Protect Your Garden with Beneficial Insects

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where can i buy ladybugs

Over the years, I have learned that growing a a garden organically does not mean putting the plants in the ground, watering, and waiting for fresh produce to show up.  To truly get the most out of your garden, you have to learn to work with nature.  Introducing beneficial insects into your garden can help you naturally manage insects that would otherwise destroy your crops.  Essentially, you are waging a carefully calculated war in your backyard.  You are introducing natural predators of nasty produce sucking insects to maintain the balance in your garden.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit to liking the power of it all -ha!

 ladybug
Ladybug {photo credit}

To start, ladybugs are an awesome choice.  Believe it or not, it’s not really the actual ladybug that helps to control aphids, etc., as they don’t really eat all that much in their adult state, but rather the larvae that really contribute to the overall health of your garden.  Those little babies eat A LOT of soft bodied insects.  The key to getting ladybugs to STAY in your garden lies in making it a hospitable place to lay eggs and raise babies.  You can order ladybugs online or get them at your local nursery.

The most important factor in getting them to stay is how you release them.  Release them just after dusk {that ensures that they’ll at least spend the night, as they won’t fly away in the dark} in a well-watered garden.  Typically, ladybugs you buy are a wee bit dehydrated, so a place that has plenty of water might entice them to stay and make a home.  Also, unfortunately, an ounce of prevention doesn’t really apply with ladybugs.  Your garden needs to have some level of aphid {or other sap-sucking insect} problem.  No food, no stay.

If you aren’t into buying bugs for your garden, you can do a lot to attract them.  Planting appealing scents {herbs like fennel, coriander, and mint, or flowers like marigold} go a long way in drawing the creepy crawlers in.  Most beneficial insects are attracted to nectar and pollen {ah, they have a sweet tooth too}, so providing them a buffet to snack on also keeps them around.

lacewing

Lacewing {photo credit}

Lacewings are another popular choice.  While they look, well, um gross, they have an insatiable appetite for aphids, thrips, scales, moth eggs, small caterpillars and mites.  They enjoy a bit of nectar to wash down all of the insects they feed on, so make sure to plant plenty of tasty flowers for them to draw the nectar out of.

flower fly

Flower Fly {photo credit}

Hoverflies, or flower flies, kind of look like bees.  In addition to feeding on aphids, they pollinate strawberries and raspberries.  Again, you can draw them in with a healthy flower garden.

assassin bug

Assassin Bug {photo credit}

There is a whole host of predatory bugs that feed on tomato hornworms, thrips, spider mites, many insects’ eggs, leafhopper nymphs, corn earworms and other small caterpillars.  Some common ones include pirate bugs, assassin bugs, and ambush bugs {even their names sound tough}.  These bugs have been known to attack adult-sized japanese beetles.  They are a take-no-prisoner sort of gift to your garden.

wasp

Wasps {photo credit}

Wasps are a great addition to your garden as well, because they typically attack unwanted pests at the egg level. Unfortunately they also sting!

spider

Spider {photo credit}

Spiders, if you can get past their shifty startling presence, eat a lot of unwanted bugs, and more often than not, are not poisonous {exceptions to your specific location obviously apply}.  They get a bad rap, really, because they are so darn ugly {I said it}, but they really can improve the overall health of your garden.

There are a ton more potentially beneficial insects–knowing which are preying on your plants and which to keep helps the overall balance of your garden.  Ah, isn’t being one with nature fun?

Will you be adding any ladybugs to your garden this summer?

Mavis wants to know

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Grow Your Own Sprouts – The Health Benefits

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how to grow your own sprouts (2)
I’ve told you all about how to grow sprouts and the awesome Botanical Interest Seed Sprouter I use to do just that, but let’s talk about why you should be eating those sprouts! There are SO MANY health benefits from sprouts and with all our healthy eating New Year’s resolutions, it’s the perfect time to start sprouting. Here are just a few of the health benefits of sprouting:

1. The vitamin and mineral content is out of this world. If your body is lacking calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamin A, B, B Complex, E, or K, get to sprouting already. It is estimated that the vitamin content increases by up to 20 times the original value within only a few days of sprouting and that there can be up to 100 times more enzymes in sprouts than normal raw fruits and veggies. Getting more vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids from the foods you eat will, simply put, make you a healthier person.

2. The sprouting process also makes these minerals more usable in your body when the mineral binds to the protein in the bean seed or nut.

3. Sprouting increases the fiber content in the food you sprout. If you’re looking for a great addition to your weight loss routine, increasing your fiber is where it’s at.

