Favorite organic gardening recipes

tclynxSeptember 10, 2007

I have found plenty of recipes for making my own insect soap spray but not much discussion from people who have actually used them.

Please tell us about your favorite recipes, how you use them, what issues might be associated with them, and whatever other comments about them you can think up.

I really like home made ideas and simple solutions so long as they are relatively safe for us and the environment.

I am currently looking for a good homemade way to make sticky traps for whiteflys. I've tried using cooking spray on yellow plastic but found that it didn't last long with sun and rain and while it did last, it attracted ants. I've also coated the plastic with organocide which I know tends to be really sticky on stuff like the measuring spoons but it also doesn't seem to do so well out in the sun though id does stay sticky longer than cooking oil. I had been trying to avoid it but I'll probably break down and use petroleum jelly.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Here are my favorites:
1. Corn meal for fertilizer. Ordinary corn meal is inexpensive and feeds real protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to the microbes.
2. Corn meal for fungus control. Ordinary corn meal decomposes quickly and attracts the beneficial Trichoderma family of fungi. These guys eat other, disease causing, fungi.
3. Corn meal for pest control. Ordinary corn meal improves the overall health of the soil microbes. Plants growing in a more healthy soil become more healthy themselves. Healthy plants are stronger and have better immune systems. Thus they can resist whiteflies, aphids, scale, spider mites, and other sucking insects.
4. Corn meal for larger insect control. When you stop using chemicals in the garden and use organic fertilizers, you will find the population of birds, lizards, wasps, and toads returns to clean up the larger creatures like caterpillars, grasshoppers, etc.

Quite often my one-recipe approach to gardening kills this type of thread. I don't mean to stifle it. Corn meal is not the universal answer to everything. I'm just trying to make a point about soil health using an over simplified example. Still, cornmeal is my approach. There are plenty of others. Let's see them.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 10:00PM
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In case the thread is stifled by such we can go into the specifics of using corn meal. How do you use the corn meal. Just sprinkle it around? Or do you make a spray?

What about other types of meal?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 10:56PM
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When it was necessary to work at pest control, in the days before I had a good, healthy soil that grows strong, healthy plants and did have a pest problem Insecticidal Soap (1 teaspoon of soap in 1 quart of water) was the strongest pesticide I used. I did sometimes spray a comncoction of 1 medium sized onion, 1 clove of garlic, and 3 or 4 Habanaro, or Jalopeno, peppers whizzed in 2 cups of water and steeped for a few days and then strained and mixed 1 tablespoon per quart of water and sprayed around to deter the pests.
Another means of control would be to capture some of the target insects and whiz them in a blender with 1 cup of water and let that steep for a few days and then strain and mix in 1 quart of water and spray on the target insects. Known as the Nuclear Polyhedris Virus, NPV, the theroy is that all insects have the means of their own destruction and this releases those insect viruses.
But since my soil has sufficient levels of organic matter and a well balanced level of nutrients I seldom see insect pests and when I do it will usually be a plant under stress.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 7:06AM
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Where are you in MI anyway? I grew up in the NW part of lower Michigan. I miss it. Here in FL it seems that most plants are stressed at least part of the year. It's either too hot, or too humid but then in spring it is too hot and too dry. The tropicals suffer in winter cause central FL still gets too cold for them. Oh well, I'm adding organic matter to the soil as fast as I can. Here in hot moist FL, one has to add twice as much organic matter twice as often just to keep up with northern climates. I've also noticed that the compost pile shrinks about twice as fast so I don't have much left once it is done. Then again, we garden all through the winter. If there is a down time of gardening here, most of us concider that to be mid June through mid August.

Another trick I like even though it isn't really a mixture for spraying. Planting garlic and onions in container to get the squirls to quit digging the plants out of em. When I lived in an apartment the squirls kept digging in the flower pots and leaveing my plants uprooted. I found that after planting some garlic that had sprouted they left that container alone. It seems that onions are not as effective as the garlic but help some.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 9:19AM
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I like to mix a handful of organic fertilizer(commercial or seed meal, if seed meal) into a wheel barrel of compost(homemade or unfortunately since I use so much purchased when I have none ready) and mix thoroughly. I use this as bed prep & Side dressings of my veggie beds and under mulches of perennials and trees. Specifically I like Garden ville 6-2-2 mixed into my own compost. But would use Cornmeal, alfalfa meal or whatever I have on hand in a pinch to add some food to the compost when I apply it.

