Archive for organic

Dinosaur Period Expanded Shale – for Gardens

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Dinosaur Period Expanded Shale – for Gardens

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener, MS Biology

                 2014 expanded shale    2014 expanded shale 2

A garden soil recipe for success is to add a soil conditioner that originated from the Late Cretaceous Period, when the most famous mass extinction of dinosaurs occurred, 65 million years ago.  In this time period, Tyrannosaurus and Giganotosaurus roamed, and flowering plants began to flourish.  Fine grained sedimentary rocks from mud of clay and silt were laid down to form the Texas Midway Shale formation which is 10 -15 ft. underground in a pattern from Corsicana to Texarkana south to Laredo.

When shale from the above area is mined and exposed to 2000 deg C for 40 minutes, 65% of the silica makeup changes chemically as gases escape to form a porous lightweight rock, Expanded Shale.  It can absorb 38% of its weight in water for a water-wise soil amendment.  Also it will conservatively last for decades, unlike deteriorating vermiculite and decomposing peat moss.  Expanded shale is mostly an alumino-silicate that will not change the soil pH, is non-toxic and inert, and environmentally friendly.  It enhances plant growth and performance.  Applications include raised beds, window boxes, gardens, large container boxes, and in landscaping.

The porous structure of expanded shale absorbs water, therefore any fertilizer components dissolved in the water will also be absorbed onto the aggregate, porous-rock surfaces.  Extension researchers from Texas and Florida, J. Sloan, P. Ampim, R. Cabrera, W. Mackay, and S. George (Moisture and Nutrient Storage Capacity of Calcined Expanded Shale), have tested the bioavailability of nutrients loaded onto expanded shale by using Romaine lettuce.  Results demonstrated significant increases in the size and the mass of yield.  Shoot mass increased linearly from 0.1 grams with no fertilizer on expanded shale to 1.9 grams/pot with 100% fertilizer-treated expanded shale.  No additional fertilizer was needed for the 45 day crop rotation.

Dr. Steve George, Texas Agrilife Extension Service horticultural researcher in Dallas, recommends this expanded shale to “open up and aerate clay soils faster than any other product tested”.  His shale research work is extensive with two years of study and 6 years of field trials.  Expanded shale increased soil porosity (for drainage and aeration), reduced compaction (for healthier root systems), and insulated roots from temperature extremes.

Jim L. Turner, director of horticulture research at the Dallas Arboretum, praises its use for solving watering issues as overwatering causes more plant deaths than any other cause.  Expanded Shale is used extensively throughout the many beautiful gardens in the Dallas Arboretum to optimize water usage and conservation.

In your own gardens, utilize expanded shale by adding 3 inches of compost and 3 inches of expanded shale, then till to 8 inches deep.  Add top mulch to the mixed soil with a layer 3 inches deep. Continue mulch additions spring and fall.  Soil tests may reveal that additional commercial fertilizer is not needed due to decomposition additions from nutrient balanced mulch.

For containers, fill the bottom quarter with expanded shale, then add a mixture of 1/3 of each – expanded shale, compost, and garden soil.  Also add mulch to the top of the container. Due to our very hot summers and intense tropical solar light, use wood or other insulating material to reduce the temperatures on the surface of the container when the heat comes.  Always use a water meter to confirm moisture levels of your container soil.  Rain water is recommended due high sodium values (>100 ppm) in some of our local tap water supplies.

By late Spring 2014, an application-test demo plot will trial expanded shale and zeolite amendments to grow various garden vegetables in the Beauregard Demonstration Garden in DeRidder, La.  The initial soil was basic kaolinite clay subsoil with little nutrient value and low ability to retain nutrients.  In early November, compost and varying additions of zeolite were added to specific rows.  LSU AgCenter soil tests have indicated high nutrient values 6 weeks later in mid-December.  Identical mass of expanded shale will be added to ½ of each row.  Then in mid-March various vegetables will be planted.  Practical observations like yield, water meter readings, soil nutrient tests, soil bulk density, and plant health will be observed.  This Master Gardener application test is not meant to be a scientific experiment as the scope, time, and expense would be beyond volunteer resources.

Dinosaur dirt (Texas expanded shale) and porous volcanic rock (zeolite) soil conditioners have demonstrated their value in nutrient and water conservation by numerous scientific tests from NASA to University Extension Service experiments.  The nutrient cost-savings and environmental benefits of these products can be employed in cropping, forests, and in small-space gardening.  Experiments have proven that soil beneficial microbes are enhanced with greater moisture control, nutrient retention, and soil porosity, which should increase yields and Ag success.  “Let’s give it a try!”

