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The harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica), also known as calico bug, fire bug or harlequin cabbage bug is a black stinkbug that is particularly destructive to cabbage and related plants in tropical America as well as throughout most of North America, especially the warmer parts of United States.

Yellow marked harlequin bug.

Yellow marked harlequin bug.

Host Plants:

In addition to cabbage, harlequin bugs can be a major pest of broccoli, radishes, kale, collards, mustard, turnips, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. They may also attack corn, tomatoes, okra, squash, asparagus and beans.

Damage:

Both adults and nymphs cause damage to stems, leaves, fruits and seeds. They use their piercing mouthparts to inflict damage and suck away plant sap. Damage on leaves and stem look like uneven discolored spots. Young plants if left unchecked, will wilt, turn brown and eventually die. Mature plants will have their growth stunted. Damage on fruits will appear as dark holes or white-yellowish spots.

Symptoms include cloudy areas around the point of extraction, browning and wilting plants, and slower plant growth.

Description:

Adult harlequin bugs are attractive shield-shaped shiny black insects with bright red, yellow or orange markings. They measure about 7-10 mm in length.

Harlequin bug eggs.

Harlequin bug eggs.

Eggs are light colored barrel-shaped, 1 mm long and are laid in clusters in the foliage. Eggs hatch in 5-14 days.

The nymph is oval and similar to adults in appearance and color but slightly smaller and lack wings.  Nymphs mature into adults in 5-8 weeks.

Generally 1-3 generations depending on location with warmer places more likely to have more generations.

Organic Control and Prevention of Harlequin Bugs:

1. Grow resistant varieties: Some types of brassica plants are naturally resistant to Harlequin bugs. The following varieties are recommended:

Cabbage: Copenhagen Market 86, Headstart, Savoy Perfect Drumhead, Stein’s Flat Dutch, Early Jersey Wakefield.

Collards: Green Glaze.

Cauliflower: Early Snowball X, Snowball Y.

Radishes: Red Devil, White Icicle, Globemaster, Cherry Belle, Champion, Red Prince.

2. Cultural control: Destroy heavily weeded and bushy areas in and near your garden. Adult stink bugs prefer overwintering in such sites among legumes, blackberries, Russian thistle, mustards and little mallow. Till the growing area, destroy and rid of crop debris and good weed management will help minimize stink bug populations.

3. Monitor and handpick: Harlequin bugs have decent mobility so be prepared. They also release a stink gas when threatened so beware and cover your nose! Remove them and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Shaking infested plant or tree will send them tumbling down. Growers have successfully controlled harlequin bugs by frequent vacuuming. Spray plants with water to knock them down and kill them off.

4. Plant trap crops: Mustard, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, sunflower, marigolds, lavender and chrysanthemums are good trap crops to attract stink bugs to attack them rather than your crop of interest. Once these trap crops are infested, keep a bag ready to trash the infested plant in.

5. Physical traps: Yellow sticky traps or bucket painted yellow filled with soapy water can rid of quite a few unsuspecting stink bugs.  An open pipe painted yellow stuck into the ground can also be used effectively for trapping stink bugs. Then there are commercially available stink bug traps that can be tried out.

6. Beneficial insects include ants, ladybird beetles, minute pirate bugs and some lacewings, all of which destroy stink bug egg masses. Attract these insects by planting several nectar producing flowers. Praying mantises, toads and some birds (including chickens and ducks) would love to feed on some adult Harlequin bugs.

7. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your garden and in prone areas. It works by breaking down the waxy protective layer on the stink bugs exoskeleton, eventually causing it to dehydrate.

8. Make a garlic spray and use as frequently as needed. Stink bugs detest the potent smell of garlic and will repel them from your garden.

9. Kaolin, a soft, white silicate clay mineral can be combined with water to form a protective physical powdery barrier that will prevent stink bugs and other pests from feeding on plant tissue.

10. Use an organic insecticidal soap and spray this solution directly on stink bugs or in areas they frequent. The soap kills the bugs by breaking down their protective exterior and dehydrating them.

11. Neem oil is another natural product that can help reduce stink bug populations by disrupting their feeding and mating habits.

