Back to Back Issues Page
Add Some Spice
October 21, 2013

My apologies to our Canadian friends.

In my full days, I neglected to check my calendar and missed you Thanksgiving day all together (November 14).

To our friend and neighbors, we wish you a late Thanksgiving day :-)

The weather has taken a complete 180 in the Great Lakes region.

The warm and sunny days have turned to cool and very wet.

Not only are we getting rain that moves through the area, we are also experiencing 'Lake Effect' rain.

Just like'Lake Effect' Snow, cool air moves across the warmer water of the lakes, sucking up moisture and dropping it on us.

Needless to say, very little fall clean up has taken place.

Here are a few pictures of what are probably the last flowers of the season, as freezing temperatures are in the forecast.

I try to keep blooming plants going as long as I can.

They provide color and nectar for the bees.

We had another wedding to attend this past Saturday ( one of my nieces).

I think that is it for now.

Fewer birds are visiting right now.

Some has to do with molt (cardinals, jays, etc.)

Some are on the migration trail.

Others are enjoying nature's bounty.

Then there are the American robins that have almost magically reappeared.

Once nesting season is over, robins head to the woods and fields.

This time of year they reappear, and fatten up.

They are everywhere right now.

White crowned sparrows were here, but only a few and they didn't stay this year.

Step outside on any quiet night, you may hear the peeps of birds as they fly over.

Songbirds migrate at night.

During the day, you may be privileged to witness a flock of Sandhill cranes heading, or possibly a kettle of hawks, migrating south.

Both are well worth it.

If you haven't yet, it is time to think about bringing your houseplants and potted flowers inside for the winter.

This should be a process of a few hours in and the rest outside, or maybe the night in and the day out.

It works in reverse order as when you harden plants off to bring outside.

I realize that I'm a bit late with this for our northern friends, but it is also time to
check for cooties and such before you bring them in.

Give your plants a check for Scale, whiteflies, mites, aphids, fungus gnats, and other tiny livestock.

Not only will they effect that plant, but they can migrate to other plants as well.

Systemic pesticides work well, but you can look into other venues to take control.

Insecticidal soaps work wonders, and are safe for you and pets.

Many other products you already have.

Essential oils (Peppermint, lavender, citrus, etc.).


Essential oils are pure, not a watered down version you buy at the grocery store.

You can find essential oils at any health food store.

Use caution some may cause irritations if direct contact is made.

Some are in your spice rack as well.

Yes, it's time to add a bit of spice (and herbs) to your life.

Side Note:

It is important that you do not use antibacterial soaps, as this will harm your plants.

Always use a regular dish soap or Murphy's oil soap.

If you have allergies to certain herbs and spices, look for alternatives.


Another Note:

Somehow, I lost my rough copy of my writing and research, so much of this is done by memory. My apologies if things don't make sense. I am just as frustrated as you may be.

My apologies to you.

It is time to start bringing in all of the houseplants and that prized geranium if you haven't by now.

It is wise to slowly work them into a new environment (reverse of when you put them out last spring).

Your plants look healthy.

Are They?

Countless numbers of insects are possibly snuggled into the foliage, especially if you are experiencing cool temperatures.

Before your plants settle in for a long winter, you need to take a few preventive steps.

A couple of soapy baths will aid in knocking minimizing a house invasion.

Knock out any spiders you may see.

Pick off obvious insects.

Even good bugs will hitch a ride inside.

Insect pests are an intimate part of every home.

Whether you like it or not.

In the air, the carpet, on the counter or in your cupboards, every home shares it's resources with these tiny, often unseen invaders.

Pesticides are available for most common household insect pests.

These potent, and often dangerous chemical compounds may be more harmful to you and the environment than the pests you are trying to eradicate.

Soapy water and insecticidal soaps are often the backbone of our safe or natural ways to kill insects, yet your spice spice rack offers other ways to jazz up your life.

