Last Flowers Before Fall

Hi friends! This has been a bit of a stressful week for me. I’ve been busy with work, busy with house work, busy with studying, busy with that FREAKING garden trellis, and busy with a few other events and odds and ends. I feel like there is not enough time in the day, and I’ve been letting those stresses and anxieties of the world get to me. I know I am not alone in these moments. So this week in order to refresh my soul and reset I’m doing something different. I’m going to just sit and enjoy my garden. I want to enjoy the last flowers before fall steals them away, and I want to share them with y’all too.

I chose a verse to dwell on while I was just being still. It might not be as familiar to most, but I felt it jump out at me especially as I was staring at my garden.

Job 12:7-10 But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind (NIV).

I have learned so much during my time in my garden, listening to my plants. Sometimes those voices might be of death and despair, but they always tell me what they need. They might need more water or less water, more sun, more food, or even protection from pests. I’ve gotten better at listening to my plants and reaching them before it’s too late, but I haven’t been great at listening to my soul and knowing what it needs. It’s usually not until I’m at my wits end before I realize my soul needs tending. I could be pulling out my hair over a project, yelling at my husband, or on rare occasions having a panic attack before I realize I have neglected my soul. Just as with my garden I need to work on consistent care for myself. This week that meant being still and diving into God’s word. This verse spoke to me because when I was younger I found the best way I worshiped God was in nature. I would go on 5 mile hikes just to clear my mind and marvel at His creation. Even if it was the same trail I could always find something new and breathtakingly beautiful. Now as I sit in my garden I not only marvel at the plants and tiny insects, but I’m thankful for my hands, my ability, and the passion God has given me to help cultivate these extraordinary works of art. If y’all can, I encourage you to take some time this week and be outside while the weather is cooling down and just be still and marvel at the incredible works of art around you.

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As always I would love to hear from y’all and see the last of the summer blooms from your gardens. Thanks y’all! 🙂

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Mushrooms

Hey friends! I feel like each new week sneaks up on me faster and faster. I had planned on doing a DIY over a garden trellis I’m building. However, I’m at a standstill at the moment due to 2 broken drill bits, being one piece of wood short, and my utter frustration with the project! So I’m saving that fun post for next week! This week I decided to discuss mushrooms. Here in Oklahoma we have had a good amount of rain, and it seems every time I sit down to write it’s raining (like today). With all this moisture we’ve had a few mushrooms pop up in my garden as well as several in our backyard. So with the trellis on hold this post is all about mushrooms!

 

What are mushrooms?

Mushrooms are fungi that reproduce through spores that are spread by wind or water to form new colonies. The mushroom you see popping up through the ground is actually only tip of the colony that hides below the surface. Mushrooms don’t hurt your lawn or garden and benefit the environment by breaking down organic material into nutrients your lawn and plants can use for food. However, some species can be poisonous and if not watched closely could be consumed by a pet or child. It’s also not incredibly attractive to have a lush green lawn and then mushrooms cropping up randomly. Mushrooms like to pop up in areas that have low light, lots of moisture, and lots of organic material. I’ll go over each and what you can do to help prevent them.

Low Light

Low light is a tricky one to prevent. You may be able to trim back a tree or plant here and there to help bring in more light, but you shouldn’t have to remove whole plants just to get rid of these guys. I found our biggest issue was the height of our grass. In our front yard we hardly have any mushrooms, but it is the shadiest part of our property with a big Bradford Pear tree shading our lawn. The reason for the lack of mushrooms is my husband regularly mows the front lawn, but skips the back occasionally since few people see it. With taller grass providing shade for the fungus, mushrooms are more likely to pop up. Easy solution! Mow the grass!

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Moisture

You can’t change the weather! We’ve had a particularly wet year in Oklahoma, which should mean a pretty fall. Unfortunately, it means mushrooms too. The best way to prevent excess moisture is to address your soil and drainage. My garden had some very clay like soil which retains a lot of moisture and allowed these guys in the picture above to sprout. I have since added a lot of compost and manure to help break up the clay and allow for better drainage. For lawns deep infrequent watering and aerating can help reduce moisture problems.

