Friday, August 28, 2009

Beneficial bugs

If there's one thing I know about it's bugs...I keep and eye on them and chase them around all day long....hi, my name is CC and I'm a domestic cat. I want to tell you about insects for the garden.

There are three kinds of beneficial insects and they are classified by their "lifestyle" so to speak - predators, parasitoids and pollinators.
Predators eat other insects while parasitoids use pest insects as hosts for their eggs and larvae.

The pollinators facilitate pollination so plants can produce fruits and vegetables.
An insectary will provide food and habitat for all three types of beneficials.
Even the predatory insects will find nourishment.
Don't be intimidated by Janice's big word, planting an insectary is simple.
First, choose a sunny spot in the garden.
Janice created a 3 foot x 12 foot strip at the back of the garden where she removed her composting bins.
You can modify the size to suit your space.
You can plant several small insectaries around the garden or these plants will grow in containers, too.
Site the plants close to vegetable gardens, roses or other plants that will benefit from the insect helpers.
As with any garden, the secret to success is the soil.
Remove existing sod and vegetation.
Turn the soil to a depth of 18-inches and add amendments such as compost, sand and organic fertilizers as needed.
Rake the soil to make a smooth surface.
Once the bed is ready you can sow seeds, plant seedlings or potted plants.
When it comes to plant selection choose both flowering and foliage plants so the area will be inviting from spring through fall.
Provide plants of varying heights, the short plants offer cover and the taller ones will be visible and attractive to the insects from a distance.
I was surprised to learn that bugs have a flower preference.
They are especially fond of umbel-shaped blooms such as Queen Anne's Lace and dill along with composite shaped blooms such as zinnias or sunflowers.
Treat your insectary as you would any newly planted garden, but avoid pesticides and only use organic fertilizer.
Give the plants consistent moisture.

Be patient. Even though a colony of aphids, cutworms or mealy bugs often seem to appear overnight, it takes time to build up an army of beneficial insects. It's important to get ahead of the curve by starting your insectary in spring.
To further speed the process along you can order beneficials from companies such as Gardens Alive or
Handle and release them according to the directions provided by the source.
I don't recommend importing bugs though---those darn lady bugs kept me so busy last year I barely had time to enjoy my catnip.
Whether you plant an acre-sized insectary or just a few containers, creating a welcoming habitat for beneficials is just good sense. Once you get the garden in place Mother Nature will handle the rest.

BeneficialHelps CombatPlants They Like
Lacewings Aphids Cilantro, Cosmos, Dandelion, Dill, Fennel, Queen Anne's Lace, Tansy, Yarrow

Ladybugs Aphids Ajuga, Buckwheat, Butterfly Weed, Cilantro, Dandelion, Dill, Fennel, Marigold, Queen Anne's Lace, Veronica, Yarrow

Hoverflies Aphids, Mealy Bugs Ajuga, Alyssum, Feverfew, Cilantro, Cosmos, Buckwheat, Lavender, Lobelia, Lemon Balm, Mint, Parsley, Sedum, Marigold, Thyme, Veronica, Zinnia
Parasitic Wasps Moths, Flies, White Flies Yarrow, Dill, Cilantro, Cosmos, Queen Anne's Lace, Fennel, Statice, Lobelia, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Sedum, Marigold, Thyme, Zinnia
Tachinid Flies Cabbage Lopper, Cutworms, Squash Bug Nymphs Buckwheat, Lemon Balm, Parsley

Friday, August 14, 2009

Drought tolerant colorful flowers

Drought tolerant does not mean drab. These days even colorful annuals are being developed with low water usage in mind. Here is a list of dramatic flowering plants you can grow in your water wise garden.

Flambe® Chrysocephalum – Small button-like blooms on attractive plants. Give Chrysocephalum full sun and good air circulation. Orange or yellow flowering varieties available.

Diamond Frost® Euphorbia – Lacy white flowers float over delicate gray-green foliage. This is a great filler plant. It can be grown in both full sun or partial shade.

Luscious™ Lantana – Clusters of brilliant hued flowers on aromatic plants. The hotter it gets, the more this plant blooms. Give it full sun. Even though it is considered an annual below zone 9, some have luck wintering it over in zone 7.
Available varieties include Luscious™ Citrus Blend™ (orange & yellow), Luscious™ Grape (lavender & purple), Luscious™ Lemonade (yellow), and Luscious™ Tropical Fruit (pink & yellow).

Stratosphere™ Gaura - Slender stems tipped with butterfly-like flowers extend out from the plant like wands. This plant will add grace and movement to the garden. Perennial in zones 6 through 11.

Daredevil™ Zonal Geranium (Pelargonium zonale) – Globe-shaped clusters of color-rich flowers. For the best performance plant in full sun. Available in dark red, scarlet, magenta, orchid pink, dark rose pink, salmon or white flowering varieties.

Supertunia® Petunia – With 30 color choices there is guaranteed to be Supertunia® you like. Varieties include large flowering, double or minis, trailing or mounding habits, and bi-colored, solids and veined flowers. Plant in full sun and feed often with a liquid fertilizer.

Charmed® Oxalis – Foliage is king with this plant. Available varieties include Jade (green with a silver sheen and pale pink flowers), Velvet (deep purple with white flowers), or Wine (maroon with pale pink flowers). This plant is suited for shade or partial shade.

Intensia® Phlox – Mounds of single petal blooms that have the appearance of old fashioned garden phlox on a compact plant. Available in white, various shades of pink or a pink and white bi-color.

Senorita Rosalita® Cleome – Tall branches topped with sprays of lavender flowers. A very dramatic plant. Senorita Rosalita® is extremely heat tolerant and prefers full sun.

Superbena® Verbena – Clusters of small flowers on trailing stems. Excellent for spilling over the edges of containers. Plant in full sun. Heat tolerant as well as drought tolerant.