Hello, again!

The package arrives every Tuesday like clockwork. The label on the box states that ‘live animals and beneficial insects are enclosed’. The illustrations on the box indicate that possibly puppies, chicks, fish or turtles are in the box, yet the package is cold packed like a box from Omaha Steaks. Instructions on the box suggest to keep out of sunlight, open immediately and to turn the critters loose! Or maybe it says ‘release immediately’.

My first shipment had an assortment of living organisms including Green Lacewing larvae, predatory mites, wasps and nematodes. 1,250,000 nematodes to be exact, all in the size of a small hummus container. Actually, the carrier holding the nematodes even looked like hummus. I’m assuming the reason ‘animals’ are listed on the box is that nematodes are actually animals. They’re among the most abundant animals on earth.They occur as parasites in animals and plants or as free-living forms in soil, fresh water, marine environments, and even such unusual places as vinegar and beer malts.

In our production greenhouses we have been using only beneficials as a pest control. We release them on a weekly basis. Some are mixed with vermiculite or hulls as a carrier, while others are in a pill bottle type container where when the lid is removed the insects fly out. We mixed the nematodes in water and sprayed them on the ground and our pansy crop. After just a couple of weekly treatments, Megan, our expert consultant, commented ‘Those pictures are absolutely beautiful to me!!! The top one appears to be mites that have been eaten. The predatory mites suck out the insides and leave behind the exoskeletons.’ Cool stuff I think! Megan’s company produces and markets a wide range of invertebrate biological control organisms which are used for control of insect pests in a var iety of crops; their primary target crops are protected vegetables, ornamentals, soft fruits and berries.

While at this point these beneficials are not available to consumers, we do offer ladybugs and praying mantis in season as beneficial biological controls for your garden. Here are a few other beneficial products we offer that include fertilizers and soil amendments for gardens:

Natural Guard Natural & Organic All Purpose Plant Food, Natural Guard Organic Plant Starter and Natural Guard Organic Tomato and Vegetable Food are made with Biozome, a unique and proprietary blend of beneficial microorganisms. These microorganisms break down complex materials and minerals to improve long-term soil quality, helping roots grow and plants to absorb nutrients they need.

Natural Guard HuMic is a granular humic acid soil amendment that's perfect for flower beds, vegetable gardens, lawns, indoor plants, and even compost bins. It's a concentrated soil conditioner made from decomposed organic plant materials and humic acids to stimulate soil microbes and help encourage plants to take up nutrients. HuMic encourages plant root development, but is not a replacement for fertilizer.

Cotton Burr Compost This soil amendment contains sulfur - the powerhouse micro-nutrient that helps lower soil pH. Cotton Burr is a by-product of the cotton ginning process, so it's 100% organic.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page because In the next few days, we'll be unboxing some of our new critters! I think you’ll find it interesting.

Your friend in the garden,

Marty Johnson
Owner - Johnson's Garden Center