How do you kill garden bugs organically? Fire Ants
Back in 2004 my husband got a job in Florida, so we all moved there from Ohio. Within a month of living in our new home, our two-year-old daughter discovered a mound of dirt in our backyard. Within seconds of finding and touching it, she was covered in fire ants that bit her on the legs that caused her intense pain. That was our first introduction to Florida’s fire ants.
Since that time I have learned all I could about fire ants. What I learned is that fire ants are not native to the United States. They were accidentally brought to the United States in 1929 on a cargo ship carrying soil from South America. Since they have no natural predators here in the US, the fire ants have exploded. They are incredibly aggressive and dangerous.
Fire Ants Home
By now you are probably wondering how to spot a fire ant nest, or the ant itself. It’s actually pretty easy to see where the fire ants are living if you know where to look, which is down. When I am outside walking on grass or dirt, I watch my feet as I walk. What I look for and avoid are any dirt hills. The hills can be as small as an inch or as large and tall as 15 inches. The dirt for these hills has a grainy look to it that I have come to learn.
If you are unsure if a dirt mound is a fire ant nest, there is a very easy way to find out. Take a long stick and poke the nest. If fire ants live there, they will immediately swarm out of the nest and onto the stick. If the stick was your hand, you would get bit many times over.
As for the ants themselves, I don’t really know what they look like specifically because I never see them unless their nests have been disturbed. When that happens it is best to get as far from the fire ants as possible. From what I can tell, though, they look like a typical ant. They are neither excessively large nor small. And, no, they are not red as their name might imply.
Fire Ants Bite
The reason fire ants are called “fire” ants is because of their bite. Their bites burn like fire, or so I’ve been told. I’ve never been bitten but I know plenty of people who have, including my daughter. Her legs were covered in little red welts. Apparently, fire ant bites cause small, painful welts that can sometimes scar. In my daughter’s case, I counted over 40 bites at the time of the incident. She is now 10 and several of the bites turned into scars that can still be seen.
Bite Treatment and Hill Destroyer
The best way to treat fire ant bites is with a sting and bit product called Mitigator. Apply it as soon as a bite occurs. And if you find an anthill, you can either buy a product called Amdro, or call your exterminator. I have found that exterminators are far more successful at killing fire ant colonies than over-the-counter products are.
Every spring I get really excited about everything I will be gardening for the year. I like to plant different vegetables because I really like the variety. I am hoping to have a big harvest this year.
I decided to build some raised beds this year. I am hoping that it will be easier for me. I won’t have to bend down as far and I can control the soil. I have a good friend who has had a lot of success with them.
I will be growing a lot of tomatoes this year. I love to eat them. I will be planting six of them. I will have two cherry tomato and the rest of them will be bigger for sandwiches and to make sauces with. I also plan to give some to my friends as I am hoping to have a large harvest.
I will also be growing bell peppers. I plan to have four of these plants. We like to use bell peppers in our salads or when making salsa. It will be nice to have our own in the backyard. We will have fun watching these plants grow.
We will be planting carrots this year. We have never done carrots but hear they can bring a wonderful harvest. We will be planting quite a few of them as we are a big carrot eating family. All of my kids love them and we tend to eat them 3-4 times during the week.
We will also be planting peas. I love peas and I have always wanted to grow my own. I plan to plant about eight of them as I know we will eat them all. I grew up on home-grown peas and can’t wait to try them myself.
We would also like to try green beans and we enjoy eating those throughout the season. We tried those last year and they were a big hit. We are excited about having more this summer. Everyone but my youngest son loves them.
We will also be trying to grow some flowers to add some color to the garden. We will be planting Sunflowers, Marigolds and Cosmos. I have never grown them before but hopefully they will grow nicely.
Next Saturday we plan to get started on the garden. My kids are going to help. They love gardening as much as I do. It is a lot of fun to garden with them. They get so excited when something new starts to grow.
My Mom always loved to garden and I think that is why I do too. She taught me the basics early on. For a long time I always kept a pretty small garden but this year I plan to grow a lot more.
I just feel so good when I grow my own food. My kids will eat it and I can share it with my friends. I enjoy the whole process and will continue to do it year after year.
Gardening is not just about having a green thumb. While it looks like a fun hobby, behind this aspect of agriculture is a science that should be dealt with care and knowledge. The soil is, of course, an essential component of gardening. And as well as the plant itself, the soil should get special treatment. We’ve heard of fertilizers doing amazing things to improve soil, but there’s another alternative: green manure cover crops.
What is Green Manure?
