A Natural Remedy for Those Who Are Fed Up With Flies - Part One

A Natural Remedy for Those Who Are Fed Up With Flies - Part One

By Emily Lauzon, Better Farm Sustainability Student & Intern

Up here in the North Country, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of flies! You take a step outside and there they are ready to bite and it doesn’t stop there—you come in from a hard day's work only to find that houseflies have invaded your living space as well! After a while, the buzzing can drive even the most balanced person clinically insane. So in order to stop the madness I have employed the fallowing methods in fly eradication. I hope that these also work for you!

Read More

Fire Ant Control and Container Gardens

Fire ant!
This is a question submitted to us from one of our readers. Submit yours at info@betterfarm.org.

I'm looking for ideas for a container garden. We have a ton of fire ants all over the place and I don't want them in my garden. I was told you might have some ideas. Thank you!
—Beatrice Okker, Inglis, Fla.

Beatrice,

We have two answers for you. First, we'll address the fire ant problem; and two, we'll give you some great ideas for container gardens.

Fire Ants: Problems
Fire ants can be a horrible nuisance to the home gardener. In locations where fire ants are prevalent, you can run into them everywhere you water or mulch—in some cases, people have reported 3-foot-wide ant dens! Not to mention how awful their bites are...

Solutions
  • Some people have reported success by releasing ladybugs, each of which can consume up to 1,000 aphids a day
  • Pouring boiling water on a nest can kill the larvae and ants, but this will have to be done repeatedly to ensure new nests aren't formed. 
  • Foraging chickens will sometimes dig up and eat fire ants, and armadillos will dig out nests, but of course both these kinds of critters can also wipe out your plants—depending on what you're growing.  
  • It's rumored that turmeric repels ants. You can try sprinkling the golden spice in areas you don't want ants—or go ahead and grow your own turmeric strategically in areas you don't want the ants (this is certainly feasible in Florida!). 
  • The best "poison free" way to get rid of ants, some say, is to use instant grits. Just sprinkle them on any mounds or trails you find and usually by the next day, they are gone. Grits expand when they get wet, so when the ants eat them...well they pretty much explode. Make sure that you put the grits down when they are dry and will stay dry, otherwise you are just feeding them.
  • Mix 1 T. of yeast and 2 T. of sugar to a pint of water and set the mixture out for the fire ants. The grits and corn meal will swell when eaten and can kill them. The yeast is carried back to the nest because it is mixed with the sugar; and the yeast is supposed to spread throughout the nest to kill out the rest of the ants. 
  • Apply beneficial nematodes. These are living organisms and must be used before the expiration date and/or before they die in the package. They will also control other insect pests in the soil. 
  • Apply dry molasses at 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.
  • Pour orange oil (available at most home-improvement stores) directly on the nests.
  • Diatomaceous earth will kill fire ants and keep them away. You can get it at the feed store. it is completely safe (all it is is very very small seashells: calcium). The sharp edges get between segmented insects' body joints and they "bleed" to death. Works on all bugs that are jointed.
  • Guinea hens will eat fire ants (also other insects and ticks) while doing much less damage to vegetable plants than chickens (guineas just pick at insects and don't scratch up the ground like chickens do). And unlike chickens, guineas will leave most fruit alone. 
Container Gardens




Click here to see a gallery of beautiful container gardens. 

Container gardens can truly involve any container; whether you construct a raised bed or upcycle tires or even shoes. For larger container gardens, we recommend utilizing a Hugelkultur setup; for all containers, we strongly suggest mulch or lasagna gardening.

The key in drier climates (and even in the North Country come July and August) is irrigation. On the hottest days, certain plants will need to be watered up to twice daily. You can avoid having to do all this legwork by constructing an irrigation system for your plants:
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Declaring War on Squash Bugs

Photo credit: livingtherusticlife.blogspot.com
By Amanda Treco
Organic gardening means troubleshooting ways to deal with all the bugs who have access to poison-free plants. Recently, we've discovered a large amount of squash bugs taking up residency on our zucchini plants. Because the plants are mature, this is less of an issue than for immature plants—but left unchecked, this could become a hazard even for the mature zucchinis.

