What’s Wrong With My Fern? Brown Leaves on Ferns

tassel fern.jpgDoes your fern have shriveled, brown fronds or a bleached, discolored appearance? We know that people are susceptible to sunburn, but we don’t think of plants as being able to get sunburned as well. It’s a common problem. When shade-loving plants like ferns are put into a sunny situation, their fronds shrivel around the edges, and their leaf color may become pale and bleached. This may be because you misjudged the amount of light the location gets, or it could happen as a result of a tree being pruned and letting in more light than the plant is used to. [Read more...]

The Slug Shield Copper Snail and Slug Repellent

slug-shield-photo.jpg***Giveaway below! Comment to win one of SIX sets of slug shields!*** EDIT: Winners have been chosen and contacted. Thanks everyone for entering! I’ve written before about how nasty the usual snail and slug baits are. In fact, here in California, metaldehyde snail bait is the #1 poisoning agent of dogs. Hmmm…. Fido or slug-free plants? Not a hard choice. Luckily, there are a lot of excellent organic options available, and the Slug Shield is one of them. You’ve probably heard that copper repels snails and slugs, and you’ve probably also read that snails and slugs don’t like to glide across scratchy surfaces. The Slug Shield works by combining both of those actions into one control. It’s basically a scratchy, tangled mass of copper that you wrap around the stems of plants to prevent snails and slugs from crawling up. It works on anything where you can totally encircle the base of the plant with it, and on plants where you can keep the plant’s foliage from hitting the ground. It’s even purported to work on lettuces and cabbages, which is awesome, because I just dug up a delicious lettuce the other day only to find the center of it overrun with slugs. Um, yeah – the chickens got to eat my lovely buttercrunch lettuce after that. You just wrap the slug shield around the bottom of the head, touching the soil, and as long as no leaves flop to the ground and form a leafy bridge for the snails and slugs to travel safely onto the plant, you’re good! No bait needed, even the organic kind. Now, obviously this doesn’t work on every type of plant. My artichokes, for example, seem like a good candidate but have a terrible habit of flopping onto the ground every time a breeze ruffles them. But I think dahlias, citrus, lettuce, peas, chard, cabbage – even hostas would be good bets to try it on. Mackerel showing off his Slug Shield (Despite Mackerel’s obvious enjoyment of his Slug Shield, I’m not sure they should be used as kitty toys!) If you have a thicker-stemmed plant, you can tie multiple slug shields together to make a longer wrap. They do expand with plant growth, so they won’t hurt your plants as they grow. You can even put a slug shield around the bases of freestanding trellises, for vines or climbing veggies that are disturbed by snails and slugs.

Want to try the Slug Shield for yourself? They’ve donated a whopping SIX sets of Slug Shields for you guys to win. Just leave a comment below, and I’ll hold a random drawing in one week. EDIT: Congrats to the six winners! I’ve sent you each an email.

The Snail Martyrs

snailphotobyRandySonofRobertviaCCAttributionLicenseonFlickrCopy.jpgI often see statues of Buddha in people’s gardens, and every time I do, I have a small secret smile, because I know an old story about the Buddha that most people haven’t yet heard. It involves one of our most-hated garden pests and the sacrifice they made to further the cause of enlightened thought. It’s the Snail Martyrs story, and it goes like this: Snail Head Buddha Print by FlyingFishGiftsOne day, the Buddha was on a walk and began thinking very deeply. He came to a tree and sat down in its shade to continue his meditation. Hours passed, and the Buddha became so immersed in thought that he didn’t notice the sun moving across the sky. The sun beat down on his bare head, and still he sat thinking. A snail was making its way along the ground, and he noticed the Buddha sitting there, thinking important thoughts. Snails are tough creatures, but they are made of moisture, and have to be very careful of drying out, so the snail saw right away that the Buddha’s head was soon going to become a painful distraction to his great thoughts. [Read more...]

