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Organic Gardening Tips
Terra Viva Organics

New Products
Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden
Time to Start Your Tomatoes
Make Your Own Bee Condo
Sugared Asparagus


New Products

Click here to purchase My First Garden We have a number of exciting products that we can't wait to show you:
  1. 1. My First Garden - A child's garden kit complete with small gloves, a soil scoop, mini watering can, fertilizer (Flower Power), and 15 seeds each of Scarlet Runner Beans and Giant Sunflowers (yes, the grow over 15 ft tall!)

  2. 2. Bee Straws - Use these straws to make your own Orchard Mason Bee House. The straws can be used on their own with some insulation (see story below) or to line holes drilled in wood, allowing you to re-use the holes again.Click here to purchase your Circle Hoe

  3. Circle Hoe - a unique hand tool especially made for tight spaces around seedlings and container plants.

  4. Orchid Twists - You just have to see how beautiful these orchid supports are. Made of stainless steel.


Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

by Sharon Hanna
For years, well-meaning gardeners routinely maimed, swatted, sprayed and squished every bug they could get their hands on. However careful observation of nature and the move to organic practices have shown that encouraging beneficial insects is one way to give Mother Nature a hand.

Lets look at three common beneficials, and how to attract them to your garden:

Beetles. You undoubtedly know these large, fast moving, shiny metallic-blue-black beetles! They snooze underneath pieces of rotten logs and stones and are nocturnal, dining ravenously after dark upon cutworms, root maggots, and slug eggs, miscellaneous larvae and pupae of undesirables, flea beetles, and leaf hoppers.

To attract more beetles, imitate nature. Along a shady edge, away from foot traffic, dig a trench three to six inches deep, and a foot wide. Plant mint, or lemon balm, or even red or white clover, along the inside edges. Drop shovels of peat moss, leaf mulch, coniferous needles, whatever organic material you have, along the slopes and then place a couple of big, flat rocks in the ditch. The beetles will hide under the rocks in the daytime.

Syrphid Flies aka "hover flies" are important pollinators, and their larvae prey on many 'bad' bugs, but aphids are their favourite. Once hatched, the larvae decimate aphid families in a hurry. The 1/2 inch creature is often mistaken for a "bad" worm or slug, so if you come across a legless, see-through greenish-beige creature, slightly pointy at one end, do not kill him, but wish him 'bon appetit'!

Parsley flowers attract beneficialsTo attract syrphids, choose plants of the umbelliferae family: fennel, dill, caraway, parsley, coriander, yarrow, or allow carrots to winter over. All produce beautifully symmetrical seed-heads called umbels, attracting a host of beneficials. According to a recent Oregon State University study, buckwheat is also extremely attractive to syrphids. They also like cornflowers (bachelor buttons), marigolds, chamomile, coreopsis, and feverfew.

Lady Beetles, also known as "ladybugs", feed heavily on aphids. Become familiar with the ladybug in the larval stage. It looks a bit like an elongated grey-black dragon with many little legs, and orange to red markings.

Click here to purchase your own ladybugs

All stages of ladybugs from larvae to adult feed on aphids. Ladybugs are attracted to cosmos, especially white, and to goldenrod, caraway, fennel, yarrow and other umbelliferae. All are easily grown from seed. Lady beetles also like to lay their eggs amongst the long grass, so try to leave a strip un-mowed if you can.

In general, beneficial insects are attracted to plants from families including compositae (daisy family); the mint family (all kinds of mints, lemon balm, and more); umbelliferae (carrot family, parsley, fennel); and the brassica family, a huge family which includes cabbages, cauliflower, oriental greens, arugula, radish and more. These produce flowers containing the type of nectar which beneficial insects use as fuel for flight and movement.

Also it is good manners to provide your insect guests with a drink, in this case water, to wash down the aphids. This can be achieved simply: placing a plastic tray or any kind of pan in your garden and fill it with water. Put rocks in the water for them to stand on.

