Friday, September 13, 2019

Earth's Hidden World Is Not For The Squeamish.

One Blue Marble by Nasa's Earth Observatory. The Blue, white and green Earth against a black sky.
Here at ARBICO we talk about nematodes a lot – specifically our Beneficial Nematodes. These microscopic creatures control a variety of pests in the soil through parasitization. Our customers love them because they are easy to use and highly effective. By the way, they are on sale now through the end of September.

As helpful as the nematodes we carry are, they are by no means the only kind of nematode (aka roundworm) out there and “beneficial” is not a term one would use to describe many of them. Although they are not often seen, nematodes are found literally everywhere on our planet, including intensely inhospitable places like the deepest ocean trenches (they make up 90% of the sea life on the ocean floor) and miles below the Earth’s surface. In fact, the only place they don’t seem to be is flying solo through the air, as they have no wings. Of all the animals on the globe, four out of five are nematodes. They survive and flourish spectacularly and (for the parasitic varieties) have developed fascinating ways to prey on and reproduce within their chosen hosts. While their sheer numbers are staggering, their seemingly endless variations and specializations are downright amazing.
A brown and black fish swimming along a sandy bottom in the blue sea.
Close-up of a foot with the sole caked in mud.There are 60 species of human parasitic nematodes that cause a very long list of ailments with symptoms that run from the merely uncomfortable to life-changing to fatal. Elephantitis is a particularly gruesome disease that is caused by the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. In this way, the nematode has hitched a ride on the insect to get to its ultimate human prey. Gastrointestinal disorders are probably the most common human condition caused by nematodes, some of which may pass through a person without them even noticing. These nematodes travel into the human gut through body openings to get to the nutrient-rich digestive system. This happens just like you think it does.According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Hookworms infect 576-740 million people worldwide. These parasites live in the soil and are picked up through the feet. But, how do they do that? According to this article, they locate their prey by smell (insert smelly feet joke here). And then they leap.

A silver colored roundwormThe nematodes I’ve been talking about are in the microscopic world, but they can get much, much bigger. Consider, if you will, Placentonema gigantissima. This is the largest known (anywhere from 9-28 feet) roundworm and lives in the placenta of sperm whales. With such an obscure hiding place, it’s no wonder it was not discovered until 1951. Marine nematodes contain not just the largest, but the smallest nematodes as well. We know this because there are scientists who study nematode penis size.

There is no shortage of yucky-yet-cool nematodes. Sphaerularia bombi, a bumblebee parasite is one such creature. Once it has reached maturity inside its host, the female’s uterus will expel from its genital opening and swell into a massive bumpy sack outside the body. This sack, easily twenty times the size of its body, becomes a giant feeding organ gorging itself on nutrients. Learn more here.

Close-up pf a white Sphaerularia bombi roundworm with enlarged,white bulbous uterus prottuding from the body.
Sphaerularia bombi
Another nematode super-specialist is the Panagrellus redivivus. Nathan Cole, known as the father of Nematology in the US, first identified this non-parasitic guy back in the 19th century. This worm is very tolerant of acidity and alkalinity and has claimed some unique spots by feeding on yeast and living in vinegar and even German beer coasters. Although these nematodes are harmless, you may want to ensure that your vinegar is filtered.

Nematodes have been proven to be the culprit in a mystery from the Civil War. After the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, soldiers began noticing a couple of things: there was a greenish-blue glow coming from some of their untreated wounds and those that had the glow healed better than those without. With no knowledge of microbiology, they attributed this glow to a higher power and called the phenomenon “Angel’s Glow”. Fast forward to 2001, when a microbiologist and her son decided to take on the mystery. They figured out that the glow came from a nematode carrying a bioluminescent bacteria that feeds on microorganisms. As this shiny little bacteria fed on its preferred meal, it consumed microorganisms that could cause infection. Here is more on this time traveling detective story.

If the gross factor doesn't bother you, here are some videos showing roundworms in action. This one is a roundworm in a cat's intestine; this one is a large nematode eating a smaller one and this one is a roundworm emerging from a mosquito larvae.

Cartoon nematodes running to and devouring a boat
As if it weren’t enough that nematodes dominate our life on earth, scientists are working on taking them to the next planet. It really does make sense, though, since they have so thoroughly saturated every aspect of life on earth. In order to replicate our world elsewhere, it would behoove us to include those roundworms that work for us in insect control and agriculture.

If you are still not convinced that nematodes are everywhere, you should know that they live in Bikini Bottom with Sponge Bob. And apparently have a voracious appetite.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Busy September in the Garden

Yellow and red roses on a two-toned wooden table with a white envelope that says "September". Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash
Now that Labor Day is in the rearview mirror and all the kids are back in school, people everywhere are amping up for the busy fall season. This is especially true for gardeners. This time of year is chock-full of gardening and taking-care-of-outside chores. As most serious gardeners know, September is not the end of the season. In reality, it is the beginning. What you do between September and late November will help determine how heavy your workload is for next spring.