First of all, no. it’s not the mental picture you just got. It’s not green poo. Green manure comes from cover crops— temporary crops that are planted during or at the end of the growing season to retain the viability of the soil for the next planting. While green (hence the name), they are incorporated into the soil by plowing, thus not only adding to the biomass (organic matter) of the pre-imposed soil but also increasing the nutrients that can be made available for the next generation of crops.
Used by Ancient Greeks and Chinese
Green manure has been used for centuries. Broad bean plants were used by Ancient Greeks while the agriculturally-inclined Chinese used grasses for improvement of farm soil. It’s not such a very modern thing after all. Today, many alternatives can be used, and remember: take into account the season in which these alternatives can be grown. Winter cover crops, or fall or late-summer green manure crops are typically legumes, such as Fava beans, cowpea, alfalfa, Sunn hemp, and soybean. Non-leguminous crops, like wheat, rye, radish, sunflower, Sorghum, Tyfon (a plant of the genus Brassica; a relative of mustard), and also mustard itself.
What are the Uses and Benefits of Green Manure?
Aside from the apparent increase in organic material in the soil, green manure crops improve the soil’s aeration (letting the air seep into it; basically, letting the soil breathe), its water filtration and retention, granulation, and it also protects the soil from water and wind erosion. All are beneficial for the growth of the plant. Green manure contributes a lot to the improvement of the soil, unlike chemical fertilizers, which only refurbish certain nutrients.
Legume crops, from atmospheric nitrogen, can manufacture fertilizing nitrogen. Along with phosphorus and potassium, nitrogen is a macronutrient that is important for the plants that must be consumed in large amounts. Green manure also suppresses the growth of weeds and lessens the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Green manure also acidifies alkali (basic) soil. A pH that is more than 6.5 to 6.8 disables the plants from absorbing macronutrients. Unlike composting, green manure adds over 40 tons of organic matter per 1 hectare or 2.47105 acres. While composting requires a water supply nearby, rainwater will make do for green manure crops. Moreover, they are used where they planted; compared to compost, which must first be transported onto the plant field.
Don’t Go To Seed
One thing that the gardener must be cautious about is sowing cover crops. The gardener should not let it go to seed, else the cover crop will be invasive, spreading throughout the field and will cause damage to the field. Mind you, you’d have a hard time raking them out.
A Win-Win Deal
Before resorting immediately to fertilizers and other mainstream solutions in the gardening industries, look for alternatives first. Green manure for the field will, of course, also incur expenses; but the benefits that it yields outweigh that of chemical solutions. Besides, the cover crops that come before green manure can also be used for human consumption, so it’s a win-win deal.
Crimson Clover is a wonderful cover crop video( 2:36 min) by covercropdave
When you buy a container of plants at the store, it is usually not a good idea to simply leave the arrangement as is for too long. Most store-bought container plants have already outgrown the container they were planted in. The stores want these to look full and lush because they sell better that way. But unfortunately, they don’t live well that way.
Since the container is overcrowded, the plants have little room to breathe let alone grow. So if left in the container as you bought them, the plants are likely to die not long after you’ve brought them home.
The best way to keep these container plants alive is also a wonderful way for you to have more plants in your home:
Separate them into multiple containers.
1. Once you’ve found a container of plants at the store you really like, be sure to also buy a few extra pots if you don’t already have some waiting at home, and buy extra organic potting soil too. I recommend going to a reliable nursery that sells only quality plants.
2. When you get home with your new materials, you’ll repot some of the plants from the container you just bought. You don’t have to do this immediately, but it is best to do it within a few days of bringing it home.
Most indoor container plants are quite hardy, so you don’t have to worry too much about hurting them.
1. First, you’ll need to set up all your materials. Set the new container of plants on a table or counter, then put the empty pots and potting soil close by. I prefer to do this next to a sink because you’ll be watering the new containers after transplanting and having the sink on hand just makes this easier.
2. Now, if the container full of plants is a bit dry, soak it with water really well first. This will loosen the soil and make it easier to remove plants from.
3. Next, turn the plant container over on your hand, so the plants start falling out. Usually, the container is so full and crowded that all the roots are intertwined, thus the entire plant arrangement comes out as one piece.
4. With the plant roots showing, pick one or two sections – or individual plants from the arrangement, and gently break its roots away from the main root section. You will break some of the plant’s roots when you’re doing this, but a little breakage doesn’t usually hurt anything. Just be sure you don’t sever the plant from its roots entirely.
Sometimes its easier to simply use a knife or spade to cut the plant roots apart. You can separate and sort out the entire original container arrangement first, or you can do it one section at a time.
