Plant Savvy

April 10, 2014
Plant Yarrow Tomorrow
What's in Your Soil?
Here's a Nutty Idea
Bamboo - Fear Not!
Bamboo - Who Knew?
Many garden centers sell praying mantis egg cases that you can bring home to hatch. The hatchlings are voracious aphid eaters and will reproduce in an earth-friendly garden.

NIC’S PICS Our Nicholas Staddon travels the country speaking to gardening groups and visiting botanical gardens. This month’s inspiration is Vancouver™ Fragrant Star Clematis, a re-blooming variety noted for its scrumptious light vanilla fragrance, quite unique for a large-flowered Clematis. The striking red-tipped stamens provides a good source of pollen.

Beneficial and pretty Green Lacewings thrive in a pesticide-free garden. Find them in garden centers or online!

Look for a natural pest barrier made from Kaolin clay. We use it on young fruit trees and vines.

Learn more about beneficial insects here.

Tune in Sundays at 8 p.m. (7c) for the very exciting American Dream Builders design reality competition. Featuring Monrovia plants!

You can now shop for many Monrovia plants online. They’ll be shipped free to a neighborhood garden center. Give it a try!

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It's a Bug-Eat-Bug World
Tiny Hoverfly Polinating Tiny Hover Flies zoom and hover on flowering plants, feeding on pollen and nectar. These beneficial insects help pollinate, while their larvae are busy feeding on aphids and other soft body-pests.
Dear Savvy Gardener,

For Earth Month, let’s pay a tribute to natural methods of pest and weed control in the garden.  At our four growing nurseries, we’re constantly looking for new ways to reduce and eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides.  Not only are natural methods better for the environment, they are safer for our craftsmen – just like you want to minimize chemicals around your family and pets.  We asked some of our Plant Health Craftsmen for some tips that home gardeners can incorporate.

Tip #1 – Attract predators that will eat bugs.  You probably know that ladybugs are very effective against aphids. But did you know they’ll devour mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, scale and thrips, too? Green Lacewings feed on nectar, pollen and aphid honeydew. Their offspring, often called “Aphid Lions”, emerge with a huge appetite for aphids, spider-mites, thrips, white-flies, leafhoppers and even mealy-bugs, eating their fill before repeating the lifecycle. We use a predatory mite that has a constant craving for the destructive European red and two-spotted spider mites.

Hover Flies, also called Syrphids, look like tiny bees but are easily distinguished by their huge eyes and single pair of fly-like wings. They will visit and multiply wherever there is an abundance of flowering plants, and their larvae can devour an entire aphid population!

  Healthier & hardier  
Plant Yarrow Tomorrow
TUTTI-FRUTTI APRICOT DELIGHT YARROW Tip #2 – Have a good variety of flowering plants to attract beneficial insects to the garden.  YarrowHyssop, Willow, Catmint and clump forming ornamental grasses are good choices.  And they attract other predators…like birds that come for the nectar, and will gladly dine on your pests as well.  The plants provide shade and shelter for lizards and their hearty bug appetites.  Night bloomers like Yucca, Evening Primrose, and those with intoxicating fragrance like Night-blooming Jessamine, and Japanese Honeysuckle will attract bats, which eat all sorts of unwanted bugs.

What's in Your Soil?
HEALTHY SOIL TEEMING WITH BENEFICIALS Tip #3 – Healthy soil.  Pesticides not only kill bugs on the surface (both good and bad ones), but they soak into the soil and harm earthworms and other beneficial creatures…like the soil-dwelling predatory mites that help control thrips, soil pests and fungus gnats.  Some research is showing that these mighty mites will attack the very destructive varroa mite in honey bee hives – great news for our fragile bee population.  Good compost is one of the best, natural methods to suppress disease. Mycorrhizae, a group of beneficial organisms, are added to all our soil mixes to increase soil health and help root development for a more robust plant.

Here's a Nutty Idea
MULCH IS BENEFICIAL AND BEAUTIFUL Tip #4 – To suppress weeds, forget the herbicides; keep them at bay with mulch. Make your own, or look for packaged organic mulches and regional alternatives such as rice hulls or shells from walnuts, pecans and pistachios. At our nurseries, we use pecan shells, which are especially effective at eliminating Liverworts, a troublesome weed.  Do you have weeds that sprout up in cracks in your driveway or sidewalk?  Get a kettle of boiling water and pour directly on the weed to kill it.  (Just don’t do this near plants you want to keep alive!).

Bamboo - Fear Not!
RED CLUMPING BAMBOO Bamboo is one of the most useful plants grown in the world. It is used as food, building material, animal fodder and screening.  But gardeners are hesitant to grow it; afraid it will start running and take over their yard.  True, that if you plant running bamboo, you need to have underground barriers to prevent running.  Even easier – just plant the beautiful clumping varieties like Red Clumping Bamboo, Golden Goddess, Alphonse Karr and Sunset Glow

Bamboo - Who Knew?
BUDDHA’S BELLY BAMBOO Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world, and thus annually renewable.  Some tropical species can grow four feet per day! It produces more oxygen than any other plant and consumes more carbon dioxide. Bamboo plants are very effective at removing metals and other toxic substances from soils and water.  Bamboo is stronger than steel – that’s why more than 1 billion people worldwide live in a house made from bamboo.  At our nurseries, we use the canes as stakes for new plants and climbing vines. More interesting Bamboo facts.

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