Despite using our organic pesticides, the squash bugs multiply rapidly. We hope that the bugs will not spread to our cucumber plants as well. So far, the best method we have found is to rid the plants of the egg masses that are being hatched on the undersides of the leaves, throwing any bugs we find into a bucket of hot, soapy water, or dousing the leaves themselves with hot, soapy water. This method is more about the removal of the bugs with water and less about the pesticides being used. This influx of squash bugs has proven to be quite the challenge, and we will continue to experiment with new management techniques. 

Easy Organic Pesticide Recipes

By Jaci Collins
Pest control in an organic garden always requires ingenuity and experimentation. The past few weeks, we’ve been testing out a few natural pesticide recipes as an attempt to keep down on insect populations that are invading our plants. A simple recipe (which requires reapplication after rain) is 2 tablespoons of soap (a non-toxic/biodegradable brand is best) per 32 oz of water. Spray this mixture all over the plant and under the leaves. If you are having issues with insects chewing up your plants foliage, simply add 1 tablespoon of hot sauce or cayenne pepper to the above recipe. For more information, click here.

Skeeter War

Hammacher mosquito trapDIY mosquito trap

Summer's here, which means you've probably tried everything from sprays to citronellas to ward off mosquitoes. But if you're finding your B-12 supplements and dryer sheets aren't cutting it, you may want to try the following method, gleaned from Coolest Gadgets:



You've likely heard of a million gizmos that claim to repel mosquitoes with chemicals, ultrasound, or plain ol' scents. Here we’ve found a couple of contrasting approaches to mosquito control, depending on your budget!

The hi-tech solution (shown at top left) is the Mosquito Mega-Catch from Hammacher that uses flashing LEDs, pheromones, and ultra violet light to lure the blood-sucking insects towards the machine. As they get close, they’re sucked inside by a negative airflow. It’s been claimed that one of these machines devoured 1200 mosquitoes in a single night, and at $200 dollars this gadget’s not overly expensive.

Of course there are people for whom $200 is unthinkable, and these are most likely to be the people whose lives are threatened by the malaria parasite. The low-tech solution, developed and perfected by schoolchildren from Taiwan, uses a 2-liter soft drink bottle, filled with a sugar solution, to which yeast is added. The yeast ferments the sugar producing CO2 gas that acts as a magnet for the mosquitoes. If the top of the bottle is cut off and replaced in an inverted position, the insects are trapped. The yeast will continue to produce CO2 for two weeks.

Here are the DIY directions:
1. Cut the top of the bottle as shown in photo at top right.
2. Put 200ml hot water in the bottle, stir with 50gram brown sugar. Put the sugar water in cold water to cool it down til 40C (temperature)….
3. After cooling down, put the sugar water in the bottle then add the yeast. No need to mix the yeast with the sugar water. When yeast ferments, it creates carbon dioxide.
4. When you cut the bottle, dont throw the top part away because that’d be needed for step 4 – you see they put the top upside down to fit into the bottle….
5. Put black paper around the bottle since mosquitos like dark places and carbon dioxide. This mosquito trap will then start working. Mosquitos fly around the corner, so the best place to place the trap is at some dark corner.
DIY mosquito trap found via Neatorama
Mosquito Mega-Catch found via Ohgizmo and Uncrate



Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

'Armyworm' Outbreak in the North Country

Armyworm identification graphic from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Reports in recent weeks of an armyworm invasion in the North Country are the talk of the town, with stories of these invasive buggers tearing through crops and leaving farmers without recourse.


The Watertown Daily Times on Sunday reported that an outbreak of army worms last week has unexpectedly spread to farms in the northern half of Jefferson County, posing a risk for all farmers with hay, grass, corn and small-grain crops. The outbreak at farms north of the Black River was caused by another wave of moths that traveled north from Western New York to hatch the destructive worms in hayfields, according to Michael E. Hunter, field crops educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.


