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Wormnwomn's Blog

Wormnwomn is all about organic - personally, for my family, and for the Earth.

Spring into Action

Category: Garden | Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:51 am

Spring is time for ACTION!

Starting early will help you stay ahead of pest and disease problems.

Wouldn't it be great if you could avoid all the pest and disease problems this summer that you have struggled with in the past? To be able to skip the sprays and dusts and the potentially hazardous exposure to your family and pets? Well you can reduce if not eliminate these problems, and now's the time–when you're prepping and planting–to make it happen.
Start Healthy
Healthy plants resist infestation, but a sickly, stressed plant will be an open invitation to pests and disease. As a gardener, your job is to provide ideal growing conditions, so the plants in your garden grow strong.
Organic gardeners know that the time to add soil enhancing organic amendments is in the Fall. This allows ol' man winter the opportunity to break down and release the essential ingredients needed for a healthy soil.

If you weren't able to get your amendments added in the fall, consider trying to get a good early cover crop in. Or find a good quality compost with an organic fertilizer for your spring

Take the time to loosen the soil with a garden fork down to about 12 inches deep. Doing this will open up channels for air and moisture, and make it much easier for roots to penetrate the soil. =====================================================
Healthy Starts
Begin with your own healthy seedlings or buy strong starts. Don't skimp on this early expenditure. Buying plants that are on sale because they have been on the shelf too long, or are leggy and leafless saves you nothing and costs you in the long term. The plants will take your valuable time and resources and then under-produce, or worse yet not produce at all.
Provide Protection
Whether you grow your own starts or buy transplants for your garden they will need protection from the elements. A period of hardening off, where the plant is set outside in a sheltered area for a few hours everyday, followed by cover from the harsher outdoor conditions once it is transplanted, will be needed. The young plant will need a few days to get its' roots established and will require steadfast protection. Stressing the plant at this stage will weaken it and leave the door open for pests and disease.
Devine Diversity
By planting a wide variety of plants in your garden you discourage any onslaught of any one particular pest. Many plants attract beneficial insects and predators of pest such as birds. By adding a small patch of marigolds here and there with a sprinkling of alyssum, dill or fennel you will be attracting beneficials as well as giving yourself a treat. Many of the plants that are considered weeds in many gardens are actually much needed food sources for attracting the main warriors in your fight against pests. Keeping a small patch of naturally occurring native plants will help maintain a healthy balance in your garden.

Some Beneficial Insects That Help Control Noxious Pests

Every gardener has heard of the darling little ladybug, which is renown as a voracious eater of many garden pests. Ladybugs and their larvae feed upon aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scales, whiteflies, and many other smaller insects. They prefer aphids as their primary delicacy, but also eat the eggs of other insects, which is a real boon to gardeners. After an adult female's eggs hatch, their larvae alone will readily consume literally hundreds of aphids.

Green Lacewings
Lacewings serve as beneficial predators either as eggs, larvae, or adults. Their larvae will eat large numbers and many varieties of aphids, and also devour mealybugs, whiteflies, thrips, leafhoppers, red spidermites, and a variety of other soft-bodied noxious insects.

Dragonflies and Damselflies
These two beneficial insects are also a great aid to gardeners, as they catch and eat flies, termites, beetles, mosquitoes, and other noxious flying pests. Research indicates that dragonflies can zoom through the air at about 60 miles per hour while catching and eating their lunch along the way! Damselflies are not as large as dragonflies, neither can they fly as fast. However, they are also superb beneficial insects to have in your garden, as they also feed on many garden pests.

Predator Mites
There are several species of mites that feed on spider mites and sometimes will feed on thrips. These predator mites will not damage your plants as do the spider mites.

Scale Parasites
A very small parasitic wasp (Aphytis melinus) is another beneficial insect that will help keep your garden healthy. This little wasp attacks and destroys red scale as well as other types of scale on plants. As with any type of wasp, bee, or yellow jacket, please exercise care to avoid getting stung!

There are many other beneficial insects that can be introduced to your garden to help control common garden pests. These mentioned here are only a few of the most bothersome to gardeners, and will give you a starting point.

If you need help identifying or controlling any of your garden insects, either beneficial or nonbeneficial, there are many excellent resources available. One very outstanding organization known as CSREES, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, is a dynamic new international research and education network. The services of CSREES expands the research and higher educational functions of the former Cooperative State Research Service. This agency offers a wealth of information to not only gardeners but also the entire agricultural community.
A few tips to attract beneficial insects to your backyard

The needs of beneficial insects are not difficult to meet if you have a real desire to lure them to your garden. Many, if not all, probably already exist in your garden. Here is a short checklist that outlines their needs.

Beneficial insects will be happy with early blooming plants that contain nectar and pollen they can feed on. Some early bloomers they are attracted to include pansies, alyssum, Queen Anne's Lace, and fennel. Later in the season there are many others such as coneflowers, cosmos, goldenrods, or lavender that they will enjoy.

Water is essential for all insects and is easy to provide. Any type of container that will hold water can be placed in an inconspicuous place in your garden. It can be kept filled with water as you sprinkle your flowers, or you can also just let rain and dew collect in it. Just be sure there is always some water in it.

Shelter and a place to rear young
Try leaving some leaves or other debris under some of your larger shrubs as a place of shelter for beneficial insects. Or, place a dead log or some rocks and brush in one corner of your garden to provide a place of protection for them during cold or inclement weather. Like your butterflies, beneficial insects are cold-blooded and don't like cold, windy weather. They like a nice cozy place to hide until the sun comes out again. These sheltered places will also serve as a great place for them to raise their youngsters!

Avoid pesticides!
Select only organic or other natural insect control substances in addition to your beneficial insects if your garden should develop a serious infestation of harmful pests. If you really MUST resort to pesticides, try to select those that are the least toxic and use them sparingly. Otherwise, you will surely risk killing your beneficial insects – AND your butterflies and hummers as well!

Gardening season is almost upon us in my neck of the woods.



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