Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DIY Sweat Bands for Sound Protection Ear Muffs

Sound protection while you are using power tools is important.  The whine of a power saw or the roar of a chipper-shredder can permanently damage your hearing, and almost always leaves you with a headache.

I wear earmuffs.  But the foam ear pads produce sweaty ears!  I hate sweaty ears!  So I made these washable, cheap sweat-soakers out of cotton socks. They work well on my wireless headphones too, and don't block the movie sound. They lower the efficiency of noise cancelling headphones a bit, but it's still better than sweaty ears.

White cotton crew sock or socks, men's multi-size or large. Look for the highest cotton content as you can find in cheap socks.
Socks and Scissors

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wasps for Caterpillar Control

Many people think the paper wasps and mud daubers are a dangerous garden pest that needs to be controlled.  In my view, they are excellent pest controllers, especially for caterpillars.  They catch insects and feed them to their larvae.
These cells will be filled with hungry baby wasps!
I was looking at my hollyhocks, looking for the insect that made web nests like this in leaves and ate the leaves.  Most of the webs were empty, because wasps were systematically locating the nests and eating the caterpillars. The wasps ignored me as they moved from leaf to leaf.
Caterpillars hiding in rolled leaf web.
One of the Painted Lady butterflies, Vanessa annabella West Coast lady
is the probably leaf muncher.  Mallows are one of their main host plants.

Wasps are also patrolling the Four O'Clocks, the tomatoes and the peppers, which have very little caterpillar damage this year.

When would I destroy a wasp nest? Nests in areas where they risk being bumped and bringing the wrath of the inhabitants on me are destroyed when I find them.  The first photo is of a nest that the wasp built in the garden shed, on my weed trimmer.  I destroyed it and hope she found a better place for her next effort. Read more!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Flowers! And Bugs!

Enough of construction and problem solving!  I have flowers to brag about ... Russian sage, hollyhocks, penstemons and gaillardia blooming between my patio and the fence in a gaudy mess.  
This is the traditional New Mexico style flower garden, where you plant a lot of things and let them fight for room. My long term plan is to extend this planting along the fence to the right, as time and available compost permit.

The Russian sage has dozens of bees, and an occasional butterfly.  These cream or white ones with spots are common.  An orange sherbet colored one taunts me and dodges the camera.

And on another wall, Zebra hollyhocks (Malva sylvestris) in a small planting area between patio and barbecue grill. There are also gaura and salvia for the hummingbirds.
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Monday, June 12, 2017

How to Grow your Own Ladybugs in 6 Easy Steps

A common question on gardening forums is "How do I attract ladybugs?".  It's easy. All you have to do is attract aphids.
  1. Have plants for the aphids. 
  2. Do nothing!
  3. Ladybugs will appear.
  4. Ladybugs lay eggs on the infested plants and eat aphids.
  5. Eggs hatch into aphid-eating larvae, grow up and make pupae.
  6. Adult ladybugs emerge from pupae and eat more aphids and lay more eggs.
Congratulations! You have grown ladybugs*.
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Monday, June 5, 2017

Climate, Micro-climates, and Nano-climates

This turned into an accidental demonstration of what micro-micro-climates are.  A micro-micro is a nano ... so maybe I'm showing nano-climates.  If you have a few plants that are unexpectedly struggling when the rest of the same variety are thriving, check for tiny differences in light and water.

EXAMPLE: Here are three young summer squash, looking quite water-stressed in the early afternoon.
Less than 6 feet to the north, at the same moment, another three squash looking perky.
They were started and planted out at the same time, the seeds came from the same packet, the growing medium is the same home-made compost and silty sand, and they have the same length of drip tubing from the same manufacturer coiled around them.

The difference? The three to the north get light shade from a branch about 20 feet above them in the early afternoon. The stressed ones do not.

The solution? I added more drip tubing for the stressed ones.

I've seen nano-climates like this come from a window or wall reflecting light and heat, a septic tank's microbiological action warming the soil, or a change to a neighbor's landscaping giving more or less sunlight. 

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