An assortment of leafy greens in a silver colanderMany gardeners are well on their way to having a fall garden by now. Depending on where they live, the planning and prep has been done and they have already planted or are ready to move on to planting. Those winter greens and vegetables will be very welcome as fall turns to winter. Here is a delicious-sounding salad that features Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds – and a surprise touch.

But what if you are not doing a fall garden this year? If you want to plant in the spring or just want a healthy backyard environment for your warm weather enjoyment, there is a lot that can be done now to make that happen. Putting in a little time now can save you time, money and worry as you come out of winter next year.

A skeletal black tree on a green and misty hillside.  Photo by Adarsh Kummur on Unsplash.
Plant a tree: If you are not up to going the whole fall garden route but still want to get your hands in some soil, consider planting a tree. Every day is a great day for a tree, but September through November is the ideal time for planting one. This will give their roots time to establish before hard freezes and allows them to concentrate their energy on growing roots before they put out leaves in the spring. The key to success with this schedule is to encourage strong and healthy root growth and to water deeply. We recommend Root Build 240 for the roots. For more information, check out our tree planting blog here.

Multicolored plants in clay pots stacked against a brick building. Apply Beneficial Nematodes: We strongly encourage fall applications of these microscopic organisms to control pests that overwinter in the soil. We have beneficial nematodes that can control a myriad of pests, including various beetles, ticks, fungus gnats and caterpillars. Apply some now and apply again in the spring to knockdown any pests that got away. These fascinating creatures do amazing unseen work in the ground. We have a ton of information on them here. And they are on sale through September!

Move your garden to containers: If you have some plants that you’d like to keep going or some favorites that you like to have around, put them in containers. It will be easier to protect them (and yourself) from the elements. Put them close to the house or on a porch for easy access and raise them off the ground; this will keep them from becoming waterlogged in the wetness of fall and winter. Here is a video with some tips on fall container planting. 

Colorful fall leaves on a lush green lawn.Lawns: Your lawn will enjoy some dethatching, fertilization and aeration at this time of year. And, while you’re at it, you may as well go after those stubborn perennial weeds. Weeds draw up nutrients in the fall to prepare for winter; if you apply herbicide now it will be drawn up as well. Corn Gluten Meal may work well for you; it will fertilize as well as kill weeds. Check out our blog on this versatile corn by-product. We also have many other excellent weed control options here.

Clean out sheds, greenhouses and cold frames: Now that the weather is cooling off (except here in Southern Arizona), get out and clear up the clutter that it was just too darn hot to deal with over the summer. If you are planting again, you will want this clean slate. If you are not, cleaning now will give you a chance to move items that shouldn’t be out in the cold and free you from spending your spring days going through debris from the year before. Be sure to empty and clean out all the compost and decaying plant matter from old pots and containers to keep overwintering pests from finding a home there.

Teardrop shaped small pumpkin on dark soil and surrounded by green leafy vines.Photo by Steffi Pereira on UnsplashTrim things up: Help your plants by maximizing light sources as we move into the darker months. Remove thick or overhanging vegetation around your garden, greenhouse or patio. To encourage pumpkins to ripen by Halloween, trim up any leaves and/or re-direct vines that may be shadowing them. If you have apple trees – lucky you – run the mower under them so you’ll be able to easily spot any windfalls.

Young blond haired boy in jeans and a blue shirt playing in a pile of brown leaves, Photo by Scott Webb on UnsplashCompost: Not composting? Start now to take advantage of falling leaves and dead plant material. If you are already composting, you probably know already that the bounty of leaves in the fall are an excellent addition to a compost pile. Check out our composting products here.

A closeup of a hand holding some daffodils and daisies. Photo by Sam Mgrdichian on UnsplashPlan for beauty: Now that you have a trimmed up and cleaner yard environment, and a plan for all the fallen leaves that someone will have to rake up, it's time to plant bulbs for next year’s enjoyment. Stick them in now and when they start popping out next spring you will be so glad you did.                                                                 

Above all, get out and enjoy this time of beautiful time of year. The sunny, cool days and crisp nights of autumn are something that this Virginia native gets homesick for every year at this time.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mosquito Control On The Fly

Silhouette of a bat in flight with light coming through its wings and lots of little insects flying around it.
Back in April, I wrote about ways we can bring pollinators to our yards. Now I am turning to mosquito eaters. In these dog days of summer, mosquitoes are the fun spoilers of our backyard parties, hikes in the woods and days on the water. Here in southern Arizona, our monsoons came late so we’ve had a reprieve for a while. But now that we’ve had some serious storms, puddles and water-filled crannies everywhere are turning into mosquito nurseries. Besides using some of ARBICO’s awesome and earth friendly mosquito products, I’d like to suggest you consider luring some voracious skeeter eaters to your yard. Specifically, bats.

By now, I’m hoping, most people know that bats have been falsely and unfairly portrayed in popular culture. They are not fearsome and malevolent creatures that go after people. They are more like Batman, really. They swoop in and come to humanity’s aid. Not by beating up the Joker, but by pollinating plants for us and devouring millions of mosquitoes.

