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GardenRx Questions and Answers

Your organic guide to gardening, landscaping, pest control, natural living, focused on the methods necessary to build and maintain gardens and lawns organically.


GardenRx Questions and Answers 1

“GardenRx focuses on the methods, tools and philosophy necessary to build and maintain gardens, lawns and plants naturally by introducing 21st Century gardeners to the reality of why it is important to go organic. When we talk about organic, we are talking about a method of working with nature that is actually much easier on us as gardeners, than working against nature. By working with nature, we build healthy soil so that lawns and plants and gardens become stronger and resistant to pests and diseases, naturally.”    -Loren Nancarrow

Common Questions and Answers to Keep Your Garden and Lawn Happy and Thriving

Problems with Crickets

In the house

Use duct tape – sticky side up with dog food to catch them

Use cricket chirping to tell the outside temperature.

Count the number of chirps made by one cricket in fifteen seconds and add thirty-

seven to the fifteen second number. This will be the temperature where the cricket is at the moment.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Yellow spots in the lawn

Use gypsum to counteract the acids in the urine and repair the damage to the lawn.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 3

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Repelling cats

Rose pruning’s laid over an area will repel cats

Fishing line strung between stakes over an area you don’t want cats will repel.

Don’t like walking on unsteady areas

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Repelling Gophers / Moles / Voles


Make the varmint think a predator is near.

Soak rags as soon as you see a tunnel or mound and place in the hole.

Place pet droppings or used cat litter.

Most of these animals dislike very wet conditions – soak tunnels, and holes

Many people swear whirligigs and pinwheels that create vibrations in the soil repells them.

Half bury empty plastic soda bottles in the yard. The wind passes over the bottles and creates a noise to scare them away.

Unlike voles and gophers who are plant eaters, moles are insect eaters. They’re looking for grubs in your yard.

Most animals dislike castor bean plants.

Make repellent –

Basic solution — 2 tablespoons castor oil, 1 tablespoon liquid dish-washing detergent and 1 gallon of water – Soak tunnels

Traps – there are so many different ones – baiting makes the difference.

Gopher trap – “black hole” with an apple.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

How to grow your own pineapple plant.

They can be started easily and grown indoors or outdoors.

Cut off the crown of pineapple and scope out any remaining flesh

After you’ve done this trimming preparation, it’s recommended that you leave the crown upside down in the dark (and dry). This is to let the cuts and holes heal, and to prevent any rotting. You don’t have to, but it’s a good idea.

Start your pineapple in an 8 inch terra cotta pot (we’ll move it once it outgrows this, to a 12 inch pot). Use a light garden soil (that’s disease free) mixed with some finished compost, or use a good potting mix.

Pineapples need to be well drained, so put a small layer of coarse gravel in the bottom, and maybe put something curved over the hole (make sure there’s a hole!) so it doesn’t get blocked. I use a piece of broken pot.
Just prior to planting, the bottom leaves should be stripped, leaving about 3-6 leaves. In doing this we want to expose the bottom inch of the crown. You should see little brown bumps (primordia) at the base of the crown. These are dormant root buds, where the roots will start from.

Plant the crown in the soil so the brown bumps are covered, but not the leaves. Press the soil down lightly around it, and make sure you don’t get any soil in between the leaves.
Place your newly potted plant in indirect light where it won’t get sunburnt. Bottom heat at 70-75 degrees F (21-24 deg. C) will stimulate root growth.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Slugs / Snails – Dealing with

Baits and repellents

Ring bran around plants. When eaten it expands killing the slug or snails. Can only be used when dry. Buy at feed store – cheaper.

Diatomaceous earth – like walking on razor blades to slugs and snails (plus many other insects). Harmless to pets and humans. Sprinkle around but must be reapplied after rain or heavy watering.

Copper stripping around raised beds or trees will prevent them from crossing.

Commercial bait with iron phosphate. Harmless to pets and humans.

Make some easy traps that work.

Beer trap. Sink a tuna can so the lip is flush with the ground and place beer in the can. They come for the beer and fall in the can. Dispose by feeding to ducks (ducks love them) or in a bucket of salty water.

Turn over some empty flower pots (cover the drain hole so its dark). Prop the pot on a rock so the slugs and snails can get in. In the morning check for hiding varmints.

Pay small children to collect them.



Problem on nasturtiums, hibiscus and many other flowering plants.

