PM today to 2AM tomorrow morning. We might get a day or two of clearing, then all that rain that is currently drowning Floridians will be…here.

Tomato plants hanging on to their trellis

Tomato plants hanging on, literally

Even my tomatoes have toughed it out…although they are looking just a bit “wan.”

As with every year, there are, of course challenges – bugs…rabbits, deer. But this year, it seems that Mother Earth is setting about re-balancing her planet – with or without us.

But there will be vegetables and fruit in my backyard this summer. Most of these plants will survive. And so will I.  I will keep on gardening, keep growing.

My garden will grow

My garden will grow

And I will keep praying that we, the humans who inhabit this planet, slow down a bit, become more aware of the risk and start backpedaling from taking, using, devouring and otherwise destroying this magnificent home on which live and orbit the universe.

Practical Organic Gardening – Free Book – Chapter 3

Only one chapter today because it’s a long one. It you want to garden, DO NOT invest a lot of money in tools…just read on to find you how you can get started for next to nothing…

So, what makes organic gardening practical?  Just this. You can grow a whole lot of healthy, tasty food, literally, for pennies. What’s the trick?

Green and organic garden in summer.

My garden laden with organic veggies.

Unlike traditional gardening, if you go organic, there are a lot of things you will NEVER have to buy.

For instance, you don’t have to buy chemicals or herbicides.  You don’t have to have fancy sprayers or a rototiller – not even one of those small ones named after the bug that prays.

In fact, if you pay a bit of attention, you already own just about everything you might need to get started.

What you don’t own, you can usually get, free. How does this work? A little planning and a bit of forethought are all it takes!

Here’s my list of what you need to be an organic gardener:

Dirt – free.

Seeds – cheap to buy and even cheaper if you save some for next year’s garden.

A big spoon or small shovel – something to dig holes with when transplanting.

Newspaper – free if you ask your neighbors and co-workers for them.  You can use it for mulch and make transplant pots with it, too.

Straw – free if you find a farmer who has old or moldy straw which works just as well as the golden yellow stuff.

Cucumber trellis from a head board.

Headboards make great trellises.

Trellises – made from some found items, your cukes, tomatoes and peppers will love climbing up or grow on these.

When I say found, I mean things like this old headboard from a day bed that I found on the side of the road. I use for climbing vegetables like cucumbers.

Or how about chain link fence sections and hay bale ties for growing tomatoes or training peppers or eggplant? I got these fence sections for free, too. And I have been using them for over 20 years!

Free fence sections grow great veggies

Fence sections supporting tomatoes

By the way, the dog isn’t free and he doesn’t do too much supporting! He can, however, pick his own tomatoes and blueberries.

And the decorative fence – my attempt to slow him down just a bit, was free, too.

Epsom salts – dirt cheap in half gallon milk shaped containers.

A bucket – free if you can get a hold of a kitty litter container or a dog food bucket.

A mug – free if you liberate it from your kitchen and use it to deliver water or fertilizer right to the roots of your plants.

Twine – free if you buy straw by the bale, save the baling twine and use it to tie up plants.  You can also get tons of baling twine in any horse barn.  NOTE:  Do NOT use green baling twine.  It has been treated with strychnine to kill mice and rats.

free curtains and free frames

Free curtains, free frames, free from frost

Old, sheer curtains, old bed sheets and even old mattress covers – free if you save yours or ask relatives and friends to give their old ones to you.

They don’t look as pretty as commercial row covers but they will keep frost off your baby plants. and, they’re free.

Access to a public library – free and there are always books and magazines about organic gardening ready for you to browse through, borrow and take notes from.  Oh, and libraries have computers and internet connections. Using them is free. And online is just FULL of ideas, tips and advice on organic gardening.  All you have to do is put in your search terms and hit Go.

An old 3-ring binder and some paper – can be free if you ask co-workers to save used copy paper and write on the back.  NOTE:  I consider this a requirement for my gardening.  If I don’t write down a tip or a “lesson learned”, I can easily forget what I learned and end up repeating my mistakes again and again and again.

A bit of inventiveness, a dollop of gumption and enough courage to try, fail and try again.

Here’s what would be nice to have if you move beyond dabbling in organic and decide to grow most of your produce every spring, summer and fall.  Bit of advice?  Before you buy any of these items, look on http://freecycle.org  or http://craigslist.org  to see if you can get them for free or cheap!

