Repel Insects ... Naturally

Here it is, mid-June and by now your garden is established and producing an array of colorful blossoms.  If you're like me, there's always room for more. So, try to include plants that will not only add texture and color, but a purpose.

All of your hard work in planting your garden can be all for naught if you can't enjoy it. Those pesky mosquitoes and insects can ruin an evening in the garden or patio. This is the time to consider plants that will not only look lovely, but will also be productive ... plants that will help control insects naturally.
There are several that will produce the results you want and be eye pleasing in your yard. Here are just a few herbs and flowers that can help repel insects, produce flowers to add to your home, herbs to add to your cooking and beauty to your already existing garden.

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Lavender; for centuries it's been used for its fragrance. It should be planted in the sunny areas of your yard and areas that will you wish to be pest free. When dried and made into sachets, lavender makes a wonderful repellent against moths. 

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Lemon Balm; another mosquito repellent, grows well in this area, can be utilized dried as tea and is a lovely leafy plant that loves the sun. Though it is from the mint family is doesn't spread by underground runners, but rather by seed. It's best to trim down a few times during the growing season to prevent it from seeding and getting out of control.

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Marigolds; beautiful and in all types of varieties. Their distinctive aroma not only repels mosquitoes, but aphids, white flies and cabbage maggots. Marigolds are often used in companion gardening for just this reason. You want plants to work for you especially if they have these extra benefits for the gardener.

Lemon Basil; this variety of basil seems to be the favorite to repel mosquitoes. There are many different varieties of basil available. It wouldn't be summer without fresh basil and tomatoes or fresh pesto. Lucky for us, pesky insects are repelled by it's wonderful aroma no matter which variety you choose.

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Chrysanthemum; incredible colors and a truly hardy plant, bringing color to any flower arrangement. It produces pyrethrum which is a very effective bug repellent. Use as a companion plant to discourage aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites, ticks among others.  Tolerates high heat and early chills of fall.

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Lemongrass;  a close cousin to Citronella. Lemongrass is a natural repellent because it has a high geraniol and citral content. It can be applied directly to the skin by crushing the base of the stalk until the inside is mushy pulp. Twist and squeeze the oils directly to the skin. Another plus, it makes a great tea.

So, this is just a few of the herbs and flowers that help repel insects. Granted, if you are being overpowered by mosquitoes there may be other problems in your garden or patio. The big one is standing water....get rid of it! Just a small cap full of standing water enables mosquitoes to bred and make your life miserable. Below, I've added a few recipes for natural insect repellent that I found on the web. It might be worth trying it out...at least you'll smell like a million bucks!

 

HOMEMADE CITRONELLA SPRAY
1/2 cup distilled water
1/8 teaspoon Epsom salt
1/2 cup witch hazel
10 drops citronella essential oil
10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops lemongrass essential oil
5 drops tea tree essential oil
5 drops cedar wood essential oil

DIRECTIONS: Pour the water into an 8oz plastic spray bottle. Add the Epsom salt and shake until the salt is dissolved. Pour in the witch hazel. Add the essential oils. Ready to use.

 

HOMEMADE CITRONELLA LOTION
2 to 2 1/2 tbsp emulsifying wax
1/2 tsp stearic acid (a plant-based stabilizer)
1/3 cup (75ml) grapeseed oil
1/2 cup distilled water or lavender floral water
1 teaspoon (5ml) vitamin E
10 drops grapefruit seed extract
10 drops citronella essential oil
10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops lemongrass essential oil

DIRECTIONS: Stir grapeseed oil, emulsifying wax and stearic acid in the top part of a double boiler, warming slowly over a low heat until the wax is completely melted. Remove from heat and pour in the Vitamin E. In a separate pot on the stove, gently warm the water just until lukewarm. Slowly pour the water into the oil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture is thick, cream-colored and smooth. Let cool slightly. Stir in the essential oils and the grapefruit seed extract. Pour the homemade bug repellent lotion into a clean, sterilized 8oz (250ml) dark glass or P.E.T. plastic bottle and allow it to cool before putting the lid on. Shake the bottle occasionally as the lotion cools to prevent the ingredients from separating. Store in a cool, dark place.

 

 

Sustainable Landscapes

April showers bring May flowers and we're off to a great start. Farmer's Almanac is supporting cool temperatures with rain for April and with more rain into May. Time to think about maintaining sustainable landscapes. This type of maintenance creates a healthier, longer term lawn by the simple use of native plants, water harvesting and compost.

Begin with native plants for the mid-west. Native plants are a great way to contribute to your soil and environment. Plus, they're just beautiful and if conditions are right, supply you with a beautiful landscape full of color. Native plants require little to no maintenance. Except when first planted, they require minimal watering. Because these plants are native to our area there is no need for fertilizers or pesticides. Your sustainable landscapes will conserve water and energy, reduce waste and aid in preventing soil erosion by decreasing runoff.