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Soil Fertility Factors

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Soil Fertility Factors

By George Giltner, Advanced Master Gardener

You don’t have to battle through botany, chemistry, cellular biology and physics to understand that when essential nutrients are not available to plants, they will not grow.  Common garden logic is in the “Law of Return”.  When plants are removed from a garden, along with them goes a portion of the nutrients in the soil.  Therefore the gardener must return that complement of nutrients in the form of fertilizer back into the soil to maintain its fertility.  Other nutrient-loss factors like water leaching, volatile gases lost in decay, pest grazing, mineral insolubility, even removing weeds, and others contribute to fertility losses.

Soil testing can identify these losses.  Also soil test results supply information on soil mineral corrections.  Soil test sample boxes are available in a convenient mail-in form that can be obtained from the AgCenter.  Results are usually emailed or mailed within a week.

Organic matter additions are an excellent means returning nutrients and minerals back to the soil.  Consider making compost year round for garden amendments.  The compost is important to the soil structure, the microbes to insects in the soil-food web, moisture and mineral retention, and to the environment.  Mineral fertilizers do return mineral nutrients quickly to the soil, but it is in a leachable form that is destructive to soil life and the long term detriment of soil fertility.  Organic fertilizers provide a wide range of macro and micro nutrients that chemical fertilizers do not have.

Plant nutrient intake is influenced by temperature, mainly from 42 to 95 deg F for most plants, due to limits on photosynthesis and microbial produced nitrogen.   Also mycorrhizal fungi are very important for most of plant’s phosphorus uptake.  During early spring, one may notice purple leaves on tomatoes exposed to cool temperature soils.  This is probably due to lack of phosphorus transport activity of the fungi due to cool temperatures.  In summer, exposed soil around plants can reach temperatures around 120 deg F, thus limiting photosynthesis.  Mulching can reduce these temperatures by a significant 30 degrees, thus allowing for moderate temperatures for photosynthesis.

Problems with pH are typical with chemical gardeners.  Additions of ammonium are converted to nitrates by nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria, resulting in a lowering of the soil pH.  As the soil pH goes more acid, less and less of soil minerals are available to plants.  If lime is added during the plant growth cycle, “lime shock” occurs which leads to further problems with nitrogen loss, and a lock up of phosphorus in insoluble (unavailable) calcium phosphate.  Plant microbes are affected and other minerals become unavailable for plant absorption.  With a healthy organic soil, plants synthesize and release exudates that adjust the pH through action of the microbiological community.  Therefore organic soils are much less pH complicated to the gardener.

Poor soil aeration can devastate beneficial microbes in soils.  A compacted soil results in trapped carbon dioxide reacting with water to form carbonic acid. Excess carbonic acid then reacts with organic matter to form deadly alcohols and other noxious chemicals that kill root cells.  Aerobes in the soil are replaced with anaerobic life which ties up nutrients that would be going to plants.  Organic soil will hold its loose structure even after rains, whereas mineral soils will collapse and become compacted. A fluffy soil that can allow oxygen and water to flow easily is ideal. Water and oxygen movement is necessary to maintain the microbes and to transport soluble nutrients to plant root systems.

Chemical balances influence availability of individual mineral nutrients.  There is completion among ions of minerals for absorption on root sites.  Example: If you have too much potassium, magnesium, or sodium in your soil, plants will take up less calcium.  As a result, blossom-end rot would be much more common in your tomatoes, squash, and other plants.  This is why frequent soil tests are very important to chemical gardeners, but less so to organic gardeners.

Many people want to become gardeners, especially with rising food prices, problems with food safety, and reports of lack of nutrients in food items.  Too many are taking the “modern path” by pouring on N-P-K fertilizer without knowing how the fertilizers work.  These people use three times the nitrogen that farmers use.  This results in excess nutrients (esp. nitrogen and phosphorus) that are washed into waterways and harm aquatic environments, plus their garden is a flop.  To become a responsible and knowledgeable gardener, take the Master Gardener Classes at the LSU AgCenter. For more information about Master Gardeners, call the AgCenter at 337-463-7706 or email khawkins@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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Milkweed Assassin Bug – Common Beneficial Predator in the Garden by George Giltner, Master Gardener

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Milkweed Assassin Bug – A Common Beneficial Predator in the Garden