4. Sprouting also increases the quality of protein in the beans, nuts or seeds you sprout. Proteins change during the soaking and sprouting process, increasing the nutritional value of your food. Who needs protein powder when you have sprouts?

5. Sprouts help reduce the acidity levels in your body. Too much acidity can be detrimental to your health and in some cases, even increase your risk of cancer. Sprouts help alkalize your body to prevent this.

6. I’m always looking for ways to get more of the essential fatty acids into my diet. Well guess what? The sprouting process increases the essential fats. Problem solved with just a few sprouts.

7. You control what you sprout. There’s no danger in consuming harmful chemicals, pesticides or additives because you’re doing all the growing! As a gardener, this is probably my favorite health benefit of sprouting.234

And there you have some of the many health benefits of sprouting. I sprout all sorts of things and love incorporating my sprouts into recipes or throwing them on a sandwich. Not only are they delicious, but sprouts are so stinkin easy to grow. Even if you kill every plant you try to grow, I promise you can grow sprouts!seed sprouter botanical interests If you haven’t ever sprouted anything or are nervous about trying it, I highly recommend trying the Botanical Interest Seed Sprouter. It’s perfect for beginners and completely awesome for advanced sprouters too who want to stack a ton of trays on top of each other and grow, grow, grow.

020While you’re waiting for your new sprouter to arrive, you can always sprout in a simple Mason jar. That’s how I learned how to sprout and it works like a charm.

So tell me, why do you sprout? What’s your favorite thing to sprout? How do you use your sprouts?

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Grow Sunflowers {Start to Finish}

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how to grow sunflowers

My daughter The Girl Who Thinks She’s a Bird has been planting sunflowers ever since she could walk. I’m not sure who loves them more, her or the birds that come along at the end of each summer and peck at the seeds. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they are great for summertime bouquets too.

Brief description:  Sunflowers are annual flowers with beautiful bright flowers, usually yellow, red, or orange.  They are great for attracting bees, birds, and butterflies to your garden.

botanical interests sunflower seeds

Where to Plant Sunflowers:  Plant in a sunny location in raised beds, garden beds, and/or containers {depending on the variety}.

sunflower seeds

Planting Seeds:  Plant 1/2″-1″ deep about 1-2 weeks after last frost.  When seedlings are 2″ tall, thin to 1 every 12″.

Growing Tips:  Sunflowers love hot weather.  They are extremely hardy.

How to Harvest:  To harvest cut flowers as needed and place into water.  To harvest sunflower seeds, allow the flower heads to dry out and lightly rub the head to reveal the seeds.

regional-planting-guides

How to Roast Sunflower Seeds:  You can roast the seeds by soaking them in a salt water solution overnight.  Then drain them, pat dry, and roast them at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, turning them occasionally.

Are you ready to start your garden but you’re not sure when you should plant your seeds or set out your transplants? Head on over HERE and you’ll be taken to a handy dandy chart that is broken down into what vegetables should be planted {or transplanted} each month in your area.

Anyone can do this. Dirt + Seeds+ Water = Food!

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Grow Corn {Start to Finish}

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how to grow corn

 

Will you be planting corn this year? If so, now’s the time to plant. This year I’m trying a couple of varieties some for eating fresh and some ornamental for my fall table as well.

Brief description: Corn is one of the most widely grown crops in the world.  It is a staple food that can be cooked in about a million ways.  Corn is actually a grain, not a vegetable.

Where to Plant Corn:  Plant corn in a sunny location in raised beds or garden beds.

corn stalks

Planting Seeds:  Directly sow seeds when soil temperature is at least 60 degrees.  Plant seeds about 1″-2″ deep.  When seeds are about 4″ thin to every 4-6″ apart, and keep row spacing at about 24″.  {Over spacing corn only encourages weeds.}

Growing Tips:   There are a ton of different varieties all with different maturation rates {anywhere from 60-100 days}, , so be sure to pick one that best suits your area and your planting time frame.    Corn can be susceptible to disease, so keep a close eye on it so that you can manage it quickly.

fresh corn

How to Harvest:  Corn is ready to harvest a couple of weeks after the silks appear.  The silks will start to turn brown when it is time to harvest.  To harvest, gently pull the corn from the stock, breaking it off.

regional planting guides

Are you ready to start your garden but you’re not sure when you should plant your seeds or set out your transplants? Head on over HERE and you’ll be taken to a handy dandy chart that is broken down into what vegetables should be planted {or transplanted} each month in your area.

Anyone can do this. Dirt + Seeds+ Water = Food!

