6 Green Ways to Protect Vegetables From Common Pests

It is very fulfilling to actually reap what you sow, so to speak. But gardening is daunting to many people, especially city-dwellers, because they often worry that they do not have enough space to plant a garden.

Today however there are so many new ways to grow your own plants even in very small spaces that anyone can do it. The challenge is to protect plants from common garden pests because being too close together makes it easier for bugs to infest your entire garden.

How to Protect Your Garden from Damaging Bugs

Learn about companion planting.

Companion planting is the process of having different kinds of plants that are beneficial to each other. Here, one plant helps in deterring an insect that affects the other, and vice versa. Companion planting also helps increase productivity, and it encourages pollination apart from helping in pest control. Here are a few good pairings: asparagus and tomatoes; beans and eggplant; basil and peppers; garlic and cucumbers; and lavender and squash, to name a few.

Use sticky traps.

Sticky or glue traps aren’t only for catching flies or mice. These can also be used to entrap pesky bugs. For these to be effective, traps must remain sticky and these can be placed in between plants. Traps can also be placed in a standing position or suspended in between tall vegetables.

Make it a habit to water plants early.

If you water plants early, you allow the moisture that has been trapped on the leaves to evaporate completely. So, by nightfall, the plants are relatively dry yet the soil is still moist. When the leaves are dry, these are better protected from rotting and so the plants won’t easily attract all sorts of insects.

Use biological pest control methods.

There are various ways to eliminate bugs using biological methods. Such techniques make use of other insects that are beneficial to plant growth, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and hover-flies. Fungus and bacteria, like Bacillus Thuringiensis, as well as parasitic nematodes are also commonly used.

Make your own homemade remedy.

Once you notice that your seedlings are keeling over for no apparent reason or if you see for yourself that there are insects crawling all around your vegetable garden, consider making your own homemade solution, which could include cayenne, garlic and other natural ingredients, and you can use this to eliminate bugs.

It’s very important to properly identify the insect that you want to get rid of so that you can concoct the right remedy to kill or keep away the pest. Identification can be hard or even impossible if you are not trained. So, you can ask a pest control expert for assistance.

Get help from pest control companies that use organic methods.

Deciding to hire a pest control company doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re willingly exposing your vegetables to dangerous chemical pesticides. Many pest control groups today use organic pesticides which are less toxic and less damaging to the environment.

5 Organic Gardening Tips From Natural Food Chefs

Gardening is a wonderful way to get in touch with nature and also grow healthy plants and vegetables for your kitchen. Choosing to grow an organic garden can help to protect the environment from harmful chemicals and toxins and protect your body from those harsh chemicals in traditionally grown foods. If you want to start your own organic garden, consider these tips from natural food chefs for strong, healthy plants that provide you and your family with delicious foods and meals.

Choose organic seeds when planting an organic garden. These seeds are harvested from certified organic crops. This means they are not treated with harmful chemicals such as fungicides, synthetic pesticides or damaging fertilizers. Because these plants have to rely on their own natural defenses in order to thrive, they are typically much stronger. To stay strong, they need to develop deep roots to absorb nutrients from the soil meaning you will have plants that are larger and much more nutritious.

Use organic manure and compost to fertilize your soil in your organic garden because they do not have damaging chemicals in them like ammonium phosphate. Synthetic soil does not break down quickly and so it often contaminates soil and water in your area significantly and with damaging effects. In addition, these chemicals can be damaging to your skin and your own health over time is consumed. Instead, organic fertilizers release nutrients much more slowly meaning your vegetables and fruits will receive nutrients over a drastically longer period of time, allowing them to absorb vitamins and minerals and become more nutritious for your consumption in the meals and dishes you prepare in the kitchen.

When gardening, you will undoubtedly deal with pesty weeds. If you are growing organic foods, you should also make sure to kill weeds in a more natural way. Common weed killers are dangerous for you to ingest and can also be quite harmful to pets and animals that may be in your yard. They can cause throat irritation and other illnesses. To kill them naturally, you can boil water and vinegar or purchase an organic herbicide.

