Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to

Organic Gardening Tips and Plants - How to

Organic Gardening

Terra Viva Organics

Praying Mantis – Friend or Foe?

Your Own Broom

Plants Vertically

Snow Peas

Mantis – Friend or Foe?

by Arzeena Hamir

Not many gardeners
come into contact with a praying mantis but few can
deny that they’ve heard of the infamous way in which
the insects mate. While the female can indeed feed on
its mate’s head during copulation, praying mantis also
have other amazing features. The mantid is the only
predator which is fast enough to catch mosquitoes and
flies. It is also the only insect that can turn its
head all the way around (180 degrees).

Praying mantis have voracious appetites and will eat
a variety of insects including aphids, grasshoppers,
fruit flies, house flies, moths and crickets. However,
in addition to these insects, praying mantis will also
eat beneficial insects like hover flies and lacewings.
If you’re a gardener who is contemplating using praying
mantis for pest control, do keep this in mind.

Most praying mantis are sold as egg cases; each egg
case will hatch between 50-200 young nymphs. For the
best pest control, use 3 egg cases for a garden under
5,000 sq. ft. We recommend that you use your egg cases
immediately although they can be refrigerated for up
to a week after receiving them. You can either hang
the egg case outside and allow the young nymphs to escape,
or you can set up a terrarium.

Indoor Care of Praying Mantis

Set up a terrarium with in a fish tank, gold fish bowl,
yogurt container, or even a jam jar. Whatever type of
container is used, a stick or branch should be provided
for the insects to hang from as well as a small dish
of water in the bottom to add humidity to the enclosure.
Place mesh over the top of the container to prevent
the young from escaping but still allow air and food
to be put in. The temperature should be kept at approximately
25-28 C (75-80 F). The easiest way of maintaining the
temperature is by using an under tank heating mat. Keep
the container out of direct sunlight and maintain a
humid atmosphere by misting everyday.

Feeding Praying Mantis

The young nymphs will wiggle out of their egg case
in about 3 weeks. As they grow bigger, move them into
a larger container so they have enough room to feed
and move. Upon hatching, the mantids must have live
food every 2-3 days. If not, they will devour each other.

Living insects, such as fruit flies, aphids, cockroaches,
crickets, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, caterpillars,
moths, and houseflies are a favourite food of the mantis.
The smaller, softer-bodied insects are a better food
source for the young nymphs. After having completed
their early stages, they may be fed insects larger than
aphids and vinegar flies such as mosquitoes, flies,
and roaches.

If they are not released, each adult will need its
own cage. One mantis may be kept on its own as a pet
and fed throughout the year.


– Purchase
egg cases on-line February-July
– Ohio State University FactSheet

– Praying
mantis life cycle

is an agronomist and freelance gardenwriter. When
she’s not working on her garden, she runs Terra Viva

Grow Your Own Broom
by Pearl Sanborn

Many years ago, I purchased
a beautiful natural colored wreath for my bathroom.
Because I’ve enjoyed it so much, recently I decided
that I needed to replace it with a new one. You see,
after washing the old one so many times, I think it
has seen better days 😉 The problem? I wasn’t able to
find the same type of wreath anywhere!

After searching at several craft stores and doing some
research online, I finally had success with the mystery
material! It was a plant that Ben Franklin first brought
to the United States after discovering its beauty in
the late 1700’s called “Broom Corn.” He found a small
seed on a whisk broom that his friend had brought him
from France, used for dusting his beaver hat. He planted
it the next spring, and continued growing it from the
harvested seeds.

The humble broom……

In today’s society, we have what seems like a never
ending choice of cleaning supplies made from every type
of material imaginable. There are even brooms that are
supposed to be able to pick up dirt magnetically! However,
the pioneers before us did not have the luxury of going
down to the corner market to spend an hour or two picking
out their favorite broom! Actually, they had to plan
their cleaning day at least year in advance 😉 Why so
far ahead? Because they had to grow their brooms!

They grew what was called “Broom Corn” or Sorghum Vulgare
– also known as Millet or Guinea Corn. The seeds are
small, white, and round in shape. They are grown much
the same as grains such as barley or oats. The stalk
of the plant resembles a cane in appearance, and the
heads are quite large and full of small grain – not
actual ears of corn. Not only are these plants used
for making brooms, but they are also grown for other
uses as well.

The grain is milled into a very fine white flour which
is wonderful for making bread, used to feed horses cattle
and poultry, and is also said to be a diuretic. The
fiber of the plant is used to make brushes, paper, newsprint,
and fiberboard.

Although first thought to be cultivated in Italy, broom
corn is still widely cultivated in the United States
today – so you can plant & grow your own broom!
And because broom corn is generally resistant to insect
pests and mold, it is quite easy to grow!


Plant seeds approx. 1/2″ – 3/4″ deep in moist soil.
The rows should be 3 ft. apart so the large seed heads
have enough room to fully develop, but not so far apart
that the stalks have room to bend over. You can expect
seedlings to appear in 3-5 days. These plants will grow
up to 10 ft., and be mature approx. 105 days from planting.