Peat pots – I use 2” and 4” peat pots and hate paying the price for them.  But they make transplanting easier for me and less stressful for the baby plants so I pay but I try to get them online rather than in a big box store where the price is always higher.

Raised beds – I make mine with 2 X 12s (NOT pressure treated) and plastic anchor joints from Home Depot.  They are so easy to do and won’t cost you $200, just a bit of sweat equity.

Raised beds are easy to make..

Raised beds are easy to make.

A kneeling pad – you can make one of these or buy one.  I’ve had my small green one for more than 15 years and it really, really saves your knees!

Gloves – I consider these nice to have because you really can dig in the dirt with your hands and suffer no ill effects.

But, in fact, I don’t use gloves because I love the feel of soil in my hands.

Two hand tools – both of mine are Fiskars because of the grip, the design and the lifetime guarantee — the big grip knife and the hand trowel.

A pitch fork – used to move the straw back from the fence sections a couple of weeks before planting so the soil can warm a bit.

A watering can – very nice to have if you want to hand water fresh transplants.

Fish fertilizer – I use Neptune’s Harvest hydrolyzed fish but am currently “brewing” my own using fish heads and bones that a friend of a friend got me for free, a 55 gallon drum and water!

Beneficial insects – there are quite a few beneficials and you can buy them.

Trichogramma wasp eggs on cutworm

Wasp eggs on cutworm

They may seem pricey, at first, but you don’t have to buy them often and you will truly be glad you did the first time you see a tomato cut worm trussed up like Gulliver and covered with small, white egg casings of the trichogamma wasp.

I bought nematodes and wasps 2 or 3 times when first establishing my garden but no longer need to buy them.  They live and work in my backyard.

A good pair of secateurs – hand held clippers that can cut through a 1” branch like it was butter.  These let you trim inside the bush not hack off the outer branches.

A garden club in your neighborhood.  Membership dues are usually low, ours is just $25 a year but you might enjoy some ideas and tips from your gardening neighbors. WARNING:  not everyone is organic so pick and choose who you listen to and what you are going to do.

If you decide you like gardening and want to get into it, here’s are a few more items I’ve learned to keep on hand to help make my gardening go a little easier:

A good bug book – this could be one of your larger expenses but, believe me, you will be grateful for putting out the cash.  Why?  There are a whole lot of good bugs in the garden that will do battle with the bad ones without you lifting a finger.  If you don’t know the good from the bad, you could be killing your soldiers and giving the enemy a chance to overrun the battlefield, i.e. your garden.

White vinegar and a big box of salt – it does not have to be iodized.  You’re just going to mix them together and use them to kill ants or a persistent weed like poison ivy or both.

A small propane torch – the handheld kind – I use this to burn tent caterpillars off my cherry trees.  It’s a bit brutal but it burns the nest and the caterpillars before they can strip my trees.

An old knife or pair of scissors nicked from the kitchen – nice to have on hand to cut baling twine and cut off produce rather than try to pull it off.  Having lost several battles with eggplant and peppers, I tend to keep a knife in my garden basket and use it with malice aforethought.

As I mentioned before, there are a couple of online resources that might also make it cheap and easy to get basic gardening equipment so before you buy, you might want to visit these sites:

www.craigslist.org – people are always selling fence sections, hand tools and possible trellis material at incredibly low prices.  Check the ads out before you lay down good money for a tool someone else bought but no longer wants or needs.

www.freecycle.org – I find this site painful but you will find free stuff on it so it’s almost worth it.  You have to be a member to see the posts.  And navigation is not just basic; it’s irritating.  But you will be able to pick up a lot of the “nice to haves” on Freecycle for…free.

 

Free Organic Gardening Book

If you ever wanted to learn all about organic gardening, the good, the bad and the ugly…just sign up for this blog and sit back.

Every week or so, I am going to upload a chapter of my organic gardening book which you can read for free!

Today, I am starting at the beginning…that would be Chapters 1 & 2 (the chapters are short) of Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us. Enjoy!

Chapter I – Why This Book

Organic gardening is easy, practical and cheap!

My all organic, backyard garden.