12. Companion planting: Plant garlic, tansy, mint, catnip and radish to help repel Harlequin bugs.

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Radicchio (pronounced ra-dee-kyoh) is a leaf chicory, sometimes called Italian chicory, and is a perennial. Radicchio (Cichorium intybus) is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red or purple leaves and it belongs to the Asteraceae family. Radicchio in general, has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when grilled or roasted. Radicchio has been in existence since ancient times and Pliny the Elder, the ancient Roman philosopher, praised radicchio for its medicinal properties, claiming that it was useful as a blood purifier and an aid for insomniacs. He was definitely on to something because when Italian scientists recently tested radicchio phenol content it scored high!radicchio

Nutritional Content of Radicchio

Radicchio is a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. It also has high amounts of antioxidants and plant phytonutrients. It is low in calories and is free of fats and cholesterol. Radicchio is a good source of selenium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E and folate.

Health Benefits of Radicchio

1. The bitter principle in radicchio is lactucopicrin (intybin), a sesquiterpene lactone which is a potent antimalarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic (painkiller) effect.

2. Radicchio promotes weight loss by virtue of its high fiber that makes one full and keeps one satiated for longer.

3. Radicchio is high in antioxidants that boost overall health, wellness and energy.

4. Radicchio promotes bile production which in turn improves digestion and reduces cholesterol. Reducing cholesterol is directly beneficial to organ health and vigor.

5. Radicchio is an excellent source of vitamin K which has an important role in bone healthy promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strength) activity. Further, adequate vitamin K levels which can be got by consuming radicchio helps limit neuronal damage in the brain and is thus an established treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Radicchio is an excellent source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as zea-xanthin and lutein which are known to offer protection to age related macular disease by filtering harmful ultraviolet rays.

7. Radicchio neutralizes free radicals in humans, helps fight cell damage and fights cell damage to DNA that may lead to coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

8. Radicchio contains a substance called inulin that naturally helps to regulate blood sugar levels. This is linked to a reduction in the risk of strokes and other heart diseases.

9. Radicchio aids digestion and colon cleansing by its high fiber content. Also radicchio has been used to fight intestinal worms and parasites to great effect.

10. Polyphenols found in radicchio help neutralize free radicals and give a mental sharpness, keen eyesight and lower incidence of stomach flu.

Interested in growing radicchio? Find Heirloom Radicchio Seeds at our online store.

The radish (Raphanus sativus) is an edible root vegetable of the Brassicaceae family, which was domesticated in Europe, in pre-Roman times. They are grown and consumed throughout the world. Radishes have numerous varieties, varying in size, color and duration of required cultivation time. Radish can sprout from seed to small plant in as little as 3 days, hence the descriptive Greek name of the genus Raphanus which means “quickly appearing”. Both the root and leaves are commonly eaten as a vegetable in salads, stir fry, curry, soups and stew.

White radish.

White radish.

Nutritional Content of Radish

Radishes are low in calories and fat and are packed with all sorts of essential nutrients and vitamins. Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium.

Health Benefits of Radish

1. Weight loss: Radishes are low in digestible carbohydrates, high in roughage and contain a lot of water which make them a filling food and a very good option for those determined to lose weight.

2. Cardiovascular health: Radishes are a great source of anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid, which give the color to radishes and have been positively linked to reducing the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.

3. Fight cancer: Researchers at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in India found that radishes induce apoptosis which means that they kill cancer cells. Furthermore, isothiocyanate antioxidant compound called sulforaphane found in radishes has a proven role in preventing prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of its cancer cell growth inhibition and cyto-toxic effects on cancer cells.

4. Eases respiration: Radishes act as a natural decongestant and is particularly useful for chronic bronchial flare-ups, sinus infections and asthma.

5. Naturally cooling: Radishes are a naturally cooling food and their pungent flavor is highly regarded in eastern medicine for the ability to decrease excess heat in the body.

6. Promotes digestion: Radishes are a natural cleansing agent for the digestive system, helping to break down and eliminate stagnant food and toxins built up over time. Radishes have a calming effect on the digestive system and can relieve bloating and indigestion. Also, the detoxifying nature of radishes helps relieve the symptoms of piles quickly.

7. Against jaundice: Radishes are extremely useful in treating jaundice because it removes bilirubin and also keeps its production at a stable level. It also reduces the destruction of red blood cells of those suffering from jaundice by increasing the supply of fresh oxygen to the blood.