5. Once you’ve got one or more sections of the container arrangement separated, you’ll put them into the empty pots. Fill one of the pots at least half-way with the new potting soil. If the soil is a bit dry, soak it well with water and let it drain. Then dig one or more partial holes in the soil of the new pot, and put one section of the original plants you’ve broken off into each hole.
You can put one section into each pot, or you can put 3-5 sections into each pot. It all depends on how large your new pots are, and how large each plant section is that you’ve broken off from the original. You want to be sure there is space for each section in the new pots though because the sections you’ve broken off will grow and fill in quite fast – usually within a couple of weeks – and you don’t want to have to move it to another pot again so soon.
6. Once you have the plant sections in place, fill in the remaining area around them with more potting soil. Press it down a bit, add some more water and let it settle, then if needed: Add a bit more soil.
7. Once you have the soil level covering the roots and at an appropriate height, soak the new planting pot with water again and let it drain.
You’ll need to rinse off the outside of your pot most likely, then you can set it anywhere in your house with enough light. Repeat this process for however many sections of plants you want, and within just a couple of weeks, you’ll have several new indoor container plants looking wonderful in your home!
When planting a garden, it’s a good idea to know what you’re planting might be invasive in some way. Often new gardeners will end up buying plants that are very easy to grow, not knowing that in time the plant will become more of a problem than anything else.
Invasive plants are those plants that grow so prolifically and are so hardy, that they destroy other plants in your garden. Often they get out of hand and can take over the entire yard. These are wonderful for getting quick results in a garden, but they’re so hardy that they’re extremely difficult to get rid of in the future.
There are also some plants which are not native to an area, that will destroy the native and natural plant life there. This can cause big ecological problems over time.
One of the most common and most invasive plants is Ivy. In some areas of the United States, different types of ivy will expand, choke out and kill other plants quite quickly.
Mint is another plant that tends to be problematic. It also expands and grows quickly, and it can also kill other types of plants that are in its growth path.
Wandering Jew/Purple Heart
Another invasive plant is the ‘wandering jew’ or some call it ‘purple heart’ will spread in just a couple of years. This plant will grow good in sun or in shade. Plant in an area that you want to cover with no other plant.
Planting and growing invasive plants are OK to do if you do it properly. The most important thing to do when planting them though is to put them in an area where they can be fully contained and controlled.
A common way to plant mint, for instance, is to simply put it into a pot, then plant that pot into the ground. This keeps the roots of the plant contained, and the gardener can simply nip any stray branches that might try to go into unwanted places.
This same technique can be used with ivy, but it’s more difficult to control. Because ivy is a vine, all the various points on the vine can take root. So leaving the vine unchecked for just a few days can be enough time for new roots to take hold and spread.
Pots and Containers
I personally suggest keeping ivy in pots and containers only. Don’t put the containers into the ground, simply sit or hang them on your patio or keep them inside your home. You could also plant ivy and mint in window boxes, just watch the ivy closely and if it starts trailing too close to the ground, trim it back.
There are other types of plants, vines, bushes and even trees that can be harmful to others in the environment too. It’s always best to try researching specific plants online before planting them. This is most important to do for bushes and trees because these live much longer than general annuals do.
Keep in mind that some people consider certain plants as invasive, just because they don’t like them and the plants are quick and hardy growers. Many native wildflowers are referred to as invasive or “weeds” because of this tendency. This is a preference issue though and not an ecological one. Some people just don’t like wildflowers and naturalized plants while others do.
Don’t let chronic illness prevent you from your love of gardening. These tips and tricks will make it easy for you to continue your favorite hobby in spite of your illness.
Get some containers and have them on a table or railing. Even if you’re confined to a wheelchair you can reach them to plant seeds or plant starts. Weeding will be simple because container gardening doesn’t leave much room for weeds. Ideal plants for container gardening are strawberries, tomatoes (consider upside-down hanging tomato plants), radishes, lettuces, herbs, cucumbers, garlic, celery, bok choy, and other similar vegetables.
Raised Gardening Beds
Raised gardening beds can be built to any height. These are ideal for arthritis sufferers who find it painful to bend over and weed a garden. If you’re in a wheelchair they can work well as well. Ideal if you’re suffering from back pain, raised gardening beds aren’t new to the circle of gardening. Any plants that are planted in a regular garden can be planted in a raised garden bed. Raised garden beds are similar to container gardening in that they require minimal maintenance for weeding. Build them 2 feet by 2 feet and you have an ideal garden plot that is easy to keep weeded and grow your favorite veggies.
