Seeking organic gardening solutions please!

by Ali

My family recently purchased 2.5 acres of land, with a small home, a shed, a shop, and an underground storm shelter. We noticed that on the property there were several citrus trees. I know that there are 2 orange trees, 1 lemon tree, and a couple of "unknown" (we assume either grapefruit, lime or more orange or lemon. Anyways, the previous property owner "clumped" several of them together...the lemon cross-bred with the orange...NASTY oranges!! Also, the elderly gentleman we bought the property from used a LOT of pestacides and herbacides...and NOT the "organic" kind! The shed is full of ant killer, flea killer, mole killer, as well as grass/weed/brush killer.

I am HIGHLY against using chemicals in my yard and garden. I've known for YEARS about companion planting marigolds and tomatoes. I know of some sprays that can be made with liquid dish soap, onion, garlic, and hot peppers to keep pests off of plants without harming the plant or risking someone (or a cat) accidently getting poisioned. My family of 4lives on less than $800 a month. We are hoping to KEEP the citrus trees we currently have, add some other trees and bushes such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, and blueberries. We also plan on having a substantial vegetable garden, an herb garden, and after 18 years of husband is going to plant me a rose garden :) I would also like to have other flower gardens as well as a bleeding heart tree.

One of my MAJOR current dilemas is ANTS. We have fire ants as well as other sorts of ants and they are KILLING one of the "unknown" fruit trees. Granted, this tree is planted too close to our home and needs to be moved...but it could take us a year to be able to get it into it's new "permanent" home. I don't want to plant tansy simply because it IS invasive and according to many people, toxic. What else can I do about these ants? And there is something eating the leaves of the same tree (I can't find the culprit) and I fear that if I don't do SOMETHING very fast, the tree will not live much longer.

Do you have any other advice about companion planting things? Also, we are hoping to get some chickens and I would love for them to be able to "roam free" from time to time without fear of them eating something that would harm them, or contaminate their eggs. However, I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to let a fowl roam free because I have cats. When I moved here, I had 2 (now a 3rd has "adopted" me) and they are outdoor cats due to the fact that we live in rattlesnake (and other snake) country and cats are GOOD deterants from snakes (and one of them has been known to kill a couple of snakes in the past). I'm so new to this "organic" self sufficiency way of life that I feel like I'm totally lost. We do plan for some of our extra produce to be sold to help supplement our income (nothing like a giant farm...more of a "fruit stand" kind of thing). I know my husband wants to plant a good bit of tomatoes, okra, and peppers because there is a high demand in our area for all of those, but the okra is in EXTREMELY high demand. I also know that it's not fun to pick okra because of it's hairs!! Any help you could offer would be so greatly appreciated.

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Jan 21, 2017
The Ants
by: Ali

I appreciate everyone's advice so far. And the grease trap idea sounds wonderful, but these pesky ants have built their colony within the root system. I've tried running them out with a garden hose, I've tore their mound up 3 times with a stick, and I've tried using cornmeal and grits (that seems to just feed them). I read somewhere that mixing bakers yeast with lard (aka bacon grease) makes an effective bait that works well when those little workers feed their queen, but I've not had a chance to try it yet due to extremely bad storms.

As for using carpet and mulch with chickens, I have old carpet in the rafters of the shop on the property that was taken out of the house when the previous owners put down new carpet in the living room and hall, so that might be something I could do. It's currently looking like it will be a wee bit more time still before we can get a coop built and get the chickens.

Jan 20, 2017
Organic Garden Solutions
by: Nebraska Dave

Ali, I live in the middle of the USA in a state called Nebraska. I can't give you much advice about fruit trees especially citrus trees because they don't grow here.

It sounds like you have a challenge ahead with ants, fleas, moles, and what ever else comes your way. My biggest challenges for my gardening is wild life. Deer, raccoons, rabbits, wild turkeys (a good thing. They love bugs), and groundhog that thinks I've planted a buffet for her. I know it's a her because I saw her with two little ones last year so their has to be at least two adults around.

I admire your desire to grow without chemicals. We don't have fire ants here so I have no advice for you on that one. I do have some red ants in my garden but they are not over powering like yours seem to be. I just leave them alone and they leave my raised beds alone as well.

I wish you all the best of luck on your new and challenging adventure.

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer

Jan 20, 2017
Congratulations on your lifestyle decision
by: Tony

Your fears of toxic chemicals are well founded. Be careful with poultry as they can scratch up chemicals which were used many tens of years ago. A friend of ours had to cover the ground with old carpet and add 12" of mulch over it, so the chickens would not produce eggs which had traces of dieldrin and DDT in them.
I do not know if chickens would eat the ants, or vice-versa (I hope not).
To protect your tree, put a grease trap around the trunk of the tree.
1. Wrap the lower 12" of tree trunk with plastic wrap.
2. Smear grease over the plastic wrap.
3. Prune off any parts of the tree that touch the ground.
The ants will try to cross the grease but will find it very difficult and will hopefully give up on that path into the tree. If you do not have any other part of the tree touching the ground (or another tree which is not protected) then they will be unable to go up the tree.

If you are concerned with residual chemicals in the soil, then consider adding raised garden beds with soil from a known 'clean' source. You could set them up as 'wicking' beds which are very water efficient. Another alternative id to have Aquaponic gardens with fish providing the nutrients for the plants and the plants removing the ammonia that is toxic to the fish.
A symbiotic relationship.

Best wishes in your new venture.

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