Weeds and insects...

kineala(zone 7)June 6, 2014

Hi Permaculture fans,

I have a few questions for you all out there... I've been trying to follow some permaculture principles in my suburban garden - I've gone entirely chemical free, have made several fruit tree guilds, and am embracing all nature has to offer. Two of those offerings are the weeds and the insects.

I've been reading up on my weeds and now know that the lambs quarters, plantain weed and dandelions are my friends and make nice additions to a salad. :-) However, here in MD the wild violets, wild grape, creeping charlie and Virginia creeper are taking over my yard. I like the violets. And I have read that the vines provide shelter and fruit for the birds and many other critters (bees LOVE the blooming creeping charlie - better than clover). But the wild grape has now grown over most of the top of my dogwood trees, and I'm afraid its 's going to kill them off soon (this is after I cut the vine back last Fall). For you permaculture folks out there, what do you do to keep on top of particularly persistent and vigorous weeds in your area? I don't want to use chemicals. & Pulling isn't going to amount to much headway, I fear. I've been mulching 2x per year, and this seems to actually feed these beasties (particularly the wild grapes and Virginia creeper). If I let them just happily grow along, I worry that I'll have nothing left in my yard in a year or two but 6-7 types of weeds.

Regarding insects... I love the way my garden has popped with an amazing array of buggies (I think the birds do, too). I have seen one critter that looks like a cross between a bumble bee and Mothra from the old Godzilla movies. Its pretty cool. My question is... how do you folks that follow chemical-free permaculture practices keep the insects from entering your home? I've had a huge explosion in the internal ant population, and as a result a significant increase in the number of indoor spiders. (EWWWW!). That's really not wanted at all. & I'm curious what you all do to discourage the bugs from venturing inside?

THANKS so very much in advance,

in MD

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hi kineala, if you know where the ants are coming in, pour a line of white vinegar across that area... for instance if you see them marching in through a doorway, pour your vinegar across that path and they won't cross it. They don't like to anyway.

I have wild grape, creeping charlie, virginia creeper and violets. AND creeping bellflower. If I really want to get rid of something I try heavy mulching starting with a bottom layer of cardboard and then straw or thick wood chips. Otherwise, I call it all free nitrogen and pull and drop. Have had to mentally rework my beliefs about 'weeds' and also try to remember that if something is growing there, it means it is doing something to heal that piece of ground.

Here is a short blurb about virginia creeper that might help you think differently about it.

Here is a link that might be useful: creeper for the birds and bugs

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 6:22AM
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kineala(zone 7)

Thanks so very much for the quick response!

The ants are coming in the west side of my house, into my kitchen. Of course, this is through an area outside that is heavily planted with daylillies, blueberries and mint. Don't want to vinegar the plants... So... I'll look into the feasibility of the vinegar idea. Do you know how long vinegar will repel the ants?

Thanks for the pointer on the Virginia creeper. Its a nice looking vine, and the birds do seem to like it. To limit the internal buggies, I think I'm going to work to make sure that I don't have vines growing on my house (currently have v-creeper on a gutter drain pipe). & Maybe I'll embrace the rest... (as long as I can keep the poison ivy away...!)

I'm curious, what do you do for your vigorous vines that ensnare a tree? I have an area outside my back fence that is an overgrown/wild hedge. I like it, in general - it definitely keeps deer out of my yard from that direction. And the birds love it. Tho, The wild grape and Virginia creeper is ensnarled within that hedge and now growing up my three back dogwoods in the shady corner of my yard. I'm worried if the vines kill the dogwood trees and I have to take them out, then it will completely alter the shady area that I've planted there. I've been thinking of planing a large tree to compensate, just in case. Think that'll work? Or will the vines choke that out too?

THANKS! so much in advance! I'm kind of bumbling my way through all this... ;-)

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 7:54PM
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The vinegar lasts for a few days but sometimes putting it there alters their 'trek' and they don't return at all. That's what happened at my old house.

If I had that creeper killing plantings that I designed into the space, I wouldn't hesitate to pull them off there. Or, I guess a person could build a fence and let them take that over in the spirit of totally working with nature. But, you already have the trees planted. When I tear out the creeping bellflower I always tell it that it could stay if it was polite but since it isn't polite it has to go. I'm only half serious, ha. We had some wild grapes killing a tree that we wanted to keep so we cut it down and dropped it for mulch around the tree. Same deal.. "sorry wild grape, but..."

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:40PM
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kineala(zone 7)

Thanks for your previous comments...

The vinegar thing didn't work at all. Within hours the ants were back in the kitchen. After five straight weeks of battling them I'm getting ready to give up and put some spectracide or something down around the foundation of my house. I hate spectracide. But nothing natural I've tried works at all and I'm going crazy. What do you (or anyone??) do presently? I can't be the only person with this problem?

I like the concept, but I think I'm kind of bad at this 'permaculture' stuff. Sigh.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 6:00PM
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wondering if they are 'in' your kitchen rather than coming in continually. What we did once was get some of those black plastic round ant traps.. not sure of the company..but you just set them on the counter, under the sink, etc and they worked well. There is something in there that the ants take back to their nests and it kills them.

Better than poisoning your property with some nasty Monsatan chemical.

here, these are the things we used.

Here is a link that might be useful: ant bait

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 5:21PM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

I've had good results using baby powder to repel ants in the house. Dump it generously along the cracks from which you see them entering; it either repels them or they don't like to walk through it...
I've used vinegar in the garden, dumping it into the ant hills,with some goodish results ;not as effective as the baby powder in the house,however. In any case, vinegar doesn't poison soil. Lots of people on the rose forum advocate using it to acidify alkaline water,but the effect doesn't last long. It shouldn't harm your plants, I'd think, unless maybe if your soil is already uber-acid...bart

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 5:51AM
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