Keeping Pests Away: Using Ladybugs In The Garden

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In The Garden Is A Natural Pesticide

One thing I decided from the beginning when we started our garden was that I didn’t want to use any chemical pesticides. I’ve been very diligent about not using chemicals in the home so why would I use them in the garden? Especially on plants we grow to eat. So when I started to see little aphids I quickly went in search of a solution. And happily found out that ladybugs were the answer! How awesome is that?

My lettuce, celery, broccoli, and various other veggies and fruit (gotta remember those strawberries!) needed some protection so we headed out to find us some ladybugs. And we found ours at Armstrong Garden Centers over Ladybug weekend a few years back. And we keep going every year to enjoy the ladybugs. What’s Ladybug Weekend? It’s when one free packet of ladybugs harvested from colonies in California’s foothills will be handed out to Armstrong Garden Centers customers at check-out with purchase while supplies last

 And this year it will take place on Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24 at all 32 Armstrong Garden Centers locations. Armstrong Garden Centers anticipates giving away two million of these “good bugs” to encourage healthy lawns and gardens. How cool is that? 

Known for their unique red and black colors, ladybugs will stay in your garden as long as there is something to eat. It is okay if the insects leave because it means that your garden is clean and the ladybugs have moved on to help your neighbor’s yard.

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In The Garden

To celebrate ladybug weekend, the following free classes will be available at all Armstrong Garden Centers stores:

  • Saturday, April 23 at 9:00 a.m. – Ladybugs and Other Good Bugs – Many insects are excellent garden helpers. Learn which plants are best for attracting these beneficial insects along with how they can help your garden flourish.
  • Sunday, April 24 at 10:00 a.m. – Organic Gardening – Learn everything you need to know from building soil health to problem-solving using organic products and techniques.

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In Our Garden

Why Ladybugs?

Ladybugs are great at keeping pests out of your garden. A few pests they take care of are:

  • Whitefly
  • Scales
  • Mites
  • Mealybugs
  • Broccoli Worm
  • Tomato Hornworm
  • Bollworm
  • Cabbage Moth

If you have signs of any of these pests you might want to consider picking up some ladybugs at your local gardening store to release in your garden. To find out more about using ladybugs to keep pests at bay check out this awesome website all about ladybugs, Everything Ladybug!

Here are a few tips on releasing the ladybugs into the garden:

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In The Garden - in a bag

1. Wet the garden bed. Ladybugs love moisture. If you want them to stay in your garden and not move onto the next you really don’t want to skip this step.

2. Open up the container and let the ladybugs start to crawl up and out.

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In The Garden and strawberries

3. Let your three year old shake the container over all parts of the garden. You don’t want all of the ladybugs in one area. (The three year old isn’t necessary but makes a fun adventure!)

4. Watch as the ladybugs wake up and start moving. The ladybugs might take a few minutes to perk up but soon they’ll start crawling all over and exploring your garden. A good amount of the ladybugs will leave to other gardens but a surprising amount stay.

Watch the little guys for a bit at your child’s level. You’ll be amazed at the sheer joy your little ones find in this activity!

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In The Garden crawling around

5. Continue to mist the garden with the lady bugs twice a day. Just enough to make sure that the dirt and plants are moist and the ladybugs have water to drink.

You can also mist the garden with a 1:1 ratio of sugar based soda to water. This will make the ladybug’s wings sticky and will allow them to explore your garden instead of flying away. This solution works for about a week and then wears off.

Keeping Pests Away Using Ladybugs In The Garden spreading out

Have you released ladybugs in your garden before?

* The photos in this post are a flashback to our March 2012 ladybug adventure 🙂

How to Build a Vertical Garden Using Pallets

This is a sponsored post featuring how to build a vertical garden using pallets and is written by me on behalf of the Visa Clear Prepaid program and the Green Dot® Reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card. This post contains affiliate links. 

How to Build a Vertical Garden Using Pallets

Ever wonder what else you can do with pallets? I mean besides the thousands of other ideas you find all over the interwebs? Well my husband and I figured out how to build a vertical garden using pallets. And they’re quite fun!

Now, I want to tell you right now that we’ve had some interesting finds when building these. The first? It’s really difficult to get dirt to stay IN the pallets once you start watering them. Especially if you don’t use a soaker hose line and just spray them with the garden hose.