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Organic Material

Typically when you think of mushrooms you picture them deep in the forest growing on a rotting fallen log. That log is the organic material they love, and it might not always be visible. In our backyard I found the largest concentration of mushrooms around the remains of a tree my husband removed. As you can see above he chopped it down and then attempted to burn the stump. It’s dead but some of the stump is still visible and the mushrooms seem to love that organic material. Most of the time the fungus will disappear after the organic material is completely broken down. The best way to get rid of the mushrooms is to either remove the organic matter (tree stump or roots) or you can use a nitrogen rich fertilizer to help hasten the decomposing process.

Miscellaneous Mushroom Material

I love alliterations!:) I also love eating mushrooms. However, I do not recommend eating wild mushrooms unless you are certain they are edible. There are many look-alike mushrooms out there that can be deceiving and could also be poisonous. Here in Oklahoma our most common edible mushroom is the Morel mushroom (pictured below).  They are known for they’re great nutty flavor and can be expensive at $8/lb. The best time to go Morel hunting is in March after the redbuds have bloomed and we’ve had a good rain. Again I advise not to eat any wild mushroom unless you are certain what it is.

58fbb1987f251.image                                                 photo courtesy Athina Psoma, Dreamstime.com

My last bit of mushroom knowledge is a bit fanciful and fun. Sometimes certain species of mushrooms will crop up in a circular pattern also known as a fairy ring. There is a lot of folklore surrounding fairy rings, but scientifically we know that the fungus that forms the ring grows underground in a circular shape and grows outward and larger every year visible by the mushrooms that pop up through the ground. Western European folklore claims the fairy circles are created by fairies dancing. There are mixed beliefs on whether or not it is safe to enter a fairy circle. Some folklore suggests you will be blessed with good luck others that you will be cursed and if you stay to long you could be whisked off to the fairy world never to be seen again. So enter at your own risk lol!

Hope y’all enjoyed reading about mushrooms! Hopefully, I’ll have my garden trellis finished next week and you can read and be entertained by my frustrations with that project. As always let me know if you have any questions or tips. I’m always learning! Thanks y’all! 🙂

Grubs

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Hey y’all! Forgive me, but I’m gonna flashback a minute here. 🙂 Among the many lessons my mom has taught me about gardening I remember one of her first when I was around 6 or 7. I loved to dig holes, whether it was digging for buried treasure, tunneling to China, or just helping my mom plant. I remember finding earthworms and grubs and my mom telling me that we leave the earthworms to help our garden and throw the grubs to the chickens and birds because they will hurt our garden. So fast forward, I know now that an overabundance of grubs can cause some major damage to your root systems #theyrefavoritesnack. I also made a discovery a few weeks ago when I was weeding my garden and trying to break up some of the clay soil. These little a**holes are everywhere! In one shovel full of dirt I was pulling out 5-10 of these grubs. So in this post I’m going to address the solutions I’ve found to combat these grubs.

Grubs

Most of us have seen these little white grubs before, but what some don’t know is that these little guys are the larvae of Japanese beetles (aka June bugs), chafer beetles, and other scarab type beetles. I’ve haven’t noticed a big issue with these guys in the past, but this summer in Oklahoma for some reason we seem to have an overabundance of June bugs. This could be due to a number of reasons: weather, soil condition, and lack of predators. In small numbers these grubs aren’t necessarily harmful, but larger populations will eat root systems destroying lawns and gardens. If you find you have an overabundance of grubs there are several ways you can get rid of them by: increasing predator population, proper irrigation, or grub control products.

Predators

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Grubs have a lot of natural predators, but not all of them will be kind to your garden. Possums, armadillos, raccoons, and skunks all love grubs. However, they will tear up your garden searching for them and could destroy your plants in their search as well. Birds and chickens are a more viable option. But since I live in the suburbs, have a small backyard, and have prey driven dogs, chickens won’t really work for my solution. So attracting birds is one of the ways to help reduce my grub population. I already have a birdbath in my garden, but I will be adding a few birdhouses and even a small bird feeder to help attract them to my yard. Another great predator option I learned through some research is beneficial nematodes. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that are usually found in gardens with healthy soil and help destroy grubs by seeking them out, entering their bodies, and releasing bacteria that kills the grub. They target only specific bugs that are harmful to your garden and are not harmful to your plants or pets. Unfortunately, with the state of my soil I don’t think I’ve been very helpful in promoting the nematodes. So, I’ve added some organic matter and bought some beneficial nematodes online from Arbico Organics for $36. I do not receive money, products, or benefit in any way from promoting this site and it’s products *though I wouldn’t mind it lol. 🙂 This was the most reputable site I found to purchase my nematodes. These are live creatures and if not shipped and stored properly they could die and not do a thing for your garden. Mine were properly shipped with an ice pack and I stored them in my refrigerator until I was ready to apply them. They are very easy to apply and come with helpful instructions. As long as you maintain a healthy garden you will continue to promote beneficial nematodes.

