Read these 39 Organic Gardening, Planting,Diseases and Pests Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Garden tips and hundreds of other topics.
To save on waste and provide a nutritious soil amendment for your garden, consider making a home compost pile. This is a good way to recycle precious nutrients back into the earth. To make a compost pile that will break down quickly to form finished compost, you will need:
* Green materials, such as grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, and weeds. Green waste is high in nitrogen and helps heat up the compost pile fast.
* Brown materials, including dry leaves, straw and woody brush. Brown material is high in carbon.
* Enough moisture to keep the compost pile as damp as a wrung out sponge.
* Air to help build up more heat so that the material will decompose faster.
* A source of good bacteria to help break down the compost. A scoop of garden soil should be all you need, but you can also buy a compost activator.
Put all of your ingredients together in a pile of four to five cubic feet. A pile of this size heats up quickly in the center, reaching up to 140 degrees Farenheit. Turn your compost pile regularly to help it break down evenly.
What Are Beneficial Insects?
Beneficial insects are insects that provide a positive benefit to man. The simplest way to invite beneficial insects into your home or garden is to plant flowering plants. The primary insect that we consider beneficial is the Honey Bee, but there are thousands of other insects that are also very beneficial. The Honey Bee is valued because she is a pollinator and her work improves our crop yield for both commercial farmers and home gardeners. Pollinators, as a group, include butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and mammals such as bats and birds. Another group of beneficial insects is the predatory insects. These insects do an excellent job of keeping pest insect populations under control. Hemiptera is the scientific name given to true bugs, and these insects are mostly pests. They are identified by their mouth, which is piercing/sucking in nature. The Aphid is a Hemiptera and every gardener should be familiar with the damage that aphids cause. Stick Bugs are also Hemiptera, and they use their piercing sucking mouth to damage plants, vegetables, and fruit. The assassin bug is a beneficial Hemiptera that preys upon pests such as the aphid and the stick bug.
The Balance of Nature
The idea that needs to be conveyed to anyone who is hoping to attract beneficial insects to their yard or garden is that nature always finds a balance. In this case, it is important to define the role or benefit that insect will either hold or produce. If your garden is suffering from pests, then there is very little that you can do to attract an insect that will actually benefit from your pest population. This is why so many people turn to pesticides as a means of controlling pest insects. The problem with pesticides is that they are non-discriminating, and they kill off all of the insects, not just the pests. Say goodbye to the Honey Bee. There are, however, things that the gardener can do to help control pest populations. Lady bugs, which are actually beetles, (not bugs) can be purchased in the spring at local nurseries. Buy more than you think you will need for your garden because Lady Bugs migrate. This helps you because they will fly away to neighboring properties and begin to eat the pests that are there. That action will help you in the long-run because pest insects migrate toward food sources such as your garden. Another beneficial insect to consider is the Praying Mantis. This is a top line predator that eats larger insects such as Larvae, Beetles, Stink Bugs, Crickets and Grasshoppers, and have even been known to catch and eat rodents.
Know Your Pest
This brings us to another aspect or consideration of attracting beneficial insects. If you have a problem with aphids, the praying mantis is not going to help you. If you have a problem with pests that are larger than the Ladybug, then she is not going to help you. Use this information to your advantage when purchasing beneficial insects. These types of beneficial insects are called Biological Controls and their jobs are to hunt and destroy pests.
The Relationship Between Insects and Plants
If the beneficial insects that you are trying to attract are pollinators, then the easiest way to do this is to purchase a package of seeds designed to attract beneficial insects. Another way is to do your research and find out what types of plants each insect prefers. Many insects have evolved to include a specific relationship with plants. The Monarch Butterfly, for example is very picky about where she lays her eggs. She only lays her eggs on the Milkweed plant. This type of relationship is called co-evolution and it simply means that the insect and the plant have developed together into their present forms via that relationship. If you are making a planting specifically for beneficial insects, think about where you are going to put it. Look for an area where the plants could be allowed to go to seed and left standing throughout the winter. This will give the eggs the beneficial insects lay the best chance of survival.
Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects:
Plants such as asters, daisies, and goldenrods are excellent sources of nectar for beneficial insects. Mint, fennel, and dill are just a few of the herbs that attract beneficial insects.
The seven best plants, to grow in your garden, to attract beneficial insects are Centaurea cyanus, commonly known as Bachelor's Buttons, Lobularia maritima commonly known as Sweet Alyssum, Borago officinalis commonly known as Borage, Silphium perfoliatum commonly known as Cup Plant, Agastache foeniculum commonly known as Anise Hyssop, Anthemis tinctoria commonly known as Golden Marguerite and Foeniculum vulgare commonly known as Fennel.