8. Treatment of urinary disorders: Radishes are diuretic in nature which means that they increase the production of urine and also cure inflammation and burning sensation during urination. Regular radish consumption cleans out the kidneys and inhibits infections in the kidney and urinary tract, thus helping in the treatment of various urinary conditions that are exacerbated by excess toxins in the system.

9. Reduces blood pressure: Radishes are a very good source of potassium, which contributes to a large list of health benefits. Potassium is associated with reducing blood pressure because it dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow by widening the blood vessels.

10. Immunity booster: Fresh radish is rich in vitamin C and carotenoids which are powerful antioxidants required by the body for protection, energy, vitality and disease prevention.

11. Bone health: When it comes to rich plant sources of calcium, radishes come close to the highest. Calcium is necessary for good bone growth and mineralization of bone and teeth.

12. Skin disorders: Vitamin C, phosphorus, zinc and B-vitamins that are present in radishes are very good for the skin. Furthermore, the high water content of radish helps to maintain healthy moisture levels in the skin. Due to its disinfectant properties, radishes also help clear up skin disorders like dry skin, rashes and cracks.

Radishes are a great filler crop around the empty spaces around other plants because they are so fast growing that they will finish growing before the other plants fill in! Find various Heirloom Radish Seeds at our online store. For help on growing radishes, read our How to Plant Radishes article. Good luck and happy gardening!

Few things irk a tomato gardener more than a promising crop of healthy, juicy tomatoes ruined by fruitworms. The larva of the moth Helicoverpa zea is a major agricultural pest. It can feed on many different plants; hence the species has many common names depending on what the larva is consuming. Tomato fruitworm, when it consumes tomatoes. Cotton bollworm and corn earworm, when it consumes cotton and corn respectively, are its other well known aliases.

Tomato fruitworm adult moth.

Tomato fruitworm adult moth.

Description:

Adult moths have yellowish tanned bodies, a tan-colored head and bright green eyes. A solitary dark dot in the middle of each forewing coupled with several dark markings help distinguish them. The hindwings are pale in color and is enveloped by a dark brown border.

The moth lays eggs on the foliage of host plants both on upper and lower surfaces. Eggs are white or cream-colored, slightly flat, spherical shaped that darken before larvae hatch. Depending on the temperature, larvae hatch in 2-10 days.

The larva that hatches from the eggs is yellowish to white in color with a brown head. As the larva matures, its color can change to green, yellow, brown, red or black. Larvae are about 1 ½ inches long, have tan heads and alternating light and dark stripes that run lengthwise on their body. Their skin is coarse and has small, thorn-like projections called tubercles. The voracious larval stage lasts 14-21 days.

Typical damage from tomato fruitworm larvae.

Typical damage from tomato fruitworm larvae.

When the larvae are done feeding they drop down to the ground, enter the soil and transform into shiny brown pupae. Adult moths emerge from pupae in 10-14 days and start the cycle over. There are 2-5 generations per growing season.

Host Plants:  

The host plants of tomato fruitworms are a plenty. They love tomato, corn and cotton the most, yet don’t be surprised to see them on eggplant, okra, peppers, soybeans, beans, squash, sunflower and tobacco.

Damage:

Damage is caused only by the larvae. Although larvae can feed and develop on leaf tissue, the preferred feeding sites in most crops are the reproductive sites, such as tomato fruit and corn ears. On corn, the larvae feed on fresh silk before moving down the ears eating kernels and leaving trails of excrement. In tomatoes, evidence of damage is usually a visible black hole at the base of the fruit stem. They will also eat the flower buds and chew holes in the leaves. It is much the same, though less common, on the other types of plants.

Tomato fruitworm larva and egg.

Tomato fruitworm larva and egg.

Organic Control and Preventative Measures:

1. Trim tomato plants so that there are no leaves or stems any lower than 12 inches from the ground. This allows ample airflow from ground up and helps keep away many insects from dwelling in your plants and feasting on your precious tomatoes.

2. Look for signs of fruitworm infestations regularly. Adults lay eggs on both sides of leaves, usually close to blossoms. Ridding of eggs can reduce fruitworm populations drastically. Handpick and destroy fruitworm eggs and larvae as you find them.

3. Prevent fruitworms from boring into fruit by covering fruit with fine netting. Better yet, cover plants with floating row-covers to prevent adults from laying eggs on host plants.