Water is the best offense. They have a short lifecycle. You must spray at least every five days to down the populations down. Secret is to spray the underside of leaves where the eggs and nymphs (or crawlers) are.

Hand held vacuum works well on adults and nymphs

Make your own pesticide

1 cup water, ¾ cup alcohol – mix and spray on plants. Always check for burning first. You can spray the solutions on and wait a few minutes for it to kill the whiteflies and then spray it off with clear water as other option.

white fly

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Good bugs / bad bugs

Stats – 95% of bugs are good bugs.

Good bugs can look bad – aphid lion. They show up when there is something to eat – like aphids.

When populations of bad bugs (say aphids) are more than good bugs can handle best method is to spot treat.

Start with a spray of water.

Find out what pest you have. Very important when choosing correct treatment to target the pest.

Spot treating with a spray bottle.   Spray affected plants.

Plant flowers like daisies, dill, carrots, zinnias, sunflowers, basil, sage yarrow, and marigolds, which attract more beneficial insects.

garden bugs

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Black spot on roses.

Signs – black spots on the leaves and sometimes yellowish edges.

It’s a fungus that only attacks roses. It lives on the canes and on fallen dead leaves in the winter and then spreads to the leaves when the weather is moist or wet. Problem in areas where the summers are warm and humid.


Buy resistant varieties

Rake up dead leaves, good sanitation.

Be aggressive as soon as you see it. Apply a baking soda spray (2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 gallon of water and optional sticker/spreader of 1 teaspoon liquid car wax or vegetable oil.)

Prune for good air circulation.

Water roses in the early morning.

Never work on wet roses.

Clean tools after working with roses with alcohol or bleach.

blackspot on roses

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Damping off disease of seedlings

Problem – seedlings (usually basil, beans, cabbage-family, carrots, celery, lettuce, onions, spinach and tomatoes) look fine one day then the next day they are bent over. This could be a fungus problem called damping off disease that causes a soft rot at the soil line.

Prevention is the key.

This fungus called sclerotinia is present in most soils. It targets seeds and young seedlings. Plants become resistant with age as the stem harden.

Try starting plants indoors as your first course of action. Use sterile potting soil and then top with sand or fine sphagnum moss on the soil surface to help keep the seedling’s stem dry. A small fan blowing across the seedlings will do the same thing. (Show how to start seeds)

Do not fertilize your seedlings until they have their first set of true leaves. This fungus loves nitrogen-rich soils.

Good drainage and not over-watering will help with the problem.

Thin plants for good air-circulation.

Fungus does not like acid soils, so use fine peat moss or pine needles or make a pot of chamomile tea to mist and acidify the surface of the soil.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

What to do about cutworms

Cutworms can be big problem throughout the US. There are many species of cutworms and can be dull gray, brown, or black, or they may be striped or spotted. They are stout, soft-bodied and smooth, and up to 1 and 1/4 inches long. Cutworms are larvae of dark, night-flying moths, often visible around lights in April and May. When you find them cutworms are soft-bodied, hairless caterpillars that curl up when touched. There favorite plants to nibble on are tomato, pepper, cabbage, peas, beans, and squash.

To control in the soil (beneficial nematodes) or make your own spot treating solution of 1 gallon water and 3 tablespoons dishwashing liquid. Pour on trouble spot. This will bring the cutworms to the surface for birds to eat or dispose of them yourself.

Wrap paper sleeves made from newspaper around seedlings when planting to protect them. (Bury paper in soil) Show planting.

Laying boards in planting beds before planting will get rid of a lot of cutworms too before they cause a problem. If the soil is moist you can find them curled up under the boards.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Controlling silverfish

Silverfish eat a wide variety of foods, including glue, wallpaper paste, bookbindings, paper, photographs, starch in clothing, cotton, linen, rayon fabrics, wheat flour, cereals, dried meats, leather and even dead insects. Silverfish often live in damp, cool places such as basements and laundry rooms. They are nocturnal and active at night.

How to make your own trap that works with a jar and flour.

Take a small glass jar like a baby food jar and wrap the outside of the jar with masking tape. Put a small amount of wheat flour in the jar. Place jars under sinks or where you have a problem. The silverfish can climb in but they can’t climb out.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Ridding your home of roaches

How to make an effective bait

There are several different species of roaches living the United States and they either like sweet baits or starchy baits. So if one bait doesn’t work well try the other.

Sweet bait recipe – 1 part sugar and 1 part boric acid. Place in cut down paper cups and place along baseboards and walls. Low toxicity but keep away from pets and children.