Bachelor's Buttons is an old time cottage garden plant that many people still grow in their garden today. The seeds can be direct sown in early spring. It is an annual that sometimes re-seeds. This plant attracts flower flies, ladybugs, lacewings, and beneficial wasps. The best part is the beneficial insects can get nectar from the leaves on this plant, so it serves a purpose even when it is not in bloom.
Sweet Alyssum is known for attracting flower flies, which feed on aphids. It is a quick growing ground cover that not only helps smother weeds but is highly fragrant. In some climates, it will re-seed.
Borage is an edible herb with beautiful blue star shaped flowers, but use some caution as too much of this plant for human consumption is not a good thing. It can be deadly, in fact. For beneficial insects, especially green lacewings, borage is the plant to have. Studies in Switzerland have shown that as many as 100 beneficial insects can be found in just one square foot of borage plants. If you must choose just one plant to grow to attract beneficial insects, pick Borage.
The advantage of growing Cup Plant in your garden is because the leaves wrap around the plant in such a way that a natural water reservoir is made. This gives both birds, and beneficial insects an easy source of water in the garden and best of all nature will maintain this source so it will be less work for you.
In addition to the licorice scented leaves, Anise Hyssop has flowers that are very rich in nectar making this plant attractive to butterflies and beneficial insects.
Attract ladybugs, lacewings, flower flies tachinid flies and mini-wasps to your garden by planting Golden Marguerite. This plant grows well in poor soils. To get the maximum amount of flowers be sure to keep this plant deadheaded.
Besides being a host plant to the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar, Fennel flowers are known to attract a wide variety of nectar eating beneficial insects. The leaves, seeds and bulb of the plant are edible. Fennel has ferny like foliage in green or bronze, so it is an attractive plant to grow in your garden.
If you are wondering what a beneficial insect garden may look like, be sure to view this short clip on beneficial insect gardens - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjly6GoS_ng
There are many recipes for homemade aphid spray. You may want to try this recipe for organic aphid spray:
1. Peel two oranges and place the peel in a pot filled with four cups of boiling water.
2. Cover the pot and simmer the orange peel for 15 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat and allow the orange peel to steep for 24 hours.
To use the aphid spray, spray it directly on any of your plants that have aphid problems.
Goldfinches love feeding on black oil sunflower seeds, so you may want to plant a row of cheerful sunflowers near the back of your garden bed. They also really enjoy eating the seeds of the coneflower. During the winter months, supplement their diet with a feed sock filled with black thistle seeds.
Human or animal hair is an excellent fertilizer and can be used in the garden. It is high in nitrogen and is quite beneficial to plants. However, hair is very slow to break down and may literally sit in your garden for years. Some people use human hair in the vegetable garden to help repel wild animals.
Organic amendments are a wonderful way to provide your plants with a slow, steady stream of necessary nutrients. In fact, many organic fertilizers provide trace elements that are sometimes hard to find in commercially prepared compounds. Even better, organic fertilizers such as compost, steer manure, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal and liquid fish emulsion can actually improve the soil's texture and water retention abilities, as well.
If you have a limited amount of composting space in the garden, consider worm composting, also known as vermiculture. With worm composting, you can even compost in your garage. In fact, since most people who practice vermiculture feed their worms a diet that consists mainly of kitchen scraps, the garage is a great location for these compost bins.
When purchasing plants from a nursery or garden center, inspect them for signs of insect infestation before you leave the store. At least 90% of all pests are transported to the garden on new plants. It is a good idea to take a hard look at the leaves and stems of new plants before you bring them into the garden.
If your soil has a buildup of heavy metals in it, you may want to try planting the alpine pennyroyal. This plant absorbs large amounts of heavy metals from the soil. Although classified as a weed, alpine pennyroyal may just be a great solution to cleaning up earth that is contaminated with heavy metals.
If you have a garden that is used for vegetables like tomatoes, corn, squash and cucumbers, give your planting areas a rest by rotating crops. In the Fall, after harvest, rototil the planting site and lay down newspaper. Dampen the paper and cover it with several inches of compost and chopped leaves. On top of this, add three to four inches of fresh topsoil. Earthworms will help work these nutrients into the tired earth.
A second popular method of replenishing the soil is to grow a cover crop, such as alfalfa, and then rototil it into the earth.
