Organic Gardening

Seed Starting

It’s time to start planning for our annual GDOGC plant sale. This is our main fundraiser and allows us to hold such nice events as the fall field trip and the garden tour, and to donate money every year to worthwhile garden-related ventures. How can you help? Start seeds of plants to grow at the sale. The sale will be April 12th, so it is time to get cracking! Here’s a how-to link for starting your own seeds: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/seed-starting-basics.aspx?PageId=1. Sources for interesting seeds range from Burpee to Baker Creek to Seeds of Change. The key is to provide enough light so your seedlings don’t get leggy before you can put them outside in the sunshine. Grow lights are inexpensive and easy to rig up-mine are in my garage on a very simple pulley so I can raise and lower the lights as needed. Another easy thing I have found is to use a circulating fan set on low to circulate the air. This prevents damping off. A warming mat is a great investment as well-the seeds sprout much more quickly and it allows me to start my seeds in the unheated garage rather than the house, where my cats would have a field day. I have had the same mat from Gardener’s Supply Company for TWENTY years. It’s not pretty, but it works just fine. I use the mat to sprout a few flats of seeds, then rotate new flats onto the mat to sprout them. Eventually they are all uncovered and hardened off to the outdoors. I find my biggest challenge here in Texas is protecting them from the very fickle weather-one bad storm can wipe them all out. Finally, capillary matting also helps a great deal because it keeps the soil perfectly moist as long as you just keep even a little water in the reservoir. See http://www.gardeners.com/Seedstarting/Seedstarting_Dept,default,sc.html for more information. I also clean and reuse the capillary matting and it works for multiple years as well. At the sale we find vegetable transplants and herbs sell very well, in addition to annuals and perennials. Once we get a little closer to spring, consider dividing and transplanting plants and bulbs, and dig up any little “babies” that pop in your garden. I find there are always a few new Turk’s Cap, Rudbeckia, and other perennials to share from my garden. Please help us have the most successful sale ever!

Happy potting,

Allison Liddell

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PRAYING MANTIS

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Taken from Organic Gardening online  :http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/praying-mantis

It's an esoteric debate that sometimes erupts among organic gardeners: Are praying mantises good bugs or bad bugs? The question is irrelevant, even inane, says Dan Digman, an entomologist at Ohio State University. Mantises (also known as mantids) are predators—pure and simple. If hordes of Mexican bean beetles are defoliating your wax beans, you can bet that nearby mantises will be munching beetles. But if a tasty lacewing or honeybee flies within snagging distance, don't expect a mantis to pass up such an easy meal. To a mantis, all bugs are good bugs—good to eat, that is.

"Generally, mantises are good for the garden. They're part of a solution to a pest problem," says Digman. "But they eat beneficials, too. And if nothing else is available, they'll eat each other."

Warm-Weather Beasts Mantids are warm-region insects. Although 1,800 species exist worldwide, only 11 are found in North America. The Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina), which is widespread through the South, and the obscure ground mantid (Litaneutria obscura), common in the Great Plains and arid West, are American natives. But the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) and the common European mantis (Mantis religiosa) were both introduced to the Northeast for insect control. All are known by the common name praying mantis.

Read more: PRAYING MANTIS

ATTRACT ORIOLES TO YOUR YARD

 From Preservation Tree

One of the reasons we plant trees and continue to keep them in top shape is because they support our local wildlife habitat. Without the singing of birds or surprise of a butterfly, the landscape would more than lacking.  With the right plant choices and care, our gardens come alive with the wildlife they attract, including an abundance of bird varieties.

One of our favorite but less common local birds are Orioles. Here in North Texas in we have the opportunity to spot a variety of Orioles, depending on the season. Common types to see in fall are Baltimore & Bullocks Orioles, who are migrating to Mexico for winter. The males are easy to spot because of their vibrant orange or yellow hue and black “caps”, although the muted tones of the females are also beautiful.

The females build their nest of straw, string, plant fibers, and moss in intricate patterns suspended from tree branches, with a hole to enter and lay their eggs. While the male Orioles don’t help with the nest, they do help with feeding duties.

How do you attract Orioles to your garden? Trees are crucial for nesting and protection from the elements. Healthy trees in your landscape is always the first step to attract birds.  By following an organic maintenance plan, you won’t destroy all the food for birds.  Spiders, caterpillars and other insects are a major source of food for nearby birds. The birds act as the perfect natural pest control!  Also, offer feeders specifically designed for Orioles and fill with sugar water, just as you would for hummingbirds. It's not unusual for orioles to try hummingbird feeders, but their bills are often too big. Orioles love the color and taste of oranges. Offer orange halves on a branch or feeder.