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Indispensable Books and Resources
  • Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    by Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    by Eliot Coleman
  • The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    by Gary F. Zimmer
  • The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    by Barbara Damrosch
  • 1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    Organic Insect Control
  • Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.

    The best farming and growing magazine money can buy!

  • Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks
    Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks

    2" Soil Blocker

  • Mini Soil Blocker
    Mini Soil Blocker
  • New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    by Emily Brooks
  • What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    by Tasneem Bhatia, Editors of Prevention







Short journal entries detailing the nuts and bolts of our ventures in growing food at our micro-farm

Entries in Insect control (2)


Luring Beneficial Insects: A Permaculture Plan for Pest Control

Dill: Check out the tiny hoverfly on the bottom rightPermaculture is a system of agriCULTURE that is PERManent.  It is a perennial polyculture of plantings and it's designed to be low-maintenance and food producing.  This spring we are gearing up to convert a small swath of property alongside the annuals growing area to an edible forest garden using permaculture principles.  While we are busy seeding away for ourselves and our plant sales, part of what I'm trying to plan for is a wide range of flowering plants that will attract beneficial insects.  The trick is to have enough flowering plants from spring through late fall to ensure the presence of these welcome bugs.  These are called "nectary plants" by Permies.

There are 2 types of beneficial insects.  Predatory insects catch and eat pests.  Common examples are ladybugs and hover fly larvae.  They have an insatiable appetite for aphids.  By the way, our county's famous "suburban forager" Paul Tappenden tells me he quite likes the taste of aphids and thinks they have a walnut quality about them.  Hmmm.  I'll pass.  The other type are parasitoid insects which lay their eggs on or inside the eggs, larvae, or adults of the pest in question.  When the parasitoid eggs hatch, they devour the pest.  A common example, if you re familiar growing tomatoes, is the tomato hornworm.  In our first year of growing, I uncovered this horrific looking bug while pruning tomatoes.  It was covered with what looked like grains of rice.  I screamed and ran far away figuring the ick factor would be lessened by distance.  Trying to solve the mystery, I googled "green caterpillar with rice" and voila!  I found out that this was a GOOD thing for the garden.  Those rice grains hatch to become baby braconid wasps that devour the host and fly on to find the next hornworm.  What did we do before the internet?

So the trick is to plan out a place to attract these good bugs by planting nectary plants.  One of the best types of nectary plants are in the Apiaceae family, previously known as the Umbelliferae family because their flowers produced umbrellas of tiny flowers.  You know this family well: dill, carrots, celery, chervil, cilantro, fennel, parsley, parsnip and angelica.  So when you don't get to eating your herbs or veggies before they flower, don't pull them - leave them in the garden to attract these beneficials!  They are goreous as well.

This is the list of perennials (and some annuals) we're growing specifically for their nectary properties.


Bee Balm

Sweet Cicely

Anise Hyssop




A great introduction to Permaculture and its principles and for more information on beneficial insectaries read Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture




Nature's Infantry

Part of the process of trying to grow vegetables in the winter is dealing with limited sun, limited warmth and pretty much non-optimal growing conditions for almost everything you could possibly want to grow. That being said, we have become pretty expectant of some fresh Hook Mountain Growers lettuce whenever we want in the winter. The only problem is that with little plants that are not in the happiest growing conditions....they are more prone to pest infestation. Now don’t get me wrong, these little guys are being grown in a greenhouse that never drops below 46 degrees. They are not exactly Navy Seals trained to survive in the harshest conditions. They live quite a pampered life, however even their charmed existence is not enough to stave off the occasional mega-aphid infestation that occasionally occurs on naturally grown produce and is an always present nuisance for greenhouse-grown produce.

Our lettuces were not spared this insult. The infestation was complete. The options were discussed. Consider the plants lost. A trial of Neem organic spray. Prayer. Anger. Cursing. After considering all options, we decided a trial of Natures infantry to suppress these little aphid intruders. Aphids on our Deer Tongue lettuce leaves

The shipment arrived last Thursday from Hirt's Garden Supply. Upon opening the box, the warrior’s looked ready. Angry, aggressive and roaring to eat. OK, they were just ladybugs. Not the most dangerous of names but definitely voracious eaters of garden pests. We ordered 1500 ladybugs for about 9 dollars. We released them during the evening hours to minimize stress to the the ladybug, as we were instructed. Some were poured over the lettuces, some were left in the open container and some were sprinkled around the periphery to ensure border control and prevent the aphids from escaping or sending for reinforcements.

I can tell you the results would please the most demanding of Generals. Complete enemy annihilation. Survivors were spared no mercy. Our lettuces our safe.

OK, enough war jargon. This has been an eye-opening experiment. For less than the cost of an organic spray, we have provided a most natural solution to our problem. Not only do we now have ladybugs in the greenhouse which will continue to eliminate insects, we have rid ourselves of the aphids without the hassle of little dead aphid corpses to deal with when we wash the lettuces. Seems almost ridiculous to try any other method. But so does most of what conventional big agriculture does anyway....

Nature's infantry rolling and patrolling
SO, with just a little thought...problem solved. Off to eat fresh lettuces in February...

Charlie, Wheel Barrel Operator