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Irrigation

As I said before my soil hasn’t been in the best shape. I still have a good amount of clay that retains water and stays almost constantly moist. This not only promotes the growth of grubs but also isn’t a optimum environment for the beneficial nematodes I talked about earlier. Clay soil with poor irrigation isn’t great for most plants and is an indication of a lack of organic matter that earthworms love as well. So it sounds like a simple fix right…? Just add some compost or other soil amendment. Wrong! It is a workout! Especially if you have a lot of clay. If you love your garden be prepared to use some muscle. I amended my soil with compost by working it in with a shovel and hoe, but I’ll be looking into also getting a manual tiller to help the process as well. I’ll also be going back in again in fall to add some more compost or manure and mulch to prepare my garden for winter.

Other Grub Control Products

There are a lot of insecticides you can find at your local garden center that help control grubs. However, it took a lot of digging to find out the active ingredients used for some of the grub control products produced by Scotts and Bayer, and in my garden I prefer to use the most naturally occurring forms of pest control possible. But these products do work and if you need a fast, long acting solution they are a great option. In my garden I chose to use milky spore (also purchased from Arbico Organics for $29). Milky spore is a powder that contains bacteria that kills larvae of Japanese beetles only after the spore is ingested by the grub during normal feeding. It is not harmful to other animals, plants, or people. However, it’s not a quick solution. It can take several weeks or months for the spore to be established in the soil. In combination with birds, manual extraction, and the beneficial nematodes, which are all faster acting solutions, they can be a great natural ways to combat grubs.

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Hope ya’ll enjoyed this post! Let me know if you have found other solutions to grub problems or if you have any questions. Thanks y’all! 🙂

Blackberry Bush

Hey y’all! So I visited my mom a week ago, and she had a few black berry bushes she got on sale and gave one to me for free! Since I haven’t ever grown blackberries before I’m doing something a little different for this post. This will be the first of two posts in my attempt at growing a blackberry bush! The second post will probably come next year when my plant starts producing berries, or sooner if it ends up dying. :/ This post will be over the research I have done on caring for blackberry bushes, and the second post will probably include what I have learned through this process. Hopefully it survives so I can make a blackberry cobbler from my own garden!

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Blackberry Bushes

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has blackberry bushes listed for hardiness zones 5-10 and states that it’s a very easy fruit to grow.¹ However, I haven’t met a plant I couldn’t kill, (except for mint) so we’ll see how this goes. There are three types of blackberry bushes with specific descriptions on how to care for each, but I believe I have an erect thornless blackberry bush so I’ll just be sticking with care for this type. Blackberry bushes are perennials and self-fertile so they don’t need another plant to help pollinate them in order to produce fruit. They produce pretty white flowers and and usually start producing berries after their first year in late summer to fall.

Soil

So apparently blackberries do best in soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5 with well drained loamy soil.² However, I haven’t ever had my soil tested, and I’ll actually be saving that for a later post to compare store bought test kits to lab tests done by our local agricultural college (Yeah, Science!). Hopefully this doesn’t mean the end of my plant, only a lower yield harvest if my soil is off. If you would like to get your soil tested, again there are at home soil test kits, but I can’t vouch for their accuracy. You can also send a soil sample to a lab to get tested. Many of the agricultural colleges offer this service at a small fee.

Planting

For erect blackberry bushes, it’s recommended they be panted 3-5 ft. apart in early spring or late fall depending on your climate.¹ Very low temperatures can kill the bush if planted too late in the fall. It may also be a good idea to use a trellis to help manage your plant. Hopefully, I’ll purchase or build a wooden garden obelisk soon to also add some height and interest as well as support for my plant. For now I have a bamboo cane that came with the plant to help offer some support.

