Lauterbach: Chemists keep busy improving organic pesticides

Special to the Idaho StatesmanJune 14, 2013 

THE GARDEN TOURS: Sandra Beebe’s East End garden will be part of Garden Tour 2013, on Sunday, June 23, that r benefits the Idaho Botanical Garden. The cost is $25 per person, $20 for garden members. Call 343-8649 or go online at idahobotanicalgarden.org. The Mountain Home Garden Tour is June 22. Proceeds will go towards a city beautification project. The cost is $8 in advance at Stagecoach Espresso in the Mountain Home Library and Joanne’s Creative Cakes, or $10 at Lucky Perk on tour day. 587-3379.

KATHERINE JONES / KJONES@IDAHOSTATESMAN.COM

There are new developments in pesticides, Neem having been reformulated to be used as a foliar spray or as a drench, allowing the pesticide to enter plants through roots and flow to all parts.

This product, called Azatrol, even controls aphids, fungus gnats, thrips, whiteflies, spider mites and caterpillars in addition to the insects you'd expect it to control.

This should work on those black cabbage aphids that attack kale, broccoli, collards, cabbage and other brassicas in the fall, after we've turned off our hoses. I wouldn't use it on squash, though, because the pesticide would be in the flowers, ready to kill bees.

Maybe this would be a cure-all for leaf miners, too, since we pull out spinach, chard or beets before they flower. Those are the targets of leaf miners. Territorial Seeds has Azatrol in its fall catalog, but it wasn't in the spring catalog. It's pretty expensive, but may be worth the money.

Another interesting new product is Actinovate fungicide, which even attacks fire blight, a disease common in this area that attacks apples, pears, pyracantha, hawthorn, spirea, etc. Actinovate also controls many other fungi including black spot, downy mildew, root rots, rusts, late blight and others.

We've had to resort to mail order to buy Sluggo Plus, mentioned last week. Gardens Alive has that formulation under the name Escargot Supreme.

Sluggo Plus, Azatrol and Actinovate are approved organic substances and registered in Idaho.

AN OLD STAND-BY STILL WORKS

While admiring or testing new pesticides, don't forget some of the good old ones.

Diatomaceous earth, or DE, consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, very tiny ocean organisms. This powdery substance has sharp protuberances (not really visible to the human eye) that kill ants, earwigs, millipedes, centipedes, crickets, cockroaches, and even bedbugs. Those sharp edges puncture insect bodies, draining their life fluids.

Do not use the DE sold for swimming pools because it's been heated, smoothing out the sharp points of the tiny exoskeletons. DE is powdery, so it's a good idea to wear a face mask to prevent inhaling it. Also, do not wear good clothes when using or transferring this powder.

This is another of those substances to which insects cannot develop resistance as they do to synthetic pesticides.

FOOD OR FLOWER?

There's often a fine or blurry line between ornamental and edible plants.

One that comes to mind is the lablab bean. It's commonly eaten in India, but grown mainly as an ornamental in America.

It is a climbing or pole bean, also known as Lablab purpureus, or Bonavista, Egyptian or hyacinth bean. It's a tropical plant whose starchy root is edible, but the beans are questionable. It's much used in India, where folks eat the leaves for a cooked green, the flowers raw, steamed or added to soups or stews.

Young tender pods and immature seeds are cooked for use as a curry vegetable. Mature beans are dried and eaten cooked in India, but probably should not be eaten as mature, shelled fresh beans. They and many other varieties of mature fresh beans (especially limas) contain toxic substances which are destroyed by cooking.

The Dolichos lablab bean has vividly purple flowers and almost iridescent purple pods containing attractive purple beans with a white hilum stretching the length of the bean like a Mohawk haircut or roach. It's often grown in this country as a vine good for ornament only, not eaten.

Those Americans who do choose to eat them are advised to use two changes of water for cooking dried lablab beans.

They are easy to grow, in acidic or alkaline soil, in full sun. Once established, they're fairly drought tolerant, take 90 to 150 days to maturity from sowing, and are grown as an annual here.

Send garden questions to melauter@earthlink.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

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