Posts Tagged 'garden'

Garden Club of Santa Barbara Visit

This morning we hosted an informational tour of our facilities to the Garden Club of Santa Barbara.  Five stations throughout the bug farm featured Deke’s Five Features of Integrated Pest Management: Releasing Beneficial Insects, Build Beneficial Refuges & Habitats, Monitor Insect Ecology, Integrate Cultural Practices and Use Soft Pesticides & Avoid Toxic Chemicals.  Our sixth station featured a behind the scenes look of production back in Fly Alley.

RVI and BBB All A-Buzz with Spring

Too much going on! Between spring being sprung and populations of everything increasing, including unwelcome weedy plant species in the BBB garden, RVI is buzzing with a hive-like energy. Of course, maybe I see it as hive-like because Ron and I are moving a beehive onto the farm. Resident beneficial insect populations at RVI are also on the rise and so are customer phone calls and orders. Dozens of other things keep popping up at RVI, all needing attention: finishing the new catalog, finish up website renewal, building, improving and expanding! It really is amazing all the work that goes on behind the scenes and the brainpower constantly in use here at the RVI offices.

Our latest outside project is preparing some test plots where a variety of insect attracting flora blends will be planted, e.g., a low mix, a standard height mix, an interflora mix, as well as a little gopher stopper clover. All these mixes are available from Rincon-Vitova for habitat enhancement for beneficials.

The mixes will be planted adjacent to the BBB garden, so as Spring turns to early Summer there should be a veritable bouquet or beneficial insect banquet growing out there. We’ll be sure to post some pictures, too. As for the BBB garden, while it had been a little low-key for a while, it is starting to brighten up a bit with more color and blossoms again. The Milkweed, in particular, is starting to show some new blossoms as well and is putting on a few more leaves to its near bare stems and a few new shoots have popped up.

I’ve seen a couple of Monarchs here and there and a number of Painted Lady butterflies lately, so all the butterflies and beneficial insect populations are increasing as the BBB garden plants surge towards summer’s life.  There’s a surge here both inside and out and RVI is a-buzzin!

Stop Garden and Landscape Wars

Owen Dell, author of one of the latest in the …for Dummies series, signed his book Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies and presented a corresponding lecture Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at Patagonia, in Ventura, California.
Ron, and I (from RVI) and a friend, went to the lecture presented by the Ojai Valley Green Coalition and Owen Dell’s County Landscape and Design.
At the event, Owen invited the attending audience of fifty or so assumed professional landscapers and other interested parties to Wake-Up and become part of the country’s and the world’s “Great Wake-Up”. In part, he said, the Great Wake-Up includes the public’s growing awareness of disturbances to the earth’s ecology and a current surge of interest in local and global environments.
Now, then, is the perfect time, Owen projected, for lay gardeners and landscaping professionals to responsibly join in and realize that their local landscaping and gardening projects belong to a larger biome.
Explaining that landscaping projects should be responsibly governed by sustainable designs that are low impact, make use of native or otherwise apropos species, use local, recycled, biodegradable materials, and mirror the disposition of the local and surrounding ecology, Owen used a slide presentation to list a variety additional sustainable landscaping practices.
The author presented evidence that most landscaping and gardening practices currently consist largely of a warlike relationship between plants and people. Providing examples of state and local landscaping absurdities and the misuse of plants like Algerian Ivy, Trumpet Vine, and Box Junipers, the author disgustingly disapproved of these types of inane and inappropriate uses of species that will either obtrusively invade or outgrow areas or need constant and disfiguring trim-jobs. He explained that planting aggressive species that have “genetic destinies” inappropriate to what the individual really wants “the landscape to do” is all too common and ultimately ends in a waste of space, water, energy, and landscaping costs, i.e., ending in a costly war between you and what otherwise should be a an inviting, calming, restorative and regenerative space.
STOP THE WAR! This anti-landscape-war declaration encapsulated the essence of the author’s message: the natural surrounding environment should be used a palette or as an example. He pointed to its lack of need for subsidization or warlike maintenance and to the fact that everything in a typical section of our local natural surroundings (plants, animals, insects, topography, water, temperatures, detritus, and microbes) has a relationship of usefulness, where there is little to no effluent or waste.
His presentation left obvious questions to those in attendance: Does your landscaping or gardening currently reflect the same naturally wise and economical structure and sustainability that your surrounding natural areas present? And, are you planting, planning, or designing with appropriate species and use of space considering both your local and extended environs as well as your own needs?
Owen suggested responsible and creative landscaping utilizing “aesthetics after function”, but he promised you can get both with a little WAKE-UP, some informed observation, contemplation, and a dedication to Stopping Landscape Wars! Above all he gave all of us the directive to “Do something with this information”.
All the other direction you may need consists in knowing the natural dictates of your local biome, a change in perspective, some collaboration with friends, neighbors, and professionals, and, of course, a look through Owen’s new book. -end- March 09 Duke

BBB Seasonal Seesaw

BBB Garden—Seasonal Seesaw Urgency

It’s just past February—Winter in the nation’s southwest coastal zone. The BBB garden has been dry for a while now and blossoming less. There are bare stems and browning leaves here and there. No snow, ice, or hail like the rest of the nation, the BBB garden has been sitting through days and weeks of clear blue skies and dry winds.

Drought tolerant, beneficial insect attracting plants holding to gray, dry and dusty soil, the BBB garden appears to be holding its breath right now and waiting for the invigoration of Spring.
At last, a steady light rain has come—cool, cleansing, refreshing rain that the BBB garden soil drinks greedily into its top layer.

Underneath the moistened, black, top-layer of moist soil, the dryness of Southern California’s drought continues its hold— although we’re getting a couple of inches of rain in February, we’ll only be up to about 70-80% normal rainfall for this area.
So there’s a kind of a seasonal seesaw effect going on in the BBB garden. You can see and sense winter’s dormancy and spring’s urgency all at the same time.

Now, with the rain, the ground is black and wet but still gray and dry at the same time in different places and depths. Some of the plants are nearly bare of leaves, while others are holding on to a few bright flowers. The milkweed still looks pretty bare—just like the monarchs left it in my last post Greek Monarchs.

A little bit barren with just a bit of bloom—the BBB garden is hanging in there, and I’m sure some beneficials are keeping an eye on it just like we are—waiting on the urgency of spring.

Enhancing Farms and Gardens with Insecta-Flora Low

A handful of Insecta-Flora can help to attrach beneficial insects.

A handful of Insecta-Flora can help to attrach beneficial insects

Insecta-Flora is a flower seed blend that blooms through the seasons and years providing habitat for beneficial insects. Clovers and alfalfa are great habitat plants, but sometimes the showy look of Insecta-Flora containing less grass and legumes is preferred to the ever-popular and less expensive Beneficial Blend. Insecta Flora comes in Low (up to a foot high), Standard, and High (3 foot high). The Low mix provides nitrogen-fixing and erosion control as well as habitat.

Insecta-Flora as a vineyard covercrop in California.

Insecta-Flora as a vineyard covercrop in California.

Smaller beneficial insects will fly a couple hundred feet to an island of flowers that keep them going. Enhancing an upwind vineyard border yields a beneficial welcoming committee for invading pests. Covering bare ground with beneficial habitat mixes cuts heat reflection and dust to prevent spider mite problems. Mow or weed-whip half at a time and then the other half a few weeks later to concentrate the beneficials without driving them away. Wait until the flowers set to encourage reseeding.

Visit our Beneficial Materials Catalog at rinconvitova.com for more information.

You can also download our Insecta-Flora Bulletin as a PDF.


This article originally appeared in our Biocontrol Beat Winter 2008 Newetter.

Greek Monarchs

The Greek symbol of Ouroboros—the snake eating its own tail—is said to be a symbol of eternal return or regeneration. I couldn’t help but think about that symbol when I saw what the Monarch butterfly caterpillars had done to their Milkweed host in the BBB garden: They ate it up, or at least chewed it down to the stems—the very plant they depend on for survival and regeneration!! Of course, there are a few green stems left indicating that, ultimately, the plant will likely regenerate like the butterfly, too.

ourobus1

It seems ironic, though, that the Monarch is dependent, in order to regenerate, upon the very bush that it consumes, almost, entirely. The problem, here, is I’m not sure if our wandering caterpillars ate themselves completely out of house and home, because I haven’t seen any chrysalidies (chrysilis: butterfly; cocoon: moth) in the BBB garden. There’s a well chewed Milkweed bush left behind and one or two caterpillars still, but not a chrysilis to be seen. Hmmm…I’ll have to do a bit more research on these guys to try to track em down. I have some information that says these caterpillars can apparently crawl 30 – 40 feet away to find a safe spot to pupate   –end- November 08 Duke

 



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