By George Giltner, Master Gardener

Zelus longipes is the ‘milkweed assassin bug’ or the ‘longlegged assassin bug’, but it is commonly misidentified as the nymph of leaffooted bugs or as another sap sucking plant pest in our area.  But take a minute to ID this great predator that feeds on a wide range of soft-bodied prey in flower and vegetable gardens.  Just by observation you may notice a fly, mosquito, cucumber beetle, armyworm, rootworm or other caterpillars captured in the long spearing beak.  Also look for the long legs which are hairy within range of a magnifying glass.  The color is usually yellow to orange to a reddish orange on the stomach side with black wings present on the adults.  An orange triangle may be present in front of the wings.  This species has great variation in size and color.  However the adults and nymphs have a characteristic pear-shaped head, constricted neck, black eyes, and a forward moving beak that help in identification as a predator.

assassin 1

Assassin Bugs Prefer to Stalk their Prey Near Flowers without Harming the Plant.

The economic importance of the milkweed assassin bug is as a major predator of crop damaging pests like the fall armyworm, Asian citrus psyllid, cornsilk flies (causing larvae damage of corn), and the genista broom moth (caterpillar attacks Texas laurel, crape myrtle, honeysuckle, and Laburnum.

Their preying behavior is fun to watch, especially around flowers.  They hide in the leaf foliage with their frontal legs raised for an attack.  As the ends of these legs contain a sticky substance, they pounce on prey and immediately insert the forward moving beak into the prey.  The prey is paralyzed with an  injection of liquid saliva, then it is digested and ingested.  The prey may be up to seven times the size of the milkweed assassin bug.

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In this Photo, the Assassin Bug has Successfully Captured its Target.

Many adults and nymphs have been noticed overwintering around vegetation and flowers in Beauregard Parish.  The constricted neck of the milkweed assassin bugs readily separates their wrongful ID as leaffooted bugs (nymphs or adults).

Gardeners should learn to identify beneficial insects like the milkweed assassin bug.  These beneficials keep an ecological balance in check between predators and prey.  When all insects on plants are sprayed with wide range insecticides early in spring, it is usually the pests that have the reproductive advantage to cause outbeaks and major pest problems.

