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Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

Today, I’d like to talk about swarming bees!stock-photo-a-swarm-of-european-honey-bees-clinging-to-a-tree-102044851

It is a bit scary to see something like this hanging from a tree in your yard, but NOT TO FEAR!  Bees that are swarming are busy looking for a new home.  Bees sting in order to protect their honey (food source) or eggs.  They don’t have either in the swarm, so they tend to be rather placid.  The bees that leave the swarm are scouts looking for a new home.  Perhaps in a hollow tree or wood pile, or somewhere.

In the springtime, the hive may become overcrowded, which is unhealthy for the bees.  There are new queen bee eggs about to hatch out.  The old queen is the one who leads the swarm to new “quarters”, so it’s important that there are queen bee eggs left in the old hive.  But the bees figure that out.  Bee keepers also know how to deal with that (we hope).

The only time you should be concerned is if they are INSIDE the walls of your house.  Then if they decide to settle there…they WILL have a hive, with honey and eggs…so watch out!  Then you WILL need an exterminator.

Here at Horizon House, we probably won’t encounter this early spring happening, but I’ll bet that many of you gardeners have dealt with a swarm or two in your lifetime.  Maybe it would be interesting to re-visit this phenomenon and really find out what is going on here!

Here is a little video about bee keeping that you might find interesting.

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Here at Horizon House, we have a Green Roof.  It has somehow “sprung a leak”!  At any rate, there is lots of activity on that roof.  The link above will give you a wonderful explanation from UCDavis.IMG_2856

There are many good reasons for having a Green Roof.  These roofs have been around for centuries, and can still be found in their original form in some European countries in the form of Thatched Roofs.  But, why do we reach back in time to think about constructing Green Roofs again?

  • First and foremost…it absorbs rainwater.  This means the water, instead of dumping right into sewers with all the oil and debris it picks up along the way,   stops first at the green roof.
  • The soil to be found on the roof absorbs the water; filtering the pollutants, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorus, etc.
  • The plants then gobble up the nitrogen and phosphorus helping them grow.  Since those are ingredients in plant fertilizer…we don’t have to pay for them.  They are FREE!
  • The water taken up by the plants is put back into the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation, instead of having to go into our sewer systems, etc.
  • INSULATION is a really important part of this equation.  The Green Roof provides as much as 25% cooling in the summer, and 25% warming in winter!
  • A Green Roof also helps insulate the building from sound pollution!
  • That Green Roof will provide a wonderful place for beneficial insects, birds, bees and butterflies to call home.  Our roof, being in the middle of an urban area, provides a welcome place for migrating birds and butterflies to rest!
  • This one surprised me!  It will increase the life span of a roof by as much as 200%!!!!!
  • Lastly, it helps by mitigating urban heat.  Here is a good article I read in the NY TImes about this very issue.  Check out the link!

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My Master Gardening skills are coming into play more and more often, which I love!  Even though my certifications are from New England, and lots of stuff is quite different out here in the great north-west, there are SOME things that are easy to transfer!

Today, I got a question from Sue P. here at Horizon House about some kind of insect damage IMG_2762she is seeing on her plant leaves…so I went to work.  Even though the climate is different and SOME insects vary, most of the time you pretty much know what is causing the damage…whether here or in New Hampshire!

As you can see there is something nibbling on the leaves she brought for me.  They are not sucking sap; or burrowing between top and bottom of the leaves (miners); and the damage is rather small…signifying to me that it is not snails or slugs, who tend to gobble up the entire leaf!  I also don’t think it’s leaf cutter bees because their damage is VERY rounded, not irregular like these.  There are also no bugs, trails, webs or spittle to be seen.

My educated guess is that it is some kind of nocturnal insect that comes out at night and eats to it’s heart’s content only to disappear into the soil, debris or other protected places as soon as the sun rises.

Some possibilities include beetles (and their larvae),earwigs, weevils, caterpillars, or cutworms.  Here is an extension page from The University of Arizona and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) that does a pretty good job of explaining about these critters.

Now, what do you do about them?  As a Master Gardener, I frown on chemicals in the garden, so here’s my solution.

You won’t see nocturnal insects in the daytime, because they are only out at night.  I don’t imagine you’d want to spend an hour or so out in the garden at night!  What you actually can do is trap them!  As explained, they hide out in the daytime in dark, humid places…so…

Get a newspaper and roll it up, putting it in the garden under the affected plant.  Then in the morning, take that paper and unroll it, and more than likely you’ll have a trove of night-time eaters napping their day away in that handy bed you provided!  Dump them (or the whole newspaper) into a bucket of soapy water and do it again, and again, until you don’t have so many any more.  Your plants will be happier…as will you!  You might be surprised at what you’ll capture!  Or, you can use a small board, just laying it in the garden overnight.  In the morning scrape off whatever you catch into a bucket of soapy water.  An up-ended flowerpot would also offer some temporary comfort for them.

