Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Isn't She Lovely

This lovely black & yellow Argiope aurantia spider has taken up residence in my garden, no doubt a granddaughter or great-granddaughter of the argiopes who used to build webs right across the walkway. Every year save last year we had argiope spiders in this area of the garden. I don't know what happened last year, but I missed them.

I've read that the Argiope aurantia is also called a "writing spider" because of the zig-zag writing on their webs. As a writer I find that just, well, perfect! This one built her web with a camouflage backdrop of black-eyed susans. Very smart, methinks.

As my readers no doubt know, organic gardening and organic/healthy cooking are my two great passions. One reason I love organic gardening is so I can watch creatures like this one. Soon a tiny spider resembling a wisp of dead grass will make a home on the outer edges of her web. This will be the male. He will make her big and fat, she will eat him, and then she will lay eggs. Ain't love grand.

Anyway, my interest in organic gardening has led me to find less toxic solutions to the usual problems which plague us here in Tennessee, notably mosquitoes, chiggers, poison ivy, etc. etc. I love an argiope spider but I really hate getting covered in chigger bites just walking around my garden in the morning. Plus we have pets, and a koi pond, and I don't want to freak out about what I'm spraying on my herbs and vegetables that end up on the dinner table. So here are my two favorite products (and no, I'm not receiving one penny to endorse this stuff. They really work):

• Garlic Barrier -- This stuff works great on mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas and just general garden pests. It's made of garlic so your garden smells like an Italian restaurant for about three hours but the smell does dissipate. The only problem is that you need to spray everything about once a month or so, but I guess that's true of any product. However, it seems to repel the stuff you don't want and not bother the stuff you DO want.

Nature’s Avenger Organic Weed Killer Herbicide -- The irony of an "organic herbicide" notwithstanding, let me tell you: this stuff rocks! It smells like oranges and when they say it works fast, trust me, they mean it. Shake it up, spray it, and in a few hours your weeds are shriveling.

It's the perfect organic alternative to RoundUp, which is made by Monsanto, which everyone knows is evil. But even if Monsanto weren't evil and RoundUp wasn't an endocrine disruptor in mice and a cause of genetic damage in small critters (and who knows, maybe big ones too), I'd still recommend Avenger because, to repeat: it rocks. So, that's today's organic gardening tip.

• Bat Guano -- I don't buy a lot of fertilizer because when you have a koi pond your filter gives you a lot of lovely nutrient-rich pond sludge which is the best fertilizer I know. But I decided to give the bat guano a try on my shrubs and, well, holy smokes! My shrubs have taken off like a rocket ship. Also, I didn't have enough for my entire hedgerow, and you can really see which shrubs got the bat guano and which ones didn't.

Anyway, I'm not getting anything for recommending this stuff or linking to Arbico Organics which is the online catalog I use. I'm sure you can find this stuff in a lot of places online.