Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Managing the Japanese Beetle – A Short Course for the Homeowner

The Japanese Beetle has made a home in many parts of the U.S. and while we can’t get rid of them, we can manage them to reduce the damage they do to trees, plants and lawns. Because adult stage beetles are so mobile, managing their population requires a bit of planning and effort. Understanding their life cycle will help you know what to do and when to do it. Here are some tips to help you gain control of this pest:

Adult Japanese beetles emerge from the soil in late spring or early summer. This is the stage when they are causing visible damage in your garden. Hard-bodied insects like the Japanese Beetle are tough to kill. Using a combination of Bon-Neem insecticidal soap and pyrethrin such as Pyganic will act as a one-two punch to kill the beetle. The insecticidal soap penetrates their shell enough to weaken and dehydrate the insect allowing the pyrethrin to be absorbed by the insect, killing it. These products are natural and can be used on all types of plants and crops.

During the summer feeding period, the adult females burrow 3 inches into the soil, lay a few eggs and then repeat this process throughout the summer. A single female will lay 40 to 60 eggs annually.

The eggs develop into larva (the grub stage) as the temperatures begin to cool in September and October. As temperatures continue to cool, the grubs move deeper into the soil to survive the winter temperatures.

The Japanese beetle spends about 10 months of the year as larvae in the soil. In spring, the grubs begin to move up through the soil toward the warming air – this is when the grubs voraciously feed on the roots of plants and turf. This is the time to use beneficial nematodes (the variety Heterorhabditis bacteriaphora) and Milky Spore (Bacillus popillae) to kill the grubs and reduce adult emergence.

There are no easy solutions for controlling the Japanese Beetle, but with knowledge and planning we can reduce the damage caused by this invasive pest. Just remember:

  • Spring and late summer use in-soil controls: NemaSeek Beneficial Nematodes (Heterorhabditis bacteriaphora) and Milky Spore (Bacillus popillae).
  • During the summer for adult beetles use Bon-Neem insecticidal soap and Pyganic pyrethrin knockdown spray.

The USDA has published a great handbook for managing the Japanese Beetle. The handbook is available in a printable version online for your use. Here is the link to the handbook: Managing the Japanese Beetle: A Homeowner’s Handbook. Learn more about natural ways to control Japanese Beetles.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spinosad to the Rescue

ThripsRecently a customer sent me a glowing email extolling the virtues of the Spinosad that I had recommended. His thrips (my personal nemesis) were gone. His email made me wonder why I had not tried Spinosad on my thrips, so a few weekends ago I sprayed my citrus with a low mix to see what would happen. Within 48 hours the orange dog caterpillars which were devouring my grapefruit were dead. Later I discovered that the thrips were controlled as well.
I was so impressed I wanted everyone to know more about this product.

Spinosad is derived from naturally occurring soil bacterium called Saccharopolyspora spinosa which was first collected by a scientist on vacation in 1982 at an abandoned rum distillery in the Caribbean. When studied in the laboratory, researchers determined that when this bacterium is ingested by pest insects it causes rapid excitation of insect nervous systems and kills the insect, but doesn’t harm mammals, birds, aquatic life, amphibians, or reptiles. Even better, Spinosad will not harm most beneficial insects. This includes ladybugs, green lacewings, minute pirate bugs, and predatory mites. Because Spinosad has to be ingested to work, it is very effective on insects that suck plant juices. Pest insects that are susceptible to Spinosad include borers, caterpillars, leafminers, loopers, thrips, spider mites, fire ants, leaf beetle larvae, sod webworm, grape leaf skeletonizers.

Our Spinosad products can make a difference in your garden and landscape too! 

natural pest control spinosadMonterey Garden Insect Spray is packaged in three convenient sizes for the home gardener and small market farmers.

Entrust Naturalyte Insect Control is packaged in sizes that are convenient and better suited for larger scale growers.

Spinosad is now being tested in West Africa for controlling mosquitoes and may well prove to be a new and safer solution to mosquito infestation worldwide. The Master Gardeners at ARBICO Organics suggest you try using Spinosad to control summertime pests in your garden!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Soil is the Soul of your Garden

Organic gardeners and farmers know that the organisms that live in a well-balanced soil are the very heart of that soil. The ideal is a loamy soil, a mixture of sand, silt, clay and decaying organic material. The presence of decaying organic material is an indicator that the soil is healthy and rich and has great potential for supporting plants.

Most of us have soil that is too sandy, has too much clay, is too acidic or too alkaline - the list is long and varies dependant on where you live. There are many things that you can do to improve the quality of your soil and the first step is to determine what type of soil you have and its general health.