Starchy bait recipe – ½ cup boric acid or borax, 1/8 cup sugar, flour, and bacon drippings. Mix dry ingredients together with enough bacon drippings to form a paste. Add a bit of flour if needed to form soft balls the size of marbles. Place the bait balls on wax paper where roaches like to hide. Low toxicity but keep away from pets and children.

get rid of cockroaches

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Mosquito prevention tips

Red is an attractant to mosquitoes.

Bt dunks that will kill the larvae in ponds of water and not hurt anything else.

Lemon grass, citrosa geraniums, eucalyptus, mint and rosemary planted around will help repel them.

Rub fresh herbs (basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme) on your skin will repel them.

Mosquito fish (Gambusia affinis) are placed in ponds to eat mosquito larvae. Some agriculture departments supply them. Check with yours.

Hang a hanging basket with sundew plants in it as a natural trap for mosquitoes.

Stop itching – use equal parts baking soda and water or apply ammonia.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Making your own mulch

The benefits of using mulch – conserve water, reduce insects, reduce soil compaction, and prevent weeds and soil erosion. The soil under a thick layer of mulch in the summer will be around 85 degrees, whereas bare ground will be around 120 degrees.

Use a weedwacker in a trash can half full of leaves to make a great mulch.

How to place mulch around your plants. There’s a right way and a wrong way.

For woody plants – a three inch layer is usual. Keep mulch two to three inches away from the trunk to keep mice from chewing on the bark and prevent rot.

For shallow rooted plants like azaleas – put on a thin layer.

For annuals and perennials use a mulch that break down in one season like leaf mulch, straw, and grass mulch. This lets you dig up and turn the soil without worrying about it not being broken down. Leaf mulch and grass mulch can compact down, so fluff it up periodically.

Compost the perfect mulch. Use 5 inches in garden beds.

Easy tip for apply mulch around young plants. Take garden pots and place on top of the plant. Now spread the mulch. When you are finished remove the pots. Perfectly placed mulch.

make homemade mulch


Hate hand-picking insects off of your plants?

If you’re having a beetle problem such as cucumber beetles or Japanese beetles try this:

Cut the top off of a plastic milk jug. Leave the handle on. Fill jug with 3 or 4 inches of water is liquid soap added. In the early morning when the beetles are still cold (remember they are cold-blooded creatures), slip the jug under an infested plant and give a quick hit with a stick. The beetles will fall off the plant into the jug for disposal.

Uses the bug’s biology (cold-blooded) against them.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Raised bed gardening

Good for seniors and persons with disabilities because of less bending.

Nail hardware cloth to bottom to prevent gophers.

Easy to build.

Good for handicap gardeners.

How to make great looking cheap garden art

Use copper verdigris kit to old kid’s hobby horse or other items.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Insect traps

Make your own yellow sticky trap out of a yellow plastic plate.

Great for catching whiteflies,

White sticky traps catch rose chafers.

Use colored plastic plates sprayed with Pam or adhesive. Hang or staple to stake in garden.

Great for determining what insects are in your garden as well.

Make your own sticky traps – spray adhesive on a four-inch square of cardboard. When the bugs get stuck throw them away. Place out of reach of children and pets.

garden bugs

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Aging terra cotta pots

How to use moss and buttermilk to age new pots making them look more expensive.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Making your own great looking hose guides

All that is needed is 12” pieces of rebar, 6” pieces of 1” in diameter copper pipe and caps for the pipe.

Stick rebar in the ground six inches deep. Place copper pipe with cap on top of rebar. The copper pipe will roll as the hose is pulled making for easy gardening and plant protection.

a simple garden hose guide

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Scale insects

Look like shell-like bums on the stems and undersides of leaves. Heavy infestations can result in poor plant growth. Some species of scales produce a sticky liquid called honeydew that is deposited on the foliage. Under damp conditions this honeydew can become infested with fungus know as sooty mold Some species of ants collect the honeydew as well.

Scales are susceptible to oil spray.

Step 1: Make the oil mixture – 1 cup vegetable oil (safflower, corn, soybean, or canola) and 2 cups water. Place in jar or empty squeezable ketchup bottle.

Step 2: Make spray – mix 1 tablespoon oil mixture (for delicate plants reduce oil mixture to 1 teaspoon) with 2 cups water. Place in spray bottle, shake and spray. Shake periodically to keep mixed. Repeat every 7 to 10 days. Check for burning. (Could be used in hose end sprayer for trees).


GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Repelling wildlife (deer, raccoons, rabbits, birds)

Besides an 8 foot tall fence what can you do? (Many have tried soap on a rope, wolf urine, etc.)

Lay pallets on the ground – they don’t like walking on or jumping over pallets. (Boards also).

Mix a paste of hot pepper powder and water into a paste and spread it on saplings.

Plant plants and trees deer don’t like. ( Aloe, candytuft, catnip, daffodil, dahlia, forget-me-not, foxglove, gloriosa daisy, hyacinth, iris, verbena, bottle brush, holly, juniper, lavender, lilac, viburnum, ash, beech conifers, ginkgo, and oaks.

Rabbits don’t like blood meal.

Reuse old CD from promotions by hanging them in trees to scare away birds.

Physical – Scarecrow sprinkler

Sometimes a losing battle but don’t just rely on one kind of treatment.

GardenRx Questions and Answers 2

Preparing garden beds

Double dig beds.

Use compost and a good commercial organic fertilizer, or make your own.

1 part alfalfa meal, 1 part fish meal, 1 part green sand, 1 part gypsum, ½ part bone meal.

Add 1 cup around existing plants or bushes and large bushes and shrubs add 2 cups and work into soil.

getting your garden ready to plant

Chlorosis (Iron deficiency)

How to tell if you have it? Leaves are yellow but the veins will be green.

How to make you own treatment solution.

Use 1 tablespoon of kelp extra per gallon of water and spray on leaves biweekly.

To prevent water with an iron fertilizer made from old scouring pads. Place 1 used steel wool pad in a container with 1 quart of water. Let sit for a week and use 1 to 2 tablespoons of the iron water in every gallon of water for the plants.

cure for chlorosis

What to about panty moths (Indian meal moths)

Commercial pantry moth traps for adults – uses a pheromone to attract males.

Homemade trap is a bowl filled with vinegar. Alternative trap: Mix boric acid with cornmeal-at a 1 to 3 ratio. Place mixture in jar lids or washed tuna cans in pantries and cupboards. Keep this away from kids and pets

Place grain products in the freezer for at least 3 days before storing in the pantry.

Vacuum pantry edges to get eggs and larvae.

Repellents you can put in your pantry. Essential oils: consider washing everything down once a month or so, and putting cotton balls with 10 to 15 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil in the corners of the cupboards, pantry and closets. Bay leaves placed in flour or rice containers will repel them.

Pantry moth larvae eat a wide assortment of foods, ranging from flour to dried chiles to candy.

It takes six to eight weeks for the panty moth to complete its life cycle.


Manure tea – great liquid fertilizer

If you are lucky enough to live near a ranch or have a horse you have free fertilizer. You can also get manure from fairgrounds, stables, dairies or buy it bagged at the nursery.

To make: 1 shovelful of fresh or aged manure (horse, cow or poultry), 1 large piece of cheesecloth, 5-gallon bucket. Place manure in cloth and tie closed. Place package in bucket filled with water. Let steep for 2 to 3 days. Dilute solution if necessary until it looks like weak tea. Use as soil drench or foliar fertilizer. Expand ingredients proportionately to fill a trash can for lots of tea.

The many uses of garlic

Garlic has been known to be effective on many types of disease causing fungi, including downy mildew, gray mold, and rust. Garlic also has repellent qualities for diseases and insects.

Basic garlic spray – 1 garlic bulb and 1 quart water. Crush bulb of garlic and place it in pan of water. Bring to boil, then turn off heat. Let mixture cool. Strain out garlic. Pour into spray bottle and spray on affected areas of the plant. Repeat as necessary alone or add soap or oil to this for added insect killing power.

To make a garlic repellent spray that rabbits dislike. Use 4 gloves garlic instead of one in the above recipe and when cool add 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion. Pour in spray bottle and use where rabbits like to feed.

How to buy beneficial insects

Ladybugs – the most common beneficial bug purchased. Both the larvae and adult feed on aphids, scales, mealybugs and other small insects. To attract them to your yard plant carrots, yarrow, or any composite flower and allow it to bloom.

Other beneficials available are green lacewings (aphid lion), praying matids, and predatory mites to name a few. Many available online for specific problems in your area.

When purchasing ladybugs wet the foliage prior to releasing. Usually the first thing they need is a drink when they are released from package. Also release them at night and so they are ready to attach your pests in the morning.