My son had fun with the muddy clumps that came with that! But once the dirt is settled into the pallets it’s actually quite a good way to grow fun things and makes an awesome display for your yard.

build a vertical garden using pallets - before

This above was the side of our house in the front yard before we put the pallets in. I hated how empty and plain the space was and wanted to use the vertical garden to spruce it up and bring life to this part of the yard.

I don’t think my husband quite understood exactly what I was envisioning in my head but with some team work, a bit of dirty looks and rolling eyes, and some muddy kids, we got it done.

Oh… and if you’re having trouble finding pallets because everyone and their mom is grabbing them up to make things like this, go to Home Depot or whatever other hardware store you have around and ask for their sod pallets. They’re more flimsy/rickety (hence the support added) but are perfect for this type of project!

Here’s how!

build a vertical garden using pallets - pallets

How to Build a Vertical Garden Using Pallets

Supplies:

Wood

  • wooden pallet
  • 2×2 doug fir
  • 2×4 doug fir
  • 1×8 cedar fence board
  • 2 4×4 cedar posts

Materials

What you do:

build a vertical garden using pallets - drilling on support beams1. Measure length of pallet and cut 2x2s to that length. These will give extra support to the pallet.

build a vertical garden using pallets - staple black garden cloth

2. Staple weed block fabric to the back of the pallet, pulling taut to make sure it’s stretched all the way across. Layer if needed to cover the full back.

build a vertical garden using pallets - add support panels

3. Measure the width of the pallet from 2×2 to 2×2 and cut 1×8 fence boards to that length. Screw in place over the weed block fabric.

build a vertical garden using pallets - dig post holes and level post

4. Measure the distance you need your posts to be installed on the ground and dig holes for posts. Cut posts to size depending on how far above the ground you want the pallets to be. Make sure to bury them about 1-2′ in the ground to provide a sturdy base.

5. Set posts in the ground by covering with dirt and using a level to determine if you need to move or shift the posts. Measure the back dimensions of the pallet to determine exactly how far apart the posts should be. This will vary with every pallet.

build a vertical garden using pallets - attaching pallet to posts

6. Measure where you want the bottom of hte pallet to be and mark off that height on each post with a pencil. Then cut the 2×4 to the width between the posts. This board will act as a frame for the pallet to sit on. Screw the 2×4 into position directly underneath the line you’ve drawn.

7. Lift pallet into place on the frame and screw to secure.

build a vertical garden using pallets - fill with dirtHow pretty are they??

Next up is the hard part… this is where we had the most trouble… trying to pack in the soil to make sure it stayed in place and didn’t spill all out.

Now you’re probably asking why we didn’t start our pallet garden on the ground and then lift it into place once the plants were established. Well.. you *could* do that but just think of how heavy those pallet gardens would be. Crazy heavy! So we did it this way.

build a vertical garden using pallets - dirt in pallet

8. Using the cardboard stapled to the front of the pallet, fill the pallet with mulchy garden soil. Pack down each layer as you go to make sure it’s secure. There will be some dirt that falls out, simply fill it back again or leave it as is to settle more and fill later.

9. Plant with whatever seeds you think will grow best! We stick to lettuce in one planter and herbs in another with a few strawberries at the bottom. It’s pretty fun to step out and grab herbs whenever I need them!

build a vertical garden using pallets - planting from startersAnother problem we ran into was using starter plants we purchased instead of seeds. While in theory this would work great, when you put a plant that’s been growing vertically in a horizontal planter into a vertical planter and ask it to grow horizontally it looks like this above… droopy.

It’s also quite messy and hard to get the starter plants IN the planter and you spill a TON of dirt everywhere. Our solution? Seeds… start from seed and install an irrigation system with a soaker hose. You can find everything you need for the soaker hose in the irrigation aisle at your local hardware store.

build a vertical garden buckets for run offIf you’re going to use an irrigation system with your garden, know that there will be water that drips down constantly. In order to conserve that water to use on our other plants and in our raised garden beds, we simply put buckets underneath to catch the excess water.

You know what else we found? Bees LOVE to come and drink the water that pools on the last rung of the pallet because they love mineral rich water. That means you’re helping the bees with your vertical garden too! Here’s a close up of a bee drinking. This is a regular sighting.

build a vertical garden using pallets - plant from seed

While it’s been a crazy process, I absolutely love how the vertical gardens make the side of our house look. I consider them more of a decorative piece in our front yard but love that we also get the benefits of growing our own herbs and lettuce.