4. Avoid growing tomato near corn or any other aforementioned crop, unless your intention is to use them as a trap crop. If one plant gets infested, you could have your garden teeming with fruitworms!

5. Encourage natural predators of the tomato fruitworm. Big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, lacewing and damsel bugs feed on tomato fruitworms. Attract them by planting goldenrod, daisies, alfalfa and stinging nettle. Trichogramma wasps and Hyposoter exiguae wasps parasitize the eggs and larvae respectively. Planting dill, parsley and asters attracts the parasitic Trichogramma wasps. These wasps are available commercially and can be ordered.

6. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a microbial biological control, is effective against tomato fruitworms among several other pests. Use Bt at the first sign of fruitworm eggs. Apply as directed by the product label. Bt works by paralyzing the digestive system and infected fruitworms stop feeding within hours.

7. Neem oil and biodegradable insecticidal soaps have been found to deter fruitworm infestations. Spinosad, a natural, broad-spectrum biological insecticide made from soil microbes works on tomato fruitworms too.

8. Cultural control: Remove and destroy infected plants. Roto-till the soil at the beginning and end of the season to expose and destroy overwintering fruitworm pupae. Rotate crops by planting tomatoes in a different area of your garden each year. Companion planting with garlic has been said to repel many pests.

9. Dusting plants with diatomaceous earth or Rotenone can help deter fruitworms from moving about the plant.

Common Name: Squash Vine Borer

Scientific Name: Melittia cucurbitae

Squash vine borers are one of the most common pests encountered when growing pumpkins or squash. They are a native American insect and are rarely seen west of the Rocky Mountains, but are extremely common in the east. They are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day and are known to prefer laying eggs at sunset.

Squash vine borer moth.

Squash vine borer moth.

Description:

Adults: Narrow-winged, olive-brown, 1-1 ½ inch moths, with fringed hind legs, clear hind wings, and reddish orange abdomens with black rings. The squash vine borer moth can possibly be mistaken for a bee or wasp because of its movements and bright orange hind-leg scales.

Eggs: Brown, flat, oval. Laid generally singly on the basal stems.

Larvae: Start out as tiny white caterpillars with brown heads. Feed for 4-6 weeks.

Pupae: Silk-lined, black cocoon, ¾inch long. Generally 1-2 inches below the soil surface.

Host Plants:

Vines of squash, pumpkin, cucumbers, melons and gourds.

Squash vine borer larvae.

Squash vine borer larvae.

Damage:

Larvae or squash vine borers chew the inner plant tissue near the base causing vines to wilt, girdle and die off. You can often see a small hole and some frass that looks like sawdust at the base stems.

Organic Control and Prevention of Squash Vine Borers:

Good organic control should involve a combo of several different methods.

1. Cultural practices: Since squash vine borers overwinter in the soil as cocoons, removing spent vines and crop debris after harvesting is a good idea. Till your grow area to destroy any larvae or pupae still present and expose them to natural predators. Avoid planting squash in the same location in the garden season after season.

Squash vine borer eggs.

Squash vine borer eggs.

2. Row covers: Early in the growing season, use floating row covers to keep adult squash vine borer moths from laying eggs. Later when vines start flowering, uncover for pollinators or hand-pollinate. After removing the row covers, use pieces of tulle (wedding net) or aluminum foil to cover any exposed lower sections.

3. Monitoring and handpicking: Keep a close eye on your plants, especially check the stems near the ground. Seek and destroy vine borer eggs. If you see vine borer holes in the stems, one of the only things to do is surgically cut them out. Use a knife to make a slit along the stem (not across!) until you find the culprit or culprits. Remove and kill the caterpillar and cover the cut area of the stem right away with soil or compost to promote rooting.

4. Grow resistant varieties: Butternut squash and other varieties classified as Cucurbita moschata are naturally resistant to squash vine borers. Hubbard type winter squash varieties, yellow summer squash and zucchini, i.e. Cucurbita pepo varieties on the other hand are highly preferred by squash vine borers, and can be used as a trap crop. Another general rule of thumb is that wide hollow stems are preferred to narrow or more solid stems.squash vine boerer

5. Color traps: The adult moths are attracted to the color yellow. Surround the garden with small yellow pails half filled with water.

