Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pests Be Gone!

I promised you a post on stuff I use in my pot garden for pests.

Honestly there are just two things I use a lot of lately.

The first I use for pests like ants, aphids, and these weird little bugs that I found nesting in the apical meristems* (the tips/shoots) of my hardy mums.


This is an old picture--but one of my hardy mums is right there in the center pot.

It's actually a product I discovered when we were fighting the yicky ickies a year ago. Diatomaceous earth ("DE").

DE is basically a powder made of ground up shells of a species of algae.  When sprinkled on bugs, it basically dries them out killing them. 

It's also important to note I use the food-grade DE.  Not the DE for pool applications.

I like to sprinkle it ON my plants in the case of the weird bugs on my mums or last year when I had  aphids on my tobasco peppers.

In the case of ants, I'll dust my plants and the soil around my plants to keep the ants at bay.

Notice I say dust--you don't have to COAT your plant with this stuff.  

I have POUNDS of this stuff leftover from the yicky icky invasion so what I've done is just used an old spice container to shake it on.  It will take me years to get thru the large bag I purchased (it's hard to purchase DE in small amounts at least when I was shopping for it).  But on the plus side, I will be prepared if northern New Jersey is ever taken over by giant killer cockroaches.

You do have to be careful not to inhale this stuff.  But in small garden applications I don't find that I get huge clouds of it like I did when I was dusting my baseboards to prevent yicky ickies.

The second pest I have problems with are squirrels and starlings--mainly when I'm first starting my garden for the year.

These annoying creatures like to pull up my seedlings and dig up any bulbs I have planted.

I think I blogged on year about how my fall garlic plant was completely dug up by squirrels.  I swear they had to be Italian-American squirrels.  Maybe they were making garlic acorn lasagne or something...

To keep them at bay, I sprinkle Hungarian hot paprika all over my seedlings.


They don't seem to like their fresh shoots spicy!

Now if you live in Hungary, maybe your squirrels and starlings wouldn't mind some spicy seedlings.

The key is to use the HOT paprika.  I'll bet chili powder would work just as well too, but this paprika is finer than chili powder and clings nicely to the leaves.

The only downside to using these things to keep the bugs and critters at bay is you do have to reapply regularly.  After a while the wind, any rain, and your regular watering will wash it all away.

This is what I love about pot gardening (or I suppose regular gardening as well), you get to experiment with stuff from year to year.  

This year I'm experimenting with fertilizer.

It's hard to find small amounts of commercial fertilizer suitable for small applications.  Or maybe it isn't anymore--I haven't really tried looking too hard above and beyond those miracle-gro boxes of fertilizer.  I guess there are those plant spikes too...but meh.

I'll be honest, this year I'm infatuated with worms.  I would reeaaaallly love one of these. I suppose I could make one myself too, but something about that cute little spigot and the compact nature of the whole thing. 

Anyway, back on track!  This year with fertilizer I'm experimenting with Worm Tea.


I bought a pound of worm castings (on etsy--ha ha!) mixed a few spoonfuls into a 1/2 gallon milk jug.  I let it "steep" in the sun, and then I mixed it in with my normal water and watered my plants with it.

Not sure if it's really made a big difference, but it hasn't hurt at all!

* These are the weird things my brain holds onto.  I remember learning about apical meristems in high school biology class!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can that be "worm tea" when the jug says Milk? Just wondering.

Love, Mom

5:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Ewww, worms (yes, I hate worms along with bugs, LOL!). But garlic - yum! My kids complain that everything I cook tastes like garlic, ha, ha!

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Marie Grace said...

I love DE too! And we have several books we've been reading about making and maintaining your own worm composting systems. We're planning to give it try soon!

8:55 PM  
Blogger Carol said...


2:02 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Last year was the first year we had a problem with squirrels - and the little buggers would take a bite or two of the tomatoes and then leave the now-rotting tomato on the vine!

9:21 AM  
Blogger Cindy in (un) Happy Valley said...

I use cayenne pepper to discourage a particularly voracious squirrel. Works like a charm. I sprinkle in over everything, even the dirt.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Emma said...

I had to break down and buy ladybugs for my aphid infestation. Bye bye gross aphids. Oh and on the upside I got to witness ladybug sex, I now have a cluster of eggs I check on daily.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Crafty Christina said...

I'm going to have to tell hubby about the paprika because squirrels are what have destroyed mostly anything we plant. Little buggers are always getting into something.

9:18 AM  

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