Saturday, July 23, 2016
As humans, we like to think of ourselves as the alpha everything. If we are honest, though, when it comes to fighting insects of almost any type, if you take away our chemicals and we are a sorry lot. That is why one of the main focuses of this blog is chemical-free pest control for our healthy organic gardens.
In past articles, we have discussed using predatory insects, smoke and Diatomaceous Earth as a means of controlling those creepy crawlies that love to munch on our plants. Today, I would like to introduce you to the true alpha hunters of the garden world frogs, toads, lizards and birds.
Toads are fairly easy to attract to your garden while frogs can be problematic to an extent. Being semi-aquatic frogs rarely will stray too far from water. However, if you are lucky enough to have a small pond in your garden or have one nearby, you are in luck. They are magnificent insect hunters and depending on the types your garden attracts, their chirping, croaking and clicking create very soothing nighttime music.
Toads, on the other hand, are very easy to attract. As long as you have some moist, loose soil and provide them with a little shelter they will come and stay. The soil they prefer is what most of us want in our gardens anyway.
Loose soil, high in organic content, like compost, is their favorite. Toads like to dig down in the moist soil to avoid overheating and absorb moisture through their skin. They actually drink and breathe this way.
To provide shelter I use either football sized rocks propped up on smaller stones, or broken flower pots to create little caves they can shelter in and stay out of the sun. As most regular readers will have realized by now, I try to never waste anything and this is an excellent way to put those broken pots to good use.
Much like frogs and toads, lizards are uncanny hunters able to stalk insects and devour them in amazing numbers. They will eat virtually anything that will fit into their mouths, which makes them effective not just common insect pest but caterpillars as well. They come in a huge array of types and again as with the frogs, many are very vocal.
One key point with lizards is that they like cracks and crevices to use as cover. Adding a few small rock piles to your garden and leaving a few cracks in garden walls will help you attract and hold them.
I know birds can be problematic in a garden. Yes, they eat insect but they also eat seeds and fruits. Still, they can be a great help in the garden provided you properly provide for them and attract the right types.
Members of the wren and sparrow families are the best insect hunters, in my experience and I openly admit I have a soft spot for bluebirds in particular. Bird houses and baths are a great way to start attracting them to your garden and to help prevent them from causing damage of their own; a bird feeder should be kept well stocked to feed their need for seeds.
For me, one of the joys of organic gardening to observe and learn from nature. I guess I may have crossed the line between being a gardener and becoming a naturalist of sorts. I find nothing shameful or cruel about watching one animal survive by feeding on another. It is the way nature intended things to be.
As a bonus to all of this, I have found that by working with nature I have to exert a lot less effort and actually achieve greater results. By attracting predators to my garden I not only minimize the damage that insect pest cause to my veggies, I have the slightly sadistic joy of knowing that they eventually end up as fertilizer to help my plants grow. And the circle of life continues.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Many people shy away from composting because they think it is some mysterious black art or takes specialized knowledge to do properly. In truth, composting is such a natural process that converting your waste into fertile soil is almost impossible to get wrong and takes absolutely no special skills or equipment. A compost tumbler can make the process more efficient, but it is by no means a necessity. I have one friend whose composting method is nothing more than using the old hay from his barn as mulch, on his garden paths and then sweeping it into his beds as it breaks down. He then puts down a fresh layer of hay and starts over.
At a most basic level composting is no more than doing what nature does with waste, but doing it in a more efficient manner. In nature, microorganisms break down waste and return the nutrients to the soil where they started out. It is kind of an “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” kind of process. Every leaf on every plant, every blade of grass and every piece of fruit started out as soil and was transformed by nature into something wonderful. When composting you are simply finishing the life cycle as nature intended and like most things that are natural it is dirt simple. Pun intended.
What I term as direct composting is the method I use and recommend when trying recovering very poor soil and as a way to make use of things like meat trimmings and food scraps that I don’t want in my compost pile to draw vermin.
I keep a small can with a cover under the sink and collect the food scraps in it. When it is full or I just decide to I take it out to the garden, dig a small hole and bury the goods under six inches or more of soil. From there nature will take care of the rest. The scraps will break down faster than most people realize and leave behind a rich soil deposit and hopefully a small worm bed.
Again, there is no great mystery here, people have different opinions but I have found that the best size for a compost pile is 3’x3’x3’. At this size, they are easy to manage and still large enough to produce good results.