Sharon Hanna is a Horticultural Writer for Terra Viva Organics


Time to Start Your Tomatoes

by Arzeena Hamir
Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed and now is the time to start tomato seeds indoors. The seeds themselves are easy to handle and can be planted in any type of container you have around the house. I prefer to start 3 seeds in 2" pots; however, yogurt containers, milk cartons, & even egg cartons can all be used.

The key to starting tomato seed is:

Purchase your organic tomato seeds now

  • Pre-moisten your potting soil before planting

  • Don't plant the seed too deep - " is usually enough

  • Keep the container warm - I like to keep my containers at about 75 F (25 C)

  • Keep the container moist but not soggy - try not to overwater

  • Once the seedlings are up, move them to a cool but bright location.

    A week after the seedlings are up, transplant them into individual pots along with some compost or worm casts for food. Within another 3 weeks, the seedlings will outgrow their containers & will be potted up again. This time, they're potted into 6" containers where they will stay until they go into the garden.

    Arzeena Hamir is an Agronomist & President of Terra Viva Organics. She specializes in educating home gardeners about organic vegetable production. You can see more of her work at The Vegetable Garden - Suite101.com.For more gardening information, you can also e-mail her at arzeena@tvorganics.com


    Make Your Own Bee Condo

    by Derry Walsh
    Many native solitary bees are found throughout North America and together with other bee species such as honeybees and bumblebees, are important pollinators of fruit and vegetables.

    When the daytime high temperature reaches 14 C (57F), the Blue Orchard bee starts to emerge. The males emerge a few days before the females. They mate and then the female looks for places to lay her eggs. She prefers to lay her eggs in small holes, often in tree trunks or fences. When she has found a suitable nest, she collects many grains of pollen, mixes it with nectar, and lays an egg on the lump of pollen. Then she collects wet mud or other materials and makes a wall as protection from parasites and predators. After one cell is closed with mud, she sets out to collect pollen and nectar for another cell, and she continues until she runs out of eggs.

    You can attract Blue Orchard Mason Bees into your garden by building your own "Condo" for them. It's easy and can be made with recycled materials to boot.

    Materials needed:

    • 1 waxed milk carton or juice container, non-transparent
    • Screws
    • 15 Paper StrawsClick here to purchase your own straws
    • 2 rubber bands
    • Wood Glue
    • Newspaper
    • Foam (or any soft stuffing for insulation)

    Prepare the Condo as follows:

    Screw a one liter waxed milk or juice container to the outside of your garage, shed, or house wall, in a sheltered spot out of the wind. These nests are best attached to a sunny, southern or eastern location, close to your garden so these bees can pollinate your fruit trees. The height is not that important, the bees seem to nest in straws anywhere from three to 20' above ground, but put it at eye level so you can watch the bees in action

    Cut the straws approximately in half (some slightly less than 6" and some slightly more than 6") and bundle the straws together with an elastic band. Note that the uneven length of nesting straws is a cue for bees to orient to their nest.

    Just one example of a bee condo

    Cut five x 6" squares of newspaper and glue them around the bundle for the first layer of insulation. Place another rubber band over the newspaper to keep it snug. Wrap the bundle with foam to insulate the bees from extreme cold and heat. Insert the bundle of straws and insulation, as one unit, into the waterproof container. If there is extra room around the straws, fill it with more foam.

    Each female solitary bee will use about two and a half of the six inch straws per season. To increase the chance of bees finding your homemade condo, you can decorate your nest with pale colored paint. In addition you could colour the end of a few of the nesting straws to make active nesting straws easier to locate for returning bees.

    In mild winter areas (Zone 7+) leave the nests out-of-doors all year. You could move them to a more sheltered spot out of the worst of the rain and snow and move them back to your ideal spot in mid February. Each year, provide more empty straws for new nests.

    Questions about Orchard Mason Bees and making condos can be sent to Derry at wchase@interchange.ubc.ca



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