Remember when you decided you wanted to start a garden?  You told a friend, spouse, garden center guy and then got bombarded with miscellaneous stories of gardening disaster.  All that support really made you want to go out and start tilling the soil, right?

I hate it when I hear someone telling another would be gardener how hard it is to get things to grow or how easy it is to kill this vegetable or that one.  Why?  Because, instead of gardening, you probably wanted to run home, mix up your favorite drink and sit down with the remote control.

Too many people in the gardening business write or talk about how hard organic gardening is or how complicated it is.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to make people who read their articles or buy their books put down the shovel or rake and walk back into the house.

They’re lying!  Organic gardening is easy!  It’s cheaper than going the chemical route and it’s fun!

Organic gardening is so easy the lettuce practically grows itself.

Organic lettuce is easy to grow.

The truth is gardening can be as easy as you want to make it.  It’s all about what you want to grow.  Figure out what you want to plant, how many plants you want to put in, how large a garden space you want and what works in your planting zone.

One tip from someone whose motto is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”

Start small and only plant those crops you want.  Lettuce is so easy to grow that it practically raises itself! It’s a cool weather crop that loves early spring and late fall. And it helps save you $5.00 for organic greens in the store!

Think about it. Stores sell spring greens mix for $5.00 for 12 ounces.  Fifty two weeks of buying greens comes to just under $300.  You can raise enough for you and your significant other for less than $3.00 a year.

Some seeds, some dirt and some water, a little kindness and a lot of sunlight and you are on your way to creating your own organic garden.  So, dig in!

Reading This Book

Organic gardening tips

Organic gardening is so easy.

This book is designed so you can pick it up, look up a specific plant or bush and read about the good, the bad and the ugly for just that one selection.  Or you can read it cover to cover – starting at the back if you want to and working forward.

Why?

Because a lot of us gardeners aren’t very linear.  And many of us would rather “give it a go” than sit down and read about gardening.  So I tried to give you what you need, when you need it.

Want to raise blueberries?  Interested in saving your own seeds?  Want to get a handle

Organic gardening is easy.

Organic gardening is all about getting your hands dirty!

on techniques like composting, using organic fertilizers or even doing battle with Japanese beetles?  Check the Table of Contents and flip to the right page.

Want the back stories?  The pain of losing a loved one to Verticillium Wilt?

Make a cup of herbal tea, start here and just drift through the book, laughing, learning and, I hope, getting a powerful yen to get out there and get dirty.

 

PS – if you can’t find it in my book, I didn’t kill it.

 

Great List of Top Spring Yard Chores

Spring list of chores

Spring list of things to do!

Got a lot of energy now that Spring has sprung?

Looking for some ideas for a little outdoor fun?

Your backyard is waiting and Eartheasy has the perfect list of ways to spend some sweet hours in the dirt!

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. when it’s dry enough, ‘top dress’ beds.
    Top dress garden beds with compost or well-seasoned manure in preparation for planting. Resist the urge to dig the bed; established beds have a complex soil ecosystem which is best left undisturbed. Nutrients added from the top will work their way down into the soil.
  2. protect seedlings from hard frosts.
    Early spring plantings are vulnerable to hard frost which can set in overnight. If you expect a hard frost, cover seedlings overnight with anything you have on hand – an overturned bucket or cardboard box (with a rock on top) or large flower pot, a portable garden cloche, or a cold frame. I use old bushel baskets.
  3. apply horticultural oil sprays to pear and apple trees.
    Apply oil spray to pears just as the buds begin to swell and then again 10 days later to control pear psylla and pear leaf blister mite. Make a single application of oil on apple trees when a half-inch of green tissue is visible in developing buds.

All of these chores are ones that should be done early in Spring and with all that restless energy just looking for an outlet, now is the perfect time to get the tools, and your gloves and get outdoors.

Enjoy!

 

Zika Virus Protection & Tips

It’s early March. Why write about Zika Virus now?

I killed my first mosquito yesterday. It’s a bit early but, while occasionally cold, the frozen North hasn’t been all that frozen in 2017. And the news about the spread of Zika, for those of us in the Northeast, is not good – 6 cases in Maryland, already.

Aeses Aegypti carries Zika.

Aeses Aegypti carries Zika.

Sighting that first mosquito in March says it’s time to offer some information about the mosquito known as Aedes aegypti – the carrier for Zika, the same mosquito that carried dengue fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.

