Lazy Gardener & Friends for February 14, 2020
LAZY GARDENER'S DELIGHT, A MUST FILM AND INTERNET MUSINGS
By Brenda Beust Smith
"But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people
want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit.
Weeds are people's idea, not nature's." -- Anonymous
LAZY GARDENER'S REWARD -- Don’t automatically write off suddenly-appearing “weeds.” A now-new little plant friend I’d never seen before appeared last fall in one of my backyard planted niches (an area that hasn’t yet risen to the level of “garden”!)
As usual, I ignored it. It was a pleasant green and not spreading too quickly, (unlike my dollarweed which spreads too rapidly, even for me). Fortunately, I think dollarweed is a cute groundcover, so not to worry . . . yet!
To my amazement, after our unusual Nov. 2019 freezing temperatures, it suddenly produced a mass of lovely little white daisies (right). They have bloomed nonstop ever since. I suspect they’re on the Bidens alba family tree, known as beggarticks, Spanish needles or butterfly needles. They are said to be particularly attractive to native bees. The beggartick name comes from the sticky leaves. I don't know.
I never got that close. In areas of Africa, Asia and tropical American states, beggartick roots, leaves and seed are used as antibacterial, antidysenteric, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimalarial, diuretic, hepato-protective and hypotensive medicinal aids. Wow. All I know is they have continued to bloom beautifully with absolutely no help (aka watering, feeding, etc.) on my part. My kind of plant!
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P.S. ON LAST WEEK'S BASIL ARTICLE.
Thanks to David Sharp in NW Houston who reported on his experience with old standard basils and basil downy mildew. He lost about 15 Genovese plants last year, but notes Eleonora continued to produce. He will try two new Rutgers varieties this season and favors High Mowing Seed Catalog for a good discussion of both this disease and resistant varieties.
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"Innovative and fascinating techniques for growing our food" — Estimates are that we have 60 years of soil left on Earth, according to the documentary "The Need to Grow" that will be shown by the Houston Green Film Series on Wed., Feb. 10 (6:30 p.m. at Rice Media Center, 2030 University Blvd. Free. RSVP on Eventbrite). This review is typical of many I read: "By 13 minutes in I was glued to the screen, in awe of the innovative and fascinating techniques for growing our food and not only growing it, but healing our planet!" Houston Green Film Series is presented by a coalition of non-profit, grassroots, environmental organizations to bring awareness to the Greater Houston area's environmental crisis. Be sure to take the kids! Tickets are free on Eventbrite.
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The opening wording on this, she wrote, makes it sound as if dandelion pollen kills bees. But, as the full post above right shows, it's the herbicides we put on dandelions that are the real culprits. Dandelions are good for bees!
And, speaking of neat Facebook posts, I couldn't find the origin of this one below, but this is nice to know!
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"LAZY GARDENER SPEAKER LIST" & "PUBLICITY BOOKLET"
are free — email request to: email@example.com
Brenda's column in the LAZY GARDENER & FRIENDS HOUSTON GARDENNEWSLETTER
is based on her 40+ years as the Houston Chronicle's Lazy Gardener
NEWS FROM THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SOIL AND PLANTS #110
A question I often get asked is; “Why is habitat gardening important”? There are multiple reasons but one of them is that it saves the homeowner money.
Driving to work the other day I noticed a truck for an exterminator company. It made me realize that we have not had an exterminator at my home in at least 35 years as there is no need for one. We do not have insect problems inside the house since we have a functioning habitat in the landscape.
I have so many lizards (several species), toad frogs, birds, and even an occasional ribbon snake in my landscape that if a cockroach showed up, he would be committing suicide. His life span would be measured in seconds before he was dinner for some critter.
I did an experiment this past summer after a long dry spell. The soil-mulch layer had pulled away from the brick wall a little creating a small gap where insects like roaches or moths could hide. I turned on the garden hose and laid it up against the brick wall so it would flood the gap and drive any insects out.
In a couple minutes various insects from moths to earwigs began scurrying out. They did not travel more than a couple feet up the brick wall when several lizards appeared out of no-where and they rushed out and consumed them.
Occasionally, when the outside garage light is on, numerous toad frogs will line up and wait for the feast to begin. When a June bug or other insect appears, their life cycle ends in a couple seconds. After a toad has consumed 20-30 June bugs, they are so gorged they can’t hop and can barely walk, so they slowly crawl back into the shrubbery to their homes and another one takes its place.
I have many fruit trees in my yard including a large Mulberry that occasionally gets bagworms. By the time I notice them, they are large bags with hundreds of caterpillars. All I have to do is tear a hole in the webbing or bag and wait. It is usually not long before wasps show up, grab a caterpillar and fly off with it. In short order they are almost gone (the wasps always leave 2 or 3 caterpillars behind).