A gray bat in flight with a moth in its mouth on a black background
Bat eating a moth
Bats are extraordinary insect hunters. Each one can eat up to 1,200 mosquito-sizes insects every hour. If they are out and about getting their bug grub on for 7 hours, that adds up to over 8,000 insects per bat! Of course, bats do not only eat mosquitoes, they also enjoy moths, beetles, flies, gnats and lots more. In this way, their opportunistic and enthusiastic predation covers insects that target crops as well as people. With their outsized appetites, encouraging insect hunting by bats around your home can significantly reduce the number of bites you and your pets will have to endure. And their droppings (guano) is an exceptional fertilizer for your garden.

A water fountain with containers of multicolored flowers around it with tall trees in the background
The key to luring anything anywhere is to have something it wants. In the case of bats, if you want to lure them to your yard, you’ll want to create a space that bats will want to visit. The most important things for bat visitors are water, insects, plants and shelter. All of these elements are symbiotic and together make a first-rate bat habit, but adding even one or two of them would be helpful and enticing to your bat neighbors.

A brown bat flying down to the water's surface to drink. You can see his reflection in the water.Water Being a bat is thirsty work. It is estimated that bats can lose 50% of their body weight in water in a single day due to their non-stop, high-energy hunting style. They rarely even stop to drink, preferring the drive-by dip and sip method (see them in action here). So, you’ll want to provide some water in an area or container without high edges that they can access mid-air and mid-flight. It does not need to be big, a little backyard water feature can do nicely.

Insects – Bats definitely need water, and where these is water there is also insects. For an insectivore, a pond or water feature can become a convenience store with one-stop shopping. It doesn’t make much sense to try to bring in bats to kill mosquitoes and then provide a space for mosquitoes to thrive in. But you also can’t be overly hostile to insects or all of them, beneficial and otherwise, will abandon the area. What to do? First, if you absolutely must treat for mosquitoes, use something that will not harm the bats. Natular DT and Natular G30 WSP are very effective and easy to use and is safe for everything but mosquito larvae. Whether you treat to control mosquitoes or not (but especially if you do), encourage native and beneficial insects to stick around. Insect-eating bats enjoy a diverse diet, so a moth appetizer with its mosquito dinner is appreciated.

A white Night Blooming Water Lily on a black and blue background.
Plants – One of the crucial elements in a bat and beneficial-friendly garden are native plants. Native insects love their hometown plants and will congregate around them. Bats in the area will be tuned into this and will be on the lookout for healthy clusters of these plants. So, plant native species first. The other option is to create an oasis of night blooming flowers that will attract nocturnal insects. Datura, Moonflowers, Nicotonia and Night-Blooming Jasmine are all beautiful and deliciously fragrant options. Night-blooming water lilies would give you the water ingredients and the insect attractant in one gorgeous setting. If you don’t have (or want) a pond, here is how you can have water lilies in containers. Or go all out and create a Moon Garden; it will be as enticing to you as it is to night insects.

Two brown bat houses hanging high up on the trunk of a tree. You can see leaves in the background.
Bat Houses
Shelter – When you plant native species, you are not just providing a space for native insects to dwell; you are giving native bats a place that feels safe to them. They may rest for a while or make themselves at home for extended periods. If you are interested in giving bats a more secure or permanent home, the only way to go is with a bat house. Individuals and communities around the globe are embracing the potential and installing bat houses. Before you take this awesome step, be sure to read up on how it should be designed, built and positioned in the yard. Bats are particular about where they set up house and will either ignore or abandon a structure that doesn’t measure up. Here is a document from the experts at Bat Conservation International that clearly lays out the criteria for success. You can also get a bat house from us here; be sure to read all the instructions there as well. There is a place in Florida that built one of the largest bat houses in the world in order to help an endangered bat, check out this interesting and inspiring story here.

Sparkly brown substance - Twinkle Turds gif by Joe DecruyenaereI encourage you to open your mind (and yard, garden or patio) to bats, but that does not mean that you should be overly friendly with them. Just keep your distance from them. Sit back and watch them hunt while you enjoy your moon garden and water feature; don’t try to interact with them. Remember that bats can carry rabies and other diseases (but not always), so watch wisely. And never pick one up!

On a lighter note, did you know bats have sparkly poop? I didn’t, either, until I read it here.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, August 16, 2019

Planting Trees For Life

"A Society Grows Great When Old Men Plant Trees in Whose Shade They Know They Will Never Sit."

Planting trees combines both art and science. Current research has made planting trees a lot less labor intensive than in the past. When I first started gardening we were instructed to dig holes that were 4 times the width of the container and two times the depth. If the tree was fairly mature, this could mean digging several feet deep.

Universities across the country have adopted the simpler guidelines listed below:
  • Dig a hole 2 times the width of the rootball and exactly the depth of the rootball.
  • Do not amend the planting hole. Plant in the same soil that you removed while digging the hole. Make sure to orient the tree in the same direction it was reared in.
  • Water in the new tree – do not stomp or tamp the soil heavily. Use the water to 'close' the largest air gaps in the new planting.
  • Make sure that there is a well for the watering, but do not allow the water to collect around the trunk of the tree. This can invite diseases, particularly on newly planted trees.
  • Do not fertilize the newly planted tree; instead layer on some compost leaving a 2" clearing around the trunk. Place irrigation or watering lines on top of the compost.
  • Mulch around the tree well, again leaving at least a 2" clearing around the trunk.