You can use wire mesh around a frame leave it as a loose pile or my favorite method is to build a three sided box from scrap pallets. I do recommend leaving one side open or removable so that it is easy to turn and mix your pile.
As you gather yard and garden waste simply add it your compost pile. Keep it dampened but not soaking wet, so that the microbes will stay healthy and happy and let them door their job. If you want faster results, add food waste and worms to the mix.
Composting really is just that easy. It takes very little work and while you can get as technical and fancy about it as you would like as a natural process, you have to mess up pretty bad for it not to work. Nature is nothing if not resilient.
Compost tumblers are the Cadillac’s of the composting world they allow you to easily mix, moisten and sift your compost with less effort than you would believe and as an added bonus, by being a closed environment they work even faster than a compost pile with worms.
Composting is a natural a process as there ever existed. If you have taken a walk through the fall leaves or spring forest you have witnessed how it works. It takes minimum effort, rewards you with better soil than you could ever buy, saves you fertilizer cost, and allows you to grow more beautiful flowers and nutritious vegetables than you can buy in any store.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
For those who may not be familiar Poke it is a dish that is mainly known to come to us from Hawaii, but there are actually many versions of it found throughout Polynesia and Asia. It is basically a type of pickled fish salad that is simply out of this world and for those that prefer their fish cooked, the
|By CityMama from "Silicon Valley", USA (Ahi poke hawaiian-style)|
The more traditional Poke is made from raw fish, sea-salt, inamona, and seaweed. This is a more modern take on this delicacy, normally made with Ahi Tuna but I have used this same recipe successfully with Dory and other milder fish for those who prefer a more subtle flavor.
What you will need:
- Large glass, Pyrex, porcelain or wooden bowl
- 4 Salad Bowls
- 2 lbs Fresh Tuna Steaks, cubed
- 1 cup Soy Sauce
- ¾ cup Spring Onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs Sesame Oil
- 1 Tbs Sesame Seeds, toasted
- 1 Tbs Crushed Red Pepper
Lettuce, Kale or Salad Greens of your choice (optional)
Tofu Cubed and fried (optional)
Prep Time: 15 minutes Serving Time: 2 hrs. 15 min. Serves: 4
In a large, no reactive bowl, mix all your ingredients except for the greens and Tofu. Place in refrigerator and chill for 2 or more hours. Serve.
You can simply place Poke in salad bowls and serve, but my favorite way to serve it is to line bowls or halved coconut shells with salad greens, spoon in the Poke and then top with fried Tofu cups.
The greens and tofu provide a color and textural contrast that I like without altering the flavor profile. Some people like to add crushed nuts for the same effect, but, in my opinion this alters the flavor, of the dish, to the point of it becoming a new dish and not a true Poke, even by modern standards.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
This is going to be the shortest post in this organic pest control series and very likely one of the most controversial. When I have mentioned it to friends, they either fall in love with the idea or tell me it is pure BS. To me, it is just another way of re-purposing garden waste
Since I haven’t been able to find much either way in my research but have used this method of pest control successfully, in my own gardens, for several years now, all I can say is “I” recommend it and encourage you to give it a try. What I’m talking about is smoking your garden.
First, let’s be clear, When I say smoke your garden, I’m not talking about growing tobacco or ganja. I’m talking about applying smoke to your garden as a way to control the pest.
The process is very simple and best used on days with very little to no breeze blowing and the weather is not too dry. It takes moister for the scent of the smoke to cling to plants and if they or the air is too dry it won’t hold.
1. Take an old pan, shovel, banana leaf, or anything that won’t burn easily and pile moist but not wet grass, leaves and other combustible waste in it and start a small smoldering fire. If you have been cooking out with charcoal, the left over coals from your pit work great as a base fire.
2. Place the smoking fire in your garden, allowing the smoke to flow over your plants and trees for 10-15 minutes and then move it to treat another area.
3. Repeat a couple times a week.
4. That is pretty much it.
What Pest Smoke Helps With
Based on my personal experience, smoking your plants helps on all fronts, with the exception of ants. All animals from insects to the larger foragers instinctively avoid fire and the smell of smoke is abhorrent to them.
The smoke itself drives the vermin out and the lingering smell acts as a preventive measure.
I would like to add as a note of caution here that if you have a beneficial insectary in your garden to try and avoid these areas as best you can. Predator insects and pollinators will return faster than foraging insects, but they will still be affected.