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Water

For the first few weeks make sure to water your blackberry bush everyday during the coolest part of the day. After that you can get away with watering only during the dry parts of the season as long as you are watering at least 8-10 inches past the soil surface.²

Fertilizing & Mulching

It’s suggested to fertilize your plant twice a year with 10-10-10 fertilizer.² I went ahead and fertilized my plant since I had to amend my clay soil anyway. As you can see in the picture above I still have a lot more work to do to get rid of all the clay. 😦 You can also see I went ahead and mulched as well, even though summer just ended. I’ll be applying more mulch once it starts getting cooler out to help conserve moisture and prevent extremes in soil temperature.

There is a lot more I could go into on blackberry bush care such as pruning, harvesting, and propagation, but I’ll be saving all that for my next post on blackberries (if I don’t kill my plant). As always feel free share any tips, tricks, or questions you have! This blog is helping me learn so much more about my garden, and I’m excited to see what else will grow from this. Thanks y’all!

References

  1. Old Farmer’s Almanac (2018). Growing Blackberries; Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Blackberry Bushes. Retrieved from https://www.almanac.com/plant/blackberries
  2.  Krewer, G., Fonseca, M., Brannen, P., & Horton, D. (October, 2013). Home Garden Raspberries and Blackberries. University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Retrieved from https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/C%20766_3.PDF

Mums

It’s finally the end of August and fall is just around the corner! Even though the heat of summer is still upon us I’m starting to see the telltale signs of autumn; pumpkin spice lates, Halloween decorations in the stores, and fall plants at the garden centers! Historically, I haven’t done much with my garden in fall except prep for winter. However, I have come to appreciate an all season garden and am working to achieve that goal. For now though I celebrate fall through potted plants, and what better plant epitomizes fall than mums! (Well probably pumpkins, but we are gonna talk about mums.) Last year was my first attempt with potted mums, and guess what?! They died… within 2 months… This year my husband surprised me and bought a couple of plants knowing that they too may meet the same fate, but he has faith in me. While I do make mistakes I try very hard not to repeat those same ones. So I have done my research (aka asking my mom and a brief google search) and have a better idea on how to care for my mums so hopefully they’ll survive.

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Pictured above are some of the lovely mums with ornamental grass that my husband picked out for me! ❤

Tender Perennial

While most people say mums are fairly easy to grow they are considered a tender perennial. So depending on when you plant them and how you care for them will determine if they come back or not next year. The great thing about mums is that they are fairly inexpensive so you can treat them as an annual in fall to add some color but aren’t out a ton of money if they don’t make it. For mums to come back next year they need to establish a good root system before the freeze sets in, so the best time to plant them would be spring or summer. They can also come back if planted in September or October as long as you properly winterize them. This means mulching with hay or wood chips to help protect the root system. My mums are probably gonna get treated as annuals, but hopefully this time they will last longer than 2 months.

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Sun & Water

Honestly, these are the 2 factors that killed my mums so quickly last time. Too much sun and not enough water. So when you get your mums it will say on the tag “Full Sun” what they neglect to tell you is that your mums like at least 5-6 hours of morning sun and then afternoon shade. Unfortunately, where I had placed my potted mums last time was full sun all day. They were not fans. 😦 When it comes to watering, mums prefer plenty on water in the first week after planting and then water whenever the first inch or 2 of soil is dry. With my busy schedule I watered when I thought about it, (which wasn’t often) and my mums paid the price in the end.

Soil

Mums like well-drained soil that isn’t too compacted. If your soil is too clay-like it’s good to add some compost to help loosen the soil, and mums love compost. Their root systems are fairly shallow so it’s important not to plant other things too close to them so the root systems don’t compete. It’s best to plant them about 18 in. apart.

Fertilization

You don’t have to fertilize your mums unless you want them to come back next year. Those planted in spring it’s suggested you fertilize once or twice a month until the freeze sets in. Those planted in September or October should be fertilized with a high-phosphorus fertilizer to stimulate root growth.