Make your own dormant oil spray for stone fruit trees (apricots, peaches, and plums)

Used to control insects and fungus on the trees.

This is a two part procedure for dormant trees only. First spray tree with copper sulfate purchased from the nursery. Wait a few days for the copper sulfate to dry completely and spray tree with this oil mixture of:

1 gallon of water, 12 tablespoons canola or safflower oil and 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent. Pour into Hudson sprayer.

Organic lawn care

Simple compost is the best fertilize for lawns and no one uses it. It’s as simple as use a mulching lawnmower and adding a ¼ inch of finished compost to your lawn every fall. This will increase the organic matter in the soil which will allow the soil to hold more water and nutrients, lets oxygen reach the roots, and feeds the microorganisms that make essential nutrients available for healthy grass.

If you must use a nitrogen fertilizer – don’t use more than 4 pounds per 1,000 feet per year and not more than one pound at any one time. Compost and clippings deliver two pounds of nitrogen per year.

African violet care

Improper watering is the biggest problem for homeowners.

Recycled butter tubs work well to water the plants from wicks. Or water when soil is dry to the touch by immersing the bottom of the pot in room-temperature distilled water for 15 to 20 minutes. You can pour water into the pot but don’t water the crown of the plant. Soil should be moist but never soggy.

They need bright but indirect light (like through a sheer curtain), good potting mix (equal parts vermiculite, perlite and sphagnum moss), water and African violet fertilizer. Some growers swear by a rusty nail placed in the pot.

Ideal growing conditions are 65 to 75 degrees and 40 to 50 percent humidity. In dry areas sit plants on trays of wet rocks or gravel to increase humidity.

1,000 different hybrids.

You can cut off a leaf to start a new plant.

Deadhead blooms

Bloom best when pot-bound. Repot every six months or when they develop a neck (long stem that results when lower leaves have been pruned off.) The bottom row of leaves should sit even with the rim of the pot.

How to fertilize trees correctly

Young trees. How to find the tree’s drip-line to apply the fertilizer. Show this.

Place fertilizer from 1 inch inside the tree’s drip line to 3 inches outside of it to reach most of the tree’s feeder roots. Most feeder roots will be in the top 12 to 18 inches of soil.

Mature trees.

To find the root zone, measure the tree’s diameter 1 foot above the ground. If the trunk’s diameter measures 12 inches, then the feeder roots will extend out about 12 feet. (Formula – 1 inch diameter = 1 foot of feeder roots). Most feeder roots form a band around the outer two-thirds of this number. To get the inner number of the band – divide 12 (like the example above) by 2/3 to get the inner band. This equal 8. So the feeder roots extend from 8 to 12 feet away from the trunk of the tree.

How to make your own tree fertilizer

Mature trees need little fertilizer in the nature because the leaves that fall decompose and return nutrients back into the soil. However, in our yards we mow and rake the leaves up so the trees need extra fertilizer. First use a mulching lawn mower if you lawn trees. The grass will break down and supply extra nitrogen to the tree. Also apply once a year:

Tree fertilizer recipe: 1 part cottonseed meal, 1 part rock phosphate, 1 part greensand, and 1 part gypsum.   Mix all ingredients together. Apply 1 pound of fertilizer for every inch of trunk diameter to root zone.


Cleaning leaves of indoor plants

Use mayo instead of high-priced commercial cleaners. Rub on with soft cloth. The leaves will be shiny and clean.

Easy stump removal

Several easy techniques

Keep warm and moist to speed up rotting

Cover with compost to do the same thing

Drill 1” holes and fertilize (chicken manure and soil)

Pour milk on it.

55 gallon drum and burn it. If you are in a hurry and your state permits open burning.

Make you own potting soil.

It’s inexpensive and easy to do.

General purpose potting mix

Equal parts loamy soil, sphagnum moss or peat moss mixed 1:1 to equal parts perlite, vermiculite or sand.

Easy outdoor pot mix

1 part loamy soil, 1 part compost, and a well-balanced organic fertilizer for the pot size

Hanging basket mixes

1 part loamy soil, 4 parts compost and 4 parts perlite. Add organic fertilizer for basket size.

Worm castings mix

Balanced mix – 2 parts aged compost, 1 part castings, ½ part verniculite.

Use match heads when planting to increase the sulfur content in the deep sandy or fast draining soils or soils poor in nutrients for great peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, potatoes, string beans, squash, cantaloupes and watermelons.

