GARDENING BY RONELLA: How to repel insects
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jun 19, 2013 | 123 123 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A flower garden with a great mixture of flowers has several advantages. The main advantage is that it attracts fewer insects than a garden concentrating on just one kind of plant, such as a rose garden. In fact, roses scattered throughout a flower garden are healthier than a bed of only roses. I learned that early in my gardening and gave up a rose bed strictly for roses. You are more likely to attract hummingbirds in that mixed garden and you will have fewer insects of all kinds along with fewer diseases. In fact, some flowers in that mixed garden, such as marigolds, will actually repel insects. When the blooms begin to fade, you can cut the bloom and scatter the petals throughout your garden as an insect repellent. You probably have noticed that some plants in your garden never have insect problems. Those are usually the ones that give off a perfume that insects don’t like, such as all the herbs and the strong smelling Russian Sage and Artemesia. In fact, deer don’t like those plants either. When I first discovered Russian Sage and realized all its properties that made it an ideal plant, I scattered them throughout my biggest flowerbed. They like dry soil, insects don’t like them at all and they don’t seem to ever have any disease. On the other hand, when I found some particular plant that insects were always attacking, that required much watering and was subject to mildew and other diseases, I just eliminated that plant from my mixed garden.

So the war with insects and diseases goes on.

In looking back on my life spent with my grandparents every time I had a chance, I think of some of the things they did in growing plants that I didn’t understand at the time. As I have often mentioned in my columns, I spent all the time with them that my parents would allow until I was seven years old and we moved from the farm near their farm. So I watched them do many things that interested me. Pa had such a variety of wonderful things, which he grew or found in the woods, such as hazelnuts, hickory nuts and walnuts. He grew popcorn, cane for molasses, peanuts and many more fun things. One thing that always interested me was Pa’s beehive. I was never allowed to go to the hives when he was taking some of the honeycombs out of the hives. He wore a hat with a veil and gloves and long shirtsleeves to go to war with the bees over their honey. He brought it to the house in a big dishpan. Then Ma would strain the honey to separate the honey from the bees and the waxy comb. She kept honey in a little jug to put on the table for use on hot biscuits and butter, which Pa especially loved.

I remember a few times, maybe two or three, when Pa would rush in to get his bee gear and then rush out again and I would hear him tell Ma that he was going to try to get a “stand” of bees; I seem to remember his saying that, and he would explain later to me that he found bees in an old hollow tree and that he needed another hive of bees.

I was so intrigued with the whole process of the bees and honey but never allowed near the hives. Pa got stung a few times I know and perhaps that is why he never had arthritis as an old man.

For years, I wondered why Pa let a strip of wild grasses and wild flowers grow naturally between the big front yard and the orchard, near which he kept his bees. I never thought to ask him and in my later years of gardening, I often thought of how he kept the front yard mowed with mules and a big mower and he also mowed around the fruit trees and the wide space between the front yard and the path to the orchard. I knew the reason for that was because of snakes that might lurk in the grass in the orchard. One day I was reading in a gardening magazine about bees and fruit trees and there was my answer. Pa kept the bees to pollinate the orchard trees, which I knew, and the strip of wild flowers was for the bees. Honeybees prefer yellow flowers for some reason and I remember there being a lot of wild yellow flowers. If I lived another lifetime, I might come up with answers for a lot of questions I have about Pa and Ma’s little farm. I still marvel at the wonderful, rich life they were able to live due to their own industriousness and their ingenuity. They had every kind of food imaginable and they were able to live that lifestyle on a small creek bottom farm. As a child, I noticed that other farm families didn’t live that well. I also came to realize that Pa’s father and grandfather had planted the orchard and the damson and cherry trees, dug the well and the cistern, built the tobacco barn, dug the pond for the animals, etc., and he learned from them how to get the most out of that farm. I just knew that other homes didn’t have real cloth tablecloths with real cloth napkins and all the fun things to eat. And yet he was extremely healthy even with all the hard work. They each lived to be 88 years old. And how I loved that old couple.

You can call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or even answers.
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