Sandy, Clay or Loam?
If your soil is too sandy, you probably have a problem with retention of water and nutrients. Soil that has too much clay is dense and heavy because it is composed of particles that are small and bind tightly together. Clay soil can be difficult for healthy root structure and growth. A quick way to test which type of soil you have is to take a handful of moistened soil in your hand and squeeze. If the soil binds together you have too much clay. If the soil falls apart as soon as you open your fist, you have too much sand. If your soil holds together but does not clump you may be fortunate enough to have loamy soil.

The easiest and most important way to improve or maintain any soil type is by using compost. Adding compost can help these specific soil problems:
  • The addition of compost to sandy soil will help bind loose particles together to increase the ability of the soil to retain water and nutrients.  
  • By adding compost to clay soil, you help to form larger soil particles as the compost will bind with the clay – this will increase the air space around the particles allowing for better drainage and air movement.  
  • Annual applications of compost to any type of soil add life and vitality as well as essential nutrients.

How Healthy is Your Soil?
To find out if your soil has good nutrient value it is best to start with the basics.
  • Determine whether your soil has the basic nutrient components of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash.
  • Determine the pH level of your soil. pH tests indicate the soil’s acid and alkaline levels.

ARBICO Organics carries two easy-to-use soil test kits. The Rapitest Kit includes enough materials to perform 10 tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The LaMotte Garden Soil Test Kit features a rapid test procedure and comes with diagrammed instructions and enough material to perform 30 pH tests and 15 tests for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

Once you have the results of your soil test, ARBICO Organics has a wide variety of products to make your soil healthier and more productive. Take a look at our easy-to-use soil solutions guide that tells you what soil amendments or supplements we recommend to help improve your soil and your garden.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don’t Forget to Feed the Leaves!

Watering PlantUsually we think of feeding or fertilizing our plants as adding fertilizer to the soil but the leaves can benefit as well. Foliar feeding is simply the application of fertilizer to the leaves of plants, giving them a boost of nutrients that they may not be getting enough of from the soil alone.

What’s the benefit of Foliar Feeding?
A foliar feeding helps address the immediate needs of the plant. The primary benefit of foliar feeding is that it is the fastest way to deliver a corrective infusion of micronutrients. There is also evidence that a periodic foliar feeding will increase the activity in the leaves, increasing chlorophyll production and photosynthesis which drives increased water and nutrient uptake from the soil

How does that work?
Plants absorb the nutrients through small openings on the stems and leaves called stomata.  Research shows that plants absorb fertilizers faster through the stomata on their leaves. Foliar fertilizers can be applied more frequently than soil fertilizer.

The frequency is dependent upon the plant type(s) that you are growing:
  • Annuals every 3 weeks
  • Fruit every 3 to 4 weeks
  • Perennials every 6 to 8 weeks
  • Vegetables every 1 to 2 weeks during the growing season

See our Foliar Feeding Guide for more info and tips from Dr. Buglady on our website.

See our wide variety of Foliar Fertilizers here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

YUCK - What is that in my flour?

Indian Meal Moth - Pantry Pests
Adult Indian Meal Moth
More than likely that gross bug in the flour (or cereal, dried fruit, spice jar, or whole grain) is the larvae of an Indian Meal Moth Plodia interpunctella. The Indian Meal Moth is by far the most common moth that infests food products. This guy is going to show up because it infests food at the market, dried pet food, and even birdseed. While it’s almost inevitable that this pest will find its way into your pantry, there are ways to contain the problem.

Revenge Moth TrapsFirst we can use the moth's own natural instincts against them. When the female is ready to breed, they emit a sex pheromone that is only discernible to the male. These pheromones are synthesized and embedded in lures that we can use at home to attract the male moths. The moth traps have a sticky, non-toxic substance and when the moths fly to the lure – they are caught in the trap. By isolating the males, the reproductive cycle is broken.

The other safe method for eliminating larvae and adult moths is to use food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Food grade Diatomaceous Earth can be placed on top of grains and rice while stored; it can be ‘puffed’ into the corners and along the edges of your kitchen cabinets. DE is an odorless, non-toxic white powder that consists of finely ground fossilized shells. The powder is abrasive to the small cells of an insect and the sharp edges lethally cut through their exoskeleton.

I’ve been using the traps for a long time now and have not had any infestations in our pantry. They are the kind of workers that we all want – silent, ever-vigilant, effective, and inexpensive.

See these and other natural pest control products on our website. Pantry Pests

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Magic of Corn Gluten

Corn Gluten pre-emergent herbicideMother Nature is amazing and corn gluten is one of her better gifts to gardeners! Corn gluten is nature’s weed and feed product. It’s easy to apply and doesn’t have the potential harmful side effects of a chemical. A natural by-product of processed corn, corn gluten is completely harmless to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.  It is very interesting to note that corn gluten will not harm plants that are established (rooted with true leaves). 

So how can corn gluten help in the garden? Glad you asked…

Corn gluten can be used as a natural pre-emergent – to suppress weeds. Specifically, corn gluten inhibits the seed from germinating by drying it out as it cracks open to sprout. This action stops the development of roots – stopping the growth of the weed.

