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Archive for the ‘Garden Pests’ Category

Gardening Without Pests

Deer and raccoons, rabbits and gophers, moles and chipmunks! They capture your heart when in a book or zoo, but when they invade your garden. Oh! That’s a different story. Yet how can a rabbit resist munching on your crisp lettuce? Or a possum or raccoon stay away from your sweet corn patch? And your berries will always be attractive to a squirrel.

Fending off the various animals that want to enjoy both your flower and vegetable gardens can be both time consuming and frustrating. Learning how to chase them off without poisoning both them and your vegetables remains a crucial part of being a good gardener. As scientists begin to realize the damaging effects of pesticides and other poisons on the human body, the use of toxic methods needs to be carefully considered, and then rejected.

Birds are a bird-watchers delight and somewhere between a mild and major nuisance to the gardeners. They actually do less harm than the four-legged animals. Birds have a number of natural enemies, so you can scare the birds by fooling them into thinking their enemies are around.

A humming line made of very thin nylon will vibrate and hum in even the slightest breeze. It’s inaudible to us, but heard by the birds. This works well with strawberries. Unusual noises can be created with aluminum pie plates loosely tied to stakes or leaving a radio on at night. Installing some blinking lights, hawk-like balloons or kites that mimic larger birds can also be effective. And of course, the two old stand-by – scarecrows, or a dog or cat – always help out with the bird problem. Because birds and other animals need a source of drinking water, eliminate any standing water near the garden.

Night time is prowl time for the four-legged pests. Each animal has a distinctive footprint and each has its favorite delicacy to munch on. Many of them, such as deer and raccoons, can be eliminated by putting an electric fence or other barrier around the garden. Pocket gophers can be stopped by putting a fence made of hardware cloth two feet below and two feet above the surface of the garden.

A chicken-wire fence works the best for rabbits, but the holes need to be 1” or smaller. Those young rabbits aren’t very big. To keep the mice from eating your fruit tree’s bark, sink wire mesh or ¼” hardware cloth several inches into the ground around the fruit trees.

How can you tell which animal is doing the munching during the night? Footprints are one way. Another is to place about 10 marshmallows out in one spot where the animal has been feeding. Cats won’t eat the marshmallows. Raccoons and skunks will eat all of them in one sitting.

Possums will only eat one or two, and then come back later for another one. Some animals will only be eliminated by being caught in a trap. After they are caught be sure to take them at least one mile away and release them in a natural habitat. And, be careful not to get bitten. Rabies is a reality among wild animals.

Gardening saturates one with a feeling of accomplishment and peace. The joy of picking your fresh vegetables right before dinner can hardly be matched by any other activity. Well, perhaps the fragrance of your freshly picked flowers can compete!

Ease Bug Bites with Easy Herbs

Summertime means insect bites and stings. Ouch! Take a leaf from Susun S. Weed’s storehouse of natural remedies: Soothe, heal, and prevent bites with safe herbal remedies that grow right where you live: north or south, east or west, city or country. The best natural remedies for insect bites are right underfoot.

Plantain, also called ribwort, pig’s ear, and the band-aid plant, is a common weed of lawns, driveways, parks and playgrounds. Identify it by the five parallel veins running the length of each leaf. (Most leaves have a central vein with smaller ones branching out from it.) You may find broad leaf plantain (Plantago majus), with wide leaves and a tall seed head, or narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata), with long thin leaves and a small flower head that looks like a flying saucer. Many Plantago species have seeds and leaves that can be used as food or medicine. A South American variety (Plantago psyllium) is used to make Metamucil.

How to use plantain? Make a fresh leaf poultice. Pick a leaf, chew it well and put it on the bite. “Like magic” the pain, heat, and swelling – even allergic reactions – disappear, fast! (Yes, you can dry plantain leaves and carry them in your first aid kit. Chew like you would fresh leaves.)

Poultices ease pain, reduce swelling, and help heal. No wonder they’re the number one natural choice for treating insect bites, bee and wasp stings.