During the winter months I occasionally get a few fungus gnats in my greenhouse. Before the population grows enough to be an issue, some beetle shows up and eats them all, preventing a problem. Similarly, I will get lots of yellowish aphids on my milkweeds. I just leave them alone; in a few days they are gone.
Several times in my life I have watched a Mocking Bird grab a small snake (or lizard) and fly over 100 feet up over a concrete driveway or street and then drop the snake. The birds will often do this several times till the snake is dead. Then they will take it into a tree where they will enjoy their lunch at their leisure.
The point of these stories is twofold. First, not having to pay 35 years’ worth of exterminator fees has saved me many thousands of dollars. Secondly, it is very enjoyable to watch and study nature and see how God works. It always reminds me of these verses:
Job 12:7 (NIV) "But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8) or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.
Another study was published in the journal Science last fall, on the anti-cancer benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, etc. They found a compound called indole-3-carbinol that suppressed growth of prostate tumors in animal studies. This chemical is also found in turnips. Previous research has shown that other chemicals in these same greens can interfere with the genes that promote cancer growth. Other studies have shown these greens are also effective in preventing breast cancer.
Crucifers and vegetables in general have higher levels of nutrients from dietary fiber to vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients than other foods. If they are grown organically on soils full of microbes and micro-nutrients (mineral rich soil), they are even more beneficial. Another reason to grow one’s own food.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered that some bacteria species absorb electrons directly from the surrounding, liquid, soil or rock (In other words they eat electricity).
This mechanism allows bacteria to survive in low nutrient conditions. Comment: I suspect that if enough electrons are removed from a rock or mineral particle, it would weaken the chemical bonds of the elements composing the rock molecules allowing them to decompose (weather) quicker. Journal mBio, Nov. 2019
One of our readers shared that she has had very good results on snail and slug control using a homeopathic remedy using Helix tosta. “Helix” is the Latin name for gastropods (snails) and “tosta” means toasted.
If anyone else has had experience with this remedy, please let us know. The information below was copied from this website for those whom want more information.
Make Your Own Snail Repellent Remedy
The following instructions will have you producing 100,000 liters of snail and slug repellent from just one small snail shell.
- First, catch your snail.
- Drop it quickly into a pot of boiling water to ensure a quick death then remove its body from its shell. If this is a little grisly for you, find an empty shell from one that has hopefully died of old age after a full life.
- Clean the shell well, place it into an electric oven or kiln, and roast it at 850°C until the shell turns into a white powder.
- Triturate (grind) this powder with lactose (sugar of milk) to a 3X potency, at which time it will easily dissolve into a water-alcohol solution. Then, continue to potentise the remedy to a 6X potency (tutorials 3 and 4 explain how this is done).
- You can either continue to use the total volume of the water-alcohol solution produced at each potency stage so you end up with your full 100,000 litres or, for more manageable quantities, just save and use 10% of the liquid from each stage to produce the next potency.
- For small gardens, add 10 ml of the 6X stock liquid to 10 litres of water and water into the ground or on the plants. A whole hectare can be treated by adding 500 ml of the 6X stock liquid to 500 litres of water.
- If you want larger stock amounts simply start with more snail shells.
- If you prefer to not to do it yourself, Helix tosta is available in our online store.
Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church regularly sponsors webinars on environmental issues. For those whom might be interested, I will be doing a webinar on soils. The Press Release is below.
Sunday Evening Conversations on Creation Continue…
Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church invites you to a monthly environmental education web meeting series whose theme in 2020 is the wonders of nature.
John Ferguson, Owner, Nature’s Way Resources
The Wonders of Soil
Sunday, February 23, at 6 p.m., online
Think that soil is just dirt? Think again! Join John Ferguson, soil scientist, owner of Nature’s Way Resources, and an organic gardening expert, in February as he explains the wonders of soil. You’ll leave this talk amazed at what lies beneath your feet. To join the conversation, please register for this talk on www.eventbrite.com. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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HAVE YOU TRIED . . .
This beautiful shade-loving shrub has unusual greenish-white flowers tinged with pink or purple that gradually ripen into a warty, red, globular fruit that that eventually opens to reveal five brilliant shiny scarlet berries. It's other names: "Hearts-a-bursting" and "Deer Ice Cream"! One of the first plants early botanists took back to Europe from the "New World." Ideal for woodland border or light shade. Compact growth, 6'x6', good drainage. Beloved by birds and deer. Green winter stems, purplish yellow fall color and good fall color (purplish yellow)
STRAWBERRY BUSH is carried by Nature’s Way Resources (Map).Or . . . contact our sponsor, Montgomery Pines Nursery in Willis, our othersponsors below or your neighborhood nurseryman for possible sources.