~Mavis

Here are a few of my Favorite corn recipes:

How to Can Fresh Corn
How to Can Fresh Corn

fresh-corn-pancakes-recipeFresh Corn Pancakes

roasted corn saladRoasted Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Feta

Fun Fact:  According the the Farmer’s Almanac, if you corn is harder to schuck than usual, prepare for a hard winter.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Maintain a Healthy Vegetable Garden

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How to Maintain a Healthy Vegetable Garden

Did you have trouble growing veggies last year?  Every once in a while, I’ll have a bad gardening year.  Sometimes it’s beyond my control {i.e. squirrels or other critters getting into my plants} and sometimes, I’ll look back and be like, “Whoops, I can totally see how I screwed this year up.”  Gardening is definitely a learning process.

Maintaining a healthy garden isn’t really that tricky when you get right down to it, but it does involve the slightest bit of tenacity–which, on days when you would rather drink tea on the patio and only think about getting dressed eventually, can be too much to ask.  Ha!

Why Crop Rotation is Important for Healthy Soil

Here’s what I think are the basics on maintaining a healthy vegetable garden:

  1. Soil.  It seems like you should be able to stick your plant into the dirt, water it, and watch it grow, but that’s just not the case.  The soil should be prepped and cared for all through the gardening season.  Adding compost to the beds each year and basic crop rotation will go a long way in ensuring your soil can provide for your plants.  {I ignored the crop rotation principals last year and paid for it in much lower yields.  Lesson learned.  Mother Nature-1, Mavis-0. }  Now, I am a little behind the curve, so I am also going to prep my soil this winter by experimenting with cover crops.  Hopefully, they will give my soil a little added boost.
  2. Rethink your watering plan.  All plants require a different level of water, but letting vegetable crops dry out a bit before you water them is pretty universal.  Over-watered plants become susceptible to disease and fungus.  So, water thoroughly less often–allowing the soil to dry out in between waterings.onion transplants
  3. Start with healthy plants.  If you buy your plants, don’t be afraid to pull them out of the container and examine their roots.  A healthy root system and plant gives you a huge head start in maintaining your garden.  The same goes for plants you grow from seed.  If you have a weak one, get rid of it.  It’s survival of the fittest here–don’t be sentimental.  :)
  4. Be vigilant and proactive.  Bugs can devastate a plant pretty quickly.  Worse, if you don’t catch it in time, you have to decide whether you are going to treat the problem or lose the plant.  I try to maintain a completely organic garden.  I pick squash bugs off pretty much daily.  Last year, though, the snails won, and I opted for an organic solution called Sluggo to help me combat the slimy little beggars.

organic vegetablesWith those four basics covered, you really can maintain a pretty healthy vegetable garden with good yields.  How about you, do you have any swear-by tips for keeping your garden healthy?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Grow Cucumbers {Start to Finish}

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How to grow cucumbers seeds

This morning  I planted my cucumber seeds! I started 2 flats using some of my DIY Potting Soil blend. This year, I am growing Marketmore, Lemon, and Burpless. It’s been a while since I’ve grown lemon cucumbers so I’m looking forward to them.

Brief description: Cucumbers are part of the gourd family.  They grow from a creeping vine plant.  They are broken into three varieties:  pickling, slicing, and burpless.

Where to Plant Cucumbers:  Plant cucumbers in a sunny spot.  They prefer warm weather {soil temperature should be at least 70}, so make sure to plant after the last frost.    Cucumbers can be planted in raised beds, garden beds, or containers using a trellis.

cucumber seedlings

Planting Seeds:  Plant seeds 1/2″ deep, 6 seeds per pot or mound.  When plant has 3 leaves, thin to 3 per mound.

Growing Tips:  Cucumbers like rich soil, so mix a little compost in with your planting.  You can train cucumbers to grow up a trellis if space is an issue.

burpless-cucumbers

How to Harvest:  Read your seed packet to find out length of a full-grown cucumber for the variety you chose.  It’s better to pick them at the specified length–any larger and they will start to taste bitter.  Most cucumbers are ready 55-70 days after planting.  To harvest, pull or cut the cucumber off of the vine.

regional planting guides

Are you ready to start your garden but you’re not sure when you should plant your seeds or set out your transplants? Head on over HERE and you’ll be taken to a handy dandy chart that is broken down into what vegetables should be planted {or transplanted} each month in your area.

Anyone can do this. Dirt + Seeds+ Water = Food!

