Hannah Scribbles

Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Five Plants to Keep Out Garden Pests

In The Great Outdoors on June 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

Whether you’re tending plants for food or fun, it’s frustrating to see your efforts rewarded with stunted plants and wilted leaves.  Remember, bugs aren’t bad.  Pests are!

Instead of shaking your fists at the heavens or dousing the area in insecticides that can kill beneficial bugs, try installing these plants as little guardians around the garden’s perimeter:

Pennroyal

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Pennroyal

The name doesn’t just sound cool. This herb detracts mosquitoes, flies, fleas and ants from moving into your vegetable garden for the season.  It’s been used for a millennium as, oddly enough, both a spice and guard against pests.  Though the oil is deadly, the dried leaves are used in cooking and homeopathic tinctures.

Marigold

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Marigold

Besides being used in homeopathic tinctures, marigold makes a good garden guard against cucumber beetles, aphids and root-knot nematodes. Marigold also attracts flies that kill aphids, making this gold plant a win-win for your garden all summer.

Cucumber beetles , really members of the family Chrysomelidae, love hanging out on leaves and flowers of melon, squash and cucumber species. Not only do cucumber beetles gnaw on young plants, but they carry viruses that can spread throughout the plants.

There are more than 4,000 species of Aphids , and about 200 of them are harmful to plants. Many species are specialized eaters , eating only one type of plant species, and feed on sap from the plant’s stem. The feeding results in stunted growth, wilting, low yield and even death.

Basil

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Basil

It’s not just for pizza! Who would have thought this popular herb could ward off flies and mosquitoes. Basil and flies go together like garlic and vampires.

On a side note, the term basil originates in Ancient Greece and stems from the Greek word for “royal.”  When it was adopted into Latin the meaning changed and the plant was attributed characteristics of the basilisk antidote.  Over time the tradition carried onto the French, who used the similar words such as “basilic” in reference to both the plant and the snake.

Lavender

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Lavender

Yes, the preferred plant of many a lotion-maker is also proven repellent —
of mosquitoes. Maybe that’s why the scent is so popular.

Mosquitoes aren’t harmful to your garden so much as they are annoying to the gardener. The simplest way to get rid of mosquitoes is to destroy the breeding ground: standing water. However, in cases where your garden is in a lowlying area or mosquitoes just think the grass is greener on your side of the fence, planting lavender can reduce the nuisance and help you enjoy your garden again.

Catnip

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Really, what did you expect?

While ants eat insect eggs, they can also host harmful insects such as mealybugs, aphids and whiteflies.  Catnip is a good way to keep ants out of the garden. Sure, it drives your cats crazy. But really, what cat isn’t a little unbalanced to begin with?

Catnip is the common term for catmint, an herb that has been traced back centuries as a remedy.  An earlier term, nepe, shows similarities to the Dutch neppe and is a shortened form of nepte, which comes from the Latin word nepeta – or, catmint.   Check out this reference to catnip I found in the OED that dates back to 1561:  “He that hath a feruent cough, let him take Neppe, that cattes delite in.”

Why Does Carbon Dioxide Matter?

In The Great Outdoors on June 5, 2013 at 9:15 am

People in the environmental circuit were disappointed May 9 when carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reached a historic 400 parts per million. Speculation began. Was it too late to make a difference? Could industry changes alter the course of climate change?

CO2 molecule formula, carbon dioxide molecule, carbon dioxide ppm, co2 formulaCarbon dioxide is a natural – and necessary – component of the atmosphere. But since the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s, human technologies leaned heavily on processes that produced carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Ice cores drilled from before the Industrial Revolution show that carbon dioxide levels used to be much lower: about 280 parts per million.

The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has long-reaching effects.  I find the molecule’s effects on plant metabolism scarier than I do its contribution to overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Plants absorb carbon dioxide through the same pores they release water back into the atmosphere. When plants take in high levels of CO2, their pores shrink and the plants are unable to release as much water, according to a 2010 article by Science Daily. And, a study found that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere led plants to diffuse about 20 percent less water, a change that has unknown (but conceivably bad) consequences on surrounding the surrounding ecosystem.

Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, but it is a major contenders. If this was a game of Street Fighter, then carbon dioxide would be Sagat.

What does it all mean?

Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since revised that May 9 reading to a measly 399.89 ppm it might mean nothing. Or everything.

clean technology, clean tech, green innovation, renewable energies, solar cells, electric cars, hydropower, EcotricityThe world is changing, and humans not only have to adapt to the change but adapter smarter.  Reaching 400 ppm is a self-imposed milestone that almost nobody marked the passing of.  But it is a reminder to recommit to innovating smarter than our grandparents, a hefty task considering we’ve established a way of life based on the technologies they created.

Clean technology is being developed.  Newer, better methods of storing energy and preventing waste within the energy grid are in production.  Charging stations for electric vehicles are being set up across the U.K. as technology moves forward there, driven by the high cost of petrol.  Solar cells are becoming more efficient producers of electricity with every innovation in the market.

Governments around the world can create carbon taxes, efficiency laws and invest in green tech, but none of that will matter unless it carries over to the business sector. Business drives innovation and growth, and nothing can change unless companies invest in clean technology and develop personal models for environmental stewardship that do not ring hollow.  This is something we have to undertake for ourselves.

What, if anything, does climate change mean to you?  What do you want to know about the topic that isn’t being talked about?  Maybe I can help.  Leave your comments below or follow me on Twitter to keep up the conversation!
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