Flowering

If you want your flowering time on your mums to last a little longer it’s good to buy a plant with a lot of tight buds. this will give you the full bloom time as opposed to buying a plant already in full bloom. As your blooms die you can also dead-head your flowers to make the plant look a little nicer as well. All this entails is just snipping off the bloom after it dies.

That’s all I really have for mum care. I’m taking all these things I’ve found and applying it to my mums this year so hopefully they’ll survive at least to the end of October. :/

Let me know if y’all have any other tips or tricks! I’d love to hear them! Thanks 🙂

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DIY Texas Lamp Post Planter

Hello friends! I know I was posting a few times last week, but with my life and job realistically I’m gonna shoot for a goal of one post per week. This week I have a great DIY project that will bring a little extra to your backyard. Texas lamp post planters! My husband and I made these a while back in an effort to define our patio space and spruce up our backyard. They’ve held up really well and I’m super proud of them. So here is our step by step process on DIY Texas lamp post planters.

You Will Need

  • Wooden barrel (We used a 25″ x 16″) $35-$40
  • 5 gallon bucket $4
  • 4″ x 4″ x 8′ piece of wood (You can cut this to your desired length) $10
  • Wood stain of your choice $8
  • 50 lb bag of Quickcrete $5
  • 50 quart bag of potting soil $15 (A 25 quart bag will be just short of enough soil for one planter, plus I like to have extra soil on hand anyway)
  • Plant hook $4-$20 (The more ornate the more expensive. Mine was free from my mom.)
  • Hanging basket $5-$35 (Depending on if you get a plain basket or those already filled with flowers. Mine were also free from my mom!)

You can find all of this at a home improvement store!

Total: $86-$137 for 1 planter (More or less depending if you shop around or find stuff for free!)

Step 1

Set your 5 gallon bucket in your wooden barrel and measure to cut the top off the 5 gallon bucket to around 3″ below the top of your barrel. You can cut off a few more inches if desired, but you want to make sure you leave enough to have a good strong base to hold your beam.

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Step 2

Cut your beam down to the desired length. We stood our beam up in the backyard and eyeballed how tall we wanted it. We ended up only cutting a few inches off.

Step 3

Stain your wood. Since this was going outside we got the pressure treated wood. However you can just use stain to help seal the beam, but keep in mind you may have to restrain every few years as the color fades. If you do get pressure treated wood before you start staining double check to make sure the wood isn’t still moist. You can do this by putting a few drops of water on your beam. If it beads up it’s too wet and you’ll have to let it sit for a day or two, and if the drops soak right in it’s ready to go. Follow the directions on your stain. It’s best to wait at least 24 hours for the stain to dry before continuing.

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Step 4

Mix the concrete according to the instructions. Place your beam in your 5 gallon bucket and fill the bucket with concrete. We discovered it’s best to do this with your planter already in the place you want it and the 5 gallon bucket either already in or nearby the barrel (unless you have a big burly man willing to move a 5 gallon bucket filled with a long beam and concrete wherever you want). I suggest doing it with the bucket in the barrel in the desired place you want the planter. This way you not only don’t have to move super heavy things you can also make sure your bucket is steady in the barrel and you can ensure your beam will be level.

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Step 5

Level your bucket out in your planter by either adding a thin layer of soil or placing  shives, thin pieces of wood, under your bucket to keep it from rocking around. Use a level to make sure your beam is straight while the concrete sets. It takes 20-40 minutes for Quickcrete to set so you may have to hold your beam in place for a while. Once the concrete has set you can let go of the beam, but you need to wait 4 hours for it to completely set before doing anything else.

Step 6

Once your concrete has completely set add your soil and plants to your barrel. I originally went with phlox, day lilies, and gerbera daisies. I was attempting the thrill, fill, and spill concept for container gardening design, but I still haven’t quite mastered that yet.

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Step 7

Hang your plant hook. It wouldn’t be a true Texas lamp post without a plant hook! We did this last because I wanted to get a feel for how high on the post I wanted it to go, and I’m a very visual person so we had to wait until everything else was where I wanted it. We secured our hook with 2″ wood screws.

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Step 8

Hang your baskets! You can add anything you want in them. Unfortunately, my baskets don’t have anything in them yet cause I’m indecisive, and now it’s almost fall so I will probably just wait until spring.