Also can add Epsom salts for extra magnesium.

Don’t let matches touch roots.

Plants with sulfur deficiency – leaves appear light green overall or yellow and growth is usually stunted.

Sulfur increases protein content and promotes seed production.

Another thing to increase sulfur is to make a solution of blackstrap molasses and water. (1 tablespoon to a quart of water per plant.)

Using grass sod for liners of hanging baskets.

Cheaper than mats and look great.

How to make the perfect hummingbird feeder with a commercial feeder and a hanging plant. (Fact: If a 170-pound many were a hummingbird, he would need to consume about 155,000 calories each day which is the same as eating 310 Big Macs, per day to stay alive.)

No more drips on the patio and can be treated to prevent ants.

Needed – hanging basket, long chain hangers, S-hook and hummingbird feeder.

Treat top of hook with citrus oil or mentholated rub. Make a moat out of a soda bottle cap and fill with water.

Best sugar mixture ¼ sugar and 1 cup water. No food coloring.

Lightening up big planting containers with packing peanuts.  

Makes them lighter and requires less soil.

Replace ¼ to 1/3 of the container with peanuts. Then place a plastic bag liner over them and add soil and plant.

Make to make a beautiful orchid display with like to see in hotels for little money.

Decretive bowl and purchase plant.

Sweet potato vines make a great arbor.

Easily started with an old sweet potato.

How to make homemade kelp fertilizer.

One of the best plant foods you can give your plants.

To make you need fresh or packaged kelp or seaweed.

Collect ½ of a 5 gal. bucketful of seaweed and rinse. Place seaweed back into bucket and fill with water and cover. Stir everyday for two weeks. The solution will yield a dark black liquid you can use right now. Dilute 50-50 with water and spray or drench plants. Or you can let the mixture continue to decompose for a month. The seaweed should be completed decomposed. Dilute this to ½ cup to 1 gallon of water.

For packaged seaweed, only fill bucket half full of water.

For a simple fish / kelp emulsion mix 1 ½ tablespoons liquid seaweed concentrate or 3 tablespoons of the less concentrated formula, 1 ½ tablespoons of fish emulsion into one gallon of water. Spray seedling by misting every two weeks, for older plants spray as needed.

How to make compost tea with molasses to feed the beneficial bacteria in the soil.

To make: 1 shovelful of compost, 1 large piece of cheesecloth, 5-gallon bucket. Place compost in cloth and tie closed. Place package in bucket filled with water. Let steep for 2 to 3 days. Then add ¼ cup of black strap molasses or a handful of worm castings to feed the beneficial bacteria. Use as soil drench or foliar fertilizer. Expand ingredients proportionately to fill a trash can for lots of tea.

Use fish pump to oxygenate the solution and get the good bacteria really growing.


Make a mason bee habitat. (Common throughout US)

The Mason Bee is the common name of a nonsocial native bee that pollinates our spring fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. This gentle, blue-black metallic bee does not live in hives. In nature it nests within hollow stems, woodpecker drillings and insect holes found in trees or wood. Sometimes there may be dense collections of individual nest holes, but these bees neither connect or share nests, nor help provision or protect each others’ young. Also, they are active for only a short period of the year. They are not aggressive and one may observe them at very close range without fear of being stung, which makes them excellent for enhancing our yards and gardens. They add beauty, activity and pollination to our plantings. However, they do not produce honey.

The female bee visits flowers to collect pollen for its young. She forms a small ball of pollen and nectar in the back of the nesting tube and lays an egg on the ball. She then collects mud to form a cell partition and repeats the pollen ball-egg laying process until she reaches the mouth of the tube where she caps the end with mud. Starting the life cycle in the spring, adult males emerge from tubes first, but must wait for the later appearance of the females in order to mate. Females alone, begin founding new nests in holes to make a row of 5-10 cells in each nest. Females collect the pollen and nectar and lay eggs. Their short foraging range is about 100 yards from the nest. Activity continues 4-6 weeks and then adults die. During the summer, larvae develop inside the nests, make cocoons, and become new adults resting in the cells. With the onset of fall, the adults become dormant as they go into hibernation. These bees require some cold temperatures before spring in order to break their dormancy.