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Grow Your Own Healthy Crops

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Grow Your Own Healthy Crops
By George Giltner, Master Gardener, Beauregard Parish, LA
Health and nutritional value of food has become a common daily concern. The CDC reports that in 1958 less than 1% of the US population was diagnosed with diabetes. By 2010, the percentage has trended to an amazing 7%. For our youth, estimates are that 33% are overweight and at risk for diabetes. The cost of coronary heart disease in the US is over $150 billion annually (World Health Organization), with over 100 million people having high cholesterol levels (200mg/dl), and 70 million are treated for high blood pressure. WHO also reports that global cancer rates could increase by 50% by 2020. Our Western lifestyle with a high caloric diet, rich in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal protein, combined with low physical activity, lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arterial hypertension and cancer. Those are the unhealthy facts.
Now, is the time for a healthy life-style awakening, a behavioral reality check, and sensible cost-saving solutions to your health goals. Gardening can be the best choice solution for healthy nutrition and physical activity. The DeRidder LSU AgCenter has a nutritionist, Master Gardener classes, and a wealth of experts to support you. Gardens can be grown in containers, from pots to raised beds, or bigger into row gardens. In a month you can have a nice crop of red lettuce, kale, and broccoli. For spring, plan for one of the healthiest foods, legumes. The garden-fun exercise is good for the entire family. Dr. Kathy Fontenot, LSU AgCenter School Gardening coordinator, says “When kids grow vegetables, they will eat them.” This behavioral change even applies to adults!
Since gardening is a consumer of time and effort, you expect a good return on your investment. Education and learning are vital to a successful outcome. The Master Gardeners Program along with the comrade of contacts through the course provides abundant gardening knowledge.
You will also want to grow the healthiest and most nutritional veggies. Questions concerning diets and healthy food can be answered by Christy at the LSU AgCenter.
Whether to go organic or chemical or somewhere between in your garden quest is another nutritional choice. Common chemical fertilizers (NPK) are notorious for acidification and depletion of organic matter in soil. Also balance of nutrients is variable due to solubility and leaching of nutrients, especially when high rainfall amounts occur. However organic agricultural practices in general are right on track towards providing necessary soil conditions for growing vegetables with good, and sometimes superior, nutritional qualities. New mixed-fertility, management systems makes selective use of commercial fertilizers and organics with the goal of producing mineral-dense nutritious foods. These ecologically-oriented farms using this system, produce foods of superior nutritional quality. In many instances it surpasses their certified organic counterparts. Soil testing is of prime importance. It provides the analysis necessary to correct mineral deficiencies in various soils whether organic, chemical or mixture farming.
Between 1963 to 1992, the USDA reported average drops in the mineral content of some fruits and vegetables (oranges, apples, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, etc.) The average % change was -30% for calcium, -32% for iron, -21% for magnesium, -11% for phosphorus, and -6.5% for potassium. Other studies support depletion of soil minerals in American farm soils and a loss of food nutritional values.
The practice of adding well-made compost in organic gardening is an excellent method of avoiding mineral depletion. Home gardens are under the control of the gardener, who feeds the soil with composted kitchen waste to a large variety of other organic matter. This supports soil life with needed macro/micro minerals and nutrients that in turn, supplies the vegetables with a balance of absorbable minerals (20) and other nutrients in a desirable on-demand release.
Another factor in food nutrition is freshness. Fresh vegetables are more nutritious than canned goods, some frozen goods, and imported produce. Canned veggies are cooked, then have stabilizers, salt, and preservatives added which make them a poor choice for people with health issues. Cooking and draining of food can result in a 75% loss of potassium. Blanching of frozen veggies causes the loss of water-soluble vitamins (like B vitamins), but removes few of the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, E, and carotenoids. 30% of vitamin C is lost in freezing. For more information refer to the USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors (2003). Imported or distant produce is typically picked raw, then treated with ethylene or other agents for a ripe appearance and a fresh look. However time and the disrupted ripening process of fruit can severely affect its nutritional quality and flavor. Food from the local grower or home garden can always be picked fresh and can have flavor comparable to vine ripe tomatoes.
The ‘mystery factor’ of our food supply is a major residual concern for most people. The ‘mystery factor’ can be “Where did this food come from?” or “Are any harmful pesticide residues or biologicals in or on the food?” or “What is the true nutritional value?”. A recent TV documentary stated that only 2% of food from China is inspected. A close inspection of supermarket pork may reveal that it came from Haiti or another third world country. Also there are only 3 major food suppliers of food in this country. Their main concern is growing food for a profit. It must look good, taste fair, have a long shelf-life and above all – be sold. Therefore, the best approach to obtaining good nutritional food without the ‘mystery factor’ is to buy local quality food or grow it yourself.
So there are healthy benefits in growing your own food. You can control fertility, pesticide usage, harvest time and choose many types of flavorful, nutritious vegetable varieties. Garden produce can lower your grocery budget, or it may even produce income from a Farmers Market. It is a pleasant endeavor that can improve physical and mental well-being.

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Planting Tips & Community Gardening Plots Available in DeRidder for 2013

By George Giltner, Master Gardener

LSUAC4C72-80px[1]MasGarTM5x7_w85[1] A Blog from the LSU AgCenter and Beauregard Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners welcome gardeners to grow and care for vegetable plots in DeRidder.  Master Gardeners or community gardeners can obtain plots by calling the AgCenter, 463-7006, or George Giltner at 460-1715.  Corn, early tomatoes, a row of blackberries, broccoli, lettuce, snap peas, etc. are suggestions.  Our aim is to grow healthy, nutrient dense foods, and to support our LSU AgCenter.

A healthy potato variety, Nicola, will be trialed this spring in two sites in the Master Garden.  This potato has a low glycemic index and a buttery flavor that is great for potato salads and mashed potatoes.  One planting site is the primarily clay soil on the west end, and the other in a sandy loam site in the center of the garden center.

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Santa visiting a winter garden in Beauregard Parish

Potato planning tips:

  1. Be sure to order your potatoes early.  Many heirloom and hard-to-find varieties sell out quickly.  Ask about the delivery date.  This is important because potatoes do not do well when the temperatures reach the 90’s.  If a late planting runs into hot weather while the tubers are in the early bulking stage, you may get a low yield.
  2. When your seed potatoes arrive, store them in the refrigerator until the week before you are going to plant them.  To break their dormancy, take them out of the refrigerator, and place them on a bright and warm place, like a window seal.
  3. Plan on where you want to plant your potatoes.  The critical consideration for planting is good soil drainage.  Heavy spring rains can soak soil and turn it to anaerobic conditions and rot,  without proper drainage.  Do not plant potatoes where tomatoes or other members of the Nightshade family grew the previous year.  Plant them in spots where cabbage, mustards or other brassicas were grown for their fumigant and disease resistant properties.
  4. The right time to plant is determined by weather conditions.  Potatoes should be planted in soils that are dry enough to be cultivated without heavily sticking to cultivating tools.  The target date for our Nicola potatoes is Feb. 14.  However some may be planted under hoop wire and cover cloth for an earlier start.
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Containerized beds with hoop covers for winter gardening.