And since our pallets are in the shade for most of the day, we had to choose plants that would work well in these conditions. I’m sure there are other things one could grow if their vertical garden were directly in full sunlight.

Budgeting Tip: For most home improvements we make, I like to plan ahead and set up a specific budget. We are known for going over on frivolous things so I’ve recently begun exploring using a Green Dot® Reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card to help us better plan and budget accordingly for future projects.

Not only will it help us keep track of our spending and stick to our budget, we know ahead of time if there are any fees. Plus the Green Dot® Reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card, part of the Visa Prepaid Clear program, will not let us overdraft. Win-win for our home improvement projects!

We can just load the card with our budgeted amount for the project (for a small fee) and then head out to the hardware store for the supplies we need!

Visa Green Dot Prepaid

build a vertical garden using pallets - planted

What would you plant in a vertical garden?

Pinterest Inspiration

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Visa Clear Prepaid program and the Green Dot® Reloadable Prepaid Visa® Card

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium

This past Tuesday was my 8 year wedding anniversary. So much has happened in the past 8 years and I couldn’t be more in love with my husband or more excited about the years to come. Our family has expanded, we’ve moved to a great home in the perfect area of town, we’ve become involved in our community and have expanded our friendships. Life is good.

In celebration of our anniversary I wanted to make something for my husband. I remember him seeing a succulent terrarium at a restaurant or a business somewhere and mentioning that he’d like one for his desk. I had filed it away in my head as a project to make for his birthday or another special occasion. So when this anniversary snuck up on me, I thought that a homemade gift would be perfect.

After visiting City Farmers Nursery with the kids one day to pick up some chicken feed, I saw that they sold all of the components to make your own succulent terrarium. And the options were perfect for creating my own vision and design. Plus? This gift cost less than $20 AND took less than 15 minutes to put together. I’d call that an awesome win! And my husband? He LOVED it. It’s already on his desk at work.

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium - 3 simple things

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium

What you’ll need:

What you do:

1. Place a layer of rocks/sand/dirt of choice in terrarium.

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium - add rocks

2. Plan out where you want your succulent plugs to go. Try and look at the height of each succulent when mapping out your design. Have fun with mixing different types of succulents together.

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium - place succulents in terrarium

3. Add additional rocks around the succulents and include any trinkets you may wish to include as decoration in your terrarium. Sea shells, star fish, pottery pieces, signs, etc. are all great ways to spruce up your succulent terrarium.

How To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium - perfect for your desk or patioHow To Make A Simple Succulent Terrarium - an easy and quick gift idea

Where will you put your new succulent terrarium? What will you add to it?

Upcycled Container Gardens: Housing Your Herbs

This post featuring upcycled container gardens is brought to you by GreenWorks.

Upcycled Container Gardens Housing Your Herbs

Around this house we try to repurpose and upcycle as many things as we can. If it can’t be composted or turned into something else, we try to donate. So very rarely do we end up with things that go in the trash. This makes for a great assortment of containers to be used in the garden.

When we picked up our chicks I knew we’d need a little home for them until they were big enough to go straight into our coop. At 3 weeks old they’d need to stay warm indoors so I picked up a metal bucket at our local hardware store.

Since I knew I would only be using the bucket for a short period of time I already had it earmarked for a project I’d wanted to do for quite a while… a stand alone herb garden!

Growing Chicks
I’m not sure if you know this but chicks, like children, grow like weeds! Seriously.

I turned around for a second and these cute little baby chicks are almost chickens at 2 months! But we still have 4 more months until they’re actually laying eggs (so I’m told).

Upcycled Container Gardens - growing seedlings

With so many things growing in our raised beds (like the broccoli that’s sprouting from our DIY K-Cup Seed Starters) we didn’t have any more room for the herbs I love to have on hand for cooking.

So it just made sense to have a container garden on the patio. What’s a better green work of art than a container garden?

Our next step will be to build a stacked container garden to house the strawberries we’ll be planting soon! How awesome does that sound? It’s as simple as taking this idea and stacking a few smaller containers on top of one another. Then planting in each tier.

Upcycled Container Gardens - cleaning out the container

 

Because our tub housed the chicks, I wanted to make sure that I cleaned the container very well before putting the soil and plants inside.

While some might question why I would clean out the container first – don’t people buy chicken manure? – the chicken poo that may be on the container hasn’t been composted yet. And I don’t want any bacteria that may have been left in teh container to contaminate my plants.

