The Busy Gardener

Garden Pests

How to Get Rid of Hornworm Caterpillars Organically

Anyone who’s ever had a garden knows that pests can be a big problem. One of the most destructive—and hardest to get rid of—pests is the caterpillar of the tobacco hornworm moth. These voracious eaters can quickly strip a plant of all its leaves, leaving it vulnerable to disease and death. Luckily, there are some organic methods you can use to get rid of them.

Pick Them Off By Hand

This is probably the most time-consuming method, but it’s also the most effective. Check your plants daily for caterpillars and pick them off by hand, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water. If you’re squeamish about touching them, you can wear gloves or use tongs.

Attract Natural Predators

A bird snatches a juicy caterpillar. One less caterpillar to eat your tomato plant!

There are a few different predators you can attract to your garden to help control the caterpillar population. One is the braconid wasp, whose larvae parasitize caterpillars. Another is the trichogramma wasp, which lays its eggs inside caterpillar eggs, preventing them from hatching. You can buy these wasps at most garden stores, or you can attract them by planting certain flowers in your garden, such as dill, fennel, or cilantro.

Organic Pesticide Options

Make a Homemade Insecticide

If you’re looking for a DIY solution, you can make your own organic insecticide with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Start by boiling 1 cup of water and adding 3 tablespoons of dish soap (any kind will do). Then add 1 tablespoon of Tabasco sauce (or any other hot sauce) and let the mixture cool. Pour it into a spray bottle and apply it to your plants every few days, or after it rains. The dish soap will degrade quickly in sunlight, so make sure to reapply it as needed.

Buy Ready-to-Use

If you don’t want to use chemicals, there are a few organic pesticides that will kill hornworms on contact. Neem oil is one option; just mix it with water (if a concentrate) and spray it on your plants. You can also use Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a bacteria that’s fatal to caterpillars but harmless to humans and animals. Just mix it with water (if a concentrate) and spray it on your infected plants.

In Conclusion

Hornworms are destructive pests that can be difficult to get rid of, but it’s definitely possible to control them using organic methods. Try picking them off by hand, using BT, Neem Oil, Homemade spray, or introducing beneficial insects around your plants. With a little patience and perseverance, you’ll soon have hornworm-free gardens!

Garden Seeds/Young Plants

6 Steps to Growing Ginger in Containers: Easy and Versatile Grower

Growing Ginger in Containers: Easy and Versatile Grower

Ginger is a plant with many culinary uses, but it’s also known for its health benefits. Ginger can be used to relieve nausea, improve circulation and treat colds and chest congestion! Growing ginger in containers is a fun activity for all ages – even kids can help by planting the ginger rhizomes. The process of growing ginger in containers is surprisingly easy, as long as you have some basic gardening skills. This blog post will show you how to grow your own fresh ginger at home – from planting seeds to harvesting them later on!

Choosing your container and soil

If you’re growing ginger in containers, it’s important to choose a container that will be large enough for the plant. It should have at least one inch of depth on all sides and hold around 12 plants if they are grown together closely. Ginger is very tolerant of different soil types, so gardeners can use potting mix or their own compost with great success!

Can I REALLY Use Store Bought Ginger?

Selecting ginger sounds more difficult than it actually is! The first step is to find out which type would work best for you. If you live in USDA zone nine or higher, rhizomes can be planted outside because they will need at least two months of warm temperatures (above 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and enough water throughout the year. There are plenty of varieties on the market that do well in containers too – some examples include: ‘Poncho’, ‘Thai Pink’ and ‘Mammoth’. For all other zones we recommend growing indoors where temperature control can help ensure proper growth. If finding one of these other varieties sounds too daunting, just use ginger you buy at the grocery store. It might not be the perfect type for your setting, but it’ll get you started.

Buy Ginger Rhyzomes Online

Growing ginger is easy to do because it has such a forgiving nature – but there are some tips to keep in mind before planting your seeds and starting your harvest. We recommend using ginger that has growth and care habits that work for your setting. Ginger comes in many shapes and sizes – our favorite kind is called “finger” ginger…but any size will work well for beginners

Preparing Ginger for Planting

Preparing your ginger rhyzome for planting is important and will ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Dig a hole in your container that is deep enough for the ginger to grow into and wide enough so it doesn’t rest on any edges or corners of the soil.

-Use potting mix or topsoil and put some compost in the bottom before adding dirt from outside if necessary. Ginger likes rich dark soil with a PH between six and seven…or neutral pH levels like those found in most soils at home gardens.

