Monday, March 26, 2012

Garden Ideas for a Spring Project

Garden Ideas Come in Steps

OK, this is only Part I, but I am feeling really good about the progress we have made in this renovation.  Just when the clocks got set forward an hour, our weather seemed to jumped forward one season.  Seventy and eighty degree days really got my juices going. 
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Spring clean-up took several days, and three trips to the yard debris center our City of Kettering provides.  Raked and cut down perennials onto tarps which we piled into the pickup. 
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Burning the ornamental grasses saved us some time and energy.  Kept the hose ready, but thankfully, we didn't need it.

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After we lost the pine tree last season, we decided to reclaim some lawn area.  Here Charlie is spreading organic fertilizer onto the cleared bed, and then he followed up with a thin blade fescue seed.  This seed is designed to take foot traffic, and is drought tolerant, once established. This spring project is timed well to put down grass seed.  The rains are here, and the nights are cool - ideal for germination.
This cocoa fiber mat is moistened daily and works as a great mulch for the grass seed, that is peeking through after a week.

This area was cleared of pachysandra and pine needles.  The stone border will be planted eventually, but we need to monitor the sun patterns in this north-west side of the privacy fence. This monitoring will let us know if we need shade-loving plants, or sun-loving plants.  Remember - right plant - right place!
Since this area was under the tree, we added top soil to the area for a more desirable seed base.
Just waiting for the grass to fill in before we work on the border along the fence. 
Several more garden ideas are going to require more work, in this major redo. 
This bed has daylilies but the wild onions have taken over.  I’m going to dig up everything, move the daylilies, and Roundup the area. The idea is to expand the turf into this section of the yard.

Bleeding Heart
Forsythia and Daffodils

And just so I don’t get too discouraged, I have taken time to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  The Epimedium, bleeding hearts,  daffodils, and forsythia are really putting on a show.  Yaaaayyy. Spring!

As my landscape ideas become real, I'll bring out my camera to share more of this renovation.  Thanks for stopping by.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pollinators, Predators, Parasites – Beneficial Insects

Beneficial Insects - What They Do 

The three classifications of  beneficial insects, Pollinators, Predators, and Parasites, defines the role each has and the method in which they survive.
Most of us are familiar with Pollinators.  Bees, butterflies, and wasps are vital to 80% of plants in the world.  If plants do not get pollinated, the species cannot reproduce. Life would fail on this planet as the food crops fail.

honey bee

Pollinators need nectar, shelter, and water to survive. A supply of pollen and nectar are required for the sustainability of the pollinator populations.
Parasite insects are quite the creature.  This is a parasitic wasp as it seeks out a caterpillar in the garden
and deposits its eggs in it. wasp laying eggs caterpillar images (1)
The larvae of the wasp emerge inside the caterpillar and eat it from the inside. 

The Predator insects are interesting in that in some species, the Predator seeks out other pests – whether it is in the larval stage or as an adult.  The most commonly known predator is the Lady beetle.  We probably recognize the
 ladybug life cycle
adult that is red with black spots .  But the larva is orange with black markings that resembles an alligator.  The larvae, as well as the adult, eat pests. I must say that I have seen this ‘bug’ and did not know what I was looking at.  (Probably smashed a few, too!)
Green Lacewing are quite dainty.  The adult feeds on pollen, nectar, and honeydew.

 However, the larvae

are quite aggressive predators as they seek out lacewing life cycle

Praying Mantis are general predators in the garden,  They eat anything, including beneficials - even the Lady Beetle.  Larvae have even been known to eat each other.
praying mantis

Minute Pirate Bugs are commonly mistaken for cinch bugs.  The adult and larvae prey on aphids, cinch bugs, thrips, whiteflies and spider mite, to name a few.  Minute Pirate Bugs are a natural predator to other pests that can damage corn crops, cotton, soybeans, and sorghum.  minute pirate bug life cycle
Sucking mouth parts enable this bug to draw out fluids from its prey.

The Lady Beetles, the Green Lacewings, the Praying Mantis, and the Minute Pirate bug and be bought in the marketplace. The cocoon of the Praying  Mantis are shipped and placed about the garden before they hatch.

 Lady Beetle, Green Lacewings and Minute Pirate Bugs are shipped as eggs or live to release.  images (2) images (3)

One beneficial I have overlooked in my garden is the Ground Beetle.  Yes, I knew they were there – just turn over a stone, or move leaves.  But I did not know they enjoy a meal of grubs, caterpillars, fly maggots, slugs, snails, and even earthworms. 
ground beetle-scarites 
assassin_bigdan (1) This Assassin Bug uses piercing mouth parts to feed.  The front legs are designed to catch their prey.  Their bite on the hand of a handler can be painful so use caution. 
predatory stink bug The Predatory Stink Bug indeed stinks.  Many species of Stink Bugs are in the environment, and they can be destructive when they suck plants.  There are a few, however, that are not such bad eggs – the Predatory Stink bug can eat beetle larvae, and caterpillars. 

