ShadyGardens Blog

June 20, 2013

Pests in the Garden: How to fight them without Pesticides

Filed under: aphid, beetle, bug, caterpillar, control, garden, insect, Japanese, natural, pests, soap, worm — shadygardens @ 12:57 pm

While our gardens are full of bad insects that bite us and eat our plants, many of the bugs in our garden are not only helpful and beneficial but responsible for much of the food we eat. Many of our valuable pollinators are on the decline due to habitat loss and overuse of pesticides by both commercial farmers and home gardeners. Since pesticides cannot tell the difference between a good bug and a bad one, it is best to not use them at all. 


Yet, insects like aphids, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs can destroy a plant quickly. And fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes? In addition to those itchy bites, they carry diseases which can be fatal. What can we do? It depends on the insect really.


Here in our garden, we use a variety of different methods for insect control. We have chickens, ducks, and guineas that roam free-range throughout the day eating every bug they see. Since introducing chickens to our garden, we have seen a significant decrease in Japanese Beetle damage. Guineas love to eat ticks, I am told. And ducks just eat every bug within reach. Since I have read that geese eat snails, I am entertaining the thought of getting a goose for my garden. (Don’t tell my husband.)




Aphids will usually be taken care of by Ladybugs, if you haven’t killed them all with pesticides. If you don’t have a good Ladybug population, you can order them online from Gardens Alive. Be sure to follow their instructions when you release them. Its really the Ladybug larva that devours the most aphids.






If you can’t wait for the Ladybugs to do their job, use the safest insecticide you can, insecticidal soap. You can purchase it ready made or make your own (1 or 2 Tablespoons of pure liquid soap like Castile, not detergent, to 1 quart of water.) Spray on the undersides of leaves and only where you see aphids.



For Japanese Beetles, mix up a cup of soapy water and add a little vegetable oil. Take it outside and as you see a Japanese Beetle, knock it into the soapy water. The oil will prevent its being able to climb out. This is a good job for your little boy, if you have one.

For many plant pests like squash bugs and tomato hornworms, the best method of control is to simply pick them off by hand. Since I don’t like to touch bugs and caterpillars, I use my pruners to knock them off. You can then mash them, or if you have chickens, knock the bug on the ground for them to fight over. It’s been years since I’ve seen a grasshopper in the garden here. Our chickens used to fight over them. It was fun to watch.
For ticks and fleas, here is an excellent recipe for homemade repellent.



October 15, 2009

Climate Change: What Can You Do About It?

Climate change–there’s a lot of talk about climate change these days. And there are many skeptics out there. I’m not a scientist, and in this post I will not pretend to know a lot of facts to either promote or disprove the idea of global warming.
I will say this: we’re having some crazy weather! Two and three years ago, Georgia was under a severe drought. Farmers lost their livelihood, garden centers went out of business, and I personally lost most of my bigleaf hydrangeas–shrubs that had been established for several years. Record breaking heat waves and no rain for several weeks at a time is more than many shrubs can tolerate.
This year, on the other hand, Georgia has had more rain than we want! Severe flood damage occurred just a few weeks ago and threatens us again. (Actually, prior to the drought we had a few years ago, we received too much rain. I remember we received so much rain that area creeks and the Chattahoochee River swelled, washing away roads and bridges.) Yes, it’s a fact–Weather patterns do change.
And it’s that thought that brings me to my favorite topic: native plants! I’ve written many posts advocating the use of native plants. If you’ve followed my writings for long, you know that I love native plants for their tolerance to adverse weather conditions including excessive heat, humidity, and drought.
It is for Blog Action Day that I write my thoughts today. Whether you believe our climate is really changing or not, and whether or not you believe Global Warming is a fact or a myth, the right thing for you and me to do is whatever we can to protect our environment. We must protect the environment for our children and for our grandchildren.
These are simple suggestions, and this is what we do here at Shady Gardens:
  • Plant native plants instead of invasive exotics. In a nutshell, native plants will survive drought causing you to use less water when watering plants is restricted. Please read my previous posts on this topic.
  • Use organic pest control methods instead of poisons which can kill more than just the pest you wish to remove. Biological insect control can be something as simple as attracting ladybugs into the garden. ‘No kill’ rodent traps are available providing good results without the use of dangerous chemicals.
  • Use organic fertilizers instead of synthetic ones. Chemical fertilizers can be poisonous, and they really are junk food for the plants. Compost and other organic soil amendments make plants healthier and stronger. Some organic fertilizers like compost tea even help to ward off plant disease.
We are stewards of this great country we live in: caretakers of all that is around us. As gardeners, we must do our part to protect and preserve nature. I hope you will join me in planting native plants that provide homes, habitat, and food for wildlife. And then do nothing to poison the little creatures!
As always, I welcome any questions or comments.

September 14, 2009

Mice Cube: Humane Pest Control Safe to Use Around Children & Pets

Filed under: control, cube, easy, humane, mice, mouse, pest, rodent, safe, trap — shadygardens @ 4:08 pm
Our concern for animal welfare is apparent upon visiting our garden. Most of our pets were just dropped off here and we let them stay. Even critters often thought of as a nuisance are welcomed here to a degree. My husband, normally thought of as a tough guy policeman type, has been teased for being too tenderhearted toward mice and spiders, and has many times caught them indoors, carried them out to the briars, and let them go safely on their way.
Several months ago, mice became a problem in the greenhouse. Small little field mice can do much damage quickly, munching on simply everything! One would think mice would not be a problem here with Crisco the Cat, but it’s hard for him to catch mice during his sleep. (He sleeps about 23 of the 24 hours in his day, and the other hour is spent eating.)
That’s when I discovered the Mice Cube. I couldn’t believe how well it worked! The Mice Cube is a small clear plastic rectangular container with a trap door on one end. The mouse can enter to eat the bait, but cannot exit, since the door opens inward only. Our bait is a cheezit with peanut butter spread on one side. Within just a few hours we had caught a little guy who we safely deposited at the fence. The next morning we found 2 little mice inside.
The only problem we’ve seen with the Mice Cube is Crisco the Cat–If he gets to it before we do, he lets the mouse out, and then we have to catch it again!
To find out how you can purchase Mice Cube, click here.



