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Good Night, Sleep Tight… And You Probably Know The Rest

Bedbugs

Travelling to another city or country can be a grand adventure.  However, bringