Does Your Garden Need Dawn?

LAH_7580Once again, the blogosphere is full of recipes for weed killer, lawn restorer, insecticides, etc., all containing dish detergent. Most of them call specifically for Dawn, although I recently encountered someone promoting Joy instead. The most popular herbicide recipe includes vinegar and dish detergent. Some add Epsom salts. Others add plain table salt. It’s a supposedly “organic” or “natural” alternative to a purchased product.

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You (probably) Don’t Need an Exterminator

Monarch Butterfly_DBG-CO_LAH_9197The neighborhood where I live seems to be a magnet for door-to-door salespeople selling services. One company in particular has been particularly persistent in their marketing attempts—an exterminator.

The first time they rang the doorbell, I politely but firmly told the guy I did not want my yard sprayed. I consider a diverse arthropod population to be a sign of a healthy landscape. I particularly want insects around to feed the birds I feed. Moreover, I had just planted a pollinator garden, designed to attract bees, butterflies, moths, and other fascinating creatures;. The last thing I wanted was to kill my invited guests.

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Garden Advice: Kelp Belongs in the Ocean

The products sold to improve the health of our landscapes seem endless; I just wish more of them actually worked. I recently received an advertising postcard in the mail. At first glance, it appears that they are selling a valuable product. After all, who doesn’t want to “improve the health and vigor” of their trees and shrubs? But then I reread the claims and some red flags went up.

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Houseplants & Indoor Air Quality

spider-plant-home-28mar2006-lah-123rI’ve been down with a nasty stomach virus for the past week, more interested in the distance to the bathroom than in gardening. As a result, I’ve been perusing articles instead of writing them (it takes far less effort!). I’ve also spent considerable time reading bogus gardening advice on Pintrest—it’s an amazingly rich repository of horticultural mythology. One afternoon I focused on the idea that houseplants purify the air in our homes. We’ve all seen the articles…

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Garden Advice: Baking Soda Balderdash

baking-sodaType “baking soda garden” into your web browser and you get over a million hits. Not surprisingly, most are something along the lines of “17 Smart Baking Soda Tips,” and “7 Natural Uses for Baking Soda.” Depending on which list you read, it sweetens tomatoes, increases the blooms on geraniums, begonias, and hydrangeas, prevents black spot on roses, cures powdery mildew, discourages soil gnats, and kills slugs and other harmful insects “while not harming beneficial insects.”  (So tell me—how does it know which are the bad bugs?) Plus, it’s natural, cheap, and readily available.

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Garden Advice: Re-using Tea Bags

20160406_095352It seems such a waste—we use a tea bag to make a lovely cup of tea, and then toss it into the trash. It just screams to be repurposed—surely there’s some way to get some extra use from that depleted bag! So it’s no big surprise that the internet is suddenly full of lists with titles such as “7 Random Uses for Used Tea Bags.”

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Garden Advice: Using Salt in the Garden

no saltOne of my perverse pleasures is perusing Pintrest to find bad garden advice. There’s certainly no lack of misinformation on the web, and Pintrest seems to collect it all. Most advice is simply a waste of time and money—sprinkling Epsom salts on your plants, spraying weeds with vinegar, pouring beer on your lawn. They don’t help, but they won’t kill your plants either. However, yesterday I came across a recommendation that will seriously damage your garden. I was so horrified that I immediately sat down to write this post.

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Saving Rainwater

Storm moving in_XG_20090826_LAH_9762.nef

The storm pounded our garden, flattening flowers and washing away gravel. Even with the damage, I was grateful for the water—we spent over $100 last month just irrigating our xeric landscaping. Water is expensive, but rain is free. If only there was some way to save the downpour flooding our garden. But wait—there is! We could install a rain barrel!

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Keeping Mosquitoes at Bay

mosquitoLast month we learned that the so-called mosquito repellent plants don’t actually keep our yards pest free. Does that mean we have to suffer annoying, itchy welts? Thankfully, there are alternatives. We start by preventing mosquitoes from breeding.

Most of us know that mosquitoes lay their eggs in water. The eggs hatch into aquatic larvae. In as little as three day (depending on the temperature), those larvae become flying adults. The males leave us alone, but the females suck up a gut full of nutrient-rich blood to support egg-laying. And often, that blood comes from us.

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Mosquito Repellant Plants? Caveat Emptor

mosquitoI sometimes wonder why God made mosquitoes. They’re so… annoying! No one enjoys getting bitten. It’s more than just the never-ending itch—they carry some very nasty diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Even here in the U.S. we’re at risk of West Nile, dengue, viral encephalitis, and now zika.

Lavendula - Lavender @DianeBrunjes-GlenEagle 22july05 LAH 003rMy Facebook feed is suddenly overflowing with lists of plants that supposedly repel mosquitoes. Just plant these flowers and herbs and your yard will be pest-free! Or, as one post on Pintrest claimed, “Plant a Mosquito Control container so you can sit and unwind in the evenings.” Unfortunately, anything that simple raises a red flag for me. Can controlling mosquitoes really be as easy as planting marigolds and lavender? It took some research to get past the hype, but I eventually found some scientific studies that look at this question.

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