But more on composting chicken poo later! Lets get to this herb garden. First up – the chalkboard label.

Upcycled Container Gardens - DIY Chalkboard Label

 Upcycled Container Garden Chalkboard Label

What you’ll need:

  • 2 paper towels (can also use newspaper)
  • painters tape
  • chalkboard spray paint
  • metal container

What You Do:

1. Wipe down the area you wish to put the chalkboard paint on with GreenWorks All-Purpose Cleaner.

2. Grab two paper towels and cut each in half (4 half sheets). Then cut one half sheet in half again. You’ll have 3 half sheets and 2 quarter sheets.

3. Using the painter’s tape and the paper towel pieces, create a square or rectangle space to spray paint the chalk onto.

4. Put extra paper towel under the container to protect the table underneath from paint.

5. Using the chalkboard spray paint, spray on two coats of chalkboard paint onto the container. Wait about 20 minutes in between each coat to allow them to dry.

6. Remove the paper towels and tape to reveal your chalkboard label. Write on it with chalk and display for all to see!

Upcycled Container Gardens - variety of herbs

Tips for Planting Herbs in a Container Garden

  1. Use good soil – find a soil that’s good for growing vegetables or use a good blend of soil and compost
  2. Depending on where you’re putting your container garden, consider the height each herb/plant gets and plant taller herbs in the back
  3. Plant what you know you already use now in the kitchen
  4. Make sure you are also giving your herbs vegetable food (found at any garden center)
  5. Place the container garden in a spot that will receive direct sunlight and make sure to water!

Upcycled Container Gardens with Chalkboard Label

What’s your favorite way to upcycle old containers?

*** This Giveaway is now closed ***

Clorox GreenWorks giveaway

Adding Desert Plants to Your Garden

Adding Desert Plants to Your Garden

Desert plants include a huge variety that include succulents and cacti, but also include plants like yucca and agave, which most gardeners are not as familiar with. All of these desert plants are beautiful, sculptural and cold hardy, making them able to be added to your garden.

You might have noticed that a lot of desert plants have flowers, and while you are not familiar with their care, it is relatively easy to find out more and add a little boldness to the garden.

If you have never thought about adding desert plants to your garden, but are looking for something a little different and unique, try these low maintenance, drought resistant options. The perfect way to stay water wise in So Cal!

Gardens to Consider

Most people think that cactus and other desert plants only belong in the desert or where it is very hot, but the truth is these plants can grow in areas where the temperature rises and drops with the time of day. Some desert plants are hardy from zone 4 to 9, which includes most of the continental US. We mainly see them in the desert because of the face that they are able to survive the harsh conditions, can grow in very poor soil and are drought resistant, so where everything else has died, they survive.

Providing for Desert Plants

While they can survive in harsh conditions and poor soil, cactus actually love growing in rich soil and flourish when they have had some water. The water has to be well drained for their roots to survive, but as long as they are given plenty of space to grow out, watered regularly, planted in organically rich soil where the sun shines, the only thing you need to consider is the specific hardiness zone for each plant type. Some types of desert plants do well in landscape that is similar to where you would find them in their native area, so do not be afraid to add them to hilly areas, slopes or rock gardens.

Desert Plants to Try

Cactus and aloe plants are relatively easy to find at a local nursery, sold as indoor or tabletop plants. Look for plants that are not miniature or dwarf versions to add to your garden for their height or shape, you want something that will gain attention. Agave plants are another option, and great for first timers. They grow very large in size, and they do so very quickly when they are grow in good soil with a steady supply of water. Add these to rock beds or gentle, sloping ground.

Yucca plants are also easier to find in nurseries, and are one of the only yuccas that a lot of northern gardeners are familiar with. These plants resemble yucca when they first begin to grow, but then let out huge flowering spike that is very dramatic and beautiful. Finally, sotols are another desert variety that looks great in any garden. They are like the ornamental grasses of the desert, with their spiky foliage and frilly edges. Use them to add drama to the front of the garden bed.

Adding Desert Plants to Your Garden xeriscaping

How are you lessening your water bill in the garden?

Recycle Reduce Reuse with K-Cup Seed Starters

K-Cup Seed Starters - recycling in the garden

Over the years we’ve become more and more conscious of our environment and the impact we have on it. We cloth diaper, grow our own veggies, compost, and make an overall effort to reduse waste and exess.