Pair plants with other companion plants. This is called intercropping and it can be quite effective in your organic garden. Specific plants are helpful to others because they can help to deter damaging insects, attract helpful bugs, add fertilizing elements, provide shade, and more. Marigolds, for example can kill nematodes in the soil and help to kill the strongest of weeds in your garden. This is a natural way to improve the quality of your garden significantly.

Stay away from synthetic pesticides. These pesticides may work to deter bugs; however, it comes at a price. Synthetic pesticides include chemicals like triacizide and carbaryl. Most pesticides attack the nervous systems of insects and bugs and they are very toxic to insects like bees. This means they also have a negative impact on your body, even if it is less drastic. Pesticides can cause headaches, nausea, disorders, and coordination issues.

Maintaining an organic garden means you should make wise, healthy decisions for your plants and vegetables as well as for your health and the safety of the environment at large. Professionals all over the world and at Chef Works, recommend these helpful tips for anyone considering developing an organic garden in their yard

5 Clever Ways to Recycle Reclaimed Wood

Conservation is a big issue because space remains the same while the number of people continues to increase. Resources are also dwindling yet more are needed. One way to address this problem is by reusing old materials, most especially timber as many forests are being stripped in order to obtain precious wood.

Wood is used in many fields, most especially construction. Because of this, it’s truly important to utilize timber wisely and reuse wood whenever possible. You can obtain this just about anywhere. But if you have some wood planks lying around or if you’re cutting an old dying tree, or maybe if you’ve been to a house that’s being torn down, you can acquire wood sections that you can recycle in various creative ways.

1. Create art with wood pallets. Most people won’t think twice about throwing away wood pallets because they don’t think that they can do something useful with them. They’re wrong. Wood pallets are wonderful materials for home accessories, like chandeliers, as well as accent walls or dividers. These can be painted or decorated and used as wall art as well. Using basic handyman skills, there are also many ways to build artistic chairs or stools, and dividers with them. To make the wood shine, the pallets should be polished and varnished. But you can also paint them with the color that you prefer.

2. Use recycled wood to make furniture. The grain and texture of wood make it an ideal material for furniture. Weather-beaten timber also looks rustic yet elegant, and these can be made into shelves, outdoor seats, tables, and also doors. When building something with wood, your imagination is the limit. Even used timber can be transformed into unique and breathtaking pieces.

3. Build new things out of old barn doors. Barn doors, particularly those that are in farm houses, are made from very durable kinds of hardwood. So the next time that you see an old farm being demolished, it might be worth your while if you drop by there and see if you can get hold of a barn door that would have been allowed to just rot and deteriorate. There are so many ways to recycle old barn doors, which are actually used more and more by designers who often decorate modern homes and buildings. Headboards, sliding wood doors, shelves, tables, and dividers are just a few options that you can consider.

4. Bring order into your home with wood shelves or cabinets. If you have basic handyman skills, it will be quite easy for you to put up wooden shelves or make cabinets. These pieces will really help you to organize your things better. Plus, any kind of wood furnishing will give your space a warmer and more elegant ambiance.

5. Use wood in your garden. If you have a few wood planks that are just lying around or maybe an old wood door, you can actually use this in your garden. A lot of people have created unique plant pots using reclaimed timber. Others also use wood to make garden plots. In time, these will deteriorate, which means that you might have to build new ones again using recycled materials.

4 Environmentally-Friendly Reasons to Switch to Solar Energy

Are you interested in fighting the power of global warming? Then switching your main source of energy to solar energy just may be the move for you.

Below are just a few facts about solar energy and how it is used in today’s society to help you make your decision.

1. Solar Energy Does Not Produce Pollutants.

Solar power is generated by energy produced by the sun and, therefore, does not release any pollutants that contribute to global warming. It is a natural source of energy that does not require burning fossil fuels such as coal or wood. The only pollution indirectly caused by solar energy is through the manufacturing, transportation of, and installation of the solar panels required to absorb and convert the energy produced by the sun into useable solar energy for us here on Earth.

2. Life Requires Light.

Centuries before you were standing under the light in your kitchen slicing tomatoes and cucumbers for tonight’s salad, man created fire. He learned its importance and the convenience of having a source of light indoors instead of having to do everything outside. All forms of life require the sun, whether directly or indirectly, to function. We as humans receive certain vitamins from the sun, and our bodies also absorb solar energy. How awesome would it be to store that energy for future use? Instead of generating electric by using gas or fossil fuels for your source of light, be more conservative and use natural solar power.

