I bet you’ve heard the term ‘true leaves’ tossed around in the gardening community like common every day jargon. But if you’re new to gardening, the term may not be as obvious as experienced gardeners may think. Recognizing true leaves on your tiny seedlings and understanding what to do when they appear is critical to the success of your seed starting efforts.
I went to Myrtle Beach recently with my mom and son. My hubby stayed at home, which meant he had the job of tending to my garden for the week. Each morning he would send me a few pics so I could keep up with all the happenings going on in the garden while I was away. Everything seemed to be going well until he sent a picture of my beautiful sunflowers covered with ANTS! And lots of them…..up, down and all around the leaves.
In all my years of gardening, I have NEVER seen as many ants, particularly black Carpenter Ants eating their way through my garden. Once I got home and saw the ants for myself, I was totally overwhelmed by the number of ants massed on the underside of each leaf of my giant sunflower.
I’m an organic gardener, so grabbing a can of toxic ant spray wasn’t an option. I know I can find organic insecticides online and in garden centers, but it’s so easy, economical and satisfying to make my own.
I’m happy to share a recipe with you for insecticidal soap that’s eco-friendly and effective against pesky garden pests like ants, aphids, mites, and white flies. The soap in the mixture helps the spray stick to the pests and the plants, while garlic and chili are natural insect repellants. Keep in mind that insecticidal soaps are not very effective against slugs and caterpillars. Sorry….
HOMEMADE INSECTICIDAL SOAP SPRAY
What you need:
|1½ tablespoons||Dr. Bonner’s liquid castile soap (Mrs. Meyers and Murphy’s Oil Soap also works)|
|8 drops||Eucalyptus essential oil (peppermint, lemon and orange works too)|
|3 cloves||Garlic, crushed|
|1 ½ tablespoons||Chili powder|
|1 each||32-ounce spray bottle|
*Note: You can find cheesecloth in grocery, fabric and drug stores. It often comes in a roll, so cut what you need and save the rest for your next project.
What you do:
- Combine all the ingredients in a large jug or mixing bowl. Allow mixture to steep ~8 hours or overnight.
- Line a kitchen strainer with a layer of cheesecloth.
- Slowly pour the mixture in the center of the cheesecloth. If the cheesecloth gets ‘clogged’ simply spoon away some of the solids or change the cheesecloth.
- Strain the liquid at least twice to ensure no large particles are left that may clog the nozzle of your spray bottle.
- Pour the liquid in your spray bottle.
- Apply to plants early in the morning for best results. Spray well, including the underside of leaves.
Give it a shot!
If you want to create an outdoor space that’s beautiful, peaceful and relaxing a small home butterfly garden may be for you. Butterfly gardens are designed to attract butterflies and other pollinators to a specific area where they can find food and water, as well as, and locate a safe place to lay eggs. Plus, if you’re like me and love to take pictures of your garden – you’ll have lots of opportunities to capture some amazing shots of beautiful pollinators that stop by!
Fortunately, designing a sanctuary where you want to hang out, in addition to providing a habitat where native butterflies can pollinate and populate can be created in a few simple steps.
Now that I’ve started composting, it is hard for me not to throw organic material into the compost bin. Composting coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, and yard debris like fallen tree branches and grass clippings helps reduce the amount of waste filing landfills, but most importantly, it is a way to give energy back to the earth to sustain new life. But when it comes to diseased plants, I resist the urge to compost..
Whether or not to put obviously diseased plants into the compost bin is a highly debated topic. I realize our gardens are living ecosystems and not every speckled and discolored leaf or stem is the sign of a diseased plant. Plants due die of natural causes, you know…. I’m talking about obviously infected plants like my squash plant above that is infected with Squash Vine Borers. Diseased plants like these can potentially cause problems by perpetuating disease among plants where the compost is added. Plant pathogens (disease causing organisms) may survive the decomposition process happening in your compost bin and infect future crops. Typically, pathogens are destroyed when compost heap temperatures reach 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 3 days. This requires mixing the compost pile well enough to ensure that all areas of the pile reach temps high enough to kill the pathogens. This can be a hard task, so I don’t advise urban gardeners to add obviously diseased plants to their compost bins. It’s simply not worth the risk. I toss my diseased plants in the woods behind our house or I burn them.
However, if you really want to compost diseased plants, I suggest you use methods to ensure your compost pile is consistently hot and that you compost the diseased plants in a different pile to ensure your compost heap is sufficient to destroy pathogens. But at the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules on this matter. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
So what do you do? Toss ’em in or keep em’ out?