Try top dressing your plants with finished compost instead of digging it into the soil around the plants. Top dressing plants has several benefits, including:
* Plant roots are less likely to be burned by the nutrients in compost, since the nutrients are gradually absorbed into the soil.
* Since you won't be digging in the soil close to your plants, their roots will not be disturbed.
* The compost will act as mulch and will help retain moisture in the soil.
If you are spending more money on mulch than on new plants, you may want to simply try using less mulch. To control weeds, try placing a layer of newspaper on top of the soil before you spread the mulch. This way, you can spread a much thinner layer of mulch and still keep weeds from growing. Even better, the newspaper will eventually decompose and enrich the soil.
If you are having trouble with your compost pile, you may want to consider buying a compost thermometer. This helps you take the guesswork out of wondering if the pile is heating up properly.
Compost thermometers are also a useful way for you to tell when the temperature inside the compost pile has stabilized, which means that the compost is ready to be used.
The key to controlling weeds organically is to use a two to three inch layer of mulch. Mulch will keep weeds from sprouting in the first place. This way, a short visit each day to gently pluck the lightly rooted weeds that have managed to grow is all you need to do to stay weed-free.
If you want to encourage birds to nest in your birdhouse, try providing nesting materials. Fill a basket, mesh onion bag or small box with narrow grasses, fine strips of bark, thistle, burlap or milkweed. Hang the container in a sheltered location, protected from rain and cats. Your offering will be used by our feathered friends for nest building.
In order to decompose, compost must heat up. The hotter the pile gets, the faster it breaks down into compost. The ideal temperature is between 110 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
A pile will heat up naturally when the right ingredients are added. You should add several inches of brown material and then several inches of green material in alternating layers until your compost pile reaches four to five cubic feet.
If you turn the compost pile frequently, it will continue to stay hot until it breaks down. It should take about two weeks for your compost pile to be ready to be used in the garden.
If you want a more portable alternative to the regular compost bin, you may want to take a look at plastic compost bins. These bins can easily be moved around the garden from one spot to another.
Since portable compost bins are small, enclosed spaces, they really can help compost break down rapidly. A properly designed model doesn't even need to have the compost turned like traditional compost bins do.
Organic fertilizers cause less pollution than chemical fertilizers. They are also are safe to use around children and pets. These fertilizers break down slowly and are not as strong as chemical fertilizers. Some popular organic fertilizers are: fish emulsion, manure, bone meal, blood meal and kelp.
You may not want to use bone meal or blood meal around areas that raccoons or dogs visit, as they are attracted to the scent.
You can create your own free mulch with Autumn leaves. Simply rake all your leaves into a row. Lay a long tarp beside the leaves. Run your lawnmower over the leaves so that it chops them up and blows them onto the tarp. You now have instant mulch. Simply dress your flower and vegetable beds with a three to four inch layer of leaf mulch. As the leaves break down, they will add valuable nutrients to the soil.
Organic gardens are simply gardens that have plants that are grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Although growing vegetables and fruits organically can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, it is well worth the effort. Organic gardening is:
* Healthier for you and your family, since there is no chemical residue on organically grown produce.
* Better for the environment because there is no chemical runoff from your gardens to local waterways.
* Great for local wildlife, since many insects and birds are suffering from a buildup of pesticides in their tiny bodies.
You can make your own organic pest control spray using simple household ingredients. Before you use one of these sprays, test it twenty four hours beforehand on just a few leaves of the infected plant. If the leaves look wilted or discolored the next day, you may not want to use the spray on that particular plant. With that in mind, here are several popular organic insect control spray recipes:
* Into a 1 quart spray bottle, put 1 drop lemon dish soap, 1 capful mint mouthwash and water. Spray any infested leaves thoroughly in the early morning or late evening hours.
* Run tobacco, onion skins and garlic cloves through your blender. Pour the mixture into a gallon jar and let it age for 1 to 2 days. This recipe may be stinky, but it works fairly well.
You should do your best to keep your garden clean and free of debris. When you clean up your garden, you can:
* Control black spot and other rose diseases that can by spread from diseased leaves and stems that are left on the garden soil.
* Keep insects and fungi under control by removing fall leaves, which can actually provide a place for these pests to live.
* Prevent young plants from being smothered by heavy debris.
Covering your compost bin is a good idea if you want to help the ingredients break down faster. The lid will retain some of the heat your pile has generated instead of letting it all simply escape into the air. In addition, in hotter weather, covering a compost pile will help retain much needed moisture, while covering the pile in the winter can help you keep it from becoming too soggy.