3. Solar Energy Can Be Used In Many Ways.

When you convert the energy from the sun into useable energy for your home, you can use solar power to serve many purposes. You can, of course, use solar power to create light. It’s also possible to use solar power to heat water and even go so far as to cook meals. Solar power can also be used to control the temperature of a room, much like your thermostat if you have electric or oil heating. If you heat your home using the power of solar energy, you can save a bundle on heating costs, as heating oil is insanely expensive these days.

4. Using Solar Energy Will Save You Money.

Believe it or not, utilizing the benefits of solar energy can actually save you money. Solar energy is free. The price is in the solar panels; but if you calculate the cost of the solar panels and consider what you’ll be saving annually, after a few years, the solar panels pay for themselves. However, keep in mind how long you’re planning on living at your current location. If you’re looking to move within the next five years, investing in solar panels would most likely not be a good decision.

Take your time and do your homework when you’re deciding on whether you should switch to solar energy. The reasons given here are solely for your benefit as a human being in today’s polluted society. Will you be the next person to help fight global warming and switch to solar energy use?

Sudeley Castle Gardens: History of an English Castle Garden: From Tudor Knot Garden to Eliza

The first thing you see when you walk into Sudeley Castle gardens is a pretty meadow with a few trees, and then, unexpectedly, the vast ruin of a honey-stoned tithe barn. Roses and Clematis pour from its roofless walls and self-seeded foxgloves dot the ground nearby.

The effect is undeniably romantic – and nostalgic – but walk closer and you’ll see there’s more to Sudeley Castle gardens than nostalgia. Pass through the barn and you’ll come face to face with the 21st century as drifts of silver balloons float above the carp pond towards you.

Like nearly all the outdoor art at Sudeley Castle, Tomas Saraceno’s “flying garden” is inspired by the English gardens that surround it without being in any way held back by them. If you’re not ready for a flying garden, Sudeley’s earth-bound gardens also offer new takes on old garden styles. These, it has collected throughout its long and action-packed past.

Rise and fall of an English castle

The present Sudeley castle was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, nearly destroyed in the 1640s, left to fall down for the whole of the 18th century and finally rescued in 1837. The rescuers were the Dent brothers, and their ancestors have been restoring this English castle and gardens ever since. Many ruins remain though. Most notably, the Banqueting Hall Ruins, an atmospheric backdrop for Sudeley’s ten small connecting gardens.

These include a parterre, a secret garden, a white garden, a knot garden, and a Victorian kitchen garden as well as the Hall itself, which has been sympathetically planted with alpine plants, climbing Roses and Clematis. All the gardens are organic.

The Mediterranean Garden

Although the massive ruins give a romantic cast to all these gardens, many have a modern edge too. In the secret garden, this is by way of the contemporary Mediterranean garden design. Here the designer, Charles Chesshire, has used half-hardy Mediterranean plants, which benefit from the shelter of the garden walls, to startling effect. In July, soft Allium seed heads contrast with the striking yellow spires of Foxtail Lilies. Other Mediterranean plants are used to draw out the flowering season from spring to early winter.

The Victorian Kitchen Garden

Behind the Mediterranean garden, Sudeley’s Victorian Kitchen Garden also breaks new ground, combining Victorian taste, organic know-how and rarely seen heritage vegetables. This scaled-down version of Sudeley’s original three-acre kitchen garden was created in partnership with Garden Organic, Europe’s largest organic charity.

Also in miniature is Sudeley’s white garden, an unusual arbor against a church. Regale lilies and the Tea Rose, “White Wings” Madonna are a reminder here of the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary that once stood here.

The Parterre

Beyond the white garden is the Queen’s Garden, inspired by the original Tudor parterre and created by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall. Today, its ancient yew hedges enclose beds of herbs and old-fashioned roses.

The Knot Garden

Fearnley-Whittingstall has also designed the Knot Garden, taking its intricate design from the dress of Elizabeth I in the painting, The Tudor Succession. This refreshing and original approach to garden restoration is typical of Sudeley Castle, where visitors can see just about every major English garden style of the last 500 years in a brand new way.