 Orange Milkweed

Orange Milkweed

 Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan

 Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern

 Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower

It takes approximately 500 years for 1 inch of soil to naturally develop,
while one good rain storm can wash away .04 inches of the soil -- on a site
with no plant cover, significantly more. Preserving topsoil helps to keep your
plants healthy and prevents the topsoil from drying out and blowing away.
By amending the soil you add nutrients back in the earth as well as volume and aeration. The surefire way to do this is through compost.
 

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Composting will improve soil structure so that soil can easily hold the correct
amount of moisture, nutrients and air ... very useful for recycling kitchen
wastes, leftover crop residues, weeds, and manures.  

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The last element for maintaining a sustainable landscape is water harvesting. There are many different methods and techniques to harvest water. Here are just a few ...

  • Capturing runoff from rooftops
  • Capturing runoff from local catchments
  • Capturing seasonal floodwaters from local streams
  • Conserving water through watershed management

Some of the advantages of harvesting rainwater include:

  • It's absolutely free to use and it's a clean source of water
  • It's free of chemicals found in tap water
  • Rain barrels are easy to install
  • The water can be used for many different purposes
  • It's environmentally friendly
  • It's excellent for irrigation
  • It reduces the use of ground water

In a nutshell, the basics ... native plants, composting and water harvesting. These are just three of the many ways to creating a healthier garden and preserving existing plant life, while also conserving resources. It's good for the environment and it's good for us. The basics. 

Garden Whimsy

For June, our newsletter will be short and sweet. With just a little imagination and maybe some help from Pinterest, you can create an outdoor paradise. Your garden can become your escape to tranquility and solitude, a place for reflection and meditation or simply a place of whimsical delight. The following photos are just a few examples...

 Fairy Light Watering Can

Fairy Light Watering Can

 Recycle and paint an old bike for a planter

Recycle and paint an old bike for a planter

 Stained glass bicycle wheel garden spinner

Stained glass bicycle wheel garden spinner

 Landscaping posts sharpened in to colored pencils

Landscaping posts sharpened in to colored pencils

 A garden easel...

A garden easel...

 A fairy house tucked away at the base of a tree. I've seen a wide variety available for sale on Etsy.

A fairy house tucked away at the base of a tree. I've seen a wide variety available for sale on Etsy.

 Brighten an old shed with colorful flowers made from plates and garden hose stems

Brighten an old shed with colorful flowers made from plates and garden hose stems

 I love this! Garden mats made from old garden hoses and zip ties...genius!

I love this! Garden mats made from old garden hoses and zip ties...genius!

 Put those marbles to good use!

Put those marbles to good use!

 Terra cotta pagoda pots

Terra cotta pagoda pots

 Paint dead tree branches for color...

Paint dead tree branches for color...

 Using E6000 silicone, glue copper pennies to a bowling ball. Make sure to bring it inside during the winter though.

Using E6000 silicone, glue copper pennies to a bowling ball. Make sure to bring it inside during the winter though.

 Something fun to do with your kids!

Something fun to do with your kids!

 Who knew saws could look so dramatic.

Who knew saws could look so dramatic.

 This is so clever ... I wish I had somewhere to do this!

This is so clever ... I wish I had somewhere to do this!

 Succulents in an old birdbath ... beautiful.

Succulents in an old birdbath ... beautiful.

 Garden tool trellis

Garden tool trellis

 Thrift store finds ... old bud vases and dishes

Thrift store finds ... old bud vases and dishes

 A different kind of garden border

A different kind of garden border

 Second life for these rain boots

Second life for these rain boots

Well, there are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing. There is no need to go into any expense. Hit a few thrift stores or see what's been hiding in the garage. Make your garden your own, you'll only have the summer to enjoy it.

Pallet Gardening

Garden envy? You want one, you need one, but where? Maybe you live in an apartment or simply don't have the backyard space. Try pallet gardening. It's a great alternative to traditional gardening and a chance get creative in limited spaces.

 Raised pallet garden

Raised pallet garden

With pallet gardening, you have options. Live in a balcony apartment? Try hanging your pallet vertically for a growing wall. Limited yard space? Place pallets horizontally on the ground as part of your landscaping. For raised beds, multiple pallets can be stacked, or as in the photo above, placed on sawhorses. 

 Horizontal pallet garden

Horizontal pallet garden

Pallet gardening is easy and all you need are a few basic tools and supplies.

