– Beneficial insects of all kinds really love a good drink of fresh water. Help them out and keep them from drowning by putting marbles in a shallow bowl and adding water to the level of the marbles. This gives the insects a perch to drink from.
– Planting Borage (Borago officinalis) encourages beneficial green lacewings to lay lots of eggs. Swiss studies have discovered that there are more young lacewings, their eggs and hatchlings (called Aphid lions!) among borage plants than anywhere else in the garden. Intersperse plantings of borage throughout your garden to feed the Aphid lions, lacewings and seriously drop the population of aphids in your garden this season.
– Ladybird beetles – commonly called Ladybugs in America – and their young larvae known as Aphid wolves feed heavily on aphids, scale, whiteflies, mealy bugs and mites. There is a syrup you can easily make and spray onto infested plants that will attract the ladybugs and Aphid wolves. Just mix 3/4 cup of sugar in 1 quart of water, then spray directly onto the infested areas of the plants. Make sure to not spray onto the ladybugs as it will glue their wings together.
There are certain flowers that the Ladybug is very attracted to, much like borage is for lacewings. Sunflowers, cosmos, dill, anise, fennel and daisies are all favorites, easy to plant and grow well in many different climates. The nectar and pollen are the attractants and have the added benefit of bringing in other beneficial insects for pollination and predatory insect clean-up.
Growing Better Soil
Are you aware that you can improve your soil with very little work and absolutely no tilling? By using the natural traits of how certain plants grow, you can improve the fertility of your soil by simply scattering some seeds.
For instance, sunflowers are well known for drilling down and opening up soils with their aggressive root structures while creating windbreaks, attracting pollinators and birds and adding color to a garden. Seeding sunflowers onto new ground for one to two seasons will really open up the soil, creating water, nutrient and air pathways that are so much more effective than tilling, all while not disturbing the natural organisms in the soil. They are also used to slow down water flow after rain, allowing the water to soak into the ground and reduce erosion. Sunflowers can create hedgerows along property lines that give housing and shelter to birds as well as creating privacy. Maximillian’s sunflower is perennial and will fill in, creating a dense border of living material. It’s also perfect as a weed seed buffer to stop the spread of invasive weeds from the neighboring property.
Many people don’t realize that heirloom wheat and sesame have very similar extensive root structures. In fact, the roots of White Sonora and Pima Club wheat look almost identical to that of undisturbed tall-grass prairie, with roots that extend downwards almost 15 feet and outwards up to 3 feet per plant. There are studies underway currently researching the effectiveness of stabilizing erosion and creating new cropland using heirloom wheat.
To take advantage of these techniques, sow lightly and less densely than for a food crop. This allows the roots to spread out and give maximum benefit to the soil. Make sure to lightly cover the seed, especially the large sunflower seeds, as they make very tasty snacks for hungry birds, mice and squirrels. Water well to start the germination, but then back off of the moisture to allow the plants to establish themselves.
Then give the plants time to do their job and harvest the sunflower heads if desired to feed chickens, birds or for a delicious snack during the winter. Knocking the dried stalks down in the fall will help cover the soil and protect it during the winter. You will be surprised at how well the roots have done their work when you inspect the progress next spring!
As you begin to transplant your seedlings and direct sow fresh seed into your garden, don’t overlook this very important step – label and mark what varieties you have planted where!
The first step is to mark what variety each plant or section is in the garden. Plant markers are most commonly used, such as our wooden or plastic markers. Another technique we’ve seen used with commercial growers is a pvc pipe that has been cut at an angle and the name, date of planting and any other needed info is written on it with a permanent marker. The sharpened end is inserted into the ground, like in the photo above. This works very well with taller plants or larger plantings, as the pipe can be cut to a taller length and won’t be lost as easily.
The second step is to document what the garden layout is so that you don’t forget what was planted in that spot last year or before. This is essential for good garden rotation to reduce insect and disease pressures from getting a foothold in your garden. Our downloadable Garden Journal is a good example, with space to draw and label your garden layout, as well as keeping a record of what does well, what challenges you have and how you’ve dealt with them, weather patterns and much more. Just click the link, download and print the Journal at no cost!
From the soil to the seed to the food you eat – we’ll help you grow your best garden!
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We work to achieve this by challenging and changing conventional gardening thinking, providing successful and unique methods and techniques while inspiring the power of choice and action for the individual.”