More planting and gardening tips will follow next month.  Gardening is fun.  You get mental and physical exercise, but the best part is really great food at the end of the day.  An outstanding web site is www.healthy-food-site.com/food-nutritional-value.  All of us want good health.  So think about a New Year of discovering ways to live a healthy life style.

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Rhinoceros Beetle – Giant Grub Worm

By George Giltner, Master Gardener

LSUAC4C72-80px[1]MasGarTM5x7_w85[1] A Blog from the LSU AgCenter & Beauregard Master Gardeners

3 rhino beetle adult

Adult Rhino Beetle

The rhino beetles (Scarabaeidae family) look like June bugs on steroids with up to a two inch length.  Some species have males with large horns which make them ferocious looking.  However, do not fear because these beeltes are harmless.  They even make good pets which can be kept in captivity for up to two years.

Strategus aleous is a common species found in our Beauregard Parish.  Look around parking lots at night, as they are attracted to street lights near grass or wooded areas.  The males have dominant curved side horns and a frontal rhino horn.  If two males are put a box, you may have a battle of the bugs contest with shoving and pushing.  These bugs are extremely strong.  One entomologist glued a weight 100X the weight of the beetle, on its back.  It carried the weight.  This is equivalent to a man walking with three cars on his back.  Therefore ounce per ounce, these beetles are among the world’s strongest animals.  Online “Giant Beeltes, Hercules Beetles, Ox Beetles, Rhino Beetles and Unicorn Beetles” can bring in big prices from collectors.  Perfect specimens can be sold for thousands of dollars.

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Grub of Rhino Beetle

The giant 4 inch grubs that residents of Beauregard parish find in their compost, rotting stumps, sawdust, and leaf piles are the harmless larvae of these beetles. They are beneficial by aiding in the decomposition of high-carbon organic matter. In my own 4’ cube compost pile, I have counted up to 50 of these grubs. They are dossel and easily picked from finished compost to add to unfinished organic matter. Fishermen love to use these grubs to catch the prize “big One”.  Insectivorous animals like opossums and armadillos love to dig up thick layers of leaves under hardwood forest to feast on the grubs of these giant beetles.

These fascinating goliaths of the beetle order, Coleoptera, are totally beneficial to man.  Whether put to use as fish bait, a compost grinder, or as a pet for a curious child, these beetles are useful insects.

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Battle of the Bugs – Vacuum Option

 

Battle of the Bugs – Vacuum Option

By George Giltner, Master Gardener, Beauregard Parish, LA

Imagine a 97 HP, tractor-mounted, 8-fan vacuum straddling 16’ of lettuce in the field of the US’s second largest lettuce grower.  With the force of hurricane winds, this $80,000 vac cleaner hurls bugs against metal components for an instant kill and exhausts them for soil amendments.  This equipment is the invention of entomologist Edgar Shaw who plans to develop smaller, less expensive models in the near future.  The machine is as effective as chemical pest control, but it does not burn nor discolor the lettuce as a side effect of chemical control.  Also this big bug “Salad-Vac” is one answer to consumer, grower and environmental concerns over chemical issues. Since lettuce is reported to have some of the highest levels of pesticide residues, it makes sense for the producer, Tanamura and Antle, to utilize these machines on all of their 20,000 acres in three states.  Therefore vacuuming is a viable option on the commercial scale, and it can be applied to smaller farms and gardens.

In the home garden, different vacuums have been tried with varying success. Years ago a Briggs powered vac could be bought to drag down rows, but it did not pass all of consumer’s expectations.  The underpowered and rechargeable hand models like the Bugzooka, Lentex Bug Vac, and Dust Busters just don’t have the suction power that you need for good capture.  On the larger scale, shop vacuums are bulky, can damage plants, and are a pain to move around in a gardening space.