The worms are tricky to detect because of their brown color and small size (only about 1.5 inches long). Experts recommend that farmers carefully inspect cool, damp areas at ground level to detect the worms, which can be less than a half-inch in their early growth stage.

It’s critical to find the worms early, Mr. Hunter said, because they do the most damage during the last week of their life cycle. In worst cases, hundreds of acres of crops could be lost. Numerous crops in the southern part of the county have already been destroyed because the worms, which arrived there about two weeks ago, had enough time to grow to full size. The worms, which pupate into moths like caterpillars, seek grassy fields to feed on but avoid crops such as alfalfa and soybean.

While scouting fields in the northern part of the county last Friday, Mr. Hunter discovered that the worms are widespread.

“I’ve covered thousands of acres and have found army worms in every field,” Mr. Hunter said Friday. Farms in Clayton, Orleans and Alexandria Bay were all infested. “There’s probably a good chance that most people have them right now.”

Although farmers can kill the worms with insecticides, in most cases it would be beneficial for them to mow the fields instead, Mr. Hunter said.

“We’ve seen the amount of damage (worms) can do if fields are untreated, but right now farmers have the option to harvest their fields and not lose any yield or quality,” he said. “There’s no advantage in waiting to harvest later, so we’re advising farmers to mow their hay and bale it.”

The worms are also susceptible to spot-treatments of soapy water, for those with smaller gardens.

Mr. Hunter said the worms were detected north of the Black River on Thursday but now have spread across the county’s northern half. They’ve been spotted in parts of St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, as well.

It’s an epidemic that Mr. Hunter said is unprecedented in the north country. The worms have been spotted in hundreds of acres, but that could soon expand to thousands.

“New sightings caused by these migrations are being spotted everywhere, and we can’t rule anything out right now,” he said. “Landowners should now be monitoring their fields closely.”

Jay M. Matteson, agricultural coordinator for Jefferson County, said farmers have been caught off-guard by the outbreak. Farmers who have crop insurance protection are advised to call their agents immediately if they detect damage. In addition, golf courses and lawns located near farmland could be susceptible to the worms.

“I think the severity of this is catching everyone off-guard,” Mr. Matteson said. “Any farm that’s pasture-based should be on the lookout.”

The last outbreak in the north country occurred in 2000 at farms in Lewis County.

For more information, call Mr. Hunter from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County at 788-8450.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Common Garden Pests


Bugs eating your seedlings' leaves? Worried about cucumber beetles? Here's a quick reference guide on some of the most common garden pests. Be sure to send us gardening tips and questions to info@betterfarm.org:


PESTS
Cabbage White Butterflies
  • Off-white in colour, with one or two grayish-black spots per wing
  • Wing span of two inches across
  • Lay their eggs on plants, usually on the underside of the leaves. The eggs are yellow and oval shaped. Clustered.
  • The larvae, cabbage worms, eat through the plants, such as cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.
  • Velvety green, inch worm type caterpillars
  • Only attack plants in the “brasica” family: Mustard family: Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, etc.
  • Leaves need to be checked regularly for the eggs because a serious infestation can kill the plant
  • Check your plants frequently for worms as well
  • Hand pick and destroy them
  • Take big chunks out of the leaves
  • Not always problematic if the plants have matured. BUT if the plants are young, these critters can kill them.
Recommendations
  • To prevent plants from infestation, protect them with floating row covers.
  • Insert into a nylon stocking


Cucumber Beetles
  • Small, quarter inch in length, yellow and black
  •  Carry Mosaic virus that can spread to plants
  • Attack gourds (pumpkins, squash)
  • Lacy effect on the leaves. The virus eats away at the leaf
Cucumber beetles lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, and when the larvae hatch, they eat the roots of cucumber, melon, and other plants. The larvae grow to be adults around early July, when they begin to feed on foliage and flowers. There can be up to three generations of these beetles each summer. The beetles winter in piles of leaves and other debris.
Recommendations:
  • Plant radishes or nasturtiums near plants
  • Straw, hay, grass clipping mulch at the base of the plant so that when cucumber beetles fall they can no longer burrow into the ground...
  • Pick them off
  • Clean your garden
  • Cover up your cucumbers
  • Use insecticides (organic: EcoSMART Garden Insect Killer)
  • Cover cucumbers with cheesecloths, cones, or a commercial row cover.

