22 Ways To Combat Garden Pests Naturally

A healthy garden attracts all kinds of pests—raccoons, rabbits, beetles, to name just a few. We’ve compiled a list of 22 tried-and-true strategies to combat them without the use of harsh pesticides.

Banish Japanese Beetles with Garden Lime

Dust green beans with garden lime to repel Japanese beetles.

Use Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth

Food-Grade diatomaceous earth acts as a natural, abrasive barrier to crawling insects like stinkbugs. Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth beneath growing watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, and all fruits and vegetables resting on the ground, as well as on plant leaves.

Adios, Aphids

Aphids and grasshoppers can wreak havoc in flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. Try this: blend 2-4 hot peppers, 1 mild green pepper, and 1 small onion, and a one-quart jar of water. Pour mixture into a spray bottle and apply as needed.

Want to repel deer, raccoon, skunk? Click the link below.

Written by Deborah Tukua for Farmer’s Almanac©

Source and link: 22 Ways To Combat Garden Pests Naturally – Farmers’ Almanac (farmersalmanac.com)

Support pollinators with cheerful viola flowers

Roses are red, violets are blue and they have also earned top honors being named Plant of the Year by the International Herb Association. Every year, the association selects plants that are considered outstanding for decorative, culinary, or medicinal use. This year, they have selected Viola, a genus of flowering plants.

With their brightly-colored blooms that resemble cheerful faces peeking out of the foliage, Violas make a great addition to any early-season container or garden plantings. Blooms can be found in a variety of colors, including solids, bicolor, and mixes.

In the language of flowers, a common practice in the Victorian era that allowed messages and emotions to be shared with others, Violas symbolize thoughts filled with love. It is also the birth flower of those born in February.

Members of the genus Viola – including pansies, violets, and Johnny jump ups – are cool-season plants that grow best in spring and fall. They should be planted in areas with morning sun and moist, well-drained soils. As the weather warms in late May and June, many cool-season plants will fade out and stop blooming but can be moved to a cool, shady place in the garden to extend their growing season.

Violas are also great for pollinators. These cool-season annuals supply early spring pollinators with much-needed nectar.

In early March, pollinators emerge looking for food sources to survive. There are very few flowering plants at that time, except spring-blooming bulbs like grape hyacinth and crocus. Planting cool-season annuals provide an important addition to their spring diet. Johnny jump up flowers even have thin dark stripes that serve as guides for the pollinators to find nectar as they visit the flowers and pollinate other flowering plants by transferring pollen.

When planting Violas in spring or fall containers, add interesting twigs, like birch, contorted filbert, or curly willow to the center of containers. These elements add height and interest to the arrangement of low-growing flowers. If planting these annuals in-ground, group them in large masses to create waves of color amongst shrubs, ornamental grasses, or perennials.

An added bonus to including pansies or violets in the garden is that the flowers can be harvested and added as a colorful edible garnish to soups, salads, and desserts. They can also be candied for a sweet treat. If you plan on eating the flowers, raise them without chemical treatment.

Past International Herb Association Plants of the Year to also consider planting in your garden are parsley (Petroselinum), anise hyssop (Agastache ssp.), coriander/cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), and savory (Saturea ssp.).

By Horticulture Educator Brittnay Haag 

Source: Gardeners Corner Summer 2022: University of Illinois Extension

Tips for harvesting garden vegetables

Whether you started your first garden this year or are a veteran grower, we’re coming up on the heart of harvest season. One of the advantages of homegrown vegetables is that you can harvest produce at its peak quality and flavor.

But knowing when to harvest a crop can be difficult, especially if it’s your first time growing it.

Photo by Ken Johnson.

General Harvest Tips

  • Harvest in the morning: Almost all vegetables are best when harvested early in the morning. If you can’t harvest in the morning, keep produce out of direct sunlight and cool as soon as possible.
  • Harvest when plants are dry: When it comes time to harvest your vegetables, make sure plants are dry. If you harvest while plants are wet, you risk spreading diseases. It’s also important to handle plants with care and avoid damaging them.
  • Use pruners: Damaged areas can provide openings for diseases to enter. If the vegetables you are trying to harvest don’t easily come off, cut them off with a knife or pruners to avoid damaging the plant.

Snap or green beans should be picked when the pods are fully grown but before the seeds have started to get large. The beans should be crisp and snap easily. When picking, break off the stem above the cap and harvest frequently.

Cucumbers should be harvested before their skin turns yellow and the seeds become hard. The size of the cucumber will vary depending on the type. Pickling cucumbers are usually picked when they are between 2 and 6 inches long. Slicing pickles should be picked at 6 to 8 inches long and burpless should be 1 to 1½ inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Cucumbers develop quickly, so plants may need to be checked every other day.

Peppers can be harvested at any size. Green bell peppers are typically picked when they are mature and about 3 to 4 inches long, firm, and green. If you are growing colored bell peppers, wait until the fruits change color. One way to tell if the fruit is mature is that they will easily break off of plants when picked. Hot peppers can also be picked at any stage but are typically picked when fully ripe. The mature color of the fruit will be different depending on the variety.

Summer squash (straightneck, crookneck, or zucchini) should be harvested when they are small and tender. Pick when the fruits are 2 inches or less in diameter and 6 to 8 inches long. “When growing conditions are favorable, you may need to harvest every other day or daily,” Johnson says.

Winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkins) can be harvested when the fruits have turned a deep, solid color, no longer have a glossy appearance, and the rind is hard. Leave at least 2 inches of stem attached and harvest all squash before heavy frosts arrive.

Tomatoes are at their best quality when allowed to ripen on the vine. Tomatoes should be firm and fully colored. During hot conditions, 90°F, tomatoes will quickly soften, and color development is reduced. During these conditions, pick tomatoes when they begin to develop color and ripen them indoors. If plants still have fruit on them in fall, you can harvest mature green fruit before the first frost and ripen them indoors.  

Source: By Horticulture Educator Ken Johnson Gardeners Corner Summer 2022: University of Illinois Extension

Here in Chicago today….

It’s cold, snowing and icy.  This is the sort of day that beckons me to think about spring/summer. What really helps me is browsing thru garden catalogs (catalogues). Planning this years selection of plants that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies to my yard.  Have a look at some of my favs:

Best Flowers for Butterflies and Hummingbirds Continue reading “Here in Chicago today….”