Honeybee Love: Keeping Honeybees Safe While Using Pesticides

Happyhoneybeeonanappleblossom.jpgWe’ve all heard about the plight of the honeybees by now – pesticides, hive infections, and other causes are combining to make it a very hard time to be a honeybee. If you’re thinking to yourself that it’s not the worst thing in the world to have one less type of stinging insect around – remember – honeybees are extremely sweet little critters, completely unlike wasps. I’ve had to prune plants that they were happily buzzing and swarming for the nectar, and they took my activities with a cheerful spirit. In 14 years of gardening professionally, I have never once been stung by a honeybee, even though I’ve sheared, lopped, and pruned shrubs and flowers they were drinking from. If that’s not enough – keep in mind, our food supply still gets pollinated the old-fashioned way, with insects and lots and lots of honeybees. A drastic reduction in their numbers means terrible things for our plates. A Cornell University study estimated that every third bite of food in America is pollinated by honeybees. What can you do? While we don’t know all the causes of their problems, a couple of things are certain to help. We can be mindful of the pesticides we use, even the organic ones, and we can plant things in our gardens that provide nectar and pollen for them to eat. Today we’ll talk about which pesticides you can use to kill the bad bugs while keeping honeybees alive and well. [Read more...]

How to Treat Rose and Flower Pests Naturally: Organic Control of Black Spot/ Powdery Mildew, Aphids, and Caterpillars

If you’ve tried to prevent rose problems with the tips in this article, but still ended up with some pests (it happens!), here are the methods I recommend to get rid of pests on roses the organic way. (Obviously, before spraying anything, read the instructions on the bottle and be sure to suit up appropriately – organic choices are usually safer, but that doesn’t mean you want to get it on your skin or eyes.) [Read more...]

How to Treat Rose and Flower Pests Naturally: Prevention

The introduction to this series is here. Preventing pests with good gardening habits is the first step towards having healthy roses and flowers. Healthy plants are a lot less likely to get diseases, while sickly plants become overrun by problems very quickly. Not only that, attending to the basics of a healthy garden will get you better blooms, prettier foliage, and less maintenance overall. [Read more...]

How to Treat Rose and Flower Pests Naturally: Intro

Roses can be tough to grow organically, because they’ve been so over-bred for their honking big flowers that often, breeders paid little attention to disease-resistance. So you end up with these great frankenflowers that look fantastic – until midsummer when the black spot, caterpillars, and aphids move in. But – I admit it – I love roses too! There’s nothing like a deep red rose (grown from home, so it’s fragrant!) to mark a romantic occasion, or a spray of cheery pink roses tucked in a bouquet. So what’s a good organic gardener to do? No worries, dude. While growing roses can be a pain because so many varieties do get insects and diseases, there are a number of very effective things you can do to prevent rose pests and treat them organically if they do arrive. These treatments work for other flowers that get diseases, too. Click the links below to find out how to: Prevent rose pests such as aphids and powdery mildew by using good preventive gardening practices. Kill pests and eliminate diseases naturally using organic and biological (beast-eat-beast) controls. Read about some sturdy, disease-resistant roses that will bloom well for you in the damp Pacific Northwest Learn practical tips on how to love your garden as it is – bugs and all.

How to Kill Thrips Organically on Rhododendrons and Other Plants

Thrips are a tiny sucking insect that pester Rhododendrons (particularly many older varieties) and Azaleas, some evergreen Viburnums, Photinia, and occasionally other plants in the coastal Pacific Northwest. You can tell you have them because your ordinarily green leaves will develop a silvery sheen on them, while the undersides of the leaves will get little black spots from the thrips’ feces. Click here to see the silvery sheen caused by thrips. While thrips can be a hard pest to get rid of, there are some very effective organic and biological controls you can use. [Read more...]

Organic Snail and Slug Control: How to Kill Snails and Slugs Naturally

Garden Snail Snails and slugs are one of the most common pests in the garden, and the traditional pesticide treatment for them is particularly nasty. If you are transitioning to an organic garden, treating snails and slugs differently is an easy (and still highly effective) change that will have a great impact on your family’s health and safety. [Read more...]

Organic Gardening 101: How to Begin Gardening Naturally and Have Happier Plants

I’ve been asked a lot lately about organics in the garden. “How do I kill snails around my vegetable starts?” is a common question. “Does anything organic really work on roses?” I even spoke with one gardener who felt chained to her Miracle-Gro routine – having to laboriously water it in every two weeks. It was heartbreaking to me that Miracle-Gro had done such a marketing number on this sweet person that she was going far out of her way to use something that I consider actively bad for her plants and soil! [Read more...]