Watering and fertilizing protocols differ based upon your choice of tree, your micro-climate and soil type. Check with your local County Cooperative Extension for detailed information for your area.

One product that can be added to the holes you dig for the new or transplanted tree is Root Build 240 (with a few exceptions). It is a blend of mycorrhizae - beneficial fungi that form symbiotic relationships with the root of plants. These fantastic fungi greatly expand the surface area of the root system helping to increase the plant's nutrient and water absorption with the secondary benefit of reducing transplant shock.

As always, reach out with your garden and pest questions!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

It’s Time To Get Your Zuc On!

A beige house with white trim has a comically giant-sized  zucchini on it's front-sized
Today is August 8th, which means it’s National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbors Porch Day! Just one of the many wacky holidays out there, this one was created as a way to help abundantly successful gardeners get rid of their excess zucchini. This particular day was created by Thomas Roy (and his wife, Ruth) and is just one of the over 90 holidays he has invented and copyrighted in the course of 26 years. Find out how here how that all came to pass.

A large green zucchini on the ground in front of a white door with green trim. There is bush with purple flowers on the right.Two clear mixing bowls, one with eggs and one with sugar and two zucchinisWacky as this zucchini-centric day may be, the need to dispose of excess produce is real. Zucchini is notoriously prolific and when you consider that you can make a dozen or more loaves of bread from a single giant zucchini, it is easy to see how quickly an abundance can become too much. After making all the traditional recipes and moving on to pickling some, making a chocolate cakewrapping it around fish for grilling and using it in nachos in place of tortilla chips, you may be out of ideas. Here are a few additional recipes anyway. Donating some to your local food bank (find one near you here) or a church is always a good plan. I am going to assume that, while moving through all the ways to cook it, you have pressed some onto your family and friends. You should be aware that this avenue can have unforeseen consequences. One summer a friend of mine had a bonanza of a tomato harvest. After days and weeks of cooking and eating them, she began handing bagfuls to everyone she came across. It got to be so much that some people began good-naturedly avoiding her, poor thing. Once you’ve exhausted all the options you can think of for using up your zucs, your neighbor’s porch might start looking pretty good.

Two green zucchinis on a brown wood railing
What I’ve found most interesting while reading up on NSSZOYNP Day is how people have taken the zucchini drop idea and made it their own. From Italy to the American West, bloggers, news entities and everyday people have been discussing and relaying experiences with squash subterfuge in all types of neighborhoods and dwellings. And no porch is necessary; zucchinis have been left in hallways, on desks, windowsills, welcome mats, railings and stoops. Many, if not most, of these zucchini are purchased for the express purpose of giving them away. In this way, the act of giving a zucchini has morphed from a need to find a home for extra squash into a way to get to know your neighbors and co-workers. So a personal need to get rid of something has become a way to spread kindness and build community. And that is just plain wonderful! The Zucchini Challenge, for instance, encourages creativity and a “pay it forward” mindset in a fun and easy-to-do manner. Some people embrace all the fun of the sneakiness and their neighbors’ puzzlement in their humorous adventures slinking around with vegetables. Others prefer a sweeter approach with a more thought-out presentation. There are even some cute tags to add to a zuc gift. It’s all about the positivity stream, no matter how it's approached.
Spinach leaves forming a heart atop pale green-white pasta in a square white bowl
So, if you have some zucchini lying around, leave it for a neighbor.You could even just leave it on a park bench or bus stop. Today, tomorrow or the next day would be fine. The idea is to share and be kind, however one does it, and those sentiments are needed every day. To keep the energy rolling, I think we should consider a day in the fall that could be Plop A Pumpkin On A Porch Day.

Submitted by Pam

Monday, July 29, 2019

European Corn Borer - Scouting & Monitoring

Adult European Corn Borers; Credit: University of Missouri
Since its introduction to the United States, the European Corn Borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) has gradually become a damaging pest to corn and other commercially valuable crops. They range from having 1-4 generations per year, which is heavily influenced by in-season weather and native predators/parasites. As the borers hatch out they feed on whorls and emerging tassels until those tassels open up. Once this occurs they proceed downward and, like their name suggests, bore into stalks eventually making their way to the ears through the side, base or tip.

There are two strains identified: New York (Z) and Iowa Strain (E). Each are present at varying levels in different areas, but it is not uncommon to have one or the other. Since corn borer larvae reside in stalks and other plant matter, they are highly adapted to overwinter in cold climates. Due to their preference for monocultured areas common in commercial cultivation, these borers present growers with a number of difficult tasks to achieve control. We will cover the first step growers should take here – trapping & monitoring.

