Hummingbirds

When we first moved in, a gigantic trumpet vine was intermingled with honeysuckle; it was lovely… and a red light for any hummingbirds in its path. I thought the trumpet vine was choking out the delicate honeysuckle so I removed it.

Our Honeysuckle

The honeysuckle is in full bloom now and the hummingbirds love it!

Our Hummingbird Feeder

A few weeks ago my daughter spotted a hummingbird in our area and I immediately retrieved the feeder, placed it on display, and rang the dinner bell!

I don’t leave the feeder out during the winter months… although I know of a few who do. It’s been my experience that our hummingbirds find us year after year (like we tend to return to the same beach house year after year).

Make your “nectar” by mixing one part sugar to four parts water. Boiling the mixture will ensure the sugar has dissolved. Store unused portions in your refrigerator and fill your feeder only partially—you should clean it every three to four days anyway and to fill the feeder would just be a waste.

The sugar-water you provide is not meant to “feed” your hummingbirds…merely provide energy to make it to their next feeding. So, keep your feeders clean and full and the area around the feeder “attractive” (remember, they love the color red) then sit back and wait for the hummmmmmmm….

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Organic Pesticide with Tobacco

Tobacco Field and Barn of Yesteryear

When I was a child we’d make annual pilgrimages to South Carolina for family reunions. The trips from Virginia, along Interstate 95, were grueling for a girl, but one of my fondest memories is of the acres and acres of tobacco—as far as you could see. Those tobacco fields are all but gone now but the footprint of that heritage remains.

I began growing tobacco years ago, here in Pennsylvania, and loved seeing my few plants surge in growth in the warm months, finally giving way to a delicate blossom.

David cut the mighty stalks and hung the plants, inverted, to dry in the smokehouse over the winter months.

When I first mentioned I wanted to grow tobacco, I was met with the “why??” almost out of the gate. Hmmmmm. Had to act fast—I was about to take up a row of precious garden real estate with a plant I “just wanted to grow for the fun of it.” I researched the other uses of tobacco and came upon (drum roll, please): Organic Pesticide.

Nicotine in tobacco is highly toxic and will kill or repel the pests on flowering plants, fruits, and vegetables. It’s inexpensive and organic (but double-check your source).

Steeping Tobacco Juice

To make your “pesticide,” combine a handful of tobacco leaves, a tablespoon of dishwashing soap and a gallon of warm water. Cover your mixture and let it steep overnight. Strain off the solids and add to a spray bottle. Coat your plants you’d like to protect—remember the underside of the leaves as well!

The cucumber beetle which wreaks such havoc tore into our pumpkin plants during it’s first life cycle (see the Cucumber Beetles blog).

Either the beetles were on the backside of their first cycle in this photo…or the tobacco juice went to work….or both.

See the new green, baby shoots?

Pumpkin Plant Coming Back

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Cucumber Beetles

Cucumber beetles…. mere mention strikes fear in the hearts of vegetable gardeners, countrywide. Or, at least, it should.

They attack flowers and ornamentals as well as cucumbers. In fact, over 270 plants in 29 families fall prey to this little trouble-maker.

To learn more, I consulted Golden Harvest Organics online library. It was fascinating to learn (among other things) that the beetles actually transmit bacterial diseases which overwinter in their intestines, infecting plants in their earliest of stages.

According to ghorganics.com, the striped cucumber beetles do the most damage to the cucumber families or cucurbits, appearing a good four weeks before their spotted relatives.

Aside from hitting potatoes, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, fruits, and melons, they go after corn with a vengeance. Larvae infestation will impact the root system so forcefully, the corn appears to be drought-stricken. Adult beetles burrow into the silks when pollination is due to occur—resulting in “poor grain set.”

There are repellent plants which could be planted to deter the beetle and various other organic methods. (Try placing aluminum foil beneath plants to reflect light—the beetles prefer the underside of leaves because of the shade.)

David prefers the route of “integrated pest management” (IPM). Which is our very next blog entry….

Stay tuned.

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Pretty

Pretty INVASIVE, that is!!

I’m talking about “Gooseneck Loosestrife.”

I purchased the perennial at a favorite greenhouse four years ago when I was “constructing” my flower beds.

I always read the description of the flowers I’m purchasing and I don’t remember the description suggesting “contains roots,” or “spreads quickly.”

For the past three years, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to yank it out of the flower bed. It has spread so voraciously that it chokes out other tender perennials vying for the smallest of growing areas. The stem reminds me of a succulent; it’s always full of moisture. If you try to pull it out, it snaps at ground-level, leaving the root to begin a path elsewhere.

I’ve had the worst time ridding my flower beds of it. I pull new shoots constantly throughout the summer months.

I believe the only way to completely rid the flower beds of this dastardly villain is to turn over the topsoil and pull the roots, once and for all.

For now, I’ll pull the new shoots to allow the others their rightful sunlight and rainfall allowance.

It is pretty though.

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Nightshade

I first noticed “Nightshade” when living in Wisconsin.

A toxic Nighshade Variety

I thought the little purple roadside wildflower was cute…until David said it was toxic (being pregnant, I quickly removed my hand from the plant). However, I came to learn the Nightshade family (2,300-plus species, in fact) encompasses many common plants as well: tomatoes, eggplants, tobacco, morning glory, and potatoes to name a few.

Another View of a Toxic Nightshade Variety

The common characteristic among Nightshade plants is alkaloids. Alkaloid production is a natural defense system that inhibits insects from feasting on the plants.

With human consumption, it is this biochemical production which inhibits the activity of cholinesterase, a chemical necessary to break down acetylcholine in the human body. Buildup of cholinesterase-inhibiting steroids and glycoalkaloids might also contribute to stiffness and inflammation, according to the Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery.

Non-toxic Nightshade

There are both lethal and non-lethal varieties of Nightshade plants.

If you have animals on your property, investigate the types of Nightshade species in your region and the best way to rid grazing areas of them. Contact your local Cooperative Extension with any questions or concerns.

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