  • Mud is the oldest and simplest poultice. Powdered white clay, which should be mixed with a little water or herb tea, can be applied directly to the sting as soon as possible. Clay can be kept on hand at all times and is less likely to contain fungal spores than the real thing. Finely ground grains such as rice or oatmeal, or bland starchy substances like mallow root, grated potato, or arrowroot powder are also used as soothing poultices to ease itching and pain from insect bites.
  • Fresh-herb poultices are a little more complicated, but not by much. Just find a healing leaf, pluck it, chew it, and apply it directly to the sting/bite. If you wish, use a large leaf or an adhesive bandage to hold the poultice in place. Plantain, comfrey (Symphytum uplandica x), yellow dock (Rumex species), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), wild mallow (Malva neglecta), chickweed (Stellaria media), and yarrow are only a few of the possibilities.

In the woods, you can take a leaf from a tree, chew it and apply that to the bite. Any tree will do in an emergency, but if you have a choice, the best leaves are those from witch hazel, willow, oak or maple. Play it safe: learn to recognize witch hazel (Hamamelis virginia) and willow (Salix species) leaves before you chew on them. Maple (Acer) or oak (Quercus) leaves are easier to recognize and safer to chew – unless you live where poison oak grows. If uncertain, avoid all shrubs and any trees with slick or shiny leaves. If the leaf you are chewing tastes extremely bitter or burns your mouth, spit it out at once.

To repel ticks, mosquitoes, and black flies, try a diluted tincture of yarrow (Alchellia millefolium) flowers directly on all exposed skin. A recent US Army study showed yarrow tincture to be more effective than DEET as an insect repellent.

If you’ve spent the day in an area where lyme disease is common, take a shower right away and scrub yourself with a bodybrush. Have a friend check you out for ticks. Also, it takes the tick some time to make up its mind where to bite, so most are unattached and will wash off.

“If the worst happens and I do get a bite, I help my immune system by taking a daily dose of 2-6 dropperfuls of Echinacea tincture. I avoid Goldenseal as I believe it could have adverse effects. If I have symptoms, I use a dropperful of St. Joan’s wort (Hypericum) tincture three times a day to ensure the lyme’s organism is inactive.”

Earthworms In The Garden / Earthworm Facts

Notice the lowly earthworm, squirming away, going about its everyday business. Simple creatures you may think but they have quite a important use in the garden. Did you know the earthworms are nature’s first gardeners? They don’t exist just for kids to eat and fishermen to use as bait :)

Some Basic Earthworm Facts

Earthworms are present in almost every type of soil but the healthier the soil the greater the numbers. A healthy soil permits lots of air and moisture, both of which are needed by the earthworm for a continued existence. Earthworms have no lungs like you or me but instead breathe through their skin. Their whole skin absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. They also need moisture to assist them in respiration but too much moisture is not good for them.

There are four types of earthworm that you may run into:

Nightcrawlers: 8 to 10 inches long and the fisherman’s favourite.
Garden Worms: 5 to 7 inches long and found commonly in damp soils.
Manure Worms: 4 to 5 inches long and found in manure rich soils.
Red Worms: 3 to 4 inches long and the most commercially available.

Why Earthworms in the Garden?

A garden without earthworms would miss out on all of the great benefits that they bring to it. Their first job is to till the soil by tunneling through it. Tunnels created allow air and moisture to pass easily through the soil, creating a healthy environment for plants. Tunnels retain water that the plants can take up and also hold air to help bacteria break down organic matter within the soil.

After digestion earthworms produce excrement about the size of a pin head. This excrement is called “castings” or “vermicompost” and is an excellent soil conditioning material. It improves properties of the soil such as porosity and moisture retention, aids plant growth and helps in the fight against pests and diseases.

Increasing Earthworm Population in the Garden

How does one go about increasing the number of earthworms in their garden soil? Well the best way to do so is to add more organic matter to the soil. Earthworms cannot get enough of the stuff.and will seek it out wherever they can find it.

Finally…

The earthworm is just as important to the garden as the gardener that maintains it because they till the soil and add a soil conditioner in the form of castings. They are as much a gardener as you are. The next time you see one wiggling on the ground in front of you bend down and say “got any good gardening tips?” You never know it may answer :)

I will leave the final word to a one Charles Darwin who once had this to say about the earthworm:

“The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed, the land was in fact regularly plowed and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.”

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