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Kids and Fall Gardening: Make It Fun!

September 14th, 2011

If you’re a fall gardener and you have children, you can provide them with wonderful, educational experiences via your garden and plants. From exploring nature to delving into biology to showing older, budding chefs how to prepare simple dishes with fresh fare from the garden, you can plant nurturing and inquisitive seeds inside your children that can last a lifetime. And with kids getting back to school, it’s also a great way to foster a sense of learning and study.

A fall garden is home to a wonderful variety of bugs that make great biology subjects. When you and your kids come across bugs, you can educate your kids on the roles that each bug plays in the garden. We even have blog posts dedicated to garden heroes and villains (bugs!), including Garden Villain: Itsy Bitsy Spider Mites, Garden Hero: The Green Lacewing, AKA Aphid Lions, Garden Villain: The Leafhopper, and more.

Do you have a child that displays a love for drawing? A fall garden provides the perfect environment for sketching…You never know: you may have a future naturalist or scientist in your family. From plants to insects, sketching has a long history as a means of scientific investigation. Surprise your artistic child with a blank journal and colored pencils for their “field notes,” and then teach them how to observe bugs and plants and jot down notes. From the behaviors of a specific bug to the colors of a Red Express Cabbage as it matures, there are so many sketching opportunities to be found in a fall garden. Another great activity for a budding artist is to have him or her draw a plant as it grows from a seedling to maturity.

If you have a child that loves food and loves to help in the kitchen, a fall garden can be a great source of inspiration and creativity. Teach your future chef how to tell when lettuce, broccoli and other fall garden vegetables are ready for harvesting. When it’s time to make a salad with your home grown foods, walk your child through the salad making process, from harvesting the vegetables right from the garden to cleaning the vegetables to preparing the vegetables for a salad. Talk about our five senses and have your child describe how each one is affected by, say, a head of lettuce. Before you know it, you’ll have your own personal salad maker and a child who is eager to experiment with a variety of healthy tastes and textures.

Kids + Vegetable Gardening + Fun = A Love for the Freshest, Healthiest Foods

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Garden Hero: The Green Lacewing, AKA Aphid Lions

July 28th, 2010

 

Did you know that green lacewing larvae are one of the most beneficial tools for keeping pesky garden villains under control? While the adult green lacewing is quite lovely, lacewing larvae appear somewhat menacing, with their large mandibles, pincher-like mouthparts, and armored looking bodies.

The green lacewing life cycle is pretty simple:

  1. An adult lacewing lays her eggs on plants, and each egg is attached to the tip of a hair-like filament.
  2. After just a few days, a predatory, and very hungry, larva emerges from the egg.
  3. After a short two- to three-week growing period, the larva spins a cocoon to pupate.
  4. An adult lacewing emerges approximately five days later, and it will then mate and repeat the life cycle. An adult green lacewing will live for approximately four to six weeks.

When a green lacewing larva emerges from its egg it’s ravenous, and it will feed on aphids, beetle larvae, leafhoppers, mealybugs, whiteflies, and more. When the larva grabs hold of its prey it injects it with paralyzing venom then sucks out the body fluids. Gross, yes, but the lacewing larva means business, and it will seek out prey rather than waiting for prey to come to it.

During the larva’s very short growing period it can consume up to 200 eggs, other larvae, and pests. To take advantage of their short life span, it is recommended that you release green lacewing larvae into your garden in early spring. If you want to help control your garden pests with lacewing larvae, release new larvae regularly in order to keep a steady supply in your garden and on your plants.

Adult green lacewings prefer to feed on honeydew, nectar and pollen. Light green in color, with large eyes and two long, thin antennae, the adult green lacewing also has long, transparent wings that have a distinct veins running through them.

 

Green lacewings prefer humid conditions, and plants that benefit from having the lacewing near include peppers, sweet corn, and tomatoes. If you want to control villainous garden pests organically, the green lacewing is a great choice for your garden!

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