Category Archives: Organic Garden Solutions

Compost Tea – Make Your Own!

It’s really not that hard.  All you have to do is fill a container about half way with compost and then fill it the rest of the way with water.  Then just let it sit.  And sit…  After a couple of weeks, you can dilute it to spray on your plants as a foliar feed.  You will need to strain the mixture or you will just end up clogging your sprayer and cussing.  A bit of old panty hose works really well wrapped over the mouth of a bottle and held on by a rubber band.  Dilute the mixture down until it sort of looks like tea… about one part concentrate to anywhere from five to ten parts water.

-- Weather When Posted --

  • Temperature: 80°F;
  • Humidity: 37%;
  • Heat Index: 80°F;
  • Wind Chill: 80°F;
  • Pressure: 29.95 in.;


The Scoop About Poop

Guess what we did this weekend!  Go ahead and guess.  I’ll wait.

We scooped poop.  A lot of it.  We had to clean out the chicken run and, because of one thing or another, we were running a bit behind schedule.  It really should have been done at least a month earlier, but this was actually good timing because my veggies will love it.

After all the scooping, I remembered some notes that I had jotted down in the back of one of my gardening books.  I honestly don’t know where the original source was from or I would credit them.  It was probably a book from the library or a magazine that didn’t hold any other lasting interest for me.  Who knows.  Anyway… the notes were on the chemical content of different organics for use as fertilizers.  The three main chemicals you will see on bags of fertilizers are nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K).  Obviously, there is more in compost when you have added all sorts of veggie scraps and lawn trimmings or in composted manure than just N,P and K, but that is what is in the chemical non-organic fertilizers that are sold so that is how fertilizers are labeled.   The ratio is usually somewhere around  5-10-5 these days but  you can find it as high as 15-5-10.  I wouldn’t go there.  That is just too high and with chemical fertilizers, most of that will wash away into our rivers lakes and streams anyway.  That is one of the reasons I like organics so much more – because they release so much more slowly.

Here is what is in some of the organic options.

  • Alfalfafa 3-1-2 It also has a lot of vitamin A and trace minerals.
  • Blood Meal 12-1-1 Nasty stinky stuff and it can burn plants if used too much, but it makes a good deer repellent.
  • Bone Meal 2-12-0 Good source of calcium also, but it can raise the pH of the soil.  Make sure that’s what you want.
  • Cow Manure 2-1-1 You have to compost it first to kill weeds and get rid of the stink.  It’s pretty easy to come by – just stop off somewhere you see cows and ask.
  • Corn Gluten Meal 9.6-0 This is a great natural weed control because it inhibits seed germination but it makes a good natural fertilizer too.
  • Earthworm castings 1-0.1-0.1 This adds beneficial bacteria to the soil along with trace minerals, humus and earthworm eggs (THAT’s the real benefit!)
  • Fish Emulsion 5-2-2 Foliar food that also helps with insects – but it stinks!  The plants love it, but don’t use it the same day you have company coming.
  • Green Sand 0-2-5 Contains potash and trace minerals but especially iron.
  • Molasses 1-0-5 It also contains sulfur.  Great food for the microorganisms in the soil.  I add it to water as a drench or foliar feed to spray on the plants.
  • Rabbit Poop  3-2-1 This is great stuff!  You can use it directly without even composting it and the plants love it.  I get mine from a lady in Lewisville that raises rabbits now that we don’t have rabbits anymore.
  • Chicken Poop 5-3-2 Great stuff, but you have to compost it first.  Mine has wood shavings mixed in as well since that is what we line our coop and run with.
  • Liquid Seaweed 1-0-1 Makes a great foliar spray, but also stinks.

OK, I know there are a lot more things out there, but these are the ones I have used.  There are also things like Bat Guano (never used) but I don’t have the notes on those or the time to look for it.  I’m sure they are out there somewhere.  Hopefully this helps a little.

-- Weather When Posted --

  • Temperature: 89°F;
  • Humidity: 51%;
  • Heat Index: 93°F;
  • Wind Chill: 89°F;
  • Pressure: 29.72 in.;


Animal Pests

Ginger Bunny

Ginger Bunny

I would advise that you try to find a way to embrace the diversity of wildlife that comes to your yard, but if you have a few animals that are just not considerate to the landscape and ruin things for everyone else, there are solutions.  Try some of these:

  • Armadillos – use live traps to trap and release, sprinkle the area with blood meal.
  • Birds – Cats, Garlic spray, flash tape.  I would honestly rather have the birds, but if you are plagued by birds like grackles, try taking in all pet food at night and putting bird feeders away for a while.  If the issue is that they are eating your fruits and you don’t feel you have enough to share, then try netting.
  • Cats – Dogs, citrus extract or peelings, live traps (for feral cats), hot pepper sprinkled around problem area, thorny rose cuttings around potty spots.  Keep your own cats inside.
  • Deer – hang a bar of soap in a tree near the problem area,  spread human hair (from local barber/salon) around area, put up an electric fence around the area, plant things they don’t like (not always possible), lemon oil, moth balls (a little goes a long way!)
  • Dogs – live traps, Howard Garrett’s “Dog B-Gone Home Brew” (one part cayenne pepper, 2 parts mustard powder, 2 parts flour)
  • Gophers & Moles – gopher traps, “gopher spurge” (Euphorbia lathyrus) planted around area, garlic and castor plants planted as a barrier
  • Rabbits – Electric or buried fencing, cayenne pepper sprinkled around, bone meal sprinkled around area, fox urine (you can actually buy this at organic supply centers – I wouldn’t want to be the person collecting it!)
  • Raccoons – live traps, garlic pepper tea, electric fence
  • Rats & Mice – any kind of trap, citrus oil, keep the area tidy – especially around bird feeders, moth balls (try just one!)
  • Skunks – live traps (you may want help with this one)
  • Snakes – keep the dangerous ones out by encouraging bull and king snakes; roadrunners and other snake eating birds.  Most garden snakes are beneficial (remember those rats? They eat them!) so try your hardest to learn the good guys and let them stay.
  • Squirrels – live traps, fox urine, blood meal and/or cayenne pepper.  But aren’t they cute?
  • Turtles – most are beneficial, but trap and release if you must.  You may need to protect the veggies from them.

I know that the Town of Flower Mound will loan out live capture traps to residents.  If you don’t live in Flower Mound, try your local government or check with the county extension office.


Garrett Juice

Souvenir de St. Anne

Souvenir de St. Anne

Sure, you can make your own concoction and it will be cheaper, but Howard Garret makes it so easy!  Spraying with ‘Garrett Juice’ is one of the things I try to do regularly in my garden and the roses and veggies especially love it!  It is an incredible folliar feed.  I went for a couple of years not being able to tend to my garden quite as diligently and I could definitely tell the difference when I didn’t use it!

You can either buy Garrett Juice (my favorite option when I can afford it) or you can make it yourself.  Here is the recipe from his “Texas Organic Gardening” book.

  • Compost tea – label directions or if homemade, use 1 cup/gallon
  • Seaweed – 1 ounce/gallon
  • Molasses – 1 ounce/gallon
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – 1 ounce/gallon

I sometimes even add Garlic/Pepper tea to mine if the bugs are particularly bad to give it a little ‘punch’.  I put the concoction in a sprayer and spray all foliage well.  If you are making your own, be sure to strain your teas well or you may end up with a clogged sprayer.  And then be sure to clean your sprayer well after use.


The Thrashing of Thrips

Traviata Rose

Traviata Rose

Every year I have a small problem with thrips.  It seems like they emerge a couple of weeks before their predators do.

Thrips are those tiny little vampire gnat-like things that suck the blood out of your roses and make thier poor little heads droop.  You can’t see them without a magnifying glass, but you know them by the damage they leave behind.

I usually just wait until the beneficial green lacewings (a very good bug!) catch up and eat them up.  That way, I don’t have to go and buy green lacewings – they just come because they know that they have a chemical-free buffet waiting for them in my yard.

If it’s just driving me crazy or I’m feeling overly industrious, I will spray with garlic-pepper tea.  Here is the recipe and it usually makes enough to last for more an entire season:

Garlic-Pepper Tea

Put a couple of hot peppers (habanero, jalapeno, cayenne, etc.) and a couple of cloves of garlic in a blender with a couple of cups of water and liquefy.

Pour the mixture through a strainer and pour into a gallon jug (I like the big glass apple jugs becuase I have had plastic milk jugs develop holes and leak)Add enough water to fill the jug.

Shake before using and add 1/4 cup of the mixture to a gallon of water in a large sprayer (or another jug to fill a small spray bottle).

Be careful with this concoction.  It is lethal to more than just thips!  It will also kill ladybug and green lacewings.  Only use it when you really feel you have to.

Another thing you can do to deal with thrips are buy some green lacewings to release.  I saw some in my garden yesterday.  They are tiny, but really cool.

You could also spray with tobacco tea (cigarette butts with filters removed that have been soaking in a gallon of water for 24 hours thinned to a pale tea color) but I don’t smoke and rarely have cigarette butts laying around.  Tobacco is another indiscriminate killer so use it with caution.  Your ladybugs will thank you.

As a repellent, you can spray your roses with seaweed.  That is has a bonus effect since the seaweed repels the thrips and also acts as a foliar feed for you plant.

So… please leave the Sevin, Dursban and Malathion to Bayer, Dow Chemical and Southern Agriculture.  All three of these chemicals have shown to have health effects to humans and they have not eradicated a single pest, but they have created “super bugs” that have developed resistance.  There – that’s my plea.


Howard Garrett’s Sick Tree Treatment

Natural Organic Home Garden Health Howard Garrett Dirt Doctor – Sick Tree Treatment.