European Corn Borer Larva; Credit: University of Missouri
Trapping needs to be done early in the season beginning prior to the first flight of adult moths. First flight will occur once temperatures warm in spring, but varies quite a bit from location to location. Thankfully, many agricultural extensions keep tabs on corn borer distribution, emergence time and population estimates where they have been identified. These extensions also track the strain(s) of corn borers present in your locale as well as generalized ratios that they are present in. For these reasons, it is highly recommended to consult with your local extension before the growing season starts.

Once you have done so, placement of pheromone baited traps is important to stay ahead of the borer population. If it is confirmed that both the New York and Iowa strains are present, two separate traps should be used. Bait one with a lure for the New York strain and the other with a lure for the Iowa strain. Place these traps at least 50 feet apart on the borders of corn fields or edges of the growing area. Traps should be placed so that the trap bottoms remain around the height of any weeds or other plants in the border area. Population estimates can be made based on the quantities captured, but scouting does not end then.

Scentry Wing Trap
Once trapped adults are spotted, scouting should be done weekly by tassel inspection of 50-100 plants in groups of 10. Keep a sharp eye out for any larvae, new feeding damage or frass. If corn is in the whorl stage, simply pull the developing tassel out and inspect it for larvae and frass. If tassels have already emerged, scouting can be done without removing the tassel. These weekly scouting ventures allow you to make timely decisions on pesticide usage to maximize their effectiveness and minimize costs in both controls and yield losses. Generally, if greater than 15% of plants in the area have larvae present a spray should be applied.

For additional information and control options for European Corn Borer control, visit our website at

Friday, July 26, 2019

A River's Story

A brown-grey river running between green banks and trees
The Santa Cruz River 2019
Many of the great cities of the world (London, New York, Paris) have rivers that run through them and are the throbbing hearts of their existence. Here in Tucson we also have a river, the Santa Cruz, which holds enormous historical, cultural, environmental and identity value to Southern Arizona. However, its heartbeat is erratic at best. Some of the reasons for this are natural, while others echo problems that rivers face around the globe: overuse and a changing environment. The Santa Cruz also has to deal with the Mexico-US border, a man-made obstacle that our little river has to contend with just like its monster-sized, better known neighbors to the east and west – the Rio Grande and the Colorado rivers.

Quirky is an excellent adjective to use when describing the Santa Cruz. It is certainly fitting when one looks at how and where it flows during its 184 mile journey. It starts in southeastern Arizona and heads south into modern-day Mexico. Once there, it ambles around for about 12 miles and then makes a U-turn and heads north and back into the US. This route is one that many Americans generally take (go to Mexico, wander around and come right back), but it is unusual for a river. There are very few rivers that make a south to north U-turn and the Santa Cruz is the only river in the US to cross the international border twice. Here is a map that shows what it’s doing around the border.

An old black & white picture of a man standing by an old Hohokam canal. Photo from AZ Historical Society 1907
A Hohokam canal incorporated into a "new" canal in 1907.
Tucson is one of the longest continually inhabited places in North America and, like other riverside cities and towns, it was the river that drew them here and nourished them. The Hohokam were here 4,000 years before any Europeans and built massive and sophisticated irrigation systems to harness the water of the Santa Cruz. Sometime between 1350 and 1450, the archaeological record of the Hohokam disappears; but their waterworks lived on and were cleaned out and used by others for hundreds of years. The Tohono O’Odham of today are their descendants and they carry on the traditional stewardship of the land and water.

White and tan Spanish mission church- San Xavier, Tucson, AZ
The White Dove of the Desert
Starting in the first half of the 16th century, Spanish Conquistadors began marching around Arizona looking for lost cities of gold and other treasures. None of them stuck around, though; the landscape and natives being equally unfamiliar and hostile to them. It wasn’t until the last decade of the 1600s that an outsider came to stay, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. He established missions in the native settlements along the Santa Cruz at Tumac├ícori and San Xavier del Bac. The church at San Xavier was not completed until after Father Kino’s death but it stands as a breathtaking tribute to those who founded, worked and still work the mission. While the Tumac├ícori is now a national park, San Xavier remains a greatly treasured and carefully guarded part of everyday Tohono O’odham life.

And now back to the quirky factor: how Tucson was “founded” by an Irishman. In 1775, a Dublin-born man named Hugh O’Conor rode into town. A Colonel in the Spanish army, Hugh was tasked with finding a suitable spot for a new outpost. He chose a spot under Sentinel Peak that native people had inhabited for 1,000s of years and declared they would build a presidio there. They did and the walls are still there - smack dab in the middle of downtown Tucson, which has made for some interesting time juxtaposition moments when researchers dig among office workers. His original proclamation still resides at the National Archives of Mexico.

Old black and white picture of two houses by a lake. AZ Historical Society 1888
Silver Lake, Tucson 1888
Fast forward to the 1850s, when yet another set of newcomers decided to claim and change the habitat around the Santa Cruz. Virginians William and Alfred Rowlett build a dam downstream from Sentinel Peak. Known as Silver Lake, by the 1880s, this lake covered several acres and hosted numerous cultural and recreational activities. The family type entertainment value began to wane toward the end of the decade as a rougher element began to move in - this was, after all, the height of the cowboy-gunslinger era in the Southwest. A series of floods had damaged and, then completely wiped out, the dam by 1900. Today, on the corner of Silverlake and Mission roads, you can find the Pima County Jail.