6. Encourage secondary rooting: Heap soil or compost along stems of the plant at several points along the vine choosing nodes where new leaves and sprouts are occurring. This encourages the plant to send more roots into the ground giving rise to a healthy and strong plant that even if attacked by vine borers will not suffer too much damage.

7. Organic insecticides: Spray plants with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), concentrating on the stem area to tackle squash vine borers. You can also inject Bt or beneficial nematodes into the stalk where infection is present. These are commercially available, but always seek advice from a local expert to ensure its necessity.

8. Strategic timing: If you have a long growing season, set out transplants as late as possible to avoid the initial swarm of squash vine borers. If the weather permits, try to beat the vine borers by getting a very early crop out before the vine borers emerge.

 9. Grow healthy organic plants: Strong, healthy squash plants can manage to give good yields even after taking some damage from vine borers. Ensure that your plants are in a sunny location, in loose, well-drained rich soil with plenty of nutrients and compost.

10. For those who keep chickens or other poultry, allow them to clean up garden patches before the season (after tilling the soil) and at the end of the season.

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking but is gaining popularity in the United States in salads, quiche, stir fry and numerous other dishes. Swiss chard is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables available, and is a valuable addition to a healthy diet. Swiss chard is also known by its many common names such as chard, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights, seakale beet and mangold. Swiss chard belongs to the beet family and unlike most beets is harvested for the leaves and stalks rather than the roots. Swiss chards feature green to dark-green leaves with stalks varying in color depending on variety from green, red, white, orange, yellow, purple and pink.swiss chard

Nutritional Content of Swiss Chard

Swiss chards are nutritional powerhouses that are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, iron, protein and dietary fiber. It is low in calories and fats. All parts of the plant contain oxalic acid.

Health Benefits of Swiss Chard

1. Bone health: Swiss chard is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K all of which add to the strengthening of bones and teeth.

2. Fights cancer: Swiss chard is a super-food with anti-cancer properties owing to the abundance of fiber, phytonutrients and various antioxidants present in it.

3. Circulatory system health: Swiss chard is an excellent source of iron which is vital for maintaining a healthy circulatory system. Vitamin K is key for healthy blood clotting and preventing excessive bruising and bleeding and is found in Swiss chards in significant amounts.

4. Eye health: Swiss chards contain high amounts of lutein, an antioxidant essential for eye health and may possibly delay or prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.

5. Blood sugar regulation: Swiss chards contain fiber and syringic acid, both of which are involved in regulating blood sugar levels by altering the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the blood from the intestine.

6. Brain health: In addition to strengthening bones, the vitamin K present in Swiss chard is crucial for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system as it is essential for the formation of the protective layer around the nerves, called the myelin sheath.

7. Antioxidant properties: Swiss chards are one of the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet. It contains beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, lutein, zea-xanthin, quercitin, kaempferol and many other disease fighting compounds.

8. Hair health: Swiss chard is rich in biotin, a vitamin that promotes hair growth and strength. The vitamins A and C also assist the hair follicles in the production of sebum, which keeps hair and skin supple.

Learn to grow Swiss chard: How to Grow Swiss Chard. Find organic heirloom Swiss Chard seeds and much more at our online store.

The Tomato Pinworm (Keiferia lycopersicella) is a pest of tomatoes in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In the United States, it has been reported in several southern states, especially in the hot agricultural areas of Texas, California, Georgia and Florida and has also been reported from greenhouses in Delaware, Ohio and other northerly states.

Tomato Pinworm Adult Moth.

Tomato Pinworm Adult Moth.

Host Plants:

Tomato is the preferred host of tomato pinworms. They may also infest other solanaceous crops such as potato and eggplant and solanaceous weeds such as purple nightshade, wild tomato, horsenettle and blue witch nightshade.

Damage:

The tomato pinworm feeds on both leaves and fruits of tomato. When they feast on leaves, they tunnel or mine through making blotch-type mine patches that feature all over the plant. Tomato pinworm larvae will attack fruit at any stage of maturity. Their favorite point of entry is near the stem of the fruit under the calyx. Abundant pinworm populations can seriously damage foliage and infest nearly 100% of the fruit. When infested fruit is picked, tomato pinworms are hard to detect unless they have been feeding long enough to have left behind piles of brown, granular frass at the edge of the calyx or their tiny entry point holes.

