Insects & Spiders

An Herb a Day Keeps Mosquitoes Away

green leavesThe American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) wants you to know this is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week.

You are aware of mosquitoes, aren’t you?

That’s what I thought!

Mosquitoes are certainly annoying, but they can also spread West Nile virus. That’s why it’s important for gardeners to do all they can to control these insect pests.

“Over the last few years, the U.S. has had increased cases of mosquito-borne illnesses such as the West Nile Virus and other exotic diseases such as dengue fever and Chikungunya threaten our shores,” says AMCA Technical Advisor Joe Conlon. “To ensure the safety of family, friends and pets, it’s extremely important to make sure you’re taking the proper steps: first, reducing mosquito breeding through water management and source reduction, and second, reducing adult
mosquito populations.”

The AMCA says one of the easiest and most crucial thing to do is to remove any standing water around your property. Empty pots, tarps, tools and trash cans of any water that has collected as they are all breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

What’s so special about honeybees?

close up of a beeToday may be the official end to National Pollinator Week, but the work of bees — and gardeners — continues.

Please keep adding plants to your garden that attract bees with the nectar and pollen they need.

Stop using pesticides in your garden that can harm bees.

Register your pollinator garden with the Pollinator Partnership Network so we can reach 1 million gardens by 2016.

And while you’re at it, consider all the ways honeybees are special:

Bees evolved from wasps, but bees are chubbier and usually quite hairy.

All bees have some branched hairs on their bodies.

Cave paintings show that for thousands of years, people all over the world have risked physical harm in the pursuit of honey.

It’s safe to be around bees in the garden while they’re foraging for food.

Worker honey bees transform floral nectar into honey by adding enzymes and reducing the moisture.

Behold Some Important Facts About Bees

bumblebee on sunflowerI hope the idea of National Pollinator Week has inspired you to consider ways to help the pollinators in your garden. If you’re looking for even more inspiration, there’s a book I’d like to recommend to you. “Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” is a book from Dr. Stephen Buchmann, an important member of the Pollinator Partnership. The book (Bantam, 2005) will give you new insight into the hive and the vital role bees play in our history, culture and kitchens.

I had the chance to interview Dr. Buchman in 2005 when his book was first released. This interview originally was published in The Denver Post newspaper at that time.

The most overworked and under-appreciated garden helper is the bee.

Like their human commuter counterparts, bees leave their nests early each morning to go to work. Their day is spent flying from flower to flower searching for nectar and pollen. At dusk they return home to rest before the start of another busy workday.

Moth emerges from garage, lives to tell about it

empty cocoon When John was trimming the red twig dogwood shrubs earlier this season, he found a cocoon clinging to one of the newly pruned branches.

The cocoon looked like a tightly wrapped bunch of leaves and it had some weight to it, too.

He left the cocoon, still attached to its branch on the patio table for me to find. To keep it from getting soaked in the daily deluges we experienced throughout May, I moved the cocoon and branch into the garage and left it on my workbench.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

That is until one day last week when he called me outside to see a moth that was lying on the ground.

“I was in the garage and felt something fluttering at my feet,” he said. “I saw this moth and moved it outside. I hope it’s okay.”

“It looks like it’s drying its wings,” I said. Then I took a few pictures and went back inside the house.

Solitary Bees Like These Simple Homes

homes for solitary beesThere’s no place like home for a solitary bee, or so the old saying should go.

While this week in June is set aside as National Pollinator Week, we really should celebrate pollinators every week of the year.

One way to celebrate is to invite bees into your yard with little bee houses.

The simple “insect hotels” in the picture are part of a display at the Denver Botanic Gardens. There’s a wide variety of found materials here — from bricks to dried bamboo stalks to grasses.

“Many of the more than 500 species of bees native to the region use cavities like these to build their solitary nests,” the signage explains.

The display at my house isn’t as elaborate, but I still have plenty of bees. Orchard mason bees are one of the solitary bees that are especially fond of my landscape.

These bees are smaller than honeybees and have a shiny bluish-black color.

The National Pollinator Network Needs Your Garden

bee on flowerPlant and bee counted!

We’re celebrating National Pollinator Week and need gardeners across the country to join in.

You don’t have to have a large garden; any size garden is an important part of the gardening network to help take care of pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds and even bats.

Every seed or  plant that helps feed our pollinators counts.

In fact, your garden can count even more toward the One Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

By 2016 we hope there will be at least 1,000,000 pollinator gardens registered at the Pollinator Partnership website.

The One Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is the goal of the brand new National Pollinator Garden Network. The network is a collaboration between more than 20 different conservation organizations, gardening groups and seed companies.

One of the National Pollinator Garden Network organizations is one I’m very familiar with — the National Wildlife Federation. For more than a dozen years my landscape has maintained its status with the organization as a certified backyard habitat.

Plant for Pollinators During National Pollinator Week

swallowtail on zinniaHappy National Pollinator Week to you!

It’s time to celebrate all that pollinators do for gardeners by doing all we can for pollinators.

Insect pollinators, like honey bees and butterflies, do much of the important work in our gardens. They fertilize plants by feeding on or walking through flowers, moving pollen from one part of the plant to another.

It’s estimated that 80 percent of plant fertilization depends on pollinators. Without their help we wouldn’t have much in the way of the fine fruits and vegetables we grow in our gardens.

Pollinators need our help to stay healthy and active. Are the bees buzzing, butterflies floating, and hummingbirds darting from flower to flower in your garden? Whether on a tiny balcony, small patio or large backyard garden, you need to encourage activity by planting flowers that provide nectar and pollen all season, from early spring to first frost.

Organic Gardening Tip Protects Cucumber Seedlings

plastic berry boxI hate it when something eats my cucumbers before I do. Especially before they even get the chance to grow into those cool fruits.

Cucumber seedlings are especially attractive to garden pests, but I think I’ve found a simple, organic gardening method to outsmart the hungry critters, like cutworms and birds.

Last season, the trouble cropped up right after planting the seeds.

I’d soak the seeds overnight to soften them a bit for planting, then I’d prepare the garden bed, plant the seeds, and celebrate seeing the first seedlings pop up from the ground.

The next day their heads would be missing, leaving a tiny stalk standing.

My first thought was that cutworms were feasting on the cucumber seedlings, so I tried protecting them with collars, toothpicks, and other homemade guards.

But when these defenses failed, I knew I had other pests, probably birds and squirrels were snacking on the seedlings.

Organic Gardening Tips for Slugs

slug treatmentsBe on the lookout for slugs in your garden.

The rainy weather is sure to bring out these slimy critters. Slugs may look like harmless pinkish-blobs of goo, but they can cause a lot damage in the garden.

These disgusting pests usually appear in my garden after prolonged periods of rainy weather.

It can sometimes be difficult to find slugs because they do their damage overnight and hide out during the daylight hours. You can use a flashlight to go slug hunting at night or look for slugs along plant stems and under leaves in the early morning hours.

You can also search for their clusters of clear, round eggs by looking under rocks.

Slugs will feast on anything from vegetable and flower seedlings to ripe fruit. I’ve even found their telltale chewing damage on ornamental plants. Look for missing leaves or irregularly-shaped holes on the edges or in the middle of leaves.

Start the Gardening Season with the New Edition of The Colorado Gardener’s Companion

Colo Gardener's Comp 2nd Ed Final Cover 72ppi blog The second edition of my first book is ready in time for gardening season!

I worked over the winter months to fill this new edition with more of everything to help Colorado gardeners grow great gardens starting now.

The Denver Post newspaper calls the new edition of my gardening book an “an essential manual” for gardeners.

What’s new in edition two?

The new edition features a colorful cover image of one of my flowerbeds from last summer.

That image, taken by John Pendleton, shows off some of the annuals and perennials that grow in one of the hottest, driest parts of my backyard.

In addition to a new look, there’s more of everything else, too! Since the first edition was published in 2007, a lot has changed in the wonderful world of gardening.

So I updated all of the information, included new technologies, expanded plant lists, added new resources and included about nine more inspiring gardens to visit.

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