If your blue hydrangeas are looking a bit pink, they may need some aluminum sulfate. Blueberries that aren't fruiting also need this essential nutrient. In fact, all acid loving plants, including azaleas and gardenias, benefit from an application of aluminum sulfate. This amendment also can help prevent yellowing leaves.
An attractive compost container can be made from recycled materials. One popular type of container is one that is made with four recycled pallets. If you don't have access to pallets, another method is to build four simple frames and cover them with chicken wire. Secure three of the frames or pallets into a “U” shaped structure and fasten the fourth section to the structure on one side with hinges. Add a clasp to keep the compost container closed.
The earthworm has amazing "strength" when you consider that it has the power to move stones that weigh 50 times as much as it does. Earthworms can also ingest soil and organic matter equal to the amount of their body weight each day.
In the garden, earthworms are most important for their ability to aerate the soil. These tiny creatures can help turn hard clay dirt into rich, workable soil.
Manure tea is a rich source of nutrients and a great way to perk up droopy plants. To make this organic fertilizer, scoop 2 shovels full of manure into an old crock or barrel filled with water. Let the mixture brew for 2 to 3 days and then strain the tea into a watering can. Apply this liquid fertilizer to your plants.
Placing your compost bin in a shady spot, requires some special consideration. In order to ensure that the pile reaches the optimum temperature of 120 degrees, you may need to use a compost activator. To help maintain the proper temperature, you will need to turn your pile more often than you would if it was located in a sunny spot. In addition, you should add green material to the compost pile each time you turn it. Even after all of these extra measures, you will probably notice that compost in a shady location takes much longer to break down.
Never add meat or dairy products to the compost heap. These products will not decompose properly and the compost pile will develop an unpleasant odor. Also, meat and dairy products could attract animal pests.
You can safely compost any plant based materials, such as:
* Vegetable scraps, including stems, leaves, and peelings.
* Woody plant stems, as long as they are no thicker than a pencil.
* Leaves, although too many oak leaves can make the compost acidic.
* Grass clippings, which break down quickly and help heat up the pile.
* Human hair, which contains .
* Crushed egg shells, which are a great source of nutrients, but they do decompose slowly.
* Tea leaves and coffee grounds, which can also be sprinkled directly on the soil.
Instead of dragging your Christmas tree to the curb this year, why not recycle it instead? During the long, cold winter months, you can place the tree in a secluded spot to shelter wildlife. When the weather warms, you can use a mulcher to turn your Christmas tree into pine mulch, which you can spread on your garden beds. If you don't have a mulcher, check with your local sanitation department to see if there is a program in place to mulch homeowners' Christmas trees.
Because of their high carbon content, leaves can take anywhere from five months to two years to compost by themselves. However, leaves will compost much more quickly if they are chopped up before they are composted. You should also be sure that the moisture in the compost bin is adequate and that the pile is turned frequently to ensure a good supply of oxygen. Once they finally break down, leaves make wonderful compost.
If you exercise a bit of vigilance, you can control pests before they become an infestation. If you see Japanese beetles on your roses, remove them immediately. If you see a hornworm on the tomatoes, pick it off and destroy it. A few minutes of prevention every day can save you from having to use any kind of pest control.
When you are considering organic products, be a savvy consumer. Don't rush out to purchase the latest organic pest or disease control product without doing a bit of research. Read labels, look up information and get some input from other consumers before you make a purchase. Just because a product is labeled organic, that doesn't make it safe.
If you have a few square feet of garden that you can spare, a worm bin can be easily set up on it. Just nail together a few boards into a square configuration, or cut the bottom off some sort of square container. Basically, you're just looking for four walls, at least 10 inches deep, which will hold their shape if they get wet. Now find something that will serve as a roof or lid, to keep the rain off. Bingo, you're done!
Scrape the soil flat in the garden where you're going to put your worm bin, and set your bottomless box on the soil. The worms won't try to get away. Now add some moist bedding material, which can be the black and white pages from newspaper, or portions of plain brown cardboard boxes. Wring out this material in water to give the worms the moisture they need.
Red wiggler (composting) worms can be ordered year-round through sellers on eBay. Once your worms arrive, put them all together into the bedding, and add some kitchen scraps. You can monitor the rate at which they consumer their food, and add more when they're getting low. It takes a few months for them to transform your leftover food waste, but their rate of consumption will increase as their population grows.
When the worms have produced a bin full of rich black compost for your garden, you can move it all to one side of the bin and add fresh bedding and food to the empty side. Then, after waiting for several days, the worms will have moved into the new area of their box and you will be able to harvest the compost.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|