Get rid of your insects … Or eat them!


    This week in the studio, Mike McGrath eats bugs! Plus, he explains to listeners how to get rid of aphids without harming bees, the benefits of worm compost bins, the best way to transition a new houseplant in your home, how to help blight-stricken impatiens, correcting your compost nutrition, and how to move and store daffodil bulbs.

    Question of the Week:

    Mike: there was a recent mass killing of Bumblebees in Portland, Oregon. What can you tell you us about this horrific event?

    Mike discusses recent mass killing of bumblebees »

    Highlights from show for July 13, 2013:

    Worm compost bins

    Murray from Waretown, New Jersey needed some advice on how to apply Mike’s tips in a gated community where he is not permitted to compost. Often, residents in these communities are not allowed to garden at all and their lawns are heavily sprayed with pesticides. Instead of an outdoor compost bin, he recommends getting a worm bin for inside. Mike shares his experience, “I have a unit that’s called The Worm Factory, this is stackable trays. It’s meant to be indoors and it doesn’t take up a lot of room. They just want to be in an environment that never gets freezing cold or super hot, and they like darkness,”After the worms get settled in, they’ll be asking for more salad and scraps! “These worm bins are the bees’ knees,” Mike says, “and nobody will know you’re doing it!”

    Helping a new houseplant adjust

    Brenda from Media, Pennsylvania was given a Jack in the Pulpit plant several times but has had no lasting success with them. As a houseplant, it is typically sold as the Cobra Lily, which is a relative of the Calla Lily family. She’s tried putting it in different places all around her house, but the plant isn’t doing well. “It may be in a presentation basket,” Mike says, “most times we have to remember that when people give us house plants, these things were bred to get by indoors…so much so that a lot of times when they get direct light, it’s too much for them. So with most houseplants, although not all-there’s always exceptions-the general rule is bright light but no direct sunlight.” Taking the plant out of the presentation basket and replanting in another container with adequate drainage may be vital for Brenda to save it in time. It also does best when watered infrequently, about once a month.

    Mike McGrath eats bugs!

    The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania will be presenting the Bug Crawl, an evening of adventurous eating on Wednesday, July 17 at 6 p.m. Tasty insect recipes will be paired with specially chosen beer and wine compliments. Chef Josh Hunter joins Mike in the studio to sample some gourmet insects as well as talk about what it’s like to cook with these interesting creatures. “We read a couple books and we’ve done some experimental cooking at the restaurant, looked over menus that we’ve found online and in cookbooks and I think we’ve come up with a pretty solid sampling of bugs that people wont find too, too offensive and hopefully they’re able to eat at our event,” Josh says.

    While they will not have chocolate covered crickets, the items on the menu are meant to be more sophisticated, like cricket fritters, teriyaki glazed hissing cockroach brochettes, and silk worm pupae summer rolls. The bugs are from an organic farm that are shipped live to the restaurant. “I hate to say this ladies and gentlemen, but these are delicious!” Mike exclaims as he bites his way through one of the fritters dipped in coconut sauce. To come up with the recipes, the chefs would try the roasted bugs in their “unspiced and unadulterated form” and see what other flavors could best complement it. “I would order this now, in a restaurant. I am pleasantly surprised. I can now say that I ate a cricket to be a good sport, and then I ate five more because they were absolutely delicious!” Mike exclaims.

    “I am pleasantly surprised, I can now say that I ate a cricket to be a good sport, and then I ate five more because they were absolutely delicious!”

    Mike McGrath

    • Mike McGrath eats bugs!

      An apprehensive Mike McGrath prepares for his first bite

    Combatting impatiens blight and disease

    Balois near Greenville, North Carolina wants to know why she has had no luck with her impatiens for the last couple years. “About three years ago, there was a massive die-off of impatiens, and this happened so quickly, no gardener understood what was happening,” Mike informs. At first he thought it may have been slugs, but eventually he realized that there was in fact an impatiens blight going around that wiped out 90% of the regular impatiens plants on the East Coast. Some subvarietes of the impatiens do not get the blight, but the ordinary ones are still highly susceptible to it. “You did nothing wrong…you don’t have any bad insects, there’s nothing really bad in your soil. There’s a disease blowing around in the air,” Mike clarifies. “Go to any good gardening website and type in Impatiens Options. There’s a whole list of underutilized bedding plants for shade that we can use to fill in these spots until the blight is gone.”

    Moving daffodil bulbs

    Todd from Brookhaven, Pennsylvania dug up daffodil bulbs from his yard and asks Mike when he should replant. Todd was also curious about the “mini” daffodil bulbs he encountered while digging. Mike explains that these smaller bulbs are daffodil “offsets” and that with proper treatment, these will become daffodils later on. Todd explains that he has the bulbs stored in a cardboard box in his garage, and Mike says that’s the perfect storage solution, and further advises: “Just keep them cool and dry, don’t let them be exposed to direct sunlight; if you want to put some soil-free mix or peat moss around them, that’s fine but you don’t have to. And then you would plant them at the ideal time to plant new spring bulbs in our region, which is after Halloween but before Thanksgiving. That’s the perfect timing to put spring bulbs in the ground.”

    Developing the right nutrition level for your compost

    Rick from Lacey Township in New Jersey is adding homemade compost around his tomatoes but getting poor results. As Rick described adding grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and horse manure into his pile with very few fall leaves, Mike interrupted him and said: “Your ‘compost’ is a nitrogen bomb. It is all nitrogen. Nitrogen grows big, healthy good-looking plants. But when the soil is overwhelmed with nitrogen alone, you get big, gigantic good-looking plants with no fruits or flowers.” Mike suggests that Rick abandon his compost pile and seek a phosphorous-heavy fertilizer to balance out the damage already done to his tomatoes, and then in the fall, Mike advises that Rick collect fall leaves for his compost pile. “Come fall, I want you to save and shred every leaf, every deciduous leaf — that is what should be the bulk of your compost. That should be 80% of your raw ingredients.” Mike continues to explain that he can add horse manure into the leaf pile, but he should leave the grass clippings out for the best nutrition level for his compost.

    — This week’s post was written by Jolie Higazi, You Bet Your Garden Intern

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