  • Shipping pallet
  • landscape cloth (3' X 50')
  • crowbar
  • hammer
  • utility knife
  • sandpaper
  • 4 mounting brackets (for vertical pallet)
  • potting soil
  • plants

To start, find your perfect pallet. Personally, I suggest using a new, clean, fresh pallet, but you can buy used. In either case make sure your pallet has been heat treated. There will be a (HT) stamp somewhere on the pallet. Also, if going with a used pallet, look for stains. You can never be sure of what chemicals were stored on an old pallet. You want your pallet to be as clean as possible and free from rusty nails and staples. It might be a good idea to scrub your pallet with a light bleach solution to get rid of any bacteria, especially if planting edibles.

Kansas City has several companies that offer new and used pallets. Here are just a few....

 Look for HT stamp

Look for HT stamp

Kansas City Pallets
Specialty Lumber Solutions
1301 E. 31st Street
Kansas City, MO 64109
Phone: (816) 506-4131

Midwest Pallet
1161 S. 12th St.
Kansas City, KS 66105-1614
Phone: (913) 371-3555

Keep in mind that Craigslist is a great source for free pallets as well as businesses near your home. Remember, look for that (HT) stamp!

Here's a video that walks you through the process. There are several ways to make a pallet garden, but this is my favorite.

 Mounted vertical pallet garden

Mounted vertical pallet garden

 If you've decided your pallet will be hung vertically, make sure to consider the weight of a fully planted pallet after watering. It can be quit heavy so choose the right mounting brackets and a solid location on which to hang. Attach the mounting brackets in place before you add the weight of the soil and plants. After you've added plants to your pallet, keep it horizontal for a few days and water thoroughly. Add more soil as it settles. Once the soil has settled, hang your pallet and monitor it closely. Water frequently, especially the bottom half of the pallet gets the driest.

 Vertical pallet garden wall

Vertical pallet garden wall

There it is...easy peasy. 

For more ideas on pallet gardening and other pallet projects, check out Pinterest. You'll wonder why you didn't think of this sooner!

 

New this Spring ... Playground Mulch Certification

Kansas City, when the weather can reach 80 degrees one day and snow the next. Lucky for us, spring is just around the corner and backyard playgrounds are beckoning children everywhere. Whether your backyard playground is a tire swing or a playset with all the bells and whistles, you have to ask yourself, is it safe?

Each year, according to Centers for Disease Control, emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children for playground related injuries, many from falls. There are several factors that account for these injuries, some of which are faulty playground equipment, absence of adult supervision or lack of a proper ground cover for the play area.

When it comes to cushioning falls, playground mulch is an easy fix. Not only will it add to the visual appeal of your home's landscaping, but it's low maintenance and affordable. However, buyer beware, not all mulch is alike. This year, Lawn-Corps has designed a playground mulch with children's safety in mind. It is renewable, green, 100% natural and for a parent's peace of mind, it's certified.

We produce our playground mulch on site by using clean, virgin wood which comes directly from local saw mills. Most importantly, it meets the highest playground safety standards required by the following:

 Playground Mulch, finished product ...

Playground Mulch, finished product ...

  • International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA)
  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

To ensure our products safety, Lawn-Corps playground mulch has also been rigorously tested and certified by the following standards:

  • IPEMA Certified ASTM 1292 Standard Specification for Bodily Impact
  • IPEMA Certified ASTM 2075 Metal Test and Sieve Analysis

It's important to know that Lawn-Corps is one of two companies in Missouri and Kansas that have achieved certification by meeting these standards. It's a big accomplishment for us and one that we are very proud of. It's just a first step to help ensure the safety of our most valuable resources ... our children.

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A Plastic Society

 Ariel view of Lawn-Corps from a United flight.

Ariel view of Lawn-Corps from a United flight.

A year ago I was on a United flight when, from the air, I was amazed at an unexpected site ... Lawn-Corps! It reminded me of a line from a Jason Isbell song: “From the sky we look so organized and brave." It rings true. We’ve all marveled at our earth from an airplane; the incredible patterned farmland in squares and circles, the neatly planned grids of neighborhoods with ribbons of road and highway. How spectacularly perfect our world looks from the air. From the ground, the reality that our city, our world, is not so organized and those that pollute it, not so brave. 

 What's left behind after a compost screening.

What's left behind after a compost screening.

We bear witness daily; the senseless polluting of our earth, endangering wildlife, waterways and the air we breathe. Litter has made a home along our city streets, highways and in our parks where our children play; cigarette butts, pop cans, fast food wrappers, and plastic ... lots and lots of plastic. We see it at Lawn-Corps too, a water bottle in this bag, a flower pot in another, tennis balls and landscape netting. It may seem insignificant, but it adds up ...  it all adds up.

Recently, I came across a great video narrated by "The Dude" himself, Jeff Bridges. It was eye opening and a bit horrific. I found the statistics alarming and was so moved that I found it important to share its message with you.  I urge you to watch and share it with others in hopes that it will inspire all of us to do the right thing. 

Until next time ... have fun playing in the dirt.