~Mavis

Here are a few of my Favorite Cucumber recipes:

Easy Summer Salad Recipes – Cucumber Tomato SaladCucumber Tomato Salad

recipe quinoa saladQuinoa Salad with Cucumber and Mint

Fun Fact:  If grubs start to eat your cucumber crop, slice a cucumber and put it in an aluminum pie tin.  The cucumber will react with the metal and put off an odor {undetectable to us} that will drive the slugs away.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Care for Rhododendrons

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How to Care for Rhododendrons

One Hundred Dollars a Month reader Claudia recently sent me an email asking how she should take care of a rhododendron shrub her mother in law gave her.

Here in Washington you cannot drive down the street without seeing a giant rhododendron in someones yard. A rhododendron is an evergreen that has beautiful big blooms in the spring.  It is very similar to an Azalea {except Azalea’s aren’t evergreens}.  They are perfect if you have a shady spot that is in need of some color.  {I have plenty of shady spots in my backyard, but Rhododendrons are poisonous to dogs, so sadly, I cannot have them.}

They require just a bit of TLC, but once you get the basics down, they make a great addition to your landscaping.

With Rhododendrons, the first thing to consider is soil.  They prefer a slightly acidic soil {kind of like blueberry bushes}.  So, some soil amendments might be in order.  {I use coffee grounds and pine needles to amend my soil}.

Garden tips add leftover coffee grounds to your soil

Next, consider placement.  They do not like direct sunlight, and can’t withstand a ton of wind.  So choose a shady protected area.  They are perfect for those shady areas that might be up against the house.

Next, mulch, mulch, mulch.  Rhododendrons have shallow roots that need to be protected from weather extremes, both hot and cold.  The mulching will help keep the moisture level consistent too–they like that delicate balance of not drying out and not sitting in stagnant water.  Mulching with pine needles or pine straw can help with the soil pH and protect the roots.

Finally, make sure to prune your Rhododendron immediately after they finish blooming {usually June-July}.  If you wait too long, they get a bit cranky, and may not give you flowers the next year.    To prune, just pinch back dead blooms.  Over-pruning can also lead to a couple of years of no-blooms.  If you have an established Rhododendron that has gotten too big, you may just have to bite the bullet, prune it way back, and accept a couple of years with no flowers.  They are grudge holders, but they always come back around, eventually.

Rhododendrons do not really have a ton of insect problems, and with a bit of routine maintenance, they will provide years of year-round color to your yard.

Perennial plant care

The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do & When to Do It

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Grow Beans {Start to Finish}

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how to grow green beans

I don’t know one person who doesn’t like green beans. My son Monkey Boy will only eat them raw, but everyone else in our family could totally eat a plate full of delicious green sticks for dinner. There is now doubt about it, beans are cool!

Brief description: Beans have long edible pods and beans inside that can also be eaten.  They are great for snacking on raw, cooking, or canning.

Where to Plant Beans:  Plant in full sun after danger of last frost.  Plant in raised beds, garden beds, and even containers if they are big enough.

how to grow bean seeds

Planting Seeds:  Plant seeds 1″ deep.  Most packets say to thin them to every 4 inches, but I think that is crazy and typically space them every 2″ to maximize my crop.

growing beans

Growing Tips:  Beans are awesome for succession planting.  If you plan it right, you should be able to get a crop from June all the way through September.  I sometimes have troubles with the birds getting to my bean sprouts, so I tend to over plant them to compensate.  If the birds don’t get to them, I go back and thin them later.

How to Harvest:  To harvest, snap beans off the plant by hold the plant firmly {so that you don’t damage it while picking}.  Beans taste better when they are thinner than a pencil, so try to pick them before they get too big.

regional-planting-guides

Are you ready to start your garden but you’re not sure when you should plant your seeds or set out your transplants? Head on over HERE and you’ll be taken to a handy dandy chart that is broken down into what vegetables should be planted {or transplanted} each month in your area.

Anyone can do this. Dirt + Seeds+ Water = Food!

~Mavis

Here are a few of my Favorite Bean recipes:

Green Beans with Sweet Onions and Bacon recipe

Green Beans with Sweet Onions and Bacon

easy pasta salad recipes

Pasta Salad with Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Roasted Peppers

how-to-can-green-beans-yHow to Can Green Beans

Fact:  Beans have been found in Egyptian tombs–apparently they thought they were easy to grow too.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Make a Hoop House – Picture Tutorial

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how to make a hoop house

My buddy Heather made this hoop house . Check out her easy peasy directions.