An added bonus to this method of pest control is that beyond common garden pest it seems to be especially effective and controlling mosquitoes. With all of the news we have been seeing about mosquito borne illnesses, this is a benefit that I feel is worth mentioning.
This method is very simple, though it can be time-consuming. It is zero waste process, as it takes lawn and garden waste and converts it to ash that is a very healthy aid in maintaining your soil quality. Just throw it on your garden when finished burning.
Give this method of natural pest control a try and let me know what you think. As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Composting is one the best ways that I know of to improve your garden, your pocketbook and the environment all at the same time. Contrary to what many people believe it is also very easy to do and, for me at least, a great way to introduce youngsters to the beauty of how Mother Nature works to keep everything in balance and eliminate all waste.
My original outline for this article had me breaking down the reasons you should compost into the three categories mentioned above, but then I realized that most of the benefits derived from composting could not be limited to a single area of benefit. That, just like in nature all things are interrelated and that what benefits one area literally benefits them all.
Composted Soil is Great Natural Fertilizer
As a prime example of this, look at the final product, we derive from the composting process, compost itself.
Compost is one of the greatest organic fertilizing agents that you can put on your plants. Properly used, it will give you stronger, healthier, more disease resistant plants. This, of course, means less need for you to use fertilizers and other chemicals. The less you use, the less you buy so you save money and the less you use, the less there is to leach into the environment.
Even processed organic based fertilizers and other plant treatments can have adverse effects when over or incorrectly used. With compost, this isn’t an issue, the more the better on every front. See what I mean by everything is codependent and intertwined.
Compost Retains Moisture and Promotes a Healthy garden
By virtue of its high bio-content, compost acts like a natural sponge and helps the soil retain water better that even the much-vaunted peat moss. This has several effects along with the obvious benefit of lowering the need for you to water your garden.
By retaining more moisture, in the soil, compost promotes microbial growth, which intern helps to release more nutrients further enriching the soil, making your plants healthier and the crops they produce more nutritious.
It also makes the soil a more suitable home for beneficial insects, earthworms, which have their own benefits along with supplying attracting higher predators which will further reduce your need for pest control.
As you can see, when you really start to delve into the benefits of composting and how it is one of the cornerstones of how our entire biosphere tries to maintain itself, things can get very complicated very quickly.
The truth is, when you start looking at how any natural process works and all of the benefits and savings that come from doing things in a natural way, it really makes you wonder what makes us believe we can find a better way.
In this article, I didn’t even touch on how composting saves on garbage bills and could help keep at least some of the 36,000,000 tons of food waste, which the U.S. alone generates each year, out of landfills, where it produces an estimated 12 million tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane.
Nature is elegant in its designs and processes. The closer we can stay to it, the better off we will be financially, physically, environmentally. Composting is a wonderful place to start exploring how it all works and to gain an understanding of just how wonderful it is.
As always your questions and comments are welcome. You can leave them below or contact me directly via the contact form in the upper right corner or the contact page. I answer all my messages personally and love hearing from you.
Give composting a try and let us know what you think or if you are an experienced composter share your tips and tricks.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
It may or may not come as a big surprise to some that both my wife ad I are big fans of Chef Gordon Ramsey. No, it isn’t his winning personality that has made us fans. It is they idea that we have heard him stress over and over that the keys to good food are fresh ingredients, treated with respect. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to be good.
This recipe is a prime example of this idea. It is simple to make, takes very little time, creates minimal mess and will simply blow people’s minds with its delectable flavor. So, if you like the idea of making people think you spent hours creating a restaurant quality meal when it took mere minutes, keep reading.
Easy Garlic Butter Chicken Recipe
What you will need:
· Whole chicken breast on the bone, with skin
· 2 Tbs. Oil, Coconut preferred but your choice
· 1/8 lb. Butter
· 4 Cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
· ¼ tsp. Paprika
o Pepper, cracked
o Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1) Take your whole breast and sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Be sure to coat both the skin and the meat under the skin.
2) Allow chicken to rest 15-20 minutes
3) Place your wok over a high flame and add oil, allowing it to come up to high temp.
4) Drop your chicken into oil, skin side down, allowing the skin to start browning but not becoming crisp.
5) Turn chicken, bone side down, cover with a lid and reduce heat to a low flame.
6) Allow to cook covered for 10-15 minutes.
7) Add butter and garlic and cook, covered basting every few minutes until skin turns golden brown and becomes crisp.
8) Sprinkle with fresh Parsley and serve.