I like to use cornmeal in Teas and bed preparations as well as a lawn fertilizer during wet times.

I like to mix my own foliar feeds of molasses, Seaweed and fish emulsion with cornmeal tea added when it has been wet and Spinosad when the caterpillars and stem borers are present.. I enjoy seeing how a foliar feeding can reinvigorate stressed plants.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 2:44PM
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How do you make your cornmeal teas?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 3:45PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Maybe other pests, but I'm sceptical about any claim that good healthy soil will produce plants that can resist tomato fruitworms aka corn earworms. Repeated sprayings of garlic/hot pepper/soap mix didn't help - only Btk (Bacillus thuringensis kurstaki) (sp.?) solved that problem, and therefore is currently my favourite remedy.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 4:55PM
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I Put a cup or two of cornmeal into a cotton pillow case and emerse it into a gallon or two of water. I let it soak for a day or two agitating it regularly. It gets noce and cloudy. I then use this tea in my pump sprayer to coat the leaves of plats susceptible to fungus and mildews(Roses, tomatoes and Squash in particular). I usualy add a littel seaweed and mollasses to the cornmeal tea before spraying as well. It is important to place the cornmeal in something that will contain the solids so the sprayer nozzle does not get clogged. I usually spread the cornmeal I used to make the tea at the base of troubled plants.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 6:31PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

The best caterpillar control I've seen is paper wasps. We lost all our paper wasp nests last year to our contractor's exterminator. So far none have returned, but I'm hoping they do before we get chewed up. We grew tomatoes this year and only found one horn worm, but I would not have expected even one with the wasps around. Paper wasps are very good at controlling web worms in trees and lawns.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 1:04AM
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Wasp, regularly patrol my Crepe Myrtles, Sometimes I think they are hunting, Sometimes I think they favor the tree leaves for pulp. I hand picked about half a dozen horn worms this year in 14 Tomato plants. I then Sprayed Spinosad on the maters plants to get the worms I didn't see. One of those suckers can decimate a Tomato plant real quick.

I have no nest of Wasp on my house, but I have many kinds of paper wasp, red wasp, mud daubers etc, that frequent my yard.
I even found a Horned Toad in my garden this year!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 1:31AM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Now you mention it we have no paper wasp nests around this year either. Few wasps in the overripe raspberries, and haven't met any of the wasps that nest in the ground and ambush the lawnmower. Whenever we've seen wasps in the past we've left them alone.

The first thing we did when we established this garden eight years ago was to create a metre-wide, 80-foot long beneficial-insect refuge of small-flowered plants down the middle of the garden. And yet we still battle earwigs, slugs and earworms - I forgot to mention our broad beans also get attacked by earworms. But we don't have aphid problems anymore, or cutworms or wireworms.

My point is, the best organic practices won't eliminate all pest problems. And since we sell produce I'm quitting the homemade sprays and going with the organic standard-approved 'big guns' like Btk and insecticidal soap.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 10:23AM
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For tclynx - Re: sticky traps. Do a search for an organic product called Tanglefoot. It comes in two forms. You want the spray-on type which is easily ordered online. Lasts a long time when sprayed on boards painted a brilliant yellow. Good product.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 3:02PM
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I am 12 miles inland from Lake Michigan long about where the shoreline curves out, about 380 some miles north of Chicago.

