Neem Oil for Pest Control in the Garden

I don’t like to use “chemicals” in my garden  but there are some pests that are just too hard to pick off with your fingers and have any hope of winning the battle.  A few years ago I was introduced to Neem Oil.

Neem oil is organic as it comes from the Azadirachta indica tree in Asia.  It is non-toxic when used following the product directions (Water it down. Wash it off your clothes and skin.  Keep out of reach of pets and children).

Neem oil as a pest control works well against squash bugs, potato beetles, aphids, leaf eating caterpillars, and other chewing insects.  Neem oil works systemically.  Once it is in a plant’s vascular system, chewing insects ingest it.  Once ingested generally the insect will cease eating and starve or prevent larvae from maturing, and the insect will no longer desire to mate and lay eggs.  It may take several days following an application to notice the bothersome insect population diminish.  Neem oil also works as a fungicide which helps combat fungi, mildew, rust, mold, root rot, etc.

Growing Sweet Potatoes

I get this question a lot: Can I grow sweet potatoes from this sweet potato that grew sprouts in my kitchen?  My answer is absolutely yes!  This is so easy to do.  If you have a sweet potato with tiny sprouts (or no sprouts!) you just need to partially immerse it in water.  You can put your whole sweet potato in water with the sprouted end sticking out or you can chop off just a third of your sweet potato (eat the other two thirds) and immerse most of that cut piece in water with the sprouts sticking out.  Consider poking toothpicks through the sweet potato to assist in suspending the sweet potato in water.  This is the first year I have used the one third cut tuber method and it’s working really really well.  If the sweet potato hasn’t sprouted yet, generally the narrow end is the “bottom”.  It will start sprouting after it’s in water.  The sprouts will grow into lengthy vines.  If the vine reaches about 8 inches and you aren’t ready to plant in the ground yet, trim the vine back so at least a couple leaves are on the cut off piece and put the cut end into water.  The cut end will form roots and the sprout will keep growing.  The piece attached to the tuber will continue to grow too.  Keep trimming it as it gets longer and put the cut pieces in the water to grow roots.  These cut pieces are called “slips”.  Sweet potatoes like heat and cannot tolerate frost.  Do not plant sweet potatoes until danger of frost has passed but be sure to get them planted as soon as possible once past last frost as sweet potatoes take a long time to grow so they need to be in the ground as early as possible.

Squash Vine Borer Life Cycle – and Control Methods

Anyone interested in the life cycle of the squash vine borer or how to recognize it at each stage?  It’s probably not quite what you think.  I am including a photo library below for your visual pleasure.

The squash vine borer (Melittia cucurbitae) is a moth.  The most surprising thing is that it looks nothing like a moth, it looks more like a fly and it’s far more attractive than you’d expect for such a malicious monster.  It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The fly lays it’s eggs on the squash plant itself, usually on the stem but can be on a leaf, within a couple of inches of the soil.  After the eggs hatch, the “caterpillars” (maggots!!!) burrow into the stalk of the squash plant.  The only evidence of this happening is a patch of yellowish brownish fine sawdust looking stuff that gathers below the hole in the stalk made by the squash vine borer “caterpillar”.  Once inside, the squash vine borer eats the stalk from the inside out.  Most gardeners discover the invader when leaves turn brown, shrivel up, and fall off.  It’s almost 100% too late at that point.

Grasshoppers – Friend or Foe in the Garden?

When I was a kid I just loved catching grasshoppers.  I don’t know why, they just seemed fun and harmless.  I was fascinated by them.  I grew up in Atlantic Canada and the grasshoppers there did not seem to be as huge and scary as those I encounter in Southern Ontario.  They seem so big here that they are frightening.  It can actually hurt if one of them whacks me up the side of the head!  I sure don’t try catching them any more.  Until recently, I didn’t realize what a menace they are to a gardener.  I’m writing this article in response to a reader’s request and in response to multiple questions we have received this year from Youtube viewers.

There are hundreds of species of grasshoppers and most are pests to a garden.  Grasshoppers are herbivores.  They like to eat green leaves, which sometimes means grass and weeds but it can also mean leaves of your garden plants.   A “good” year for grasshoppers can appear like a locust plague as described in the Bible.  A swarm of grasshoppers can devour a farmer’s field.  Grasshoppers start out eating holes in leaves but can quickly devour entire leaves leaving just the stem and the veins of the leaf.   I’ll include pictures below.

DIY Recycled Newspaper Seed Packets

Saving your own seeds and sharing them with other people is a fun activity for many of us interested in “green living”.  I am a self-diagnosed seed saving addict.  I harvest far more seeds than I could ever possibly use.  I share many of them with others who may or may not attempt to grow them.  The benefits of harvesting and trading seeds are saving on packaging, transportation, processing, etc.  All the “evils of commerce”. I’m joking… sort of… a little…

Often times when I share seeds I put them in tiny little ziplock bags purchased from the dollar store.  The benefits of the ziplocks are that people can SEE what’s in the packets, they are great for presentation, the seeds are very unlikely to spill, and the packets can be resealed over and over and over.  The disadvantages are the processed bags, the likelihood that they came from overseas rather than local manufacturers, the pollution of the environment, the costs (though minute), etc.  In the past year I have favoured making my own little seed envelopes with paper previously bound for the recycle bin (actually… pulled from the recycle bin where they were already making a home).  Here’s my method, I hope these pictures explain the process clearly.  You’ll notice that I show two methods for sealing the envelopes – a folding method and a tape method.