It is time to harvest when the seed heads are approx.
20-36 inches long. Flowering should be finished by this
time, but the heads should still be green in color.
This will ensure that the branches will not be to brittle
for crafting. Remember to always cut your stalks in
dry sunny weather.


Because you are actually growing a type of grain, you
will need to thresh the seed (or remove seed) before
you make the seed heads into brooms, wreaths, or other

To remove seeds; take several stalks in one hand, and
hit them carefully against a large flat area. After
you see that the seeds are mostly gone, lay tops on
a dry flat surface to dry for 2 weeks. Don’t forget
to collect the seed after threshing! The birds will
enjoy it in their feeders!

A wonderful picture of some folks harvesting broom
corn many years ago:

An article on making your own broom:

Broom how-tos from 1936:

Rich in warm autumn colors including brown, mahogany,
and amber, I know you’ll find yourself, as I have, in
love with this 7-10 ft tall ornamental beauty. You’ll
want to be sure to reserve a special place for broom
corn in your cottage garden this year.

Copyright © of Pearl Sanborn
Live Way Better for Far Less With:
Homesteading, Cottage Gardening, Frugal Living
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    Growing Plants Vertically

    from The Big Book of Gardening Skills
    by the Editors of Garden Way Publishing

    If your garden feels cramped and crowded, take advantage
    of vertical space. It is healthier for vining plants to
    climb upward into the air and sunlight than to sprawl
    on the damp earth.

    Reasons to garden vertically:

    • Fruit is cleaner and less susceptible to damage
      from rotting, insects, and slugs.
    • More air and sunlight reach the plants.
    • Cultivating and harvesting are easier.
    • Requires less space.
    • Yields are generally higher.
    • Creates a shady garden spot.
    • Provides a framework for plant coverings.
    • Allows more efficient watering.
    • Makes monitoring and managing pests easier.
    • Earliest, cleanest, and longest-lasting harvests


    The simplest of all plant supports are stakes or poles.
    Drive them into the soil near the base of a plant and
    the vines instinctively latch onto them. Tie tall or
    heavy plants to the stakes to support them. Then prune
    the excess growth at the top.

    Garden centers offer a variety of wooden, bamboo, and
    manufactured stakes, or you can make your own from scrap
    lumber, pieces of metal or PVC pipe, or other rigid

    Tepee Trellises

    Tepees make excellent supports for beans, peas, and
    tomatoes, and for heavily fruited crops such as melon
    and squash. To build one, you will need three to six
    poles — thin ones for flowers or lightweight plants,stouter
    ones for heavily fruited crops. Cut the poles 10 to
    12 feet long so you can sink them 1 to 2 feet into the
    ground. Use twine, raffia, or strips of rawhide or cloth
    to lash poles together near the top. Pull the poles
    into a tight bundle, wrap the twine around the bundle
    a few times, and tie it snugly. Prop the bundles over
    the planting area, positioning the bottom ends so each
    pole will support one or two vines. Thicker poles are
    heavy enough to be freestanding.

    Fence Trellises

    Drive a post at each end of a row and place other posts
    in between where needed. String with twine, wire, netting,
    or wire mesh and you have a fence-type trellis. Fences
    over 20 feet long should have an extra post installed
    every 10 to 12 feet. By attaching cross arms to the
    end posts and running wires between them, you can convert
    the simple fence trellis into a double fence or clothesline
    trellis that can support two or four lines instead of
    just one.


    simple and efficient method of containing sprawlers
    is with a cage. Cages can be nailed together from scrap
    1 x 2 lumber or made with sturdy wire mesh. Bend the
    mesh into shape and arrange it over transplants such
    as tomatoes and cucumbers. Round or square cages, 2
    to 3 feet in diameter and 3 to 4 feet high, will both
    contain and support a variety of vines.


    Construct an A-frame trellis of lightweight lumber
    — 1 x 2s or 2 x 4s. Wire mesh fencing, garden netting,
    or vertically or horizontally strung wire or twine will
    serve as the plant support. You can design an A-frame
    in any dimensions, but it must be of manageable size
    if it is to be portable. Both sides of this versatile
    trellis are used, and it can be made sturdy enough to
    support heavy crops such as gourds and pumpkins.

    from The Big Book of Gardening Skills by the Editors
    of Garden Way Publishing illustrations by Ann Poole
    and Elayne Sears

    Sesame Snow Peas


    The vegetables
    in this dish should be served crisp-tender.

    • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
    • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly
    • 1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and strings discarded
    • 1 green onion, sliced thinly on diagonal
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1. Heat peanut oil in wok or large heavy skillet; add
      sesame seeds and stir-fry for a few seconds until
      golden. Add snow peas and green onion; stir-fry for
      1 minute.
    2. Remove from heat and toss with sesame oil and soy
      sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve

    Serves 4.

    Organic Living ISSN 1492-5451.

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