June 12, 2009

Beneficial Insects in Your Garden

When many people see an insect, the first impulse is to kill it. But not all insects are pests, and many are actually beneficial insects, meaning they do good things like eating harmful insects and pollinating flowers. When we use pesticides to control insect pests, we also kill the good bugs.

You probably already know Ladybugs or Lady Beetles are beneficial insects, feeding on aphids, scales, and mealybugs. But did you know that the larvae of ladybugs look like tiny little alligators and eat even more pests than their parents?

Lacewings are fragile-looking insects with delicate, lacy green or brown wings, large eyes, and long antennae. Their larvae feed on aphids, scales, mealybugs, whiteflies, and young caterpillars.

The Praying Mantis will eat almost any insect (yes, they will eat the good bugs too and will even eat each other!)

Parasitic Wasps are usually too small for you to see, but you might spot signs of their presence. If you find a crispy-looking brown, inflated aphid attached to a leaf, it was probably the victim of a parasitic wasp that laid its eggs in the aphid so its offspring would have something to eat when they hatched. You might also see caterpillars, cabbage loopers, or hornworms carrying around cocoons of developing wasps. Parasitic Wasps lay their eggs on the back of soft caterpillars so their young will have a convenient food source upon hatching. (Yuck!) It’s almost time to see the Tomato Hornworm eating up the leaves and even the green tomatoes on our tomato plants. The best control is to pick them off and destroy them, but if you see one with loads of small white things that look like clusters of rice, just leave it alone–the white things are eggs of the Parasitic Wasp!

Grandaddy Spiders, or you might call them Daddy Longlegs, eat aphids, mites, and other garden pests.

These are just a few of the many beneficial insects in our gardens. Beneficial insects can be purchased from mail-order sources, but you can attract them into your garden without purchasing them. The best way to attract these beneficial insects into your garden is to just plant more flowers and herbs!

November 11, 2008

Chickens in the Garden

Filed under: chickens, control, garden, grape vines, insect control, Japanese Beetle, organic — shadygardens @ 4:49 pm

If you’ve been out to our garden, you’ve probably seen the chickens. Barney the Rooster was an Easter chick a few years ago, a gift from my little girl’s classmate. When we decided Barney might be lonely, we obtained a mate for him and named her Thelma Lou. She has been a wonderful addition to our family, providing delicious eggs regularly, in addition to ‘organic insect control.’

Each day we let them out of the greenhouse which serves as a night time shelter from predators. The chickens scratch around all day long, eating bugs and fluffing the mulch.

One day we decided that our garden was just too much work for two chickens, so we added the Fun Girls, Daphne and Skippy. Together they wander around the garden all day long, keeping insects under control.

Last summer we noticed a definite reduction in the number of Japanese Beetles. I’m certain that is a result of the chickens’ enjoyment of them the previous summer. The chickens would rush to my side each time I walked near the arbor where grape vines grow. At that time the vines were covered with Japanese Beetles, and if I tapped the vine, what seemed like hundreds of the pests would drop to the ground. I wish you could have heard the clucking of the chickens as they enjoyed each one!

In addition to providing eggs and helping with insect control, chickens are a great hobby, offering amusement and fun in the garden for children and adults. In other words, the chickens make me laugh. I just get tickled when I see them running to catch up with the others when one finds something tasty!

November 11, 2007

Camellia Sasanqua

Filed under: camellia, control, Deer, dwarf, japonica, sasanqua — shadygardens @ 6:51 pm

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Camellia in bloom. I was young, and I was new at gardening. I was driving through a residential area when I noticed a large, bushy, green shrub with large red blooms that looked like roses. Believe it or not, it took me a while to find out what it was! You’re probably laughing at me now, but thank goodness I’ve learned a few things about camellias since then. It wasn’t until attending the Master Gardener Course that I learned of the Sasanqua Camellia. Sasanquas are early bloomers, usually blooming October – December, so there is less chance of frost damaging the blooms. The fall blooming Sasanquas make great holiday decorations and gifts. Sasanqua camellias seem to be faster growing and are often larger growing than Japonica. Dwarf camellias are available too–great for smaller gardens or containers, but beautiful in any garden. Some varieties bloom so profusely that the blooms hide the foliage! Camellias prefer a sheltered site away from drying winter winds. Bright, filtered shade beneath tall trees is ideal. Moist, well-drained soil is best, but camellias are drought tolerant once established. All our camellias are very young, but some of them are even forming bloom buds in spite of no water! Remember that deer will eat the camellias, so consider using a deer deterrent around them. Your local Humane Society or Animal Shelter has plenty of inexpensive deer-deterrent—the all-natural kind. Just ask the attendant which dogs are frisky enough for deer control! For additional deer control tips go to www.shadygardens.org where you can read the archived article and view photos of our organic pest control staff.

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