|Jessica Walliser has plenty of labor-saving suggestions in this book,|
so I am returning the favor.
My three favorite gardening writers are Jessical Walliser (bugs), Sharon Lovejoy (everything), and Jeff Lowenfels (soil). They are also Facebook friends with a wealth of knowledge and gardening joy to share.
installing and maintaining the insectary border
Before planting your border, take the time to create good growing conditions. As many of the plants you’ll be growing there do indeed require half-decent soil, spend some time considering the conditions of your site. The large majority of insectary plants featured throughout this book do best in average garden soil. No matter your soil type, additions of compost or well-aged animal manure improve soil structure, amend drainage issues, and serve to add various nutrients. As many of the best plants for beneficials actually prefer leaner soils, there is generally no need to add supplemental granular fertilizers. A few inches of compost each year is adequate.
Beginning your insectary border from scratch can be quite a challenge. If you have any reservations about your physical ability to create a new planting bed, you may want to consider hiring $omeone to do this part for you (and that is precisely what my husband and I have done ever since using a torturous sod-cutter to create a new planting bed at our farm). If you do decide to prepare the planting bed yourself, be aware that after any sod is stripped, the site should be tilled and a few inches of organic matter should be added before planting. There is also the “pile-it-on-and-wait” method, which involves placing 1 to 2 feet of well-aged animal manure, shredded leaves, grass clippings, compost, or even newspaper and unwaxed corrugated cardboard in layers over the bed to essentially smother the turf and, over time (you may have to wait six months to a year), amend the soil.
Or build a raised bed—one method capable of generating your new insectary border with a single weekend’s effort. Plenty of do-it-yourself frame kits are available these days that snap together and don’t even require tools. Or if you are handy, you can build your own frame with rot-resistant locust, cedar, or redwood planks. Stacked rocks, blocks, and bricks are good options, too. Once the frame is built, fill the bed with a mixture of three-quarters garden soil (or carefully sourced topsoil if you don’t have any extra soil from your own property) and one-quarter screened compost. It’s ready to plant in just a few hours.
Walliser, Jessica (2014-02-26). Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Kindle Locations 3204-3211). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
Labor Saving Tip for Jessica Walliser
Notice the time and effort involved in cutting sod, removing it somewhere (for composting?) and laying down mulch and compost to rebuild the soil.
Decades ago I discovered the power of composting sod, when I took large amounts of it from a maintenance project and filled a small compost pit with sod alone. That composted area was like jelly, like a waterbed, undulating months later when I walked on it. That happened long ago on the prairie soil when settlers jumped off their wagons and landed on the ground. They felt the waves of rich prairie soil beneath them, not compacted hard-pan.
Previous to that, I composted sod upside down to prop up a downspout, observing how fast it decreased in size, a characteristic of good compost material.
I reasoned that the Jackson Rose Farm, with its first arrival of 8 bargain rose bushes, could be planted in the front lawn, directly into the grass. Before that, I experienced rapid weed growth through mulch alone. One site or book suggested a layer of newspapers first.
Note that Jessica mentions the use of newspapers or cardboard, but that is after cutting and removing the sod. Another labor-additive method is to build raised beds. That means buying lumber and knowing how to make raised beds that no one laughs at. Tain't easy. My landscaper neighbor had trouble with his, built on a slope.
Newspapers interfere with the weeds ability to germinate by shutting down the light and heat, absorbing the nitrogen needed by the nasty little weed seeds. Sure crab grass is a grain, but that does not make the plant any prettier.
Nota bene, as the Romans used to say. Weeds also make good compost, so I took many big patches of crabgrass and converted them to gardening spaces with Jackson Mulch.
|Jeff Lowenfels is on the right.|
Easy as 1-2-3
Regular readers know that Jackson Mulch is the solution for turning lawns into productive gardens, immediately or over the winter.
- Lay down the newpapers, overlapping edges to prevent grass and weed breakouts later
- Pour on the mulch. Rake. Smells good.
- Add red wigglers on top from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.
That can be done after bushes are planted in the lawn - or in anticipation of a new gardening area.
I planted corn and pumpkins in mulch, so the weed problem was addressed last fall, 2014, and the soil creatures had plenty of time to enhance the soil in the months intervening. As Jessica has written in various places, the fall trashy area is a good place for beneficial insects to overwinter.
When it comes to preventing weeds in the first instance, nothing beats mulches. The nitrogen, phosphate, and sulfur weeds need to germinate and grow are tied up by the biology at the interface of the mulch and the soil. This makes it doubly hard for weeds to do well, as in addition to facing no light and a physical barrier to their growth, they are given a poor supply of nutrients. Really, when you think about it, why fuss around with the other tools, compost and compost teas? Put down 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) of a bacteria-supporting mulch before weeds appear, taking care to leave a bit of “bare” soil around the stems of your plants.
Lewis, Wayne; ; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 2869-2873). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
|The John Paul roses were hit hard by aphids,|
but the beneficial bugs took over.
Why Is the Jackson-Mulched Lawn So Good for the Soil?
I am not a soil chemist, a bug specialist, or a trained horticulturalist. I have no science degrees, only the best and easiest to manage rose farm around.
Grass is rich in nitrogen material, crawling with soil creatures, and packed with miles of roots. I see no reason to remove sod, only to build soil up again.
Red wiggler earthworms are great for the soil, but only if they have plenty of food. Nothing is better for them - and the soil - than to have a layer of food on top, to hold the moisture, prevent wind erosion, and feed the soil creatures beneath.
Putting Jackson Mulch around the newly planted roses meant that each bush received a double blessing of earthworms ready to work and many inches of lawn, newspaper, and shredded wood to feed the worms, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, and fungus.
My resident soil expert, Jeff Lowenfels (on Kindle) states that soil creatures trap nutrition in the top foot of soil. The growth of creatures will mean a constant exchange of usable elements for the plants. The nutrition is not lost and hauled away but fixed in the constantly moving, dying, reproducing, eating, and excreting ocean of life.
First, a fully active soil food web will have better nutrient retention in its soils. The bodies of all its members hold (immobilize) materials that will eventually be broken down into plant nutrients. Every time a fungus or bacterium is consumed and digested by a protozoan or nematode, nutrients are left behind in plant-available form. And since plants attract fungi and bacteria to their rhizospheres, the nutrients they provide are in the right location to be easily absorbed.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1532-1536). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.