Fruits in the News

With the new gardening season beginning, it’s time for a look at the world of fruits. If you need another health-related reason to eat more fruits, you’ll be interested in results from a Tulane University study.

This research found that the fiber in vegetables and fruits can help lower blood pressure. For this result, you’ll need to consume at least seven grams of fiber from fruits and vegetables per day.

A USDA study is touting blueberries as a means of lowering cholesterol. Their researchers found that pterostilbene, a particular substance found in the berries, lowers cholesterol in cells. In addition, they say it may lower triglycerides as well. Though this work did not specify how many blueberries one has to consume to get the desired effect, this topic will be addressed in future studies.

Could fragrance minimize the chances of road rage? A recent study found that the use of car air fresheners had beneficial effects commuters. The researchers singled out two scents in particular-strawberry and pine. In addition to keeping drivers calmer, these also led to improvement in overall driving performance.

Cornell University researchers came up with a way to make plastics from citrus. They started with limonene oxide extracted from the fruits and added carbon dioxide.

Plant breeders at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is part of USDA, are working to create new low sugar watermelons that can still provide a healthy dose of lycopene.

They hope to reduce the overall sugar level from about 14% down to around 5%, which would make it more acceptable to diabetics and others on low sugar diets. They expect seeds of the new varieties will be available in a few years.

On the pest and disease front, there is good news and bad news. State agricultural officials in Pennsylvania lifted the plum pox virus quarantine for certain areas of York County. However, some areas of Adams County, Cumberland County, and York County still remain under the quarantine. Under the terms of the quarantine, it’s forbidden to plant stone fruits in the affected locales until they’re declared free of the virus.

A new plant virus was discovered in North America. The strawberry latent ringspot virus, which has been a problem for several decades in Europe, has made its way here. Experts aren’t sure how big an effect this could eventually have on strawberry growers.

ARS has been working on a new, natural way of dealing with fire blight. The researchers discovered a naturally occurring bacterium on fruit blossoms that can out-compete the fire blight. ARS has patented the substance, which they called E325.

When sprayed on the fruit blossoms, this bacterium limits the damage the fire blight can do. ARS officials are now working with a company to learn how this substance can be produced commercially. The company is seeking permission from EPA to market the natural substance for use on pears and apples. This commercial product will be called Bloomtime Biological FD.

Vine Time in the Garden

Vines in Movable Containers

Change the look of your garden-and its vertical space-on a whim by planting vines in movable containers. Here are some planting tips.

  • Support your vines by planting a trellis with the vines. Paint it a color to match the house or to complement the colors of the plant. Choose one that is the right size for your container: Once placed in the container, one-third of the trellis needs to be below the container’s lip for better balance.
  • Add pebbles to the top of the soil to add weight to the container and keep it from toppling over, and to keep the soil from spilling out when watering the plant.
  • Attach the vine to the trellis with plastic-coated training wires.
  • Black-eyed Susan, morning-glory, sweet pea, and bougainvillea are all vines that grow well in containers (see more ideas on annual vines for containers below).

Annual Vines

Annual vines grow fast, can be grown from seeds, and need to be planted after the threat of frost is past. Here are just a few you can grow:

  • Cup-and-saucer vine-The flowers resemble a fluted cup in a saucer; they start out as a pale green and then turn lilac or purple.
  • Black-eyed Susan-This vine boasts dynamic yellow or orange tubular flowers with black throats that sit amid arrowhead-shaped leaves; this vine requires full sun.
  • Cardinal climber-The dainty red flowers resemble morning glories. This vine also requires full sun.
  • Hyacinth bean-The leaves of this vine are a striking maroon color with deeper reddish maroon veins. It produces masses of purple or white flowers that become purple bean-like seed pods. Once again, this vine requires full sun.