A sandy-colored dry riverbed dotted with small green bushes. 
An empty Santa Cruz
A large, black mushroom shaped cloud dumping water on an AZ city. Monsoon 7-17-14. Photo by L. Markley
Not a nuclear explosion, just a monsoon in AZ
The turn of the century also meant a turn in the health of the Santa Cruz. By the 1940s, it had run dry due to overuse and, after that, the only time people would see water in it was during our monsoons. Summer monsoons and the floods that come with them have always been a necessary and normal part of the life of the river. But, as more water has been diverted from it and natural drainage systems paved over, water has become a damaging force for the infrastructure of the river itself and the land and people around it. Water comes down hard, fills up the river quickly and drains out just as quickly. In between the coming down and draining out, a lot of damage can be done.

Black and white photo of 3 people standing by a guardrail looking at a raging river. Tucson, October 1983 
Tucson, October 1983
During the floods of 1983, a result  of Tropical Storm Octave, the Santa Cruz experienced the highest crest ever recorded. The sheer volume and power of the water caused 2-3 foot waves on the surface and splashed over bridges as it roiled by. Often called the “100-year flood”, this episode opened many people’s eyes to the fact that the dry riverbed they had become used to was in fact a dangerous river.

 As demands on the river and climate change have kept the Santa Cruz dry, many people have fought valiantly to get the river and its ecosystem up and running again. Organizations such as The Sonoran Institute (who ARBICO donates to and supports), Friends of the Santa Cruz and The Santa Cruz River Heritage Project have made real progress. In June of this year, in a part of the river, water began flowing again – for the first time in 70 years. Fish (including the newly-released endangered Gila topminnow) and other wildlife are now beginning to thrive in the river. There is a long way to go to bring back the past glory of the Santa Cruz, and it is probably not reasonable to expect that. But, our beloved river is still there and it looks like it will be beyond our lifetimes.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, July 19, 2019

Man, It’s Stupid Hot Out There!

Silhouettes of high-rises against an yellow, orange and red sky with a big, white sphere
No matter where you stand in the climate change conversation, it is undeniably HOT out there these days – outrageously, hellishly, suffocatingly hot! 200 million Americans are currently experiencing record-breaking heat, with many places expected to reach temperatures higher than those we’ll have here in Arizona. And don’t give me the “it’s a dry heat” refrain, an oven is also a dry heat. I have lived in places with high humidity and know how debilitating it can be and most of the places dealing with this heat wave will also have that humidity. The combination of heat and humidity is just plain miserable.
Moving image of a side view of a woman on pulling on a fence. Both are on fire.
Never touch metal that's been in direct sunlight.

We Arizonans take pride in our ability to muddle through our summers. Most of us accept the heat as payment for having such mild winters. There are many strategies to get through, but when asked how one copes, my favorite response is “Live like a desert creature”. Simply put, avoid the sun at all costs, don’t over exert yourself and drink plenty of water. Seeking shade is a competitive sport around here in the hottest months; I’ve seen groups of people clumped together under the thin strip of shade a telephone pole offers.Even local reptiles know this game. Having said all that, many (probably most) Arizonans, myself included, are lucky enough to travel from air-conditioned homes in our air-conditioned cars to other air-conditioned locations. But, getting to that car in the parking lot and getting it cooled down can be pretty gnarly!

Three people in the water wearing masks that cover their whole faces and suits that completely cover their bodies. 
"Facekinis" in China - not creepy at all. 
People can wear lighter clothing (or add questionable sun protection like the image on the left) and adjust their routines in answer to excessive heat, but what is a  plant to do? The higher the temperatures, the more need for water; finding ways to stretch your water is key. In Arizona, Xeriscaping has long been a widely appreciated model for growing. With its emphasis   on water conservation, mulching and using heat   tolerant plants, it is an ideal solution for areas like   ours that experience heat and drought.The elimination or reduction of turf is also a key factor in Xeriscapes. Many people around the country still love their lawns, but in cities like ours where water is at a premium they have become less socially acceptable. I encourage every reader to reconsider their lawn and either eliminate or reduce them; it is a small but important way to serve the environment.

A backyard with a black fountain left front and plants and stepping stones leading to a small table in the rear
Backyard Xeriscape, Tucson, AZ
Adopting a Xeriscape approach to landscapes and gardening takes some planning ahead. This works well in Arizona because we always know it will be hot and dry. With current climate conditions being what they are, excessive heat and/or drought is a reality now for non-desert parts of our nation and, if you want to grow something, planning ahead is for everyone. Here are some ways you can build a heat tolerant green space; some take planning, but others offer heat help right away:

Soil Amendments – Building a soil that holds and properly distributes water and water-borne nutrients to plants is a solid foundation that gives plants the tools to fight the heat. You can chose something like Earthshine, a soil enhancer mix that contains biochar and other beneficial additives. Or a powder like Harvest Gold Organics Premium Soil Conditioner, which contains silica and micronutrients. Or even a single ingredient additive like the Elemite, also known as ARBICO Organics™ Soil Replenish™. Another (very affordable!) option is ARBICO Organics™ Rice Hulls. The bottom line is that any type of high quality soil amendment will bring you healthier soil, which means healthier plants that can better handle heat and drought stressors.

