9 Herbs to Help Deter Insects

March, 2019

1. SAGE: To fend off cabbage moths and carrot rust flies. Plant next to cabbage, and carrots; keep away from cucumbers.

2. ROSEMARY: Deters cabbage moths, carrot rust flies, and Mexican bean beetles. Plant near cabbage, beans, and carrots.

3. DILL: Another option for repelling cabbage moths – but keep away from carrots. The Spruce explains that dill is good for attracting attracting beneficial insects and is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies, noting, "you will lose a little dill while the larvae feed, but they are not around for long and the butterflies are lovely."

4. BASIL: Is offensive to asparagus beetle and the tomato hornworm.

5. CHIVES: Aphids and Japanese beetles do not like chives, also good to plant near carrots. Be careful here though, chives spread quickly (not a problem in my garden because we eat them up).

6. PARSLEY: Repels asparagus beetles. Good to plant near asparagus, corn, and tomatoes.

7. OREGANO: Repels cabbage moths; is a kind companion to all vegetables.

8. MINT: Deters aphids, cabbage moths, and ants. Also good to plant near tomatoes.

9. THYME: Deters cabbage worm.


An Hour of Gardening Does This to Your Body

May, 2019

Herbicides Breed Superweeds

March, 2018

    The rampant use of agricultural chemicals is creating superweeds that laugh in the face of industrial chemicals, according to researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK. Scientists exploring the unnerving case of herbicide-resistant weeds, concluded that herbicides can no longer control the weeds that threaten crop productivity and food security because plants have evolved resistance.

     Results of the study suggested that resistance is primarily driven by intensity of herbicide exposure. They also found that when farmers switched the chemicals or applied them cyclically, resistance still endured, despite those being common strategies for preventing the evolution of resistance.

    The bottom line is that current strategies of weed control are not working. We need to be using other methods to keep weeds from threatening food supplies. Farmers and gardeners need to switch to weed-management strategies that rely less on herbicides, as it is inevitable that weeds will overcome even new chemical agents.

    More information about the study can be found at:

Source: “The more herbicides used on weeds, the stronger weeds become,” by Melissa Breyer, Feb. 15, 2018.

Recipe for a Flowering Bee Lawn

 May, 2017


    What's a flowering bee lawn? I can hear your question over the ether.

     A flowering lawn differs from a traditional lawn in having flowering plants as well as turf grasses. While traditional lawns are usually managed for uniform stands of only grass, flowering plants (often considered weeds) provide several benefits, including increased resilience to environmental pressures, natural diversity that benefits insects and other animals, and the beauty of the flowers themselves. Whether introduced or native, many weeds provide pollen, nectar, or both to foraging bees throughout the year.

     These days bees need all the help they can get. Not only are they losing their habitat due to industrial agricultural practices, colony collapse disorder (most likely tied to pesticide use) is destroying the bee population at a rapid rate.

    What's the sustainable answer? Develop a flowering a lawn. Don't pull those dandelions. Learn to live with Creeping Charlie. Sow wildflower seeds, and don't mow so often.

    For more info:

Plants You Should Always Grow

May, 2017

    Companion plants are those that benefit each other, prevent pest problems, and use garden space efficiently. The benefits of planting sweet corn with beans have long been known to traditional gardeners. The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on corn, and bean vines climb up the corn stalks. But what should you plant with strawberries to make a more attractive bed? What do organic gardeners plant with spinach to repel bugs from eating the leafs? The experts at Rodale Press have the answers. Read on.

    For more companion plants, check out The Farmers Almanac guide to companion plantings:

Hydrate Your Bees

June, 2017

   Bees are in trouble, dying by the thousands from a plague associated with garden and agricultural chemicals. They need our help in order to survive and pollinate the plants we depend on for survival.

   One way we can help is to make sure they have a healthy source of water to drink from. To help hydrate our little pollinators, set up a water feeder by filling a pie pan with marbles and then water. The marbles give the bees a spot to land so that they don’t drown when they come to drink. It costs pennies, and will be fun to watch and tend to your bees.


Plant Clover

 August, 2019

Want to make your yard more sustainable and wildlife friendly, but still want a soft patch of grass to play on? Plant clover!

Clover doesn’t need to be mowed, watered, weeded or fertilized, and it’s softer to walk on than grass. Meanwhile, it improves the soil, attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial bugs for your garden.

If you don’t want so many white flowers in your patch of green, no problem. Over the last decade a new variety of white clover called microcloverhas become the trend across Europe and is just becoming a thing in the United States. The microclovers are smaller, don’t grow so many flowers and have softer stems for sitting and walking on.

You can either mix clover in with your current grass or have a completely clover-filled  lawn. As a compromise, plant native wildflowers, bushes and trees around a plot of clover on the edges of your property line. If enough people did this, our yards could serve as corridors for wildlife to move back and forth between parks and other natural areas nearby.

One Thing You Can Do:

Reduce Your Lawn

From The New York Times, April 3, 2019;

By Ronda Kaysen

Spring is here, and that means millions of Americans will soon be seeding, fertilizing and mowing their grass.America has a lot of lawns. Add them all together, and they’d cover an area roughly the size of Florida, making grass the most common irrigated plant in the country. And all that grass comes with an environmental cost.