That's right, many herbs and spices are indeed natural insect and fungicides.

Do you recognize this stuff?

I spotted the scale on a lone tree branch while walking the field.

Scale insects are common, yet are probably the most misidentified of all insects.

Scale insects are small (.25" or less) and often mimic certain plant parts.

Scale can often look like bark and buds.

Other species appear as, waxy, white blotches or small bits of cooton like fuzz on leaves and stems.

The most difficult aspect to identifying scale, is they appear to be nonliving, as part of the plant.

Once the young have settled in, they don't move, a waxy shell develops as an armored type shell, or scale.

The insects inserts the mouthparts into the plant tissues and sucks away.

When many insects attack a plant, it shows and eventually can lead to death (left unchecked).

Another tell tale sign is the Honeydew or sticky stuff left on the plants (ant love this and will protect Scale from perdition).

Check you plants carefully as you bring them in for the winter.

As you're working your gardens, check plants like Magnolia that are very susceptible to scale.

Look for lumps and bumps that may blend in with the bark and even the foliage of evergreens.

Scale often hitches a ride on your ficus and a few other plants you had on the deck and porch this past summer.

Natural enemies may be parasitic wasps, but these plants are coming in for the winter.

You want a quick and safe fix.

Systemic pesticides work, but you may want to do this in a friendly or organic/natural manner.

If pests are few, you can scrape them off or dab with a dish soap.

For infestations,

Try insecticidal soaps.

An oil spray from the garden center using Neem oil will take care of the situation.

Follow directions.

You can also make a concoction using Murphy's soap and a few drops of Pure mint oil, mixed in water.

The herb Rue is a deterrent to fruit flies.

Flies like many insects hunt by smell, mess with their sniffer by placing Rue with your ripening fruits and veggies.

A few sprigs placed with your ripening bananas, peaches, apples and other fruits can work wonders.

Although flies hate the strong aroma of Rue, it's smell is pleasant to most humans.

Spice things up a bit........

Sprinkle cinnamon on your garbage bowl, if you have one.

You can use herbs and spices for other duties as well.

Spiders are an important part of our food chain.

They help in getting rid of nasty insects and being food themselves for birds and other animals.

So, it is important not to go around killing any spider that you see.

The majority are quite harmless and pose no threat to you if you leave them alone.

However, many people are very frightened by spiders and don't want them in their homes.

Without killing the arachnids, you can spray webs, nooks and dark places with a solution mixed with essential oils of Peppermint.

The mint smell will chase the spiders away, as they aren't fond of the strong smell.

The spiders live another day, your happy, and your home smells pretty darn good.

Here are some organic ways to control white fly infestations.

Use a solution of soapy water and spray it on the leaves of your infested plant (I use 1 tsp of Ivory dish soap, Dawn regular dish soap, or Murphy's oil soap per 1 quart or liter of water).

If the plant is small enough, bring it to the sink or shower and wash the leaves with this soap and water solution.

You can also use rubbing alcohol mixed with water (50/50) to spray on the pests.

Keep in mind that soap or rubbing alcohol can damage the plant, so it's best to spot check it before using these solutions on the entire plant.

Fungus Gnats seem to come in every potted plant.

While the gnat and the larvae do little harm, they are a huge nuisance, and they will find your other indoor plants.

To kill off and rid your potted plants of these pests, simple sprinkle the soil will cinnamon.

If you don't like the smell of that spice, try making a pot of mint tea.

Steep a generous amount of mint or mint tea bags.

Allow to cool before giving your plants a couple of drinks.

I haven't tried this one yet, but I understand that after two waterings of mint tea, your problem is solved.

Spider mites aren't your typical insect.

They are members of the arachnid family and your typical insecticide isn't going to work.

You can use systemic or harsh chemicals like Malathion to kill these tiny creatures.

Or, you can use insecticidal soaps safe plant oils that are formulated to mix with water and spray on.