A close-up of a brown and black snail amongst white flowers. Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on UnsplashComposting & Mulching – You can increase your soil’s water holding capacity by up to 7 times by simply adding compost. You can use ready-to-go compost or begin making your own; we have options for you here. Mulch, mulch, mulch – in any form, by any name, just do it! Mulching options are many: coco coir like Prococo Coconut Coir, Hulless Oats and other cover crops and biodegradable weed block paper, which provides weed control as well as mulch. Another interesting option is Slug Gone. This sustainable slug (and snail) control product is made from wool and is placed in and around garden beds. It will swell from the moisture and make a scratchy mat that slugs will refuse to cross. In performing its slug control duty, it also retains moisture and reduces water usage.
A solitary Yucca plant with a tall stalk in lots of white sand under a blue and white sky. Photo by Josh Rangel on Unsplash
Yucca in its native environment

Adjuvants – Another way to protect plants from heat stressors is to add adjuvants to their water. Yucca (Yucca schidigera) is a desert native and knows all the tricks to survive in such a harsh environment. Adjuvants like RAW Yucca Flow and Therm X-70 that use extracts from these plants deliver the secrets of the Yucca plant to your backyard. You can give your plants immediate heat relief by adding these adjuvants right away.

Covers – Use covers to protect your plants from the pounding sun. Here are many versions to choose from, or create your own. Here is a video to show you how.

Containers – Consider moving plants from beds to containers. Container planting makes water conservation easier and gives you the ability to move plants in and out of the sun.

Looking into the sun through bent-over sunflower stalks.Photo by Josh Rangel on Unsplash
Embrace heat-loving plants – Seek out and cultivate plants that are well adapted to hot weather. Here are some great heat-friendly plants that you are probably familiar with:
Sunflowers – with a name like that…
Amaranth - pretty – and you can eat it!
Echinacea – beloved by pollinators – and check out these cute earrings
Yarrow - native to temperate North America

Pink and white Yarrow flowers on tall green stalks.
Yarrow blooms
Unless you live in the far northern regions of our country, you may be surprised to find there are native summer species waiting to be loved. Here in the Tucson, we have a fabulous source for desert-adapted native and heirloom plants thanks to Native Seeds/SEARCH. They have a remarkable variety of interesting seeds and stories that go with them.

Stay cool out there.
                                                                                                                         Submitted by Pam

Thursday, July 11, 2019

5 Biofungicides to Look Out For

Summer can be a hectic time for gardeners and farmers alike. The hottest months of the year bring about unique challenges and hurdles that can significantly influence the trajectory of a grow. Among these are seasonal pest problems, disease issues and of course – heat stress. In fact, the heat will be the catalyst for many pest and disease problems in these months. While there is little that can be done about the heat, knowing your garden and some steps you can take to reduce plant stress from the other two factors can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful crop.

Today we’ll cover a few broad-spectrum, OMRI listed fungicides from the next generation of disease control that provide added benefits to the plants during these tough few months.

Cease Biological Fungicide

Cease uses a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis (also called Hay Bacillus) to combat disease and stimulate plant immune responses, which furthers a plant’s ability to maintain growth and health while fighting disease. Like most organic fungicides, Cease is best used early in the growing season as a preventive treatment. It will remain effective once disease symptoms have set in; however, it may only suppress certain diseases at that point. 

Bacillus subtilis stimulates induced systemic resistance (ISR) within plants. In short, this process allows the plant to respond to and resist pathogens more readily and successfully. 

Controls/Suppresses: Anthracnose, Black Spot of Roses, Botrytis, Downy Mildew, Fusarium, Leaf Spot (several species), Powdery Mildew, Phytophthora, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Rust and Scab

Companion Biological Fungicide

Companion is proven effective for prevention, control and suppression of both soil and foliar diseases in organic production. It uses Bacillus subtilis like Cease, although it contains a different strain and is sold primarily for agricultural use. It works similarly in that it competes with plant pathogens and stimulates ISR to improve the plant’s own defenses. Additionaly, the systemic response has been helpful in reducing transplant shock and stimulating root growth.

Controls/Suppresses: Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Fusarium, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Xanthomonas, and many other diseases.

Prestop WG

Prestop contains another naturally occurring microbe – Gliocladium catenulatum – to control plant diseases in three ways. It aggressively parasitizes pathogens, out-competes the pathogens in their own environment and inhibits further disease growth. This three pronged mode of action allows Prestop to maintain its effectiveness on foliar and root-borne diseases throughout the growing season. 