One of the precepts that Sir Albert Howard, Friend Sykes, Lady Eve Balfour, J. I. Rodale, and several other early organic gardening/farming adherents all wrote about was the decrease in insect pest and plant disease problems in an organic garden or farm. Many of my correspondents around the world today tell me the same thing, once they get their soil into a good, healthy state the insect pests and plant diseases are of such a small problem they are hardly worth bothering about.
It takes time to convert any garden into an organic garden and a lot of organic matter. A soil that does not have a good, active Soil Food Web will not be a good, healthy soil and soils that do not have sufficient levels of organic matter in the soil will not be good, healthy soils. While sometimes it does seem complicated it is very easy to be organic.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 7:21AM
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I know it is actually easier and definitely cheaper in the long run to be organic. One just needs to be a bit more attuned to what is going on with the plants and take appropriate measures instead of a one gun fits all aproach of chemicals. The challenge here is trying to get a little harvest in the mean time while building the soil organic matter and food web.

I've noticed that mulch laid down her seems to decompose about four times as fast as a similar mulch put down up there in Michigan. They do say that the higher the zone number the larger the amount of organic material needed to amend the soil.

I grew up near Traverse City, Michigan and still spend time up in Alden (South end of Torch Lake, to the east of the Grand Traverse Bays.) I wish I could afford to live up there full time.

I like the cornmeal idea as it not only feeds microbes but in turn combats some fungal diseases. Same with milk against powdery mildew while at the same time fertilizing.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 11:02AM
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In Florida the soil bacteria, the Soil Food Web, is active year around. They never take a vacation down there like they do here in Michigan. Soil bacteria here are on vacation for at least 3 months of the year and many years up to 5. Plus they slow down, because of low soil temperatures, for about 3 more months.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 6:36AM
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peggy_g(Melbourne,Fl Z9)

dchall, I have had little luck finding large bags of corn meal and have been buying small bags at the grocery store. I can get cracked corn in 50lb. bags. Know it will take longer to break down, but wonder if it still has the all the good qualities of corn meal. I have a thick coastal hay mulch so the cracked corn wouldn't be exposed for birds/squirrels, etc. to eat. This may sound like a dumb ? but thought I'd ask. I'll keep using the corn meal if that will give better results than the cracked corn.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 10:25AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I've never used cracked corn but I have internet friends whose opinion I trust who have had great success with the cracked version.

I'm not sure you need the mulch over top. Once the corn starts to decompose, many animals will leave it alone. But even if you lure creatures to your yard, they usually do some good. Birds are great in the garden (if they stay away from the 'maters and strawberries).

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 1:45PM
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peggy_g(Melbourne,Fl Z9)

dchall, Thanks for the quick reply; I'll go buy a bag of the cracked corn and continue looking for a source of the meal. The mulch is there for weed control, we are having a knock down drag out war with nutsedge and other heinious weeds, and for moisture retension. It is brutally hot here now; summer is our winter. I'll use the corn and alfalfe pellets on the citrus trees too. You inspired me to use the alfalfa pellets on my lawn/ornamentals and the results have been great. Thanks again for all the good information....Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 7:17PM
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hope no one minds me bring this thread back from the dead. ive been reading the archives for info.

if i already have my garden started and mulched, would it help to sprinkle some corn meal around the plants at this point? or is it only really helpful if its under the mulch?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2008 at 12:04AM
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Yeah go ahead! I add it frequently and have had great success battling fungal infections using cornmeal tea and sprinkled cornmeal around the plants, even as recently as last week. Unless you have the plastic mulch, the small cornmeal particles will work their way down to the soil when you water.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 12:07PM
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I have some stale cornmeal that isn't as fresh as I'd like for making cornbread, so I'm going to spread it among some of my veggies.

I always use compost and blood meal since we have a lot of bunnies and deer and the blood meal keeps them at bay. The only problem is that you have to add a fresh dose after it rains. Other times I use a mixture of green sand and cotton seed meal.

This year I'm also trying an organic, granular fertilizer I got from a catalog and it seems to be doing well.

It's hard to find the green sand and other organic fertilizers in large bags where I live. The one nursery that would order it for me has now gone out of business.

Another thing I do, every day or so, is

grind up kitchen scraps (no meats) in a blender and make instant compost and pour that around the veggies.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 5:08PM
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Woondered what to do with cornmeal..I new it killed something..but didn't know what

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 5:50PM
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