With all sprays, remember to get the underside of the foliage, as this is where the sucking action takes place.

You can look for special plant oils by Bonide, Ortho, etc.

Be careful when using oils, as you can and will burn and kill off plants (experience speaking).

If you feed the birds, you have probably experienced at least once, Bird feed pests.

More than likely wheat or grain moths and their larvae.

We buy bags of feed that have the larvae growing or pupating.

We bring the bag home, open it up to feed the birds.

A couple of weeks later, you may notice these little moths flying around your home and wondering where they came from.

You swat and kill until the situation is under control.

Or so you think.

Pancakes sound good for breakfast or dinner.

You open the box and notice all this webbing and clumped flour mix.

Upon further inspection, you spot all these 1/2 inch long worms crawling in your food.

You might as well check every other box or bag that isn't sealed tight.

Now, to prevent this catastrophe from happening, place a couple of dry, Bay leaves (Sweet Bay Laurel) in your bags of bird food.

Tape or place Bay leaves in your cereal boxes, your pancake mix, your 'Jiffy Mix', and whatever else the moths find appealing.

What is nice, the herb keeps the moth at bay, and never leaves a taste or smell behind.

Place Bay leaf in your pantry as well.

Place Bay leaf any where you have ants.

Cinnamon is a great ant repellent as well.

Any creature that hunts by smell, can be altered with potent herbs and spices.

Pure mint oils will chase away mice too.

Use essential oils with caution.

Even though they are all natural, they are also chemicals and some will leave you with skin irritation if you come in direct contact with pure oils.

Do We use essential oils around here?

All the time, especially mint, as it wards of bees, wasps and even kills them on contact.

Oils are safe around humans and pets when properly used, as they are food items.

Also safe around your wild birds.


Just like outdoor plants, indoor plants can attract their share of bugs.

Bugs can live in the plant itself or on and in the plant's soil.

Using organic means of getting rid of bugs is especially important indoors.

Several natural items can be used to organically get rid of bugs on a house plant and in a house plant's soil.

Here's a few ideas for you.

Use a garlic-based solution to kill aphids and mites that live in a plant's soil.

Squeeze the juice from several cloves of garlic and combine a tablespoon of garlic juice with a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and stir into twelve cups (3 liters)of water. Spray the solution on right away.

Combine four tablespoons of dish soap and four tablespoons of baking soda and mix into sixteen cups of water.

Spray the plant once a week for at least 3 weeks to kill mold, mildew and fungus and get rid of bugs that they attract.

Make a mixture of three drops of dish soap and four tablespoons of starch in four cups of water.

Spray the solution over soil to kill aphids, mites, thrips and white flies living in the soil.

Rinse any part of the plant that got sprayed, such as the stem or leaves, a few days after the plant is sprayed to remove the solution from the plant.

Mix a teaspoon of mustard powder with a few drops of dish soap in four cups of water.

Spray the plant with the mixture to kill aphids, mites and scales.

Create a cinnamon mixture with a one teaspoon of cinnamon and four cups of water.

Let the mixture stand until the cinnamon settles into the bottom of the container and pour directly over the soil to kill bugs that are attracted to mildew and crown rot.


Mix 2 Tbsp cooking oil, and 2 tbsp baby shampoo in a gallon of water.

Controls aphids, mites, thrips, white fly, scale, lacebugs, and mealy bugs.

You boil some water and orange or grapefruit (or whatever citrus) peels. Let that water cool and spray it on the aphids. It has to make contact with the aphids to be effective

Using essential oils such as lemon, orange, clove, peppermint, and mint around the home will deter most bugs as they are turned off by strong odors.

Crushed Mint repels flies.

Small packets of crushed mint helps to repel flies.

Isn't it wonderful?

God gives us natural ways to deal with pests.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world."

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American Writer

Jesus gives us His peace, He says we don't have to be afraid.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid."

John 14:27

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page