-Add one tablespoon of lime per plant depending on how acidic your soil is – this will help balance out acidity if needed but may not be necessary all plants because ginger can handle more acidic conditions than other plants typically grown.

Take the rhyzome and plant it in the ground at a depth of about four inches.

-It’s best to plant ginger on its side because that is how they grow naturally, so just make sure you have enough soil and nutrients around them for when they start rooting.

Now That You’ve Planted Your Ginger

-Ginger likes to be watered regularly but not too often because if their roots get wet more than once every day, they may rot. Let the potting mix dry out between waterings or use self watering containers (which are great for container gardening in general) for your ginger plants!

The first year will always be slow growth – this is normal as new rhizomes take time absorbing all the necessary nutrients from the potter soil before growing rapidly like mature ginger plants do after several years.

Harvesting Your Ginger

You’ll know when to harvest by looking at their leaves – they should start turning yellow before anything else. Dig up a single ginger rhyzome; You can tell that your ginger is ready to harvest when the skin looks wrinkled, papery and brown.

Storing Your Harvested Ginger

You can use your ginger right away in a tasty dish, or can store your ginger at room temperature for up to one week or in the fridge for about two weeks (though sometimes up to a month).

Once you have a ginger plant going it’s easy to harvest all the ginger you need. You can also propagate from a rhizome that is just about ready for harvesting or give some away to friends and family!

DIY Building Methods Garden

DIY Raised Bed Garden: 3 Building Materials for Creating a Successful Raised Garden

Why a DIY Raised Bed Garden?

The DIY raised bed garden is often used by amateur and avid gardeners alike. It is preferred because they’re perfect for growing vegetables without bending down every day. They’re attractive additions to any backyard or patio too! Giving you plenty of space to grow flowers on your deck during the summertime months too.

When deciding what material to use for your raised garden bed, you’ll want to take into account durability and cost. Generally speaking, constructing a raised bed garden is best for those who intend to keep it there for a few years. This post will walk you through three different materials that can be used for this type of project: wood, concrete blocks, and metal paneling.


Wood is a good material for the average home gardener who wants something that is realtively easy to work with. The natural look of wood is one of its main draws as a construction material for raised beds. It may not be durable enough for some people over time. Whereas wood used to be the least expensive option, it increased in cost relative to the other materials on this list. As such, it might not be a good option if you’re looking to save money over the long haul with permanent.

One main downside to wood is that it may not hold up well in areas where there are harsh winters. Especially when exposed to moisture buildup throughout winter. You’ll want to opt for a type of wood that is resistant to rotting and insects. Cedar has the benefit of resisting pests and rotting, while also not leaching harmful chemicals into the soil.

Concrete Blocks

Concrete blocks are another excellent choice for building raised beds! They offer flexibility and durability that can withstand various climates over time without issue. They’re cheaper than wood too, offering an affordable alternative for those who want something durable but don’t have enough cash on hand at one time. Concrete blocks are a little utilitarian looking, but for me, beautiful means lasting a long time without intervention!

Metal Paneling

Metal paneling is growing as a popular material for raised in recent years. It comes with all sorts of benefits depending on what type you choose. For example, some metal panels come pre-painted or designed with attractive finishes that look great even after countless hours outside. This is an advantage over wooden alternatives which may deteriorate quickly over time due to exposure to the elements.

Metal panel raised beds often come pre-fabricated (like the popular “Birdies Raised Metal Garden Beds“), only requiring a few screws to assemble. One downside to metal panel raised beds is that they are the most expensive of the three options. The investment is worth it if you plan on using your garden for years and want something that will last without worry of weathering or pests damaging it over time.

You’ve Decided on a Material: Now What?

After you’ve selected your building materials, you’ll need to decide on the shape and size of your raised bed garden. For those who don’t have a lot of space to work with, the square plan is great for smaller spaces. It’s also easy to add plant containers that can serve as additional planting space at any point in time.

The shape of your raised bed garden should be influenced by the space you have available and what type of plants will grow best in that particular shape. The most common shapes are square (for smaller spaces), rectangular, hexagonal and octagon-shaped beds for larger spaced gardens. Rectangular shaped raised beds work well when trying to maximize growing space while hexagons can create a more orderly feeling with closer planted rows or simply allow for easier access from all sides.

Ready to Go!

The key to building your raised bed garden starts with making sure there are no gaps between either the boards or blocks from which you’re creating your structure. This will ensure precious soil remains inside your containers.

I hope this post has helped you decide which material will work best for your raised bed garden. Just remember that whichever materials you choose to build with should be able to withstand a few seasons of use without any problems or major repairs needed. Happy building!