Dwarf Fruit Trees
Dwarf fruit trees are designed to not grow past a specific height. In most cases, this can be between five and eight feet. If they are kept pruned they can remain at the lower elevation which means it’s easier to harvest the fruit. Ideal for those who have an illness and can’t commit a lot of time to their gardening, the fruit can often be picked while standing flat on the ground. Minimal maintenance makes this an ideal way to garden. Dwarf Fruit Trees
Consider Smaller Gardens
If you can’t do raised garden beds and don’t have containers, you can still garden on a smaller scale. Reduce the size of your garden into 2 foot by 2-foot plots and arrange them in a few different areas of the yard. Don’t spend more than one hour per day on your gardening and you can break that up into 4 fifteen minute intervals. If you have 4 different plots you can spend a few minutes throughout the day gardening and still yield a very profitable vegetable crop.
Gardening potatoes, when you’re suffering from a chronic illness, is easy. Here are two fun ways to plant potatoes.
Tires: put an old tire on the ground and throw in some soil. Plant 5 potatoes in the tire. Stack another tire on top and repeat. You can stack this as high as you desire. Water from the top down. At the end of the summer, you can simply tip the tires over and harvest potatoes. the following video shows exactly how it is done.
Washtub: You can take that old washtub of grandma’s and throw some potting soil inside. Throw in your potato starts and add a bit more of soil. Water as needed. At the end of the season, you’ll have huge potatoes.
A quick video to show a potato tower only 55 seconds
Gardening doesn’t have to be a chore, these methods make it fun and easy even if you’re suffering from a chronic illness.
Almost everyone wants a lush, green lawn and an attractive, pest-free garden. Unfortunately, in order to achieve this goal, many people resort to using harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides. While these products are effective in accomplishing their purposes, it is not without impact. Most fertilizers and pesticides currently on the market are made with harmful chemicals that, even when used properly, affect not only human health but the health of our environment. Luckily, there are now great cost-effective and proven natural alternatives that can help you achieve a healthy and beautiful yard without chemicals. Salt Lake City, partnered with Beyond Pesticides is running a trial on a couple of local parks to incorporate the best alternative practices in pesticide management and lawn care. They encourage city residents to join them in reducing the number of chemical pesticides and fertilizers they use.
As part of the Healthy Babies Bright Futures initiative, Salt Lake City is working to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals that we come into contact with on a daily basis. One common source of exposure is through pesticides (including rodenticide, herbicides, insecticide, and fungicide). Their guide was created to give residents a starting point for reducing and phasing out chemical pesticide use in their homes. It’s healthier for you and the environment!
Chemical pesticide use and exposure has been shown to have negative health effects on humans. Recent studies show that most homes in the United States are contaminated with pesticides. Health effects found to be caused by chemical pesticide exposure include birth defects, childhood cancer, acute poisoning, brain tumors, and asthma.
A Child is Vulnerable
Children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals due to their exploratory nature and size. Children are more prone to place potentially contaminated household objects, as well as their hands, in their mouths. Because of their small size, children are closer to the ground and contaminated surfaces which exposes them to more chemicals. Additionally, compared to adults, children have a relatively higher intake of food, water, and air.
After learning about the great alternatives to chemicals in this article, it is likely that you will want to cut down or eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers in and around your home. Initially, this might mean more time spent in the garden doing manual labor. Luckily, gardening promotes many health benefits.
Studies have shown that working in the garden improves both your mental and physical health. Gardening has shown to be more effective at reducing stress than other leisure activities.
A Low-Impact Exercise
Gardening is also a good source of low-impact exercises, such as stretching and strengthening muscles. This physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. Two studies were conducted in which people in their 60s and 70s were followed for up to 16 years. Those who gardened regularly had between a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than those participants who did not garden.
Keep Our Environment Healthy
Creating a natural environment and promoting biodiversity around our homes can reduce chronic illnesses, including allergies, in both children and adults. Recent studies show that the health of our soil is directly related to the microbial life on our skin and in our gut. This is yet another reason to keep our environment healthy and diverse by eliminating the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
No diet is truly optimized without a healthy amount of leafy greens. These plant foods are truly a miracle of nature, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals; they also are low in calories so you can eat plenty of them without gaining weight. Leafy greens can be eaten in sandwiches, be part of casseroles and can be eaten in numerous types of salads.
What are leafy greens?
There are both common and relatively uncommon leafy green vegetables available to you. Most you can get at the produce department at your local supermarket but others you may have to grow in containers in your house or in a garden or visit a store like Whole Foods.