Before you dismiss this little pest because you’re not in your child-bearing years or you don’t have sex, keep in mind that the Zika virus can directly affect adult brain cells.

Zika also can make you sick, very sick. Here, in order of occurrence, according to Dr. Michael Callahan, the foremost authority on Zika and head of The Zika Foundation, are the symptoms of viral infection from Aedes Aegypti:

  1. A feeling of being unwell and/or having a chill with a touch of fever
  2. A high fever
  3. A headache in the upper frontal area of your head
  4. Myalgia or muscle aches in the lower back, upper legs and shoulders
  5. Conjunctivitis followed by reddening of the white of the eye, itself.
  6. A rash on the trunk first then possibly moving to the inside of the arm.

That’s not a nice symptom list but Aedes Aegypti has some tendencies that make it a bit easier for us to become more aware of and be more aggressive in protecting ourselves:

  1. The Aedes Aegypti is black and white – black with white scales on its legs – so keep an eye out for that pattern.
  2. This mosquito is a weak flier so it prefers to bite indoors! And it’s a day time biter, unlike its cousins.  So be on the lookout, indoors and kill mosquitoes you see.
  3. This mosquito uses silent flight – you won’t hear it buzzing your ears.
  4. Aedes Aegypti is aware of you looking at it and will hop off, “kettle” around your body and bite you on the back of your head, below the knees or on your feet.

Because of this mosquito’s unique lifestyle, all the pesticides being sprayed in your neighborhoods are a waste of money and a huge risk to your health. But you can protect yourself by using one of 3 repellents deemed safe for pregnant women and known to keep these mosquitoes off for up to 6 hours:

  1. DEET – your grandmother’s repellent
  2. Lemon of Eucalyptus – a newcomer but very effective
  3. Picardin – used by the DOD to protect soldiers

By the way, these repellents also work to repel ticks and fleas.

I can’t speak for you but I am really going to be on the lookout for these winged pests. If you want to arm yourself with more information about the Zika virus and how to keep yourself and your family safe, watch Dr. David Perlmutter’s interesting and in-depth interview with Dr. Michael Callahan of the Zika Foundation.

Want even more info? Visit the CDC for their in-depth information and tips on avoidiing all mosquito bites….not just Aedes Aegypti.

Photo courtesy of CDC/ Prof. Frank Hadley Collins, Dir., Cntr. for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Univ. of Notre Dame.

Tips for Fall Garden Clean Up

Green and organic garden in summer.

My garden in July, 2016.

T.S. Eliot got it wrong. April isn’t the cruelest month; it’s September. It’s the time of year when your garden goes from lush, green, verdant…

Tips for cleaning up your garden

Garden clean up in progress

To brown and gold broken up only by beets, Swiss chard, kale and lettuce.

Not only is the growing season drawing to a close for many of us…but it’s time to clean up!

I used to hate cleaning up my garden in the fall. When I  looked out my kitchen window and  saw more brown than green, I would grimace and think, “…next weekend.”  Inevitably, clean up kept getting pushed back by other, more pleasing events like the Brewfest in Kennett Square or the Hagley Car Show .
But not anymore.

Tomato horn worm eating tomatoes.

A tomato horn worm in my garden.

I’ve discovered that cleaning up is the perfect time to find unwanted visitors like the varmint that was eating my tomatoes. This fat and happy tomato horn worm is enjoying his last meal.

While tearing down my tomato trellises, I found a dozen of these beautiful but sinister worms as I cleaned up the tomato bed. But I also learned that all but 2 were covered with trichogramma wasp eggs, like the little fellow below.

Trichogramma wasp eggs on hornworm

Wasp eggs on hornworm

Fall cleaning, removing leaves, vines and stems, raking up fallen bits and pieces of this year’s green bean and tomato plants, all these activities help me get a jump-start on my garden next spring.

Garden Clean Up Tips
Anyone who has gardened for a few years has come up with their own tips and tricks for making garden clean up a bit easier.  Having 30 years of experience behind the hoe, I have discovered a few things that might make life easier for any organic gardener.