Flea Beetles
Many flea beetles are attractively coloured; dark, shiny and often metallic colors predominate. Adult flea beetles feed externally on plants, eating the surface of the leaves, stems and petals. Under heavy feeding the small round holes caused by an individual flea beetle's feeding may coalesce into larger areas of damage.
  • They leave tiny holes in leaves
  • They don’t have a uniform appearance (black, brown, green, stripes, spots)
  • Main characteristics: They are small and jump
  • They leave clusters of holes
  • Attack the root systems and make the plants susceptible to other pests
  • Young plants are more susceptible to flea beetles.
  • Difficult to get rid of flea beetles

Preventative measures (pre and post):
  • Thick layer of mulch, inhibit the ability of larvae
  • Weed often (removes food sources for the larvae)

Squash Bug
Squash bugs infest squash and pumpkin plants. Adults like to hide down at the base of the plant or underneath the leaves. These bugs go from eggs to nymphs in seven to 10 days, so you should look for eggs about every seven days to catch them from turning into nymphs. The squash bug PRODUCES ONE NEW GENERATION EACH YEAR but of course if each squash bug lays 15 eggs on each leaf they chose to deposit their eggs on, then all those newly hatched nymphs will lay more-but not this year. The nymphs will grow into adults this year but will not lay eggs. They will overwinter and lay their eggs next year.
How to combat:
  • Look regularly for adults, nymphs, and eggs.
  • Take the hose and spray the whole plant and at particularly at the base which is covered in straw. The adults come running up the stems of the leaves to escape the water. Then pick them off with my hand. You can squish them on the ground or put them in a bucket of soapy water where the adults drown, or relocate to some spot far away.
  • Look at EACH LEAF of the plant to see if there are any EGGS ON THE UNDERNEATH SIDE OF THE LEAVES, usually in the “v” where the veins form. If you find them, either tear off the whole leaf (if you have a lot of leaves) or tear out just the section that has the eggs and put them in a bucket of soapy water where they will smother. THE EGGS WILL BE DARK LIKE ROOTBEER WHEN THEY ARE READY TO HATCH, so get them EARLY.
  • Look for GRAY NYMPHS WHICH ARE USUALLY UNDERNEATH THE LEAVES OR ON THE STEMS. If you find a few, squish them or relocate. If you find a lot, take the whole leaf off because they are fast.
  • The key is to be REALLY DILIGENT ABOUT FINDING THEM BEFORE THE EGGS HATCH. After they hatch you can easily be overcome by the nymphs. Most people don’t keep up on the inspections and then the problem magnifies tenfold-so keep up on them. The hunt is on!
  • Cover your plants with row cover to keep them off. This works beautifully but you may have to piece some row covers together to cover some of the larger plants. I use clothes pins to clip them together.
  • Use Neem. It is an organic pesticide (and an added benefit is a fungicide). It must be sprayed very early before the bees come out or at dusk when they aren’t around as it won’t hurt them if it is not a direct hit as they only visit the flowers and it is a contact spray.
  • Plant a crop late in the season if possible. Many areas of the country only have one generation of squash bugs and if you plant later you may miss them.
  • Onion Spray: You can deter squash bugs on pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash and marrows with diluted/strained onion juice. Evidently just grind one or two up, put it in gallon of water and strain the onions out so your sprayer doesn’t clog.
  • Companion Planting: Plant onions bulbs with your squash every year.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.