I’ve made a few hoop houses in my day – some prettier, long lasting, and easier to use than others. But, as temporary hoop-houses go, I think I’ve nailed it. And better yet, for the low-low price of about $22 from your friendly Home Depot guys, you too can make your own Fancy-Schmancy hoop-house too! {I may have missed my calling as an infomercial queen!} ;)

Hoop House Supplies

how to make a hoop house

The first steps to making your hoop house are to make the end parts, which are waaaaay easier than you think it’s going to be. First measure the distance of where you will place the end pieces and, by screwing in two pipe ends to an extra piece of wood, you can create a jig.

making a hoop house from scratch

Then lay out the plastic (I did this in my living room because even a small breeze would be the equivalent to trying to do this with half a dozen toddlers).  Now, cut out around the pvc pipe and leave a 4”-5” border so you can wrap the plastic around the pipe and tape it down. Don’t worry about it being too tight, the plastic will fluctuate with the temperature anyway. Ta-daaaaah. Looks sweet huh? Now slide it out of your jig and make another.

building a hoop house

Grab that old hose and a sharp pair of scissors, pat yourself on the back for up-cycling, and get to work cutting that hose into sections of 12” or so. Then cut them down the middle like a hot dog bun. These hose pieces will act like grips to hold the plastic in place, I made 13.

making a hoop house

Now it’s time to screw the pipe ends to your wood boxes and put up your two end pieces that you made inside and add another pvc pipe in the middle for support (my boxes are 4’x8’). Oh heck ya, it’s looking awesome already.

tomato plants

At this point I skipped inside to get the tomato plants I seeded in January – whoo-hoo! – to plant in my hoop house.  They had way over grown their pots and unless I wanted to re-pot them again, I had to move them outside.  Normally, this is about 6 weeks too early, but with my handy-dandy-fancy-schmancy hoop house I can move them out into the garden now.

hoop house directions pictures

To add the last 9’x12’ plastic sheet on top, you’ll need a helper to hold it in place, and wedge the hose pieces on to secure them. (If the plastic touches the sharp tops of the tomato cages, like mine do in a few pieces, just put a bit of duct tape on the metal cages to buffer it and protect the plastic.)

The goal is to open the one side of the hoop house for watering and weeding without having to un-do the whole thing (my main gripe with previous hoop houses that I’d made/used) or try to water and weed from one of the ends (which is almost impossible).

hoop house polytunnel directions

For the back side, add several rocks or a heavy pieces of wood on the back end to hold the plastic in place and secure it to the ground.  On the front side tape the last ½” piece of pvc pipe to the plastic so you can roll it up and secure it on top for weeding in the garden box.

Now step back, do a little dance, and let’s kick off this gardening season early!

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Maintain a Healthy Flower Garden

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How to Maintain a Healthy Flower Garden

When I first started gardening, I did not really get the importance of integrating flowers.  I mean, I like them because they were pretty, they added curb appeal, etc.  Now, though, I see them as an important part of my garden.  When they are healthy and thriving, so is the rest of my garden.  They do most of the work in keeping a healthy, balanced garden by attracting bees and other beneficial insects to the yard.

I like to imagine they have little whistles to call in the pollinators {it’s possible I spend too much time with my plants}.

Here’s the 411 on maintaining a healthy flower garden:

  1. Soil.  Make sure to provide the right soil for however you plan on planting your flowers.  Potted flowers will suffocate in regular old dirt.  I usually make my own potting soil with my compost.  Flowers planted in flower beds also need a little TLC.  Laying down compost before you plant can provide much needed nutrients throughout the growing season.
  2. Give ‘em a little wiggle room.  Whenever I see those pre-potted flowers in the stores in the spring, I wonder what they will look like in a month or so.  They are so over-crowded.  They have a lot of initial appeal {probably to entice you into buying them}, but pretty soon, they start suffocating each other out.  Plants are like humans that way–in over-crowded conditions, they start to become diseased, fight for nutrients, and die back.  Not good.
  3. Fertilize.  I usually let my chickens do most of the fertilizing, but if you don’t have that option, a good organic fertilizer will help you maintain those bright blooms.
  4. Deadhead.  Pinching back faded blooms encourages new growth and makes your flowers the envy of your neighbors.  It’s win-win.
  5. Water.  Flowers will need you to adjust their watering schedule frequently throughout the growing season.  Water when the first 2″ of soil is dry.  I feel like flowers always hang their heads when they are dry, so you can usually tell by looking at them.  Like all plants, do not let them sit in water.  Their feet {roots} get soggy and it makes them very grumpy.
  6. Do a little research.  Some flowers offer a little more bang for their buck.  For example, Marigolds repel a lot of pests.  Companion planting with flowers is a great way to maintain an organic garden.

Any more tips you can think of for keeping your flowers looking and performing their best?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Recipes Garden Frugal Canning Chickens Travel