Nest Block Contruction

The native eastern species of Orchard Mason Bee will nest in holes drilled in a wooden block. Untreated 4″ x 6″ lumber works great. Holes can be drilled in the wood on 3/4 inch centers. They should be 4-8″ deep (depending upon the size lumber used), smooth, and a 5/16″ diameter hole is important. A smaller hole encourages higher production of male bees which reduces the reproductive potential of the population. Blocks may be drilled from either face giving shallower or deeper holes. Shallower holes may produce more male bees. Do not drill completely through the lumber. Drill the hole to a depth about 1/2 inch from the back of the block. Attach a roof to provide protection from the midday sun and rain. Outside surfaces may be painted or stained, but do not use wood preservatives. One hole may be drilled in the back to provide a means of hanging the block. Face nesting blocks as close to the southeast direction as possible to catch morning sun and affix it firmly so that it does not sway in the wind. It should be located at least three feet above the ground.

These bees need mud to construct cell partitions, so adding a mud supply may be helpful if needed. This can be a trench or tub located nearby where muddy soil is maintained during the nesting period. The mud should not be highly organic or sandy. Clay soils work well.

Effective rodent control (baiting and trapping together is best method)

Use rodent’s biology against them.

They follow scent trails or runways along sides of baseboards and buildings. To figure out where they are sprinkle flour in areas where you suspect mice. Place traps along these scent trails and to direct the rodent to the trap, place a box or object next to the trail, leaving 3-4 inches of room for the rodent to run into the trap.

They are sensitive to smells and don’t like the smell of ammonia. Spray scent trails and good sanitation (don’t leave pet food out all night). They also dislike the smell of daffodils, hyacinths, and scillia plants.

Screens can be no larger than ¼” to keep them out and need to be buried about six inches deep.

Peanut butter good bait for snap traps. For Ketch-all or have-a-heart traps try apples, dog food or whatever veggie they are eating in your garden at the time.

Owl box and raptor roost

Benefits of natural control of rodents (squirrels, rabbits, rats). Let nature work for you.

Examples of each and how to make them.

Saving seedsIt’s as simple as letting a few plants go to seed each year and collecting the seeds. Of course nothing is quite that simple.

Don’t save seeds from hybrids. You won’t know what you’ll get! The offspring from plant hybrids can be quite different.

Always harvest seeds from plants that are the healthiest and have the biggest blooms. Small weak plants will produce inferior seeds so pick nice big healthy plants to collect seeds from.

Some seeds are hard to get. Seeds that are quite tiny in fruits or vegetables can be hard to harvest. Try this trick that works well on eggplants, peppers, and cherry tomatoes: Coarsely chop up fruit in a blender. Add water to cover. Blend until fruit is pretty liquefied. Stop blender and let mixture sit until seeds settle to the bottom. If mixture is too thick add more water. Pour off liquefied fruit and then pour seeds into a fine sieve. If seeds are very tiny, line sieve with cheesecloth or paper towel to collect. Dry seeds on waxed paper.

Some seeds have a slimy coating. For seeds such as tomato and cucumber seeds, you need to remove the slimy coating before storing. To remove slimy coating place seeds in a plastic container with the lid ajar at room temperature for at least 4 days or until a mold develops on the seeds. Then rinse seeds in a sieve to remove mold and coating. Dry seed on waxed paper or plate.

Some seeds are irritating. Yes, the seed pods of some plants contain chemicals which can irritate the skin. Okra is a prime example. So wear gloves when harvesting seed pods.

Save some for nature. When picking seed pods or collecting seeds from native plants in nature always leave some so the plant can re-seed itself in its native habitat.

Store the whole pod. When picking seed pods, it’s usually best to store the seeds in the pod until ready to use. Then open dried pods and pour out seeds. In either case always store seeds or pods in marked envelopes in a cool dry place. Many gardeners also store seeds for next years planting in plastic bags in the refrigerator.

Starting roses from seeds. Yes, it can be done. Remember seeds from hybrid roses will not breed true but save fully mature rose hips from non-hybrid roses for planting. When the hips are ready the fleshy interior will be dry and you can slit the hips open and remove the seed. Some times the whole hips are left intact and placed in cold storage and then the seed is removed before planting.

Treat seeds for fungus and bacteria. Fungus and bacterial diseases can ruin seeds. To kill the fungus and bacteria before storing, soak the seeds in hot water (at least 125 degrees F) for 30 minutes. Remove and dry seeds.

Use cards for magazines to form envelopes for storage in cool, dry place and add a desiccant packet from shoes to the envelop to keep them dry.