With the growing evidence that chemical pesticides are harmful to human health, many gardeners are looking for smart, organic solutions for pest control. Most problem pests can be controlled naturally, eliminating the need for toxic pesticides or harmful chemicals. We provide the information – and experience – to help you maintain a beautiful, chemical-free yard and garden that’s healthy for you, your family and the environment.
Dealing with melon pests and disease problems… organically.
After our last column, a friend pointed out that she didn’t have trouble getting melons to pollinate. Her problem was with blights and mildew. It’s true that melons are a bit difficult to grow because of their susceptibility to molds and certain insects, especially when you’re trying to grow them in cooler, damp climates. Any trouble growing melons is well worth it once they reach the table. The cantaloupes, watermelons and other melons now coming into our stores from warmer climates just don’t hold a candle to a juicy, sweet, homegrown melon.
Finding the proper natural or organic cures for these melon problems can be difficult. Mulching is great for issues caused by uneven watering. But mulch can provide places for pests including squash bugs and cucumber beetles to lay eggs. These pesky critters not only consume melon plants but spread disease and wilt. Melon leaves can be burned by insecticidal soap and liquid copper sprays, two common, organic-approved solutions for bugs and mildew. They should only be used in the most diluted form possible. Other problem solvers — like using row covers to shield plants from insects — are great ideas until you need the help of pollinators. Any successful melon growing regimen begins even before you start them in your garden. (more…)
America’s largest shopping mall, The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, is as well known for its attractions — an indoor amusement park! an eco-park! — as it is for its collection of retail stores. It also has some 30,000 plants and 400 live trees, some as tall as 35 feet, growing inside its spacious confines. So how do they prevent an infestation of harmful insects? You don’t want to spray and endanger the 40 million visitors the Mall sees each year.
What do they do at the mall? Take a hint from greenhouses around the country and release ladybugs (also known as lady beetles). The mall recently unleashed 72,000 of the hungry critters to help control aphids and other pests. Fears that they might go after the treats shoppers carry around or enjoy in the food courts are unfounded. The bugs stick almost exclusively to plants and are only interested in getting their meals on the hoof (so to speak). Even in a space as large as the mall — it’s claimed that seven Yankee Stadiums would fit inside — the ladybugs are confined. If they finish the pests in one area and move on looking for more prey, they’ll still be inside the mall. (more…)
Enough Fault To Go Around: It’s been pointed out that the “Farmers Assurance Provision,” popularly known as the Monsanto Protection Act, was signed by President Obama into law last Tuesday. This hasn’t earned the President any fans among those resisting the use of GMOs in our foods.
As some have pointed out, the bill was mostly about the continuing budget resolution to keep the government afloat and included the Violence Against Women Act and State Nutritional Assistance Program (though neither of those was kept secret and anonymously offered as was the Monsanto Protection Act). Your politically frustrated Planet Natural Blogger — I’m sure I have a lot of company here — thinks that riders of this type should stand alone, that attaching them to budget bills is a hoodwink and/or form of blackmail. Protect Monsanto or the whole country goes down! Shame on us all. (more…)
It’s no secret. For years, we’ve known that bird species in America’s farmlands and grasslands have been in steep decline. The assumption was that this was due to habitat removal caused by agricultural expansion and the spread of cities into land once devoted to farming. Now a new study from Canada not only confirms the bird decline but challenges the commonly held wisdom. What’s doing away with all those birds? Pesticides.
News sources both large and small have called attention to the study. You can read it here (PDF). A 2009 interview with the study’s leader, Dr. Pierre Mineau, can be found here. Take away quote: “What I find really shocking is when a company does studies that show significant impacts and then continues to market the pesticide around the world. Take granular carbofuran. The first time they did the tests for the EPA they found 799 dead birds of a single species (a lark) in a few fields. Other species were affected also but not in such numbers. Nevertheless, it took about 15 years for that product to be removed from North America – it continues to be used worldwide.” (more…)
I’m recalling one of the great sights of spring gardening this cold February night: working the soil for the first time and having birds descend to pick out the slow moving grubs that had been hiding under the earth. Sure, the birds got a valuable earthworm or two, but not so many that it would dent the population. Those worms began to tunnel back almost as soon as daylight hit them. And many were still buried deep — very deep — where my turning fork couldn’t yet reach them. But those grubs, twisting and turning on top of the freshly spaded clods. They made for easy pickings.