Tomato Pinworm Larva.

Tomato Pinworm Larva.

Description:

Adult moths are small, reaching a maximum of 8mm in length. The wings have a ground color of brown or silver, with ill-defined black streaks and speckling. The antennae and legs are brown ringed with black. They emerge in spring and females lay eggs on host plants.

Eggs are either laid scattered or in small groups of 3-7, mainly on the upper leaves, on both lower and upper leaf surfaces. Eggs are oval, tiny, pearly white at first, becoming a pale yellow before hatching. They are less than 0.5 mm making them very hard to detect. Eggs take 4-8 days to hatch.

Newly hatched larvae are yellow or cream colored with black or brown head. As the larvae mature they develop dorsal coloration that is usually green or yellowish with an irregular band of red, brown or purple across each body segment. Larvae appear smooth skinned without any prominent bristles or tubercles. The fully grown larva is 6-8 mm long and the larval stage lasts about 10-15 days after which they pupate.tomato_pinworm

Pupation takes place within a loosely-spun cocoon in several possible locations including leaf-folds, just below soil surface, under debris, on support structures of tomato plants or in the fruits which is rare. Pupa is spindle-shaped; greenish at first but soon matures into a dark chestnut brown color. Pupal stage lasts 8-20 days.

Organic Control and Prevention of Tomato Pinworms

1. Monitoring is key to detecting initial populations and preventing their build-up if any. Monitoring can be done by setting up pheromone traps at the same height as the top of tomato plants so as to check if adult tomato pinworm moths have been in the vicinity. Also, inspecting and scouting your plants manually for signs of eggs and pinworms should be done regularly.

2. Cultural Practices: End of season clean-up is essential for the prevention of future contamination. Garden debris should be cleared off and even burned if infestation occurred and the soil should be tilled to destroy any overwintering pupae. Clear weedy areas close to your garden.

3. Hand Removal: By regularly inspecting your crops for eggs and larvae from the very start, and hand removing and destroying infested leaves, a build-up in population can very much be prevented or at least minimized.

4. Light Traps: Tomato pinworm adult moths are attracted to lights and using a light trap once it gets dark can assist in reducing adult populations.

5. Mating Disruption: Sex pheromones can be applied to foliage as a spray or released into the atmosphere to confuse tomato pinworm male moths and disrupt mating.

6. Biological Control: Wasps, ladybugs and lacewings will feed on the larvae or eggs. Trichogramma wasps are predatory egg parasitoid wasps that have been found to be effective for tomato pinworm control.

7. Companion Planting: It is a good idea to plant plants in the umbelliferae family with your tomatoes as they are great for attracting predatory insects owing to their tiny nectar producing flowers. Carrots, dill, parsley, coriander, celery among many others! Also basil with tomatoes are said to go well.

8. Bacillus thuringiensis is a very effective organic insecticide for all worms that attack tomatoes including tomato pinworms. Spinosad, an alternative biological agent can be used as an insecticide on the tomato pinworm. Consult with a local specialist before going for any of these treatments.

9. Row covers: If you cover your tomato plants with row covers, you can avoid all sorts of pests including tomato pinworm adults from laying eggs on plants.

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is one of the most delicate salad plants in the world, grown most often for its leaves, but sometimes for its stem and seeds. It is an annual that belongs to the sunflower family Asteraceae. Lettuce is usually eaten cold and raw, in salads, hamburgers, tacos and several other dishes. There are basically 6 different types of lettuce, namely Butterhead (Boston or Bibb), Chinese lettuce, Crisphead (Iceberg), Looseleaf, Romaine and Summer Crisp (Batavia), each having many varieties that vary in nutritional content.

Romaine Lettuce!

Romaine Lettuce!

Nutritional Content of Lettuce

All lettuce varieties have low calorific values but have a varied nutritional content. Lettuce in general is a good source of chlorophyll, vitamin K, vitamin C, B-vitamins, calcium, fiber, folate and iron. Lettuce also contains significant amounts of lutein, beta-carotene, lycopene, potassium, alkaloids and zea-xanthin.

Health Benefits of Lettuce

1. Weight loss: Lettuce is an amazing food for dieters owing to its low calorific value combined with its fiber content that gives a feeling of fullness for long.

2. Complete protein: Quite surprisingly, lettuce can be a good source of proteins, and complete proteins at that! That means that they have all 8 essential amino acids.