My first bit of advice? Be prepared.  When I go out to clean up, I always bring the tools I’ll need to make it easier.  So my tool bag (actually my wheel barrow) contains:

  1. Scissors – the knots you used to tie up tomatoes will be real tight after a summer of rain and heat.  Trying to pull them off just frustrates the gardener.
  2. Secateurs – if you try to cut back blackberries or blueberries without them, the chances are you’ll do more damage than good.  These small, sharp sheers can cut through up to an inch of stalk or wood and are always in my bag of tricks.
  3. Baling Twine – picked up at the stable and used to bundle all the leggy tomato, pepper and eggplant carcasses.
  4. A shovel – I sometimes need to coax some of the plants from the ground.  Eggplant and tomatoes get stems more than an inch in diameter and their roots can extend up to 10 feet from the base of the plant.  So, a bit of shovel power comes in handy.
  5. A rake – I prefer the good, old-fashioned garden rake because it’s heavier than a leaf rake and the tines won’t work against me as I rake up fallen tomatoes and peppers.
  6. A bucket – I use an empty kitty litter container and I use it to pick up all the green or rotten produce that hits the ground at the end of the season.
  7. Garden gloves – I consider these optional.  I always start out wearing them but, inevitably, rip them off about 30 minutes into clean up.  I like the way the dirt feels on my hands.  But the manicure does suffer so it’s up to you whether you wear them or not.
  8. Large trash bags – I didn’t use to bag any of my garden waste but I learned that trying to compost vines from tomatoes, zukes, cukes and even green beans meant giving diseases like wilt a head start next spring. It also meant providing warm, cozy homes for Mexican Bean beetles and cucumber and squash beetles among others.

Clearing The Ground
This is always the worst step for me.  I really hate pulling off tomato cages, cutting vines out of my fence sections and tearing up the roots of the dying plants.  But once I get started, I actually enjoy it!

Bag garden waste

My dogs helping me to bag .

I pull all plants (except perennials), shove the waste into bags and stack them on the edge of the garden. I know some people put their plant bodies in the compost but I don’t. Why not?

If you’re a slow composter like me, letting nature and God do the work for you, you probably shouldn’t put your garden detritus in the bins, either.  Seeds will germinate.  Diseases will survive.  When you spread your compost next year to welcome your new seedlings, you may be welcoming some very unwanted visitors.

One last task remains before you can move from clearing to covering.  If you grew tomatoes, grab a bucket and pick up all of the fallen tomatoes off the ground.  If you don’t you will have a whole lot of baby tomatoes to pull up next year.  This is a gooey task but well worth the effort.

Once the ground is cleared, it’s time to cover it. I use straw and a lot of it. It mulches the ground, protects perennials and annuals like garlic and beets and sets me up for weed free gardening in the spring.

I use about 40 bales of straw  to cover everything including the blueberry and blackberry patches, the vegetable garden, raised beds and asparagus.  That may sound like a lot but by next spring, the 18 inches of straw I lay down now will have settled and started to break down.

Bug Control – A Pre-emptive Strike
I offer one last bit of advice for wrapping up the growing season and getting ready for your garden next spring.

During the growing and harvesting season, I don’t use any bug control except what I detailed in Getting Bugged.  However, if it’s been a very bad year for Mexican bean beetles, Asian Beetles, Japanese Beetles and Stink Bugs, just before I cover my garden, I do spray the straw remaining from last year and the ground in my raised beds.

Before you gasp, click unsubscribe and cry, “…traitor,”  know that I use only one product — Pyola.    The active ingredient is pyrethrin which comes from chrysanthemums and is mixed with canola oil.  I use Pyola to control next year’s bugs by killing the larva that are now safely snuggled into my garden ground.

NOTE:  Pyrethrin is a contact poison which quickly penetrates the nervous system of the insect.  It will affect bees and some  beneficials so I wait until I have had two hard frosts to use it. I want to make sure there is no insect activity in the garden.   Also, pyrethrin is harmful to fish so if you have a pond or your garden borders on a stream, don’t use it at all.

Cornell University’s post on its ExToxNet provides a very thorough idea of what pyrethrin is, how it works and what it might do in the environment.  Read it before you use it so you’ll know if it will work in your garden.  And don’t use it if you don’t have to.

So that’s my version of garden clean up.  Clean up really isn’t that hard but I avoid it because it signals the end of the growing season and the approach of cold winds and falling leaves.    It also means time for dreaming and planning next year’s garden…