Big Eyed Bugs and Damsel Bugs are two more I have underestimated as to their value.  Both adults and nymphs of the Big-Eyed bug feed on mites, aphids, and insect eggs.  The Damsel Bug uses its front legs to hold its prey which include, thrips, caterpillars, leafhoppers, and other soft-bodies insects.   damsel bug Damsel Bug big-eyed bug Big Eyed Bug

Syrphid Flies – also known as hover flies – can be mistaken for bees, wasps, or hornets.  Adults feed on pollen, nectar, and aphid honeydew which they use for good egg maturation.  Females will lay hundreds of eggs in aphid colonies.  Larvae  have piercing, sucking mouths, and can eat hundreds of aphids. hoverfly hoverfly larvae with cabbage worms Here we see hover fly larvae on a cabbage leaf with the larvae of the cabbage beetle.  What looks like a major worm infestation is really one (the hover fly) eating the other (the cabbage worm). 

Reaching for an insecticide at this time would kill both – with the biodiversity of the insects in your garden leaning towards an unbalanced condition.  Maintaining this balance is a natural, albeit a slow, process.  Using even an organic insecticide will kill the bad, as well as the good bugs.  Being aware of the beneficial insects is a good start in protecting our environment.  I know I think twice about dousing the garden with products that many harm. 
Plant good that will repel insects, or bring in good insects to your landscape. Use fabric to cover rows, and keep the larval state of insects off your crops.  Just be sure to remove the cover so Pollinators can reach the blossoms where they  will ensure you a good crop or a source of seed. 

So,  Pollinators, Predators, and Parasites  - get to know these Beneficial insects in your garden.  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Companion Plants – Good Neighbors

Benefits of Pairing Plants 

Plants have unique growing habits – yet, many plants favor the same growing conditions. This characteristic is the basis for choosing companion plants.  Do the plants look good together?  Do they have the same growing requirements? Do they harm the health of its neighbors in the garden?  How can companion plants benefit its neighbors?
lungwort with cranesbill   Textures, forms, and colors are values we place on plant combinations when we layout our gardens.  Feathery leaves  of astilbe next to broad leaves of Hosta is a favorite of mine for a shady garden.  summer_cottage_garden_poster-p228211013233918314tdcp_400
P6100062 Both appreciate moist soil and diffused light.  Another feathery leaved plant is cat mint.  It’s gray-blue color pairs well with pale pink roses.   catmint with rose

Herbs make great companion plants for roses, too.  Aromatic herbs such as  feverfew, scented geraniums or thyme may ward off pesky insects like the Japanese beetle or aphids.  aphids on rose The use of other plants to discourage pest is an alternative to chemical pesticides.    Many plants have this attribute, and are considered ‘ Insectary plants’. I have always seen family vegetable gardens surrounded by marigolds.  The african marigold African Marigold and the Mexican Marigold are reliable Insectary plants. Insectary plants provide nectar and pollen, food sources, and mating sites for beneficial insects.
  mexican marigold Sweet alyssum is another favorite of mine.  I find its aroma is always inviting to me and lots of beneficial insects, like the hoverfly.
hoverfly sweet alysium insectary plant Planting two or more plants together can derive some benefits.You can choose to focus on controlling pests, attracting beneficial insects, or increasing yields. 
Increasing yield in the vegetable garden may simply be to deter the ever-hungry rabbits.  Lavender and cat mint tend to have that affect. lavender in veggies Good ‘ Insectary plants’ can be fast growing annuals, like the marigolds or cilantro, to hardy perennials like the cat mint, thyme, or Monarda – bee balm.
Companion plants can help their neighbors by providing shelter.  Tall sunflowers can shade the beans and peppers at it’s feet and ,at the same time, bring in bees and other pollinators.  sunflowers in veggie garden
cukes_lettuce These cucumbers are going to provide shade from the hot afternoon sun on this lettuce.  Another good companion!
Aromatic plants that do not have a sweet smell can confuse incoming insects.  Some of these are: mints, scented geraniums, Artemisia, onions and rosemary.  onions
Another plant that has anti-insect attracting properties is the chrysanthemum. The pyrethrums are a natural repellent element of this family of plants and is commercially used in many insect repellents.  mums_1 Mums are thought to repel, leaf hoppers, spider mites, ticks, and cabbage worms.
imagesCA4Z9MK7 There are several good plant lists that will detail companion plants for you in more detail.  Gardens Ablaze is one I found to be informative.  
As the planting time gets closer, and seeds are being purchased, keep in mind the good neighbors you wish to help you have a great garden.
What companions do you have ?