 However, I have found a powerful and portable model that is just right – the DeWalt 18V portable vac with the option of an electric cord.  It has a battery charged up for construction-grade power tools that gives plenty of time to cover most garden sizes. The vacuum has the just right suction to get the bugs without damaging plants.  It gives the gardener the upmost satisfaction to zip the suction hose around plants, sucking up harmful bugs with ease, while leaving the lady bugs to continue their beneficial activities. With a little practice, stink bugs, cucumber beetles, and sharpshooters don’t have a chance of escape.  This vac has a large capacity tank, so you will not have to dump bugs until you’re sweep is finished.  When you do open the vac, dump the bugs in a bucket of soapy water for the final kill.  No, they will not fly off when the vac is opened.  It’s probably comparable to a person going through Hurricane Rita and being slammed against trees.  It just makes them so disoriented that they readily fall into the soap bath.

 In early spring is the time to focus on harmful bug control before the populations have a chance to reach high levels of damage to plants.  Keep up the effort to avoid outbreaks of pests as the season progresses.  By late August, the build-up of stink bugs will be fairly large. They will travel great distances to land in your pea patch or late season tomato crop.  Remember that stink bugs transmit viral, bacterial, and fungal diseases.  So you have to keep them under control, but have fun doing it with a simple vacuum.

Editor’s Note: Mr. George Giltner is a Louisiana Master Gardener in Beauregard Parish, and he regularly writes “Battle of the Bug’s” articles for the Beauregard Parish Master Gardeners Community Newsletter.

Also, the use of the name of any product is intended for educational purposes, and is not a product endorsement of the LSU AgCenter

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Battle of the Bugs: Insect Control Alternatives to Broad Range Insecticides

Battle of the Bugs: Insect Control Alternatives to Broad Range Insecticides

By George Giltner, Beauregard Parish Master Gardener

                                                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

Friendly insecticidal oils &  repellents                                                                         

 Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly

One mistake of novice home gardeners is to use the most lethal, broad range insecticides on the market.  Vendors readily advertise on their products of all the insects and arachnids that they destroy.  However new approaches to insect control are similar to modern-day warfare, where precise targeting is used instead of inaccurate carpet bombing with extensive collateral damage.  Welcome in the new age of Integrated Pest Management, IPM, which utilizes multiple approaches to target specific insect pest without harming beneficial bugs and soil organisms.

A small investment of time is required to learn about IPM – beneficial insects, pest resistant plants, physical controls, biological controls, barriers, repellents, and traps, cultural controls, etc.  Beneficial insects can easily be destroyed by a broad range insecticide like carbaryl (Sevin).  Organophosphates, another group of broad range insecticides, can also harm the nervous system of animals and humans.  Also insects are becoming more resistant to routinely used chemical insecticides.  Use of some insecticides will just enhance the spider mite damage to plants, which is controlled best with biological predator control.

An example of using IPM with spider mites would first include an ID of the pest.  Check out: www.ipmimages.org,  www.insectimages.org/support/findingimages.cfm, or http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/crops/Ingetrated_Pest_Management/ or use a book reference like “Organic Gardening for Dummies” for a fun read.  You’ll find that spider mites are very active in dry weather like last summer.  Control measures include washing plants with a blast of water, using dormant oil in early spring, and spraying plants with light horticultural oil or insecticidal soap in summer.  Encourage beneficial insects that prey on spider mites by planting attracting plants like yarrow and alyssum.

Another example of IPM control – this time use a physical control measure of vacuuming to collect difficult to chemically kill, leaf-footed bugs in the garden.  The trick is to find a vacuum that is not too strong that damages plants, and one that is not too weak to suck up the bugs.  Personally I have found a portable 18 V DeWalt vac that is perfect.  For the time of your life, find a young gardener to challenge with “vac-bug control”.  In 10 minutes, a 300 sq ft garden can be swept clean of harmful bugs and your help will be begging to do it again the next day.  Beneficial insects like lady bugs, lacewing bugs, minute pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, and parasitic flies are left unharmed.

So the message of IPM is to first use the best and least harmful method of insect control.  The tunnel vision of harmful and expensive chemical control first, usually leads to more problems later.  The butterflies and beneficial insects will reward you with their beauty, pollination activities, and a sustainable and safe garden.

“The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway” Michael Pollan.

Editor’s Note: Mr.  George Gilter is a Master Gardener in Louisiana, and he writes  the “Battle of the Bugs” articles regularly for the Beauregard Parish Master Gardeners community Newsletter.

Also, the use of product names and images is intended for educational purposes only, and is not a product endorsement  by the LSU AgCenter.

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