Sick Tree Treatment

Step 1: Stop Using High Nitrogen Fertilizers and Toxic Chemical Pesticides
Toxic chemical pesticides kill beneficial nematodes, other helpful microbes, good insects, and also control the pest insects poorly.  Synthetic fertilizers are unbalanced, harsh, high in salt, often contaminated and destructive to the chemistry, the physics and the life in the soil.  They also feed plants poorly and contaminate the environment.

Step 2: Remove Excess Soil from the Root Flare

A very high percentage of trees are too deep in their containers and also have been planted too low or have had fill soil or eroded soil added on top of the root flares.  Soil on top of the root flare reduces oxygen availability and leads to circling and girdling roots.  Soil, or even heavy mulch on trunks, keeps the bark constantly moist which can rot or girdle trees.  Ideally, excess soil and circling and girdling roots should be removed before planting.  Removing soil from the root flares of existing trees should be done professionally with a tool called the Air Spade.  Homeowners can do the work by hand with a stiff broom or brush.  Gentle water and a shop-vac can be used if done very carefully.  Vines and ground covers should also be kept off tree trunks.  They should actually be pruned back away from the flares, at least on an annual basis.

Step 3:  Aerate the Root Zone Heavily
Don’t rip, till or plow the soil.  That destroys all the feeder roots.  Punch holes (with turning forks, core aerators or agriculture devices such as the Air-Way) heavily throughout the root zone.   Liquid injectors and the Air Spade can also be used.  Start between the drip line and the trunk and go far out beyond the drip line.  Holes 6-8″ deep are ideal, but any depth is beneficial.

Step 4:  Apply Organic Amendments

Apply zeolite 40-80 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft., greensand at about 40-80 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft., lava sand at about 80-120 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft., horticultural cornmeal at about 20-30 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. and dry molasses at about 10-20 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.  Cornmeal is a natural disease fighter and molasses is a carbohydrate source to feed the microbes in the soil.    Expanded shale applied at 1/2 ” is also very helpful if the budget allows this step. Apply a 1″ layer of compost followed by a 3″ layer of shredded native tree trimmings; however, do not pile mulch up on the root flare or the trunk.  Smaller amounts of these materials can be used where budget restrictions exist.  Also, any rock dust material different than the base rock on the site will help.

Step 5:  Spray Trees and Soil and Apply Microbes
Spray the ground, trunks, limbs, twigs and foliage of trees with compost tea or the entire Garrett Juice mixture.  Do this monthly or more often if possible.  Drench the root zone with Garrett Juice plus Thrive microbe product containing bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. For large-scale farms and ranches, a one-time spraying is beneficial if the budget doesn’t allow ongoing sprays.  Adding garlic oil tea or cornmeal juice to the spray is also beneficial for disease control while the tree is in trouble.  Cornmeal Juice is a natural fungal control that is made by soaking horticultural or whole ground cornmeal in water at 1 cup per 5 gallons of water.  Screen out the solids and spray without further dilution.  Cornmeal Juice can be mixed with compost tea, Garrett Juice or any other natural foliar feeding spray.  It can also be used as a soil drench for the control of soil borne diseases.  Dry granulated garlic can also be used on the soil in the root zone at about 1-2 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. for additional disease control.  Adding Plant Wash to the spray is also helpful against insect pests and disease pathogens.

During drought conditions, adding soil moisture is  a critical component.

Thank you Mr. Garrett, for helping me save my tree!

-- Weather When Posted --

  • Temperature: 82°F;
  • Humidity: 69%;
  • Heat Index: 86°F;
  • Wind Chill: 82°F;
  • Pressure: 30.05 in.;


A Solution for Black Spot

The best solution for black spot is to get roses that are so vigorous that they aren’t susceptible.  There are plenty out there, but if you get a rose that succumbs to black spot that you just can’t give up on (and who hasn’t?) then there are several things you can do :

  1. Keep water off the leaves.  Water at the roots and not overhead.
  2. Water deeper, but less often.
  3. Prune to increase air flow to the inside of the bush and remove the lowest limbs so that air can flow from underneath.
  4. Improve the soil with compost, mulch, earthworm casting and biostimulants (like compost tea, molasses, fish water, etc.).
  5. Spray the leaves early in the day with a baking soda solution of 4 teaspoons of baking and one teaspoon of non-phosphate soap (not detergent!) to a gallon of water.  I like to use Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap.  You could also use vegetable oil or a summer weight horticultural oil instead of the soap.  This is a great fungicide for use on the leaves and not for use on the soil or it can harm other organisms that you need for a healthy soil.
  6. Keep diseased leaves cleaned up but don’t put them in the compost pile or you may just spread your problem.
  7. Keep the plants as healthy as you can by using a compost tea as a foliar feed.  Instead of making my own, I usually just buy Garret Juice and Liquid Seaweed, but I make my own when I can’t afford those.
  8. If the problem is not too bad, just live with it.  If the problem is really bad, get rid of the rose.  That is just not the place for that particular rose.