Garden Seeds/Young Plants

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors: 7 Steps to a More Successful Garden

Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

Many people start their vegetable seeds indoors and transplant them into the garden once they have sprouted. This is a great way to get an early start on your garden, but it can also be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. We’ve put together 7 steps that will make starting vegetable seeds more successful!

Once you’ve decided on the plants you want to grow, you’ll need the following items:

Use a seed starting mix 

Once you’ve decided on the plants you want to grow, you’ll need soil. You can purchase prepared seed starting mix from a garden store or make your own using peat moss and vermiculite (or perlite). The seed starting mix is a special type of soil that will keep the seeds moist, but not wet. This makes it easier to transplant them into your garden when they’re ready because you can just bury their roots in dirt and water regularly until then without worrying about rot or fungus destroying all those beautiful plants!

Fill your containers with the soil and seeds 

The easiest container for starting seeds is in something like a seed-starting tray or even just a small pot with drainage holes at the bottom. The seeds should be planted at the depth indicated on the seed packet. Once you’ve got all your containers filled up (you can start more than once before winter), put them in an area that’s warm enough not frozen but cool during sunny days so as it won’t dry out too much indoors until then when their ready outdoors!!!

Keep moist at all times, but don’t overwater!

New seedlings prefer moisture in the soil to be moist rather than sopping wet. Too much water will cause young plants’ roots and stems (stems are what carry nutrients up from underground) to rot, which can lead them dying early on in life or never growing into a strong plant with good yield!

 So make sure you don’t overwater those seedlings during this time as well-otherwise these little ones might die before making it outside! The design of your seed starting tray will usually help to avoid overwatering by allowing the plants to wick up the moisture they need.

Keep them comfy while they germinate

Place in a warm location (between 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit) with plenty of light for germination to take place 

Usually this will mean having your trays indoors, near a window for natural light, or on the patio. This also means that you won’t want to store your seedling trays in an area with too much high humidity and low temperatures-like outdoors during winter!

You will need some sort if grow lights as well but these can be purchased at most department stores nowadays (just make sure they are plant/vegetable friendly!)

“Harden” your plants

When you see sprouts coming up from the soil, move them into an area where they can get more light, grow taller, and deal with some of the environment they’ll be planted into – this is called “hardening off” or “stratification” 

To harden off your plants, you’ll want to move your seedlings outside for a few hours each day, and then back inside. You will increase the amount of time you harden them over a one to two week period. This will help them become more resistant against frost, wind or the cold of night as winter approaches so that you can enjoy fresh greens from an early harvest all year round!

Transplant your plants

Transplant outside into your garden or planters when weather permits (after your last frost!)

You’ve started your seeds, you’ve cared for your seedlings; now it’s time to plant those vegetables!

When you see roots coming out of the bottom, it’s usually time to transplant: move them outside in a sunny spot and cover with mulch or soil if necessary so that their delicate root systems don’t get too chilly at night as winter approaches Wait until there isn’​t any more frost predicted before moving plants from indoors–that way all those hard work hours won’t go down in one sad, chilly night.


Starting seeds indoors is a great way to grow your own produce for any season! The best part of all? You’ll get fresh vegetables from an early harvest without investing too much money or effort by starting seeds indoors.

DIY Building Methods Fruit Trees Garden Uncategorized

2 Options for Protecting Your Plants From the Harsh Sun

Protecting Your Plants from Sun?

The sun is critical for fruit tree and plant growth. The rays of solar energy get absorbed by the leaves, promoting photosynthesis, allowing the plant to thrive and grow. Because we eat plants (or eat animals who eat plants) we’re all considered to be solar powered! There is a downside; Just like too much sun can give us a sunburn and speed up dehydration, too much sun can harm plants.

In this article, I walk through a couple options to keep your plants from getting too much sun. This is especially during the hotter months where plants are already dealing with higher ambient air temperatures.

Man standing in front of trees

Shade Cloth

The easiest method I’ve found to to protect your trees and plants is to use inexpensive shade cloth. Shade cloth is usually made of a UV resistant polymer, and comes rated in percentages of sun protection. For example, a 40% shade cloth will provide 40% shade, while letting through 60% of the sun. Most fruit trees or other plants generally left in the open benefit from a 30-40% shade cloth. That moderate coverage ought to provide enough protection from the sun’s rays. For more fragile plants (veggies and flowers), a higher shade value (60-70%) could be beneficial.