Of course, that got me thinking about watching birds work the garden in the summer, feasting on insects, caterpillars, and whatever else they can find. (more…)
Your industrious Planet Natural Blogger has been reading up on beneficial insects lately for a project he’s doing and has been reminded of several things. First of all, how important the role of beneficial insects is; yes to the organic gardener with pest problems but also to the environment at large. Secondly — and sadly — the effect of pesticides on predatory and parasitic insects. Now it’s not as if we need reminding of that last fact. But it underscores the extent of the consequences pesticide applications carry. And it calls to mind the balance, both the one naturally occurring in the environment and the one organic gardeners try to establish in their garden by introducing beneficial insects when called for. (more…)
How to grow, feed, and care for these lovely carnivorous indoor plants.
By Kim Haworth
I know this will sound stupid, but I’m sitting in my office weeping into my keyboard because some damn fool stole my Venus Fly Traps. I adored them, and now they are gone. These adorable little plants did everything but talk back to me. All through the summer, they caught everything from yellow jackets to beetles to those big mosquito eaters. I would stop for my morning visit and see the leaves shaking furiously, accompanied by ghastly buzzing. The little plants held onto their prey like grim death. There were even some volunteer Sundews that grew in the same pots with the fly traps and they were absolute murder on the ant population. The little executioners captured everything except spiders, which I have the feeling were too smart to fall for their lures. I have never had plants that gave me so much pleasure, and now they’re with somebody who doesn’t know how to care for them. (more…)
How to properly use beneficial insects to control garden pests.
Although chemical pesticides are widely used in many agricultural systems, the complete reliance on chemicals is no longer a feasible approach to pest control for the following reasons:
The major disadvantage which continues to erode the effectiveness of conventional insecticides is the ability of the pests to develop resistance. Approximately 500 insects and related pests (mites) have shown resistance. In fact, some cannot be controlled with today’s chemical arsenal.
Secondary Pest Problem
Even chemicals which are effective against pests often kill or interfere with beneficial insects and other organisms. The situation created then allows an insect (not the usual pest, but another insect taking advantage of the available food) to rapidly increase in number since no predators are in the field to prevent the population explosion. Sometimes the resulting (long-term and economic) damage is greater by the secondary pest than by the pest originally targeted. (more…)
Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home, Your house is on fire, your children all gone.
Most of us know that classic rhyme from childhood, but adults, particularly gardeners, have a new-found appreciation of the humble ladybug. That’s because certain species, including the most common one – Hippodamia convergens – prey on pests. There’s at least one Internet website that refers to ladybugs as the “Tyrannosaurus Rex” of the Insect World because of its predator tendencies.
Like many insects or animals, ladybugs, while useful, are misnamed. It isn’t a bug, but a beetle. Beetle lore has it that the ladybird beetle – as it’s known in Europe – was named after the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages. Today they are native to almost all parts of North America with approximately 400 different species with 98 of them residing in Florida along with retirees and other lovers of sunshine. Worldwide, entomologists have identified some 4,500 species. (more…)
Take the Planet Natural true or false test and find out how much you know about beneficial insects. It’s also a fun way to learn more about how “good bugs” can help you grow a better garden.
1. Beneficial insects only dine on other insects. True or False
False. Insects. It’s not just what’s for dinner for beneficial insects. Depending on their life cycle, beneficial insects spend time where they exclusively eat nectar and pollen. This is important to know if you want to keep beneficials healthy. You need to ensure an adequate supply of all food types for beneficial insects to keep them strong. Treat them well by growing what’s known as “insectary plants.” Hedge rows work, but if you don’t have the space, consider planting a border of dwarf fruit and flowering trees mixed with flowering shrubs and perennials. Other insectary plants include fennel, angelica, coriander, dill and wild carrot. (more…)