We also love supporting companies that feel the same way we do. That’s why today, in partnership with GreenWorks, we’ve come up with a clever solution to a problem we had: K-Cup seed starters!

K-Cup Seed Starters - GreenWorks

Since we’ve upgraded from our Keurig Vue to the Keurig 2.0, the one thing I hate is that I can’t recycle the k-cups I use every day. And since I’m a big coffee drinker, I don’t have any way to reuse the k-cups. Until now! I’ve started getting creative with my k-cups and have come up with a list to reuse them in a useful way.

First up is in the garden. Now our garden has always been my pride and joy. I consider it a work of art that is ever changing. And since we just started up our new garden at the new house, I needed an excuse to show it off.

Green Work of Art in the Garden

How pretty are those little starter plants? Well they started in our k-cups from seed! Truly a green work of art.

That’s right. K-cups are the perfect way to start seeds for the garden. Not only are they plentiful around here, but they have a built in drainage hole that doesn’t need to be added. How cool is that?

Here’s how you use them!

K-Cup Seed Starters Tutorial

K-Cup Seed Starters

What you’ll need: 

  • k-cup
  • seeds
  • trowel
  • soil (any good vegetable planting soil)
  • water

K-Cup Seed Starters - what you need

What you do: 

1. Remove the foil from the top of the k-cup.

2. Discard the coffee grounds to be used later in the garden or your compost bin.

3. Remove the filter from the k-cup and discard the plastic filter – you can compost the k-cup paper filter if you’d like.

4. Fill with soil about 3/4 of the way up.

5. Add 2-3 seeds and top with more dirt until filled.

6. Water daily and watch sprout!

Once your seedlings are big enough to transfer just pull out gently and move to a bigger pot or straight in your garden bed!

For a full in-depth tutorial, check out our video:

 

K-Cup Seed Starters - broccoli

How do you recycle, reduce, and reuse around your home?

Get inspired by this video from GreenWorks sharing their Green Work of Art!

Great Tips for Gardening With Kids

Gardening with Kids

We’re starting to plan what we’re going to plant in our raised bed for spring right now and can’t wait to get our hands dirty. One of the best parts about gardening, for me, is the fact that the kids get involved in every step from planning, planting, and growing.

Over the years of gardening with them I’ve come to find that gardening with kids isn’t as hard as it sounds. In fact, it can be quite fun! The bonding we do over our garden has deepend our relationship and has acted as a teaching tool for life lessons.

Below are some great tips for gardening with kids that you can use if you’re just starting or have been gardening with your kids for a while.  [Read more…]

Tree Planting Tips: Planning Your Garden

Tree Planting Tips Planning Your Garden

Anyone that heads out to a nursery to shop for a tree knows that these awkward, spindly bunch of branches has the potential to grow into something great. Adding a tree to your yard is a big commitment because the tree will serve to separate, bring together and stand in place for several years to come.

Tree planting is the first and most important step to adding a tree to your garden, so it is important that it is done right and that every home gardener know about the common mistakes to avoid.

We recently started adding trees to our community garden, including a Valencia orange and Anna apple, and after much research on the types of trees we were going to plant, the next step was planting the trees right!  [Read more…]

Growing Healthy Eaters and Snap Peas from Seed

This post brought to you by Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

Growing Healthy Eaters and Snap Peas from Seed

My son is obsessed with the outdoors. He’s the ultimate bug catching, fossil digging, mud puddle making boy. It’s pretty hard to get him indoors so we try our best to keep him busy. Since I started up our garden beds again he’s been begging to plant his favorite snap peas in the front yard. How can a mother say no? And growing snap peas from seed is fairly easy.

I handed him a trowel, some gloves, some Miracle-Gro Organic garden soil, and some snap pea seeds. And what he did next was pretty darn awesome. Not only did he plant the seeds, but he proceeded to water them daily, check them for bugs, and give me progress reports on their growth.

This experience definitely made me one happy and proud mama. He’s learning how to grow his own food and he’s requesting more and more variety in the seeds he plants. [Read more…]

Gardening With Kids: Gro Something Greater

This post brought to you by Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

Gardening With Kids

Gardening with kids has come to be one of my favorite hobbies these days. Not only does it give me much needed momma time with my two little ones, it also is a great way to teach them new and wonderful things.

I’ve also found that while we spend time gardening, we’re also growing something greater. We’re growing an amazing bond and a safe place for them to come and talk to me about just about everything.

[Read more…]



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