3. Heart healthy: Lettuce’s vitamin C and beta-carotene work in tandem to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, thus preventing the buildup of plaque.

4. Promotes restoration of tissue: Magnesium in lettuce plays an important role in the recovery of tissue, nerves, brain and muscles. Eating lettuce can accelerate recovery of tired muscles, tissues and nerves.

5. Helps with insomnia: Lettuce’s lactucarium content that can be noticed when the leaves are cut, helps induce relaxation and sleep.

6. Maintain blood sugar levels: Lettuce has a very low calorific value coupled with its nearly zero glycemic index helps maintaining blood sugar levels.

7. Protects eyesight: Beta-carotene is selectively absorbed in a selective way by the macular lutea. Lettuce contains beta-carotene and the regular consumption of beta-carotenes is known to lower risks of macular and degenerative eye diseases.

8. Detoxification: The abundance of minerals and nutrients found in lettuce along with its high water content helps remove toxins from the body.

9. Lettuce contains iron which is an important component of blood hemoglobin and is beneficial in the fight against many heart diseases.

10. Promotes healthy digestion: The good amounts of fiber in lettuce protects the colon and maintains regular bowel movement helping to relieve constipation.

11. Lettuce is alkaline forming in the body and helps maintain the acid/alkaline balance in the body. This promotes good energy levels, clear thinking, good sleep and youthful skin.

12. Lettuce is a good food during pregnancy and lactation, as its folic acid content helps prevent megaloblastic anemia. Eating lettuce can a positive effect on the secretion of the hormone progesterone.

Gardening is an amazing activity and it provides you with fresh healthy food. Why not grow lettuce at home? Order Heirloom Lettuce Seeds from our online organic store. For assistance on growing, read How to Grow Lettuce or contact us. Happy Gardening and Healthy Eating!

The leek is a vegetable that belongs, along with onions and garlic, to the genus Allium, however unlike its fellow members, leeks do not form bulbs. The edible part of the leek plant is a bundle of leaf sheaths called the stem or stalk. While leeks may appear unassuming or even boring, they have several health benefits that are similar to those of garlic and onion.leeks

Nutritional Content of Leeks

100 grams of leeks contain about 83g water, 1.5g protein, 14g carbohydrates and minimal fat. Leeks are a source of several vitamins and nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, magnesium and manganese.

Health Benefits of Leeks

1. Fight cancer: Leeks are a good source of allyl sulfides which have been shown to modify certain pathways associated with the growth of tumors.

2. Protects linings of blood vessels: The flavonoid kaempferol which is present in significant amounts in leeks provides protection to the linings of blood vessels, particularly against free radicals or reactive oxygen species. Kaempferol may also increase the production of nitric oxide in the body, a substance that acts as a natural dilator and relaxant of blood vessels, thus allowing blood vessels to rest and lower the risk of hypertension.

3. Protect against heart disease: Studies have shown that members of the allium family have a slight blood pressure lowering effect and may help prevent platelets from clotting which could potentially lead to a heart attack. Leeks can help rid of homocysteine, a molecule that can be very detrimental to cardiovascular health.

4. Weight loss: Leeks are great for weight loss programs as they have a low calorific value. Also, the significant fiber content helps keep one satiated for long and boosts metabolism.

5. Decrease risk of chronic inflammatory diseases: Leeks can fight chronic low-level inflammatory states such as diabetes, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis by virtue of its polyphenol and kaempferol content.

6. Good during pregnancy: Leeks contain a bioactive form of folate called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. Folate consumption during pregnancy is key to preventing birth defects.

7. Antioxidant properties: The polyphenols found in leeks are known to be strong antioxidants that fight against free radicals that cause chronic disease and aging.

8. Vitamin and mineral action: Leeks contain vitamin C which is important in wound healing and collagen formation. Pyridoxine is important in efficient energy utilization. Vitamin K present in leeks is needed for blood coagulation and for metabolism of bone and connective tissues. Iron is required in the formation of hemoglobin while manganese functions as a coenzyme in many reactions in the body. Eating leeks regularly ensures that you get good amounts of these nutrients.

Get proactive and grow leek in your garden! Find Heirloom Leek Seeds at our online store. Learn How to Grow Leeks.