To keep weeds at bay, homeowners dumped around 59 million pounds of pesticides onto their residential landscapes in 2012, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some of those leach into the waterways, potentially exposing children and pets to harmful chemicals.

Grass is thirsty, too. Americans use about 7 billion gallons of water a day, a third of all residential water consumption, to irrigate. Roughly half of that water is wasted because of runoff, evaporation or overwatering.

And then there’s the mowing, edging and leaf blowing. According to a study by Quiet Communities, a nonprofit group, that equipment, mostly powered by gas, emitted 26.7 million tons of pollutants into the atmosphere in 2011. Those emissions contribute to climate change.

Despite the time and resources needed to maintain a tidy lawn, they provide no habitat for bees, butterflies or the birds that feed on the insects.“ Lawns are a significant environmental problem,” said David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. “We put in these lawns, and we basically turned these important habitats into dead zones.”

The good news is: You don’t necessarily have to let your yard go wild, or dig the whole thing up to plant rocks, in order to lower your environmental impact. You can reduce your lawn by chipping away one weekend and one season at a time, dedicating a few of the hours you might normally spend caring for your lawn to planting native grasses, shrubs, trees, flowers and food.

Consider replacing some of that needy grass with a low-maintenance ground cover like clover, creeping thyme, mint or strawberry. You can also plant a tree and surround it with a bed of mulch. If you already have trees on your property, you could put in shade-loving plants — like hostas, ferns, impatiens and primrose — below the canopy.

Before you head to the nursery to buy any new grass, plant, shrub or tree, try to choose something that’s native to your area and not an invasive species. If you’re not sure, punch your ZIP code into the Native Plant Finder, which is managed by the National Wildlife Federation.

Another option for reducing lawn area is to start a flower bed or a kitchen garden. The beauty of these plots is that they can start small and expand a bit each season. Plus, they look great, you can get fresh food and herbs, and they’ll support butterflies, bees and birds.

Whatever you plant, avoid pesticides and aerate the soil instead. Fertilize grass with leaf clippings and accept that you may need to coexist with dandelions. 


Keep Monsanto Out of Your Garden

January, 2019

Four ways to keep Monsanto out of your home garden.

The Problem with Mason Jars

March, 2018

   This is news I hated to hear. I use Mason jars for a slew of practical applications, in addition to canning garden vegetables in the fall. But, as with so many products in our industrial age, there are a couple of problems with Mason jars.

    I just found out that the white undercoating on the lids contains bisphenol A, or BPA, a known hormone disruptor that leaches into food it comes into contact with. Lids with an alternative plastic coating are also problematic.

    Secondly, the screw-top ring is made of tin-plated steel that is not water-resistent, and therefore prone to rust if it comes into contact with moisture or food.

    Stainless steel lids aren’t the answer for canning because they do not pop to preserve food like the tin-planted rings do. Likewise, glass jars with bamboo lids are fine for transporting food or microwaving, but not for canning.

    The good news is there are alternatives for canning. 

    Weck Jars—spelled WECK—have rubber sealing rings and glass lids held on by stainless steel clips.

    Le Parfait Jars are similar to Weck, with lids held on with a metal hinge and clasp.

    Quattro Stagioni Jars, made in Italy, are probably safe, as well, though not officially approved by the USDA.

    So, to be safe, don’t use Mason jars for canning. Use alternatives, instead. 

Source: “The problem with Mason jars,” by Katherine Martinko, Sept. 12, 2017.

Do Not Feed Hummers Red Nectar


June, 2017

    Spring has sprung in my hometown and with it the welcome arrival of hummingbirds. I love to see these high-energy creatures buzz around my garden. In order to keep them healthy and flying about, please don't feed them red dye nectar. It's harmful. Stores shouldn't sell it. It makes the birds so sick they pee red and can’t fly.

   There is no need to dye the nectar red. Flower pollen is clear. The solution is easy: Attract hummers with a colorful red feeder and fill it with sugar water you make yourself.

   Check the feeder every day. Cloudy nectar indicates bacteria, which is harmful. Discard nectar, clean the feeder and add fresh clear nectar. Black residue indicates mold, which is harmful. Discard nectar, clean the feeder and add fresh clear nectar. Add fresh nectar every two or three days.

Clear Sugar Water Nectar

    •    Boil 4 cups water for 3 minutes

    •    Stir in 1 cup pure granulated sugar

    •    Cool to room temperature

    •    Store remaining mix in fridge for 7 to 10 days.

     - Do not substitute sugar. Do not add red nectar, red dye, honey or anything else.

     - Boiling water not only kills most bacteria and viruses, it also removes other microorganisms and chemicals.

     - If you choose to use non-boiled water, discard all nectar after 24 hours.

Recommended Feeder Schedule

    •    70°-84°F: Clean feeder and replace nectar every 3 days

    •    85°-87°F: Clean feeder and replace nectar every 2 days

    •    88°F and up: Clean feeder and replace nectar every single day.