Small Budget Gardening Pin of the Day

Small Budget Gardening Pin of the Day

Grow Sweet Bay for Pantry Pesticide

sweet bay

The contents of a bin of flour does not move. Small black bugs should not gather at the bottom of a box of cereal. And though they are nearly identical to rice grains, small maggots may not take up residence in that bag either. Ditto crackers and dog food. The genesis of pantry moths and flour weevils are microscopic eggs that arrive in your kitchen inside all of these foods sealed into air-tight wrappers. Once you open the bag, oxygen and heat enter to make microscopic eggs hatch into larvae. These tiny maggots spoil the food, then move on to pupate into an adult moth or beetle to infest the rest of your kitchen.   All over America, flour bins are coming alive with the heat. It starts in early summer when the house itself heats up to the perfect hatching temperature. What grows in your flour may be any one of a dozen different insects that roughly follow this same life cycle. They were once pernicious residents of old grist mills, spread far and wide in the bags of flour. Such pests infested hard tack rations of every war, and a century ago they were so ubiquitous soldiers ate this rare protein source on the battlefield.   But all of this is a thing of the past because there is a simple, cheap plant remedy that will keep your grain bins free of such infestations without chemicals. It is the ancient bay laurel tree of the Mediterranean, favored for crafting victor’s crowns and bachelor’s laurels. This is the same bay leaf you purchase in the store when it’s old and dry and most of its oils have evaporated.   In front of my office were old bay laurel street trees the city clipped to keep from encroaching onto the sidewalk. Every year I’d watch for Public Works to start pruning, and then I’d go out to gather the cuttings. These were my first adventure in the world of bay leaf pest control.   Into every box, bag and bin I’d stuff a good sized sprig or bundle of rubber banded fresh leaves. The oils are potent enough to give you a headache if freshly crushed foliage is inhaled. The evaporation of the oil from leaves is enough to kill off pantry pests and discourage new ones. Not once did any residual flavor of bay tinge my baked goods.   If you grow a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) tree in the yard, you’ll have an endless supply of this highly effective natural pesticide in its most potent state. Hardy to Zone 8, this tree grows easily outdoors and is tolerant of both heat and drought. If you live further north, bay trees adapt nicely to a large pot so you can bring it indoors for the winter.   When I lived in a cabin in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, I discovered a close relative called the California bay tree, (Umbellularia californica). It grew prodigiously in the cool hollows of the
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Life and Death and Agave

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              For many people, their greatest achievements come at the end of life when they have gained great wisdom and experience.  This too is so with agaves, those extraordinarily tough succulents unique to our new world deserts.  Among them is locally native Agave deserti, with its twisted rosettes of blue leaves that contain a vital source of strong, yet soft fiber harvested a century ago by Cahuilla weavers. Newcomers to desert gardening discover their beautifully blooming plant cannot be coaxed to live after flowers fade.  This is because agaves bloom but once in their lifetime in a spectacular  effort to reproduce itself both by seed, and by cloning itself vegetatively just before death. The entire life span of an agave serves just one purpose: to store enough energy to produce an enormous flower spike.  Those grown for the manufacture of tequila are harvested just before the flowers form, when sugar content is highest to enhance the fermentation process. Some species produce branching spikes with tufts of bright yellow flower clusters at the tips.  Others are a single stalk sheathed in flowers.  It’s believed the highly held flowers allow their scent to lure pollinators over long distances across a barren desert.  Another reason for agave’s very tall spikes is bats, which relish the nectar.  Eco location makes it dangerous when agaves are in a habitat filled with many other spiny or thorny plants.  But with flowers high above the spines, bats easily find and feed upon the nectar, thus ensuring pollination. Each species of agave grows for a certain time span needed to accumulate these sugars.  The average is about 25 years, but some may live far longer.  Problems arise with short lived agaves because they may not last long enough to use in outdoor landscaping. One of our most commonly used species is dark green, vase-shaped Agave desmettiana.  It is the best example of many ways agaves reproduce to sustain the species in difficult climates.  After the bloom stalk sheds its flowers, small perfect plants called bulbils form where blooms detach.  They are the back-up plan for reproduction because conditions are so dry that it’s rare for some agave to grow from seed in the wild.  These bulbils are genetic clones of the mother plant, and when they get large enough they detach in the wind and fall, littering the ground around the mother.  Here they’ll root and grow to maturity unless gathered by an intrepid gardener. This bulbil production is only found in a few species, which coincidentally include our low desert tolerant Agave vilmorniana and Agave angustifolia.  When an agave is old enough to bloom it will do so in spring. My first bulbils were found in the parking lot where they littered the pavement beneath a blooming mother plant.  I rescued as many as I could, stuffing them into my purse to take home to plant in the sand and shade of my irrigated garden.  They were tucked into natural soil
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Use Flagstone For Greener Patios

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Urban runoff carries contaminants, such as litter, food, human and animal waste, automobile fluids, industrial pollutants, fertilizers and pesticides to the beach, creating health risks for people, killing marine life and contributing to localized flooding and beach closures.

–City of Santa Monica

Our nation’s largest cities were founded as ports on waterways from rivers to bayous and oceans. Here storm drains were designed to carry rainwater runoff to large bodies of water. The problem t
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The Gardener’s Eden

Source: thegardenerseden.com via Maureen on Pinterest

Maureen Gilmer

Over the last 30 years, Maureen Gilmer has worked in virtually every aspect of horticulture and landscaping in California. Her strong background in landscape architecture coupled with decades of field experience lends a broad spectrum of expertise to all her work.
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