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Natural Garden Products – Safe For the Environment – Safe for You!

March can be a fickle month, teasing us with milder sunny weather, periods of rain and the occasional snowstorm.  It reminds us that winter is not quite over but gives us some hope that spring is right around the corner!  In Zone 3 March is the time to start some vegetable seeds.   Between the 1st and 15th of March start kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts.  From the 15th to April 1, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. 

The end of March also is the time to begin to transplant any tropical plants that may need it.  Most tropical plants that need a new pot and soil will do well with a pot that is 2 inches larger in diameter than the existing pot.  Make sure your pots have drainage.  Buy a top-quality tropical soil for your new pot.  Cacti and succulents will need a cacti/succulent soil that is porous and fast draining. 

If you haven’t planned your garden for 2022 you still have time!  Before you know it, April will be here.  We can hardly wait!

 

As we enter the 2022 gardening season, we should all be concerned about our environment and the garden products we use should be safe for the environment as well.  The following are by no means a complete list of available safe solutions for plant care and insect problems, but they are a start. 

 

 

Epsom Salts

Can be of benefit to some plants in some situations.  These salts raise the magnesium, sulphur, and oxygen levels in the soil.  They are particularly beneficial to roses, tomatoes, and peppers.  Numerous studies have shown that using Epsom salts instead of regular fertilizers produced more flowers and bigger blooms on roses and pepper plants produced larger peppers.  Before use, always check the net for information on using Epsom salts on the plants you will be growing.

What can I Use to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats?

Fungus gnats are those irritating tiny flies that lay eggs in the soil of your indoor plants.  Their larvae live and feed on organic matter and roots in the soil and then become winged adults.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Due to environmental and health concerns we no longer have any products that will get rid of these pesky insects.  I recommend a couple of approaches.  First do not overwater your plants.  Fungus gnats love moist soil.   Use yellow sticky traps that can be inserted into the soil of each plant.  Gnats are attracted to yellow objects.

 

There is a new kid on the block that gets rid of fungus gnats and that is the product called Mosquito Dunks. The active ingredient in Mosquito Dunks is Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies isrealensis.  This is a beneficial- bacteria that kills the larvae of mosquitos, fruit flies and fungus gnats.  Fill a gallon jug with clean water and throw in a mosquito dunk.  It really is better to break the dunk up a bit before putting it in the water.  Let it soak overnight.  Remove the bits of the dunk in the morning (you can reuse them!) and water your plants with the bacteria infused water.  Repeat this process every time you water for three months and use the dunks in conjunction with the yellow sticky traps above the soil to break up the life cycle of the gnats.  An added benefit to using the Mosquito Dunks is that they are safe to use and will not harm humans, pets, wildlife, or fish. 

 

 

What is Mykes and Why Should I Use It When I Plant Trees and Shrubs?

Mykes is a natural safe fungal product that helps newly planted trees and shrubs recover from transplant shock, increases their life span, and helps them grow to their full potential.  It can be used on leafy and evergreen trees and shrubs.  The main ingredient in Mykes is mycorrhizae fungi – a living organism that germinates in the soil and attaches itself to the tree/shrub’s roots.  The tree provides food for the fungus while the fungus helps build the plant’s root system through an efficient uptake of water and nutrients a symbiotic relationship).  Mykes fungi will not populate the roots of blueberries and rhododendrons. 

Please note that Mykes has an expiry date.  Do not keep it in the heat or let it freeze.  It is a living organism. Store between 2 and 20 degrees C.    It is made in Canada.

Mykes is so confident in their product that if you buy a tree or shrub with the recommended amount of Mykes on the same day – same receipt- you will increase your warranty to five years.

 

 

BTK Concentrate 

BTK stands for Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki.  This is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the soil and is non-toxic to humans, birds, fish, bees, and most other insects.  This natural insecticide only targets caterpillars (Lepidoptera) larvae in the early instar stage.  This includes cabbage looper, tomato hornworm, leaf rollers, tent caterpillars and European corn borer.  Spray infestations early to mid-May. They will stop eating in two to three hours and die after a few days.   After spraying, BTK will rapidly degrade in the environment (1-4 days).  Another plus is that it only travels down into the soil for 25 cm. so does not enter the groundwater.  Swallowtail and monarch butterflies are not affected as their larvae are not in the susceptible larval stage when the spray is applied.  When assessing your insect problem, first determine what type of larvae it is and the severity of damage it is causing.  BTK is safe for use on vegetables, deciduous shade trees, evergreens, fruit trees and ornamental trees and shrubs.  Store in the original container and use within 2 years of purchase.

 

 

Wood Ash

Like most things in life, wood ash is ok if used in moderation or very lightly.  Wood ash contains lime and potassium which leach out into the soil as lye and salts if it gets wet.  This increases the alkalinity of the soil.  In large quantities this will burn your plants.  Always compost wood ashes first before adding to your soil.  This will leach out the lime and potassium.  And most importantly always make sure your wood ashes have completely burned out before putting them in the compost pile. 

Floating Row Cover 

Floating row cover is a very lightweight spun polyester material that covers plants to retain heat, provide wind protection and deter above ground insect pests.  The bonus is that it is permeable to air, light and water!   Depending on the weight of the fabric, you can gain 2 to 8 degrees of frost protection.  If your garden has insect- pollinated crops remove the cloth as flowers are forming.  When laying out the row cover remember to leave some play in the cloth above the planted area, so the seedlings have room to grow.  Bury the edges with soil or boards and bricks to create a good seal.

Nematodes

Nematodes are microscopic, white to transparent, unsegmented worms.  They naturally occur in water and soil.  Beneficial nematodes are used in concentrated form in water as an application to kill soil and above ground pests in the larval stage of their lives.  They are entirely safe to use and will not harm humans, pets, earthworms, birds, and bees. 

Nematodes are mixed in water and sprayed onto lawns or the soil of vegetable and flowerbeds.  They are parasites that enter and infect the larval pest with a bacteria that kills the insect within two days.  The nematodes remain in the dead pest, reproducing until they run out of food.  When this occurs, they will leave in search of more pests in the soil.  Once the pest population is killed, the nematodes will die off and biodegrade.

Beneficial nematodes will kill many types of insect pests in their larval stage in the soil.  These include cutworms, fungus gnats, sod webworm, maggots, iris borer, flies, and ants. 

 

 

Dormant Spray Kits

Dormant spray kits contain horticultural oil and lime sulphur.  

Green Earth Dormant Spray Kit is a product designed “to kill overwintering insects, insect eggs and diseases on fruit trees, roses, deciduous shrubs, and ornamental plants.  Use this spray in very early spring only before leaf buds open.  This product will kill aphids, spider mites, scale insects, lace bugs, and some caterpillars.” * 

Dormant oil spray is non-toxic to humans and pets.

 

*Description courtesy of the Green Earth company.

 

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