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

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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 few 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 stores 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.

build a vertical garden using pallets - planted

What would you plant in a vertical garden?

Upcycled Container Gardens: Housing Your Herbs

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 the 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 an all purpose cleaner. Then rinse the container out with water and let dry.

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 towels 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?

Recycle Reduce Reuse with K-Cup Seed Starters

We’ve come up with a clever solution to a problem we had: K-Cup seed starters! Take those used k-cups and turn them into something useful. 

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 reduce waste and excess.

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?

5 Easy Herbs to Grow In The Garden and Use In The Kitchen

If you’re looking for a few easy things to grow, whether in a raised bed or container garden, I highly suggest checking out these 5 easy herbs to grow in the garden. Best part? They’re perfect to use in the kitchen! 

5 Easy Herbs to Grow In The Garden

When I’m considering what to put in my raised beds and vertical gardens there’s one thing I always think about. How will I incorporate these plants into my everyday cooking? So I’ve tried to stick with easy herbs to grow in the garden.

The 5 herbs listed below are the easiest ones I’ve worked with here in San Diego and have required little more than regular watering and a little pruning every now and then (my basil). Some of these herbs even create great flowers when you let them attract bees over to help pollinate and do their thing.

If you’re looking for a few easy things to grow, whether in a raised bed or container garden, I highly suggest checking out these herbs.

[Read more…]

Taking The Picky Out Of Picky Eaters: Healthy Eating For Kids

One things most parents can relate to is the “picky eater” – you know, the kid who just doesn’t like what you offer them.

Well after a very informative parent meeting at my son’s preschool, I’ve come to look at the term “picky eater” a bit differently. And I’m doing away with it in my vocabulary! I’ve learned that what I consider a picky eater could match any number of adults I know. From my husbands distaste for tomatoes to my father’s distaste for anything nutritious (I kid… only a little).

My biggest take home of the night? Our children are not genetically geared to starve themselves. When they become hungry enough they will eat.

[Read more…]

DIY Cardboard Seedling Starter {Earth Day Celebration}

In celebration of Earth Day this year I wanted to share a way that you could get the kids involved more in starting your garden. I’ve already posted about releasing butterflies and getting kids involved in gardening so this activity just goes hand-in-hand!

Our family has become quite addicted to gardening over the past year. We were successful in our first attempt this season in our raised bed and are now expanding to the back yard. But since the back yard isn’t quite ready for plants yet we decided to start our seedlings in containers first before putting them in the back yard.

Since we’re a bit frugal we decided to use household items to start our seeds this time around. I grabbed some cardboard, a craft bin we weren’t using, and some left over compost to get started. This method not only proved to be easy but it was a great way to get the kids involved. I can’t wait for them to start seeing the little seedlings sprout!

DIY Cardboard Seedling Starter

What You’ll Need:

  • cardboard tubes
  • shallow container
  • compost or planting mix
  • seeds
  • scissors

What You Do:

1. Cut your cardboard tubes to size. If using paper towel roll cut in 4ths and if using a toilet roll cut in half.

2. Start to fill your container with dirt.

3. Spread the dirt out evenly over the whole container.



4. Using a finger, make a hole 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in each tube. This will be where the seeds go so read the packaging on the seeds to see how deep you should be planting them.

5. Fill hole with recommended amount of seeds and cover back up.

6. Water well. 

7. Continue to water as directed on the package and allow for adequate sunlight. Depending on the variety of plant your growing, transfer to a larger garden bed when the sprouted plant is large enough (usually 2-3 leaves need to have formed and the plant should be 4-5 inches tall).

Starting from seeds is a great way to reap the benefits of home gardening without the costs of purchasing starter plants from your nursery. Plus, with seeds you get way more than a small plant will yield and you usually end up with multiple plants for a fraction of the cost!

Gardening with City Farmers Nursery

When I started thinking of planting our garden the first place I went to for information and advice was City Farmers Nursery. We’re lucky enough to live right around the corner from this awesome place so heading over a few times to get ideas, come up with a plan, and then eventually to purchase soil and plants was easy and fun.

The first time we heard about City Farmers Nursery was at our annual neighborhood block party. Farmer Bill came over and talked to the neighborhood about the native plants we could put in our yards to help create a landscape that was both drought resistant and beautiful. The next year he talked about a tree program from the city that was offering trees to residents to put in their yards. Most of those trees are now well established in the streets around our home.

Once we finally had a plan about what we wanted to do with our yard and where we wanted to place our raised bed we set it up and headed over to the nursery to pick out what plants we wanted to grow. We dropped off a soil sample and were told that Farmer Bill would call us once he’d analyzed the soil.

We got a call back the next day and had a plan! Bill set us up with the soil, additives, and food we needed and even helped us with choosing which plants (and how many) to purchase for our garden. It was time to get to work!

We set up our raised bed a few months before we actually were ready to start our garden and the kids quickly took advantage of the new dirt patch. So my son was quite sad to see his trucks and digging area go away. But as soon as I told him we were going to the nursery to purchase the plants he was all over helping us. He loves City Farmers Nursery as much as we do. But for different reasons.

At the nursery they not only have just about every plant imaginable. They also have animals too. A horse, chickens, a turkey, rabbits, koi, turtles and much more. The kids love going and just exploring the animals, plants, and trails on the nursery property. How can you not love going to a place like that?

We picked up different varieties of lettuce, mixed greens, swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, celery, cilantro, and strawberries. Once we got the soil and additives mixed into the dirt we already had in our raised bed we got to planting. I let my son dig while I placed the plants into the bed.

Once everything was planted we watered, weeded, and fed the veggies and fruit until after a few weeks we started to notice that our garden was going crazy with growth! A few things didn’t make it or didn’t quite turn out as we thought they would but for the most part we now have a healthy, thriving garden! And the kids love going out to pick out their lettuce, broccoli, and celery when we eat it for lunch.

I can’t wait until we get to choose out a new veggie or two to plant in a few weeks when we harvest our lettuce and swiss chard. Hopefully we’ll have enough room for a zucchini plant! I can just taste the freshly baked zucchini bread coming out of the oven already.

I know exactly where we’ll be going to buy our seeds, dirt, and plants when we’re ready for our next project. And I have some pretty big plans for our back yard.

Do you have a garden? What are you planting?

Gardening with Kids

Gardening With Kids

Since we started our garden in November we’ve been trying to find more and more ways to get the kids involved in tending to it.

I’ve found that by including them in the process they’re not only more willing to actually eat what we harvest, they also are less tempted to start playing in the garden with trucks, balls, dinos and airplanes.

Those get left in the sand box where they belong! Below are a few ways to get your kids involved in the yard whether it be tending to an edible garden or picking the weeds in the flower bed.

[Read more…]



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