Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

April, 2010
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Any Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects!
To encourage beneficial insects to populate your garden, provide them with their chosen foods and habitats. Many weeds, including lamb's-quarters, nettle, knotweed, pigweed, and cocklebur, as well as many cultivated annuals, perennials, and herbs are food sources for two of the most important orders of beneficials, wasps and flies.

Most of these plants are members of two families, the Umbelliferae and the Compositae (or their more current designation Asteraceae). Umbelliferae, such as anise, carrot, caraway, coriander, dill, fennel and parsley, have many tiny flowers arranged in tight umbels (looking like upside down umbrellas). Compositae, such as black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, and strawflower, have central disc flowers surrounded by many ray petals (looking like daisies).

Mustard flowers attract lacewings that eat aphids, and parasitic wasps that eat cabbage caterpillars and coddling moths. (These wasps don't bother people or pets).

Clever Gardening Technique

Soda Bottles, Plastic Jugs and Nursery Containers Become Watering Tools
Recycle 2-liter plastic soda bottles into drip-irrigation containers. Punch two small holes into the screw-on cap. Cut off the rounded bottom of the bottle, but save it. Sink the bottle upside down into the soil, and firm it around the bottle to hold it in place. Fill the bottle with water or fertilizer solution, then replace the cut-off bottom as a cap to retard evaporation.

Plastic gallon jugs with their bottoms cut out and caps removed can be inverted and buried up to their necks as funnels for irrigation and liquid fertilization. The water will exit at the root zone deep in the soil.

One- or five-gallon-sized nursery containers with drainage holes already in the bottoms can be sunk into the soil between plants or seedlings as watering tools. Irrigation and fertilizer solutions can be poured into these containers to gently seep into the soil down at the root zone. A shovelful of manure or compost in each container will provide "fertilizer tea" every time the container is filled with water. Plant roots will grow deeply in search of this nutrition and moisture, and these deep roots will support the plant well during longer periods of hot weather.

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