A Stationary Vine Pole

Annual vines twining up a decorative trellis or post can make a dramatic flowering vertical focal point in your garden. Here’s a vine pole you can make for your garden:

Materials:

8-foot-long pressure-treated 4×4 post

Two 8-foot sections of 1×2 for arms

#12 eye screws

2-inch-long screws

Instructions:

  1. From the 1x2s, cut seven 18-inch-long pieces for the arms of the trellis. Sand any rough edges.
  2. Drill a hole at each end of the arms to thread support wire through later.
  3. On the 4×4 post, cut 4-inch-wide by 1-inch-deep grooves into the sides to hold the arms. Stagger the grooves at different intervals and on different sides of the post.
  4. Place the arms in the grooves, offsetting them so they are not all the same length on the same side. Using two screws, secure each arm to the post. You may paint the vine pole, if desired.

Books for Michigan Gardeners

Several weeks ago I was visiting an annual Home and Garden Show in East Lansing, Michigan. While there I happen to come across Lone Pine Publishing. The quality of the books on display really astounded me.

I was familiar with this press because I have reviewed several of their books in the past. I enjoyed their books but was really surprised to see the many full-color field guides available in their show display.

Somehow, their on-line catalog had not done justice to the quality of their publications and had failed to inspire a strong interest in me. Today, I want to introduce you to just a sampling of the quality books currently coming off of Lone Pine’s presses. I am sure you’ll be as pleased as I am. Annuals for Michigan. Nancy Szerlag and Alison Beck. Lone Pine.

The authors’ passion for gardening shines throughout this book. They first introduce us to what an “annual plant” really is, how to use them in our gardens, finding which annuals fit our conditions, preparing our gardens, planting the garden with either store bought transplants or those we have started with seed ourselves, and of course, taking care of the plants. They also include a brief discussion of diseases and pests that can cause problems for us.

The majority of the book consists of 2-4 page descriptions of annuals frequently found in Michigan, including many of the newest plant genera currently available to gardeners today.

Each description includes a brief introduction to the plant, followed by planting and spacing information, growing information, and general tips. Recommended cultivars of the various plants and possible problems and pests are also covered. Each plant is illustrated with several pictures of the plants being discussed.

If you garden anywhere in Michigan or nearby states, you’ll want to keep this guide in your car when you are visiting nursery centers looking for plants. Once your garden is planted, move the book to your desk for easy reference during the garden season.

I can guarantee you this book will be worn out from being used! (Hint, you might even want a 2nd copy, 1 to stay in your car and used in the garden, and 1 for your bookshelves.)

Fleas and Ticks in your Garden? Probably.

Most gardeners don’t think to check for ticks or fleas after walking through their garden. However, once you are done planting, tending, or harvesting, you might carry home more than you bargained for. These are not a garden pest, per se, but they can really do a number on the gardener. Just as a cat or dog picks up ticks and fleas by walking outside, so too, can a human.

Fleas are worse because they are harder to see, however, a quick shower usually will get rid of any fleas you might have picked up. But by the time you make it to the bathroom, Mr. Flea probably has already leaped off into your carpet or furniture.

Ticks are more easily seen, but be sure to get a shower after every gardening adventure. Then have someone check your scalp, behind the ears, and any crevice you might have that you cannot check yourself.

If you don’t check yourself, you could find yourself covered in bites. Having a cat, I find that it’s useless to even check for fleas because we wake up with bites every day. However, my cat is staying in Mississippi after I go to California so I won’t have to deal with fleas much.

Some preventive measures include wearing long sleeves and long pants with socks that go over top of the pants leg. Also, wear a hat, not only to keep the sun off your face, but to prevent easy access to your hair by fleas. Ticks will generally latch on to the lower extremities because they are not grand jumpers like fleas are.

Use a bug repellent containing DEET to repel the pests. I can’t stand the smell of it so I’ll take my chances with the organic wintergreen smelling stuff I found. It doesn’t prevent mosquitoes very well but it did keep the fleas off my 4-year old at night. He became flea breakfast so I sprayed him down every night. It was some bio-control spray I got at Walmart. Smelled like licorice or cloves.

I wonder if putting baby powder all over yourself before donning garden-wear would prevent these pests from attaching. Hey, the worst that could happen would be your smelling good when you go back to the house!

If you do find a flea, try to catch him if you can. This may prove extremely difficult but not impossible. Sprinkle a flea and tick powder on your carpets, let it sit for a couple hours, then vacuum it up. This will prevent any possible mishaps later on from carpet infestation.