How to Use Shade Cloth


Man standing in front of berry bushes

I deploy shade cloth two main ways: I drape it over a tree or plant, and I use a wooden frame. Draping the shade cloth over plants is a very quick way to get your plants covered. I use garden clips to secure the edges of the shade cloth around branches to keep it in place in wind. It’s possible to also poke a stem or two through the shade cloth if you haven’t got clips available. One downside to draping shade cloth is that it makes contact with the actual plant. Depending on the plant, this added weight may cause some issues or damage.

Shade frame

Man standing in front of shade cloth frames

For a longer term or no-contact method, I created wooden frames out of 1X2’s and a few nuts and bolts. I then stapled on sheets of shade cloth to the frame. Shade frames have a few advantages, especially for smaller trees and plants. They allow a no-contact method which limits smooshing or bending of branches you’d see with the draping method. She frames are easily deployed and allow you to select the angle of protection, as well as the height. The cloth doesn’t need to be clipped to the tree, because it is already clipped to the frame. One nice thing about these frames is that they fold up, allowing you to stack several of them in a small space.

Pro-tip: Weigh the bottom of the frame down with a block or rock, as wind can topple these.

Paint Your Trees!

This might sound like a crazy idea, but it’s important to paint or whitewash your trees in order to prevent sunburn and sunscald. This is a larger topic which I will cover further in another article. In short, whitewashing your tree’s trunk and main branches is an important step to preventing sun damage, much like sunscreen protects damage to your skin. There are two main ways you can whitewash.

Latex Paint

For this method, you’ll want to get white interior latex paint. Mix the paint with water in a 50%-50% solution, and use a paintbrush to apply generously to the trunk and main branches. It’s possible to also put this solution in a spray bottle. Although, I’ve found that this sometimes creates clogs or my hand gets tired from all the spraying. There is a downside to using actual paint for this. While it isn’t dangerous to the tree or fruit, as the trunk expands, more and more paint will make its way into the soil, impacting the quality of the soil over time.

IV Organic 3-in-1 Plant Guard

Like the latex paint, IV Organic (10% Off Code BUSY10) is painted on using a brush or diluted down into a spray bottle. Unlike latex paint, however, IV Organic is an OMRI certified organic whitewash. It contains many things that help guard against sun AND pest damage, such as diatomaceous earth, fragrant oils, etc. A big plus is as the tree trunk expands and bark falls to the ground, the soil gets better.

While it is more expensive, I’ve exclusively switched to using IV Organic because of its additional benefits, without the drawbacks.

Man standing in garden

What’s the point?

Whatever you’re using to protect your plants from excessive sun exposure, you’re essentially trying to take the edge off. Like sunscreen on your own body doesn’t prevent all sun from getting through, these methods serve to reduce the amount of UV rays causing damage on the warmest days. Whichever method you use, ensure that you’re protecting against the direction the sun is actually coming from (in North America, make sure to paint or protect the Southern facing side).

Protect them from excessive sun and heat, and your plants and trees will thank you for giving them a reprieve from the sun, and will reward you with tasty, nutritious fruit and vegetables!

DIY Building Methods Garden

Creating a More Durable Garden Trellis

We’re going to be putting in a bunch of vegetables here in our raised bed square foot garden. One of the methods we’re learning to save space is to grow vertically whenever possible. This is great for vining plants. Rather than have them trailing along the ground, having them run up against a trellis is the way to go. What we’ve used before for trellising has been a white nylon netting. While it’s inexpensive and easy to work with (once untangled), a major downside to this netting is that it eventually breaks down in the sun, and begins falling apart. NOT what you want when it comes to suspending your precious cucumbers, melons, peas, etc. in the air!

man standing in front of trellis

Welded Wire Fencing

I used metal conduit to create the frames, fastening them to the back of the grow beds using wood screws. Wanting something that could support some weight, and wouldn’t break down in the elements, I bought a roll of 4×50 foot galvanized welded wire fencing. This has worked so well against our wood fence keeping the kids and dogs in, that I used the extra I had for my garden trellis.

Fastening the Panels

I cut my panels to size, and fastened them to the conduit frame using UV resistant outdoor zip ties. You could also use galvanized wire or some other more durable fastener, but these have held up for me. One plus of using the wire fencing for your trellis is that the bulk of the weight is on the fencing itself and not the fasteners. Another advantage of this fencing is that if a weld separates, the wire is still intact, and you can use a zip tie or wire to hold it together.

man standing in front of trellis

Something to consider as you cut the panels is that each cut will leave some sort of jagged edge. I rounded these off by bending the edges back with pliers. No more snags! All in all, both trellis materials work. I strongly prefer the metal panel, but if you’re just getting started, or want something more temporary, the nylon net will work great for 2-3 years even in plenty of sun.