Controls/Suppresses: Alternaria, Bipolaris, Botrytis, Cladosporium, Colletotrichum, Fusarium, Mycosphaerella, Penicillium, Phytophthora, Plasmodiophora, Plicaria, Powdery Mildew, Pyrenochaeta, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia and Verticillium

Mycostop Biofungicide

Similar to Prestop, Mycostop utilizes a three way mode of action (colonizes, parasitizes & stimulates plant defenses) to control soil-borne diseases. It has become an industry favorite for nurseries because of its effectiveness controlling damping off, wilt and other diseases common during propagation. When used early in the growing cycle, the Streptomyces strain in Mycostop fills out the areas where a pathogen could grow and cause issues. This pairing with the root system forms a biological barrier impermeable to disease cells. 

Controls/Suppresses: Seed Rot, Root and Stem Rot and Wilt caused by Fusarium, Alternaria and Phomopsis; Botrytis Gray Mold and Root Rots of Pythium, Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia; Seed or Soil-Borne Damping Off and Early Root Rot of vegetables, herbs and ornamentals

Regalia Biofungicide

Regalia may well be the king in the disease control castle at the moment. Its versatility in usage allows growers flexibility when applying it without sacrificing results. Once applied, Regalia triggers the plant’s ISR causing it to produce higher levels of specific proteins and growth inhibitors. These compounds prevent diseases from growing on or around the plant and end up increasing cell wall strength. This combination of effects leads to healthier growth, a cleaner growing area and increased yields. It can be used throughout the growing season and works best preventively before disease symptoms arise. 

Controls/Suppresses: Powdery Mildew, Fusarium, Early Blight, Shot Hole (aka Coryneum blight), Rhizoctonia spp., Brown Rot, Anthracnose, Bacterial Canker, Downey Mildew, Botrytis Neck Rot, Pythium spp., Rust, Stem Rot, Black Spot, Greasy Spot, Bacterial Spot, Phytophthora spp., White Mold, Fire Blight and more.

If you have questions about what was covered or further disease control options, we encourage you to call or email us so we can discuss it further. Our sales and technical support staff are available from 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Woo Hoo! It's the 4th of July!

A young blond man with an American flag cape skateboarding along a cement boardwalk by the sea. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on UnsplashLet's face it, when it comes to 4th of July celebrations, they are much more about fun, food and fireworks than about celebrating our independence from England. And that's okay. I think the Founding Fathers would be pleased to know that we have developed our own traditions and that England is no longer a part of our national consciousness. However, some of the traditions we have created would no doubt be bewildering to those men. Quirkiness and excess are inherent in many traditions that modern America has fully embraced and both of these are on full display for the 4th.

A fireworks display in shades of pink and purple in the harbor of Sydney, Australia. There are black silhouettes of small boars  and the Opera House and bridge in the background.
Celebrating Australia Day in Sydney, Australia
When we think 4th of July excess, fireworks quickly come to mind. While we have magnificent displays across the country, we probably can't claim the worldwide excess crown. In fact, we don't even make the top ten list for explosive records, according to Guinness World Records. Check out their list here and see some spectacular clips from all parts of the world.

A steel barbecue grill with Happy 4th spelled out in buns and hotdogs.It is in the area of food excess that the US shines (for better or worse) and the food put on tables on the 4th easily rivals the celebration of overeating that is Thanksgiving. Only instead of stuffing ourselves with turkey, it's all about barbecue food. Consumers are expected to spend $6.7 billion dollars on their food this year. It is estimated that Americans will eat 155 million hot dogs and 375 million hamburgers for the 4th of July. When you add on the rivers of beer (about 68.3 million cases), calling it excess seems an understatement.

Americans showcase their quirkiness this time of year with some unusual 4th of July celebrations. No simply flag-waving parade for these folks!

A child in a red, white & blue hat in an green insect-shaped vehicle. People are standing on the curb in the background.
Not all coasters are designed for speed.
Bisbee Coaster Races: In the small town of Bisbee here in Southern Arizona, they have Coaster Races (AKA Soap Box Derby) every year. This small, old town is super hilly and full of artists and other characters - the perfect place for young racers to show their stuff.

Boom Box Parade, Willimantic, CT: Created out of necessity (they had no marching band, so they had a local radio station play marching music for them), this unique event encourages the offbeat. The only requirements are that participants wear some red, white and blue and that everyone carry a boom box or radio. See for yourself here.

Close-up of a child laughing and wearing red, white & blue glasses with stars on the top. Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash.Lobster Races, Bar Harbor, ME: This annual event (a fundraiser for the local YMCA that is just what it sounds like) is undoubtedly slower paced than many other racing events that mark Independence Day. But I can't help thinking that the food is a lot better than your average barbecue.

Midnight Parade, Gatlinburg, TN: The good folks of Gatlinburg came up with the idea to have their 4th of July parade at midnight (perhaps so they can claim that they are the first parade every year) and I think it is pure genius. It allows for all the sparkle of a Christmas parade and avoids the heat of a July day. I wish we could start this here in Tucson, where our holiday is always blisteringly hot.

A person in a bird costume running by and throwing red, white & blue confetti.
No matter what you decide to do with your 4th of July holiday, I recommend a little excess and a dash of quirk - it's good for the soul.

Submitted by Pam