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TAADAA!!!

*Optional* Step 9

It’s good to also watch your plants and soil for the next few weeks after you’ve completed your planters to make sure they are draining properly. One of my barrels was draining great but the other I didn’t catch for a while and now my plants look a little sad. We ended up adding 3 3/4″ holes to the bottom of the barrels so they would drain a little better. It worked but my plants still look sad. 😦 Learn from my mistakes!

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Thanks y’all! As always let me know if you have any feedback, especially as it pertains to container gardening design! I could definitely use some help in that department.

Pests

Hey friends! So today I wanted to talk about those pesky critters that never fail to find their way into our gardens and destroy our plants and even make their way into our homes. They come in many forms, but the critters that I have had the most problems with have been ants, earwigs, and wasp beetles. While aphids and snails tend to be the worst pests for your garden, I haven’t had many issues with them. This is probably due to the fact that mint is a natural repellant to aphids and snails, and from my previous post y’all know my mint has taken over my garden. Ants and earwigs can make a snack out of your plants as well, but can benefit your garden. Wasp beetles on the other hand actually eat dead or decaying wood and help to return the nutrients back to the soil. However, the ants, earwigs, and wasp beetles have started making my home their home and I don’t like squatters. I’ll go over a few things I’ve tried, and the positives and negatives of each.

Mint

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So I did not plant my mint with intention to ward of bugs (I really wanted it for mojitos), but I lucked out and have discovered it really is great for warding off aphids and snails. The only downside is that unless it is kept in a container it will take over your garden. It also supposedly wards off ants, long-horned beetles, mosquitos and roaches. I have not found that to be true for ants and mosquitos. There are many other plants that are a great natural way to ward off insects. Great herbs for keeping away bugs include basil, lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, citronella, lemon grass, bay, mugwort and dill. Flowers that will add some color to your garden but will also help deter pests include alliums, mums, marigolds, and petunias. However, I have also discovered that while mums will repel some pests such as roaches, ants, mites, and ticks they also attract earwigs. So while plants can be a great option for warding off bugs, it won’t keep them all away.

Essential Oils

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If I haven’t already been labeled a hippie now I definitely will be. Yes, I’m a nurse and I like and use essential oils. Do I think they cure cancer and can “detox” the body? NO! But I enjoy the smells and have found many great uses for them. This includes, you guessed it, bug repellent! I had a major ant problem in my garden. With my peonies and roses I had swarms of ants in my garden, and if I can ever figure out how to upload a video onto here you’ll see how bad it was. Anyway, I didn’t want to go to the store and a little Googling turned up that peppermint, tea tree, and citrus oils make great ant repellent. However, I still have issues with my dogs getting in my garden and tea tree and citrus oils are bad for dogs so that left me with peppermint. I didn’t dilute it and just sprinkled a few drops on the places the ants were swarming the most and sure enough within a few minutes they were gone. The only downside is you have to continue reapplying to keep them away and even though I have enough mint in my garden to make my own essential oil that is just too much work for me.

Diatomaceous Earth

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So this stuff is gold to me! I absolutely love diatomaceous earth and whoever invented this is a genius! Diatomaceous earth is made from the crushed up fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms. It comes in a fine powder form and can kill most bugs with an exoskeleton but is not harmful to humans or animals unless large quantities are inhaled. It works by drying insects out when the microscopic sharp edges of the particle get stuck between the exoskeleton and joint of the insect and essentially dehydrate the bug by absorbing oils and fats from the exoskeleton. I sprinkle it around the exterior of my house, around the boarder of my garden and around any plants that tend to get the most insect damage. As long as you don’t disturb the powder it does it’s job. I reapply after a good rain or if I notice an uptick in insect activity. So far this has been the best solution I have found for my bug problem. Diatomaceous earth can be a bit expensive. Here in Oklahoma it’s about $25 for a 25 lb. bag, and for how much I use it it goes fast. If anyone has found some cheaper please let me know!

I’m also aware that there are some great store bought pesticides that are effective and safe for pets. However, I haven’t done enough research on those yet so if ya’ll have any suggestions or products that you love please let me know! Thanks y’all!