Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Bull Snake

I just witnessed a very huge snake on our patio. He was about 6+ feet long and proceeded to slowly slither on the concrete, then lift up and methodically make himself at home in one of our potted asparagus ferns. He totally disappeared! Every so often I see a few fronds move, but only because I am watching.

The very large snake has been around our house for quite some time -- maybe a few years. This is his/her home. Apparently they are somewhat territorial and that is okay by me. I would rather have a bull snake share our home with us than a rattler. Also, they are quite good at keeping down the vermin population. Anyone that has ever lived in the desert knows - there's quite a huge pack rat, kangaroo mouse and prairie dog population.

We have on quite a few occasions found this bull snake's shed skin over the last couple of years, but he has rarely been seen by humans. I am thinking, if he is going to be around a while, we should probably name him/her. Any suggestions?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Three Natural Ways to Reduce Garden Pests

If you are planting an organic garden, try natural approaches to pest control using nontoxic means:

  1. Pyrethrum. This mixture of insecticidal compounds found in some species of African chrysanthemums controls aphids, whiteflies, stinkbugs and mites. You should be able to find pyrethrum products in your local garden center. (Some will say they contain "pyrethrins.") Check labels carefully to make sure you choose the product intended for the crops you're growing or the pests you're trying to eliminate.
  2. Neem. From the seeds and leaves of the Neem tree, Azadirachta indica, which is native to India, the compounds neem contains (such as azadirachtin) act as insect repellents. Neem is non-toxic to animals and humans and beneficial to bees. Although neem products are somewhat more expensive than most synthetic pesticides, they are worth it for both personal and environmental health.
  3. Insects. Consider adding beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis to your garden (both are commonly sold at garden centers).

Also ask your local garden shop about soap solutions you can spray on plants to kill insects, and about pheromone traps (useful against some insects, including Japanese beetles). You can always pick or brush insects off manually or wash them off with forceful streams of water.

Printed without permission from DrWeil.com