It doesn’t matter where you live or what color the stink bugs are, all stink bugs that comprise the nearly 200 different species have two things in common: they feed on everything and they stink! These invasive, stinky critters seem to multiply exponentially overnight and are a very troublesome pest.

Brown marmorated adult stink bug.

Brown marmorated adult stink bug.

Description:

The stink bug is part of the family of insects called pentatomids meaning “5-sided”. Common varieties include the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), southern green stink bug, two spotted stink bug, arboreal stink bug, red shouldered stink bug, rice stink bug, consperse stink bug and several others.

Adult stink bugs are distinctly shield shaped and vary in color depending on species. Most stink bugs are variations of brown or green and different species may have yellow, red or pink markings. Adults are approximately slightly over ½ inch long.

There is usually a single generation per year but a warm spring and good summers can see up to 3 generations. Adults overwinter on the ground under leaves, in dense foliage or on certain weeds (Russian thistle, little mallow) and emerge in spring to mate and lay drum shaped eggs in clusters on foliage of host plants, on stems and the underside of leaves.

Brown marmorated stink bug eggs.

Brown marmorated stink bug eggs.

When eggs hatch, nymphs grow through 5 developmental stages over the course of 4-5 weeks before maturing into adults.

Host Plants:

Stink bugs are known to feed on tomatoes, peppers, corn, soybeans, wheat, clover, sorghum, peas, beans and okra among other food crops. They also go rampant on fruit like apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, citrus fruits, persimmons, grapes, raspberries and more.

Damage:

Stink bugs feed by puncturing plant tissue and sucking sap with their sharp piercing-sucking mouthparts. They also pierce the peel or hull of fruiting structures and feed on the inner contents. They prefer feeding on developing seed and will preferentially do so.

Green adult stink bugs.

Green adult stink bugs.

Seeds that are damaged when small fail to develop. Larger seeds will have sunken white or discolored areas where feeding has taken place. The damage on peas, butter beans and green beans is like this.

On tomatoes and peppers damage usually appears as irregular shaped white or yellow blotches under the skin. Fissures below the surface harden. Sting points may also produce dark pinprick marks on fruit.

Both adults and nymphs have same feeding habits and do similar damage. Killing a stink bug does not attract other stink bugs.

Organic Control and Prevention of Stink Bugs:

1. Cultural control: Destroy heavily weeded and bushy areas in and near your garden. Adult stink bugs prefer overwintering in such sites among legumes, blackberries, Russian thistle, mustards and little mallow. Till the growing area, destroy and rid of crop debris and good weed management will help minimize stink bug populations.

2. Monitor and handpick: Stink bugs are somewhat sluggish and can be caught easily. They do release a stink gas when threatened so beware and cover your nose! Remove them and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Shaking infested plant or tree will send them tumbling down. Vacuuming them off is also an option. Spray plants with water to knock them down and kill them off.

3. Plant trap crops: Mustard, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, sunflower, marigolds, lavender and chrysanthemums are good trap crops to attract stink bugs to attack them rather than your crop of interest. Once these trap crops are infested, the stink bugs can be killed with ease.

4. Physical traps: Yellow sticky traps or bucket painted yellow filled with soapy water can rid of quite a few unsuspecting stink bugs.  An open pipe painted yellow stuck into the ground can also be used effectively for trapping stink bugs. Then there are commercially available stink bug traps that can be tried out.

5. Beneficial insects include ants, ladybird beetles and some lacewings, all of which destroy stink bug egg masses. Attract these insects by planting several nectar producing flowers.

6. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your garden and in prone areas. It works by breaking down the waxy protective layer on the stink bugs exoskeleton, eventually causing it to dehydrate.

7. Make a garlic spray and use as frequently as needed. Stink bugs detest the potent smell of garlic and will repel them from your garden.

8. Kaolin, a soft, white silicate clay mineral can be combined with water to form a protective physical powdery barrier that will prevent stink bugs and other pests from feeding on plant tissue.

9. Use an organic insecticidal soap and spray this solution directly on stink bugs or in areas they frequent. The soap kills the bugs by breaking down their protective exterior and dehydrating them.

10. Neem oil is another natural product that can help reduce stink bug populations by disrupting their feeding and mating habits.

11. Companion planting: Plant garlic, tansy, mint, catnip and radish to help repel stink bugs.