dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “chemical pesticides”

FRUIT FLIES FLOWN: a great organic remedy for fruit fly problems

This week my sister was visiting from Denver. Besides apologizing for the heat and humidity of our Gulf Coast summer, I found myself begging forgiveness for a hazy cloud in my kitchen.

Has anyone else noticed the fruitfulness of fruit flies this year?*

They’re awful! I realize it could be worse — it could be RAINING — but I’m fed up with the little boogers. They’ve even moved into my bathroom, and I promise there is NO fruit for them there. I’ve tried sticky traps, putting my compost jar in the fridge, and everything else I could think of to rid my kitchen of the fruit flies. (I don’t do chemicals, and diatomaceous earth doesn’t help with flying insects.)

close trap

TIP: Be sure you leave an opening at the bottom of the funnel for the fruit flies to get out into the glass.

My nephew and his wife came over for dinner and the brilliant girl had the perfect fruit fly RX: an easy homemade trap. She doesn’t remember how she 1st heard about it, and honestly, who cares as long as it works. And IT DOES! In 2 days the cloud parted and I haven’t seen a fruit fly since.

The proof's NOT in the pudding and neither are those pesky fruit flies!

The proof’s NOT in the pudding and neither are those pesky fruit flies!

  • a glass or jar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • rotting fruit
  • funnel that fits snuggly into glass/jar
  1. Put the rotting fruit into the bottom of the glass/jar.
  2. Add a tablespoon or so of vinegar.
  3. Top with the funnel.
  4. Periodically take it outside to free your captives.

*NOTE: Fruit flies can also be an issue on indoor container plants.


Produce Chart with Pesticide Levels

Several folks asked for a LABELED produce chart showing pesticide levels, so here it is! RED means it is likely to have a higher level and GREEN means a lower level usually.

If you cannot buy all organic produce, here's a lesser of evils approach chart.

If you cannot buy all organic produce, here’s a lesser of evils approach chart.

Always Best to Buy (or GROW) Organic Produce?

Lately, I’m getting more requests from my landscaping clients who’ve never considered themselves gardeners to grow their own food.

And they want to do it organically.

Horror stories of tainted greens drive many to question what else they might be buying in that bag of lettuce or spinach. Restaurants, bars, and even airlines blame skyrocketing prices for dropping lime and avocado from their menus. It might tempt some folks to just grow their own food. While citrus and other heat loving plants thrive in my part of the world, what about you who don’t have the weather – or space – to grow your own? Should you move? Well, maybe.

At my house, produce may be found throughout the landscape. If I cannot grow enough, the rest is bought from local farmers whenever possible. I believe in permaculture, which is simply good stewardship of the land. But, as I said before, my options for growing food are vast because of where I live.  And I enjoy gardening.

Should you buy or try? Check this chart to see what produce you should ALWAYS buy organic.

Check this chart to see what produce you should ALWAYS buy organic. Green means little pesticides, red shows what has the most pesticides in traditionally grown produce.

If you’re confused about buying organic produce, check out this chart I made for a lecture I gave. It shows which traditionally grown produce items have the highest pesticide levels. Scary? That’s not the purpose of my talk or why I’m sharing this information. I simply want to give you guidelines on which items deserve the extra bucks to buy organic, or extra time and space to grow in your yard, if your climate allows. Although this won’t necessarily make you a better organic gardener, it could make you a better shopper when it comes to organic produce.

NOTE: if you want an easy-to-reproduce copy of this chart, just let me know. I’m happy to send you a larger JPEG or PDF of it.

Too many peppers, too little time!

Farmer Brad, Jenny & Eva

Last week I told you I got the chance to visit Home Sweet Farm, settled by gentleman Farmer Brad and his adorable wife Jenny along with their two daughters and various beasts – both tame and not-so-much – including horses, dogs, and chickens.  Everyone at Home Sweet Farm not only pitches in with chores,  they are multi-multi-taskers.  Even the chickens do more than just their regular chicken stuff.  They are an integral spoke in Brad’s wheel of pest control.

Grasshopper control at Home Sweet Farm.

At my house, I use I.P.M.   I usually pick off the grasshoppers and relocate them… the trashcan.  (Sorry.  They should have gone to my neighbor’s house for supper!)  When I picked up a grasshopper –  the bain of typical farmers – at Home Sweet Farm,  Brad told me I was holding lunch for the hen-party!  No chemical pesticides allowed on this farm.  Pesticides are usually non-specific, meaning they kill anything.  The balance of life sways violently in one direction and the whole thing gets even more out of kilter.  But what if the chickens are a little hungry, say, without as much food GIVEN to them?  Instead, they’ll munch on grasshoppers.  Once there aren’t as many grasshoppers, the supplemental food can be ramped back up.  Now, that means Farmer Brad and Jenny have to pay attention to what’s going on at the farm where they “grow righteous food.”  The reason it truly IS righteous is because they DO pay attention.  Broad spectrum pesticides are often the lazy man’s way out.  All life is a wonderful system with the potential of imbalance.  Sometimes all it needs is a little LESS of something on one side to get the scales back where they need to be, not MORE heaped onto it.  I’m not saying I’ve never been guilty of being lazy, I’m just hoping I remember the importance of the systemic balance next time I’m tempted to reach for Rx in a spray bottle.

Okay,  off the soap box and back on to the scales.  The reason I went to see Farmer Brad?  Peppers. TONS of ’em.  His great-grandfather – “Great Papa” Joseph DeFino – immigrated from Italy to Des Moines, Iowa by way of Argentina.  We are trying to hunt down exactly where he got them, but Great Papa DeFino brought thin-skinned sweet pepper seeds to this country, either from Italy or Argentina, for using in traditional Italian dishes.  When Brad and Jenny went full-time into farming, he asked his uncle for those family favorite peppers seeds, which they call ‘DeFino’s Sweet’ pepper.

'DeFino's Sweet' pepper bush

When he showed me the pepper bushes, I was amazed.  Peppers in the Texas heat are known as the rabbits of the gardening world when it comes to being prolific, but these were makin’ babies all over!   And apparently they are just as rampant in their procreation up Nawth.  Because of the relatively short growing season in Des Moines, veggies have to get down to business quickly.  However, these keep producing till frost for us, which means a L-O-N-G time enjoying peppers for Home Sweet Farm C.S.A. members.  Brad picked a pepper for me that was just blushing from green to red and we munched on it, right out in the field.  It was delicious!  He told me one of his memories of eating the pepper was going down into the basement at his Nana’s house in Des Moines and getting some of her blanched vinegar peppers.  They spread them on good ‘ole hard crust home-made Italian bread or put them into salads when fresh peppers were no longer available.  Instead of giving all your extra sweet bell peppers away, try this recipe Farmer Brad sent for YOU to enjoy.  Or send me YOUR FAVORITE PEPPER RECIPE to share!


Blanched Vinegar Peppers  By Lucretia Cimino (my Nana)

INGREDIENTS: red & green sweet peppers, ½ cup vinegar, ½ cup water, garlic cloves, red hot peppers, olive oil, salt/pepper

Wash and sweet peppers in half.  Blanch in boiling water for a few minutes.  Pack peppers loosely into jars.  To each quart jar, add 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, 1 small red hot pepper, 1 tsp oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Fill jars with hot vinegar and water solution.  Seal jars.  Let set a week or two before serving.

MYTH: Giving away all your sweet peppers fresh. Instead, pick a peck for PICKLED PEPPERS!

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