A few leafy green vegetables include:
Spinach is high in zinc, niacin, fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, thiamin, calcium, folate, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Low in fat and even lower in cholesterol.
Kale raw kale is composed of water, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It contains a large amount of vitamin K. It is a rich source of vitamin A, C, B6, folate, and manganese. It is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, B vitamins, manganese, whereas other essential nutrients are in low content. Broccoli has a low content of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and dietary fiber.
Romaine Lettuce is a source of Vitamin A, Folate, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
Cabbage is a rich source of vitamin C and K. Cabbage is also a moderate source of vitamin B6 and folate.
Mustard greens are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K. Mustard greens are a moderate source of vitamin E and calcium.
Dandelion greens contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. A surprising plant that is beneficial in many different ways.
Swiss chard has a rich content of vitamins A, K, and C. Also having significant content in raw chard are vitamin E and the dietary minerals, magnesium, manganese, iron, and potassium.
Escarole/Endive has a rich content of vitamins A, B5, Folate, and especially vitamin K. Rich in minerals of Manganese, Potassium, and Zinc.
Turnip greens have a rich content of vitamins A, B6, C, E, and especially high in vitamin K. Minerals of Calcium and Manganese are moderate.
Watercress is particularly rich in vitamin K and contains significant amounts of vitamin A, C, B6, riboflavin, calcium, and manganese.
Chickweed is edible and nutritious and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads.
What makes leafy greens so special?
It seems that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing, as leafy greens contain disease-preventing plant-based substances that may help protect from diabetes, heart disease, and even various cancer mainly because of the powerful antioxidants they offer. Kale, for example, is a great source of vitamins A C, K, calcium, and also supplies folate and potassium.
These vegetables have so few calories that they hardly even count and lettuce, kale, and spinach can be eaten in abundance. These are also high fiber foods and so they keep you full longer and allow you to eat less. Another benefit of the fiber is that it helps to stabilize blood sugars, and that results in less out of control cravings for sweets and other junk.
Different leafy greens have different properties but all of them can be considered good for you. They contain vitamin K, which is essential in helping the body to properly clot blood. Vitamin K also helps prevent several conditions related to advancing age and can help prevent bone loss, arterial calcifications, kidney damage, and heart disease. Just a single cup of most leafy green vegetables will provide you with more than enough vitamin K for your system per day. Kale is especially helpful, providing about six times the recommended intake of vitamin K.
You can actually lower your cholesterol by eating leafy green vegetables. The bile acids produced by the liver which help fats digest from the gastrointestinal tract are bound by the fiber in the leafy greens. The bile acids pass through the body along with the residue of leafy green vegetables, forcing the liver to use up even more cholesterol to make bile acids. This reduces your endogenous cholesterol level. There was one study in the Nutrition Research journal that indicated that slightly steamed kale and mustard greens did the best job of binding bile acids.
Leafy green vegetables are good for the eyes. The best leafy greens to eat for eye health are mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale, and dandelion greens because they are high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids help filter the high energy light caused by the sun and therefore prevent sun-induced cataracts. These carotenoids also improve overall visual acuity.
A cup of raw escarole can help your body by adding pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5. The B vitamins together help carbohydrates break down into glucose to be used for cellular fuel. The body cannot store B vitamins each day so you need to find a daily source for these vitamins. What better way than to incorporate escarole/endive in your diet.
Calcium For Bone Health
Leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of calcium. It’s the calcium that gives these foods their slightly bitter taste. While leafy greens do not give you alone the amount of calcium you need in one day (about a thousand milligrams of calcium per day for women between 30 and 50), they provide easily absorbable kinds of calcium. A half a cup of dandelion greens will give you about 75 mg of calcium, while mustard greens can give you 55 mg calcium.
Considering that these are virtually fat-free foods they give high-fat dairy foods as a source of calcium a run for their money.
Prevent Colon Cancer
Kale and mustard greens can help prevent colon cancer by being part of the group of vegetables that includes cabbage and broccoli. In a study in one dietetic journal, those people that ate more of these leafy greens suffered a lower risk of developing colon cancer.
How do you eat leafy greens?
Leafy greens can be eaten raw in salads or can be steamed and mixed with things like herbs, other vegetables, or added to stir-fry. Generally, it is advisable to have a little heat applied to these vegetables as possible to keep their nutritional content intact. Kale and spinach both are at risk for overcooking very fast because they cook so quickly.
A good rule of thumb when cooking is to only steam to a bright free color, such as the case with broccoli, once it turns a dark green color it is likely overcooked and has lost valuable nutrients.