Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ugly weeds and bug spottings

Bristly Oxtongue
There's a really ugly weed I may have mentioned before that aphids go crazy over. Anyone in their right mind would get rid of these horrid looking aphid infested weeds.  Not me. Since becoming a 'beneficial gardener' I love to have them around. They have to behave themselves though. I only leave a few, preferably in a hidden corner so anyone might think I just hadn't gotten around to pulling them.

Now when I see them I think 'what a feast for my beneficial insects'. The buggy weeds are close to the insectary and today I spotted more ladybugs, a syrphid fly and some parasitic wasps.

I never knew what to call it except the 'horrid weed'. But I discovered this wonderful resource from UC Davis Integrated Pest Management site with a weed identification section that is amazing. It has excellent photos of plants at all stages, from seeds and seedlings, to mature plants, and closeups of leaves and flowers. I found my weed right away from the easy to navigate site. I now know it's a Bristly Oxtongue.

Syrphid fly
The Oxtongue in the photo looks a lot nicer than mine, because mine are covered in sticky aphids. I put up with a few of them though because of the bug spotting today of this syrphid fly, a lovely beneficial isn't it? 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trucking in beneficial flowers

I tend to think that time stands still while I'm gardening. When I go out to 'check on things', it will only be a few moments and I'll go back inside to work on my writing projects.

Funny how time keeps moving for the rest of the world while the universe pauses in the garden.

Anyway, here's what I bought yesterday for the Insectary.

Those little six-packs are deceptive. I had 32 plants to get into the ground! I worked until almost sundown and finished up this morning.

The plants are all from the beneficial list: Coreopsis and Osteospermum (African Daisy) in the gallon pots, small varieties of zinnias and asters in six-packs, plus Sweet Alyssum, which I included because of its long blooming season, providing food all summer long for my adult beneficials!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Organic weed control using beautiful groundcovers

Who needs herbicides when you can use beautiful ground covers to crowd them out. Here's an excellent fact sheet from Cornell University regarding the use of ground cover for organic weed control.

A groundcover is a perennial plant used en masse for its visual wallop—and to crowd out weeds. Many are gorgeous perennials that gardeners have used in flower borders for years. Now we’re finding that some are top performers in the "tough sites" department too.

Butterfly Milkweed

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Naming your garden | from my beneficial plant journal

The beginnings of my Insectary Garden
With over two acres to maintain, I don't have a garden. I have garden areas. The 'area' I'm working on now is a spot I managed to salvage from the rocks and fox tail and Bermuda grass, but never fully developed. I used it to plant things I didn't know where else to put.

The comfrey is maturing now as is the fennel, lemon geranium and pineapple sage. It's the perennial 'bones' my Insectary Garden, kind of like a salad bar for the otherwise carnivorous beneficial insects. I plan to fill the rest of it with annuals--members of the daisy family and wildflowers.

It's managed to survive my neglect, like it was waiting patiently to become something more when I had the time. Now that it has a name, it has a whole new new identity. The name invites me to take care of it better.

Yesterday I was able to spread out some nice organic garden soil around the fennel, comfrey and lemon geranium and I had my first beneficial inspect spotting--a tiny lacewing on the downy green fennel and a lady bug on the comfrey.

Hey, I'm not even done yet and they're already here!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Creating an Insectary Garden to attract beneficial insects

I'm creating an Insectary Garden to attract beneficial insects to our property. I have a spot on the south side of our veggie garden which curves around rather like an upside down question mark. It already has a mature comfrey and several fennel plants on one end, a Mr. Lincoln rose bush, butterfly bush, some lemon thyme, sage and a red geranium.

So I have a good start, but the bare spots are worse than bare. They're rock hard, depleted and full of weeds and Bermuda grass. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm excited about this new project.

I've been studying beneficial insects and how to attract them for years, so I have some things in place. But ever since I came across the idea of planting an special garden for them, I have a renewed enthusiasm for this particular aspect of organic gardening.

Fennel is a good insectary plant as it is a member of the Apiaceae family. Formerly known as the Umbelliferae family. I like the old name better because it has umbrella in the word, which is how the flower of these plants are shaped, only upside down. Members of this family provide the flowers needed by parasitic wasps. 

When I write about it, I garden better

It's been almost five years since I wrote on this blog. I'm back now, so all you spammers get out of my way!