While its primary use is to stop weeds, corn gluten also has a high nitrogen count: 9-0-0. This nitrogen acts as a fertilizer and helps to green up established plants and lawns. 
Here are some of the weeds that corn gluten effectively controls:

• Barnyard grass
• Bermuda grass
• Crabgrass
• Creeping bentgrass
• Curly Dock
• Dandelions
• Foxtail
• Lambsquarter
• Pigweed
• Plantains
• Purslane
• Redroot Bigweed
• Smart weed

Continued use of corn gluten will actually diminish weed populations from year to year.
Safe, effective and easy to use…what more could you want from a natural herbicide?
Take a look at Orland’s Safe-T-Weed on our website and discover the amazing benefits of corn gluten for yourself.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Enzyme Cleaners – Clean and Green


Is it wrong to love a cleaner? I have recently become fascinated with enzymatic cleaners and I like them so much that I have gotten rid of my old cleaners and plunged headlong into this brave new world.  Here are the signs that you may be a candidate for enzymatic cleaner bliss:
ü      You feel frustrated with expensive products that don’t really work.
ü      The room you’re cleaning smells worse than when you started.
ü      The chemicals have not only made your sink shine but also ate away the grout between your tiles.

I like being amazed, but I like the science even better.  How do enzymatic cleaners work?    Well it’s pretty straightforward.  The enzymes are proteins that catalyze (speed up) a chemical reaction.  An enzyme cleaner works by attaching to the stain, spot or other organic nastiness (pet urine comes to mind).  Once connected to the offending organic matter, the action begins and the enzyme begins to break down the material. 

Enzymes basically break organic material into its basic components which are then ‘recycled’ by the planet.  Stains are gone, odors are gone – and you are left with a clean and sweet smelling environment.  Best of all, enzyme cleaners are not harmful to humans, pets, or aquatic life.

Specific enzymes break down different families of organics:
  • Amylase enzymes break down starch-based stains.
  • Lipolase enzymes break down fat-based stains.
  • Protease enzymes break down protein based stains.
 Here is a short list of ways our staff has used this amazing product:

1.      Clean out slow or clogged drains – REALLY!
2.      Clean up pet stains – including urine and blood.
3.      Remove skunk odor from clothes and skin and fur.
4.      Remove soap scum and gunk from tubs, showers, and sinks.
5.      Mopping floors.
6.      Cleaning out kennels and stalls.
7.      Remove wine stains.
8.      Clean up and kill mold and mildew.
9.      Cleaning stainless steel appliances – inside and out.

The enzymatic cleaner that we carry is Tweetmint by SafeSolutions.  I recently lent my bottle of Tweetmint to my college aged son and apparently it worked so well that I am not getting the bottle back.  We also offer EarthEnzymes Drain Opener. This product is specifically formulated to clear clogged drains without harsh chemicals.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Timing Beneficial Nematode Applications – Beetle Grubs

You know the drill – gardening consists of quite a few activities that have an optimal window for action.  When timing is critical it can mean the difference between effective use of your resource or wasting money and time by treating incorrectly.

This is especially true when using beneficial nematodes to combat the Japanese beetle. The reason we need to time applications correctly is because the nematodes will not  be as effective…

  • Once the grubs have emerged as beetles in the summer
  • If the temperatures are too cool
  • When the grubs have gone deep in-ground to survive the winter.

When are beneficial nematodes most effective?  Let’s look at the life cycle:


You want to make beneficial nematode applications while the grubs are within 3 to 6 inches of the top of the soil.  Although Japanese beetle grubs spend up to 10 months underground there are two optimal times of the year to treat for the grub stage of this pest – the first is in spring and the second is from late summer to early autumn.

When to apply depends upon your local temperatures, beginning in February and through April or early May the grub will be moving closer to the surface in preparation for emergence as an adult beetle.  Once temperatures are consistently above 42° F it is time to apply the Heterorhabditis bacteriaphora (Hb) NemaSeek Beneficial Nematodes.

In the late summer and usually beginning in August the Japanese beetle will begin to go underground to lay eggs.  This is an excellent time to apply NemaSeek nematodes (the Hb variety) as the eggs develop into larva – and are close to the surface of the soil.  Again depending upon your local temperatures, you will want to apply the nematodes as early as late August and as late as November.

Applying nematodes in the autumn will help reduce the number of grubs that nibble on your plant roots in early spring and it will reduce the number of adults that emerge and wreak havoc on your plants in the summer.

If you are interested in seeing how the Hb nematodes work on the grub, there is a great photograph on the USDA website in a handbook titled “Managing the Japanese Beetle: A Homeowner’s Handbook”.  Here is a link to the handbook: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/pub_phjbeetle04.pdf

Happy Gardening!