This technique is a little labor intensive Sue, but I think the satisfaction of controlling a nasty insect without chemicals,will be it’s own reward!  Good luck and Happy Gardening!

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I guess I’m on a tear with this topic.  It just seems to me that it is such a REAL possibility to mix the two without making our gardens ugly!  However, if we put veggies in the garden they should be ornamental.  Looks really DO matter!

Last week we went to Swanson’s Nursery to listen to a talk about Gardening For Seniors.  When I visited their website this morning, I found a section on “Edibles” in the garden.  Here is a picture that says it all!  It is beautiful.  I will paste the picture here for you to look at, but you really should go to their websiteEdible-herbs-veggies-Swanson's home page.container and read what it has to say!  Remember this photograph is a possession of Swanson’s-it is NOT one of my photographs!  How can anyone  think veggies can’t be attractive?

Here is a short list of some really good choices (mine AND Swanson’s) to spread among those flowers:

  • exotic kale
  • dill
  • fennel
  • asparagus
  • dark purple leaved beets (Bull’s Blood is one variety mentioned by Swanson’s)
  • curly leafed parsley
  • different varieties of thyme
  • chives
  • tri-colored sage
  • prostrate rosemary
  • green globe artichoke

What you need to plan for is the height these plants will reach, as well as how much room they need to  spread.  They shouldn’t be taking over the garden…just adding to it!

 

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IMG_2314Last week we went to Swanson’s for a talk on Gardening for Seniors.  Not only did we have a good talk on Gardening for Seniors, we had a chance to have a delightful lunch and then wander into the Nursery to purchase all kinds of plants!

I thought it would be good to review the things we heard about.  I will do that here.  I have also taken the liberty of adding a few of my own observations that I think could be most helpful.  Here they are:

THE SOIL & POTTING TECHNIQUES
⁃    You can use HUGE packing pearls to take up room in large pots so you don’t need so much soil.  It will also make the pot lighter to move around.  Remember to use a permeable material to separate the soil from the pearls.
⁃    You should transplant pots every 3-5 years.
⁃    If you need help re-potting, Swanson’s does do that.
⁃    You should always have a hole in the pot for drainage.
⁃    A dolly under a pot is VERY helpful for moving it!
⁃    Use ergonomic tools!  They are much better for arthritic and “tired” hands.

FERTILIZING
⁃    Osmacote is wonderful for perennials
⁃    We talked about the numbers on the fertilizer.  They can be confusing, so here’s an easy way to remember what you are looking for.
⁃    N-P-K  (nitrogen-phophorus-potassium) is what they translate to…the numbers mean the percentage of each of those ingredients found in the fertilizer.
⁃    N-or nitrogen is critical for foliage growth.  i.e. fertilizer for grass has a HIGH first number or nitrogen content.  Don’t use too much of this on your flowering plants, as it will stimulate foliage at the expense of flowers!
⁃    P-Phophorus-is necessary for the roots and flowers. (Think bulbs and rhizomes, as well as annuals) A high middle number (P) is GOOD for flowering plants. (Rolf, our speaker, suggested Bloom Booster (10-52-10) for your annuals.)
⁃    K-Potassium builds the entire plant helping it become sturdy and healthy overall.
⁃    All of these should be scratched into the soil to be sure it can be absorbed readily by the roots.IMG_2327

INSECTS
⁃    Slugs-You can run a copper band around the garden.
⁃    A recipe I have used in New England is combining 9 parts water to 1 part common household ammonia and spray it on your vulnerable plants just before dark. When the slugs hit this, they will dissolve!
⁃    I also recommend spreading diatomaceous earth around those plants.
⁃    For Roses you can spray with Neem Oil in the spring and fall.
⁃    Aphids will drown easily so spraying them with water every 8 days for a few weeks should do the trick.
⁃    Mealy Bugs and Spider Mites should be treated with Insecticidal soap.

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No black-flies!  No mosquitoes! Hardly any bees!  I have yet to see a wasp!  Where are the butterflies?

I don’t think Washington has black-flies, but mosquitoes?  Am I just lucky living in the city?  I’ve seen probably three bees in the 4 months we’ve been here.  I haven’t seen ONE butterfly.

Is it that we are in the city?  Is it that I’m not being observant enough?  There are certainly tons of flowers, so there must be pollinators.  On reading this article, it appears that Washington is a bit concerned about it’s pollinators.  We need to plant all kinds of flowering plants.  More importantly, we need to plant NATIVE species which will attract and hold onto those pollinators even better.

So, maybe part of the problem is that gardeners in Washington need to be particularly mindful of pollinators.  Here’s a link that will tell you how you can help.  Visit it and take it seriously!

So, I’m off for today.  If I get a garden plot here at our retirement facility in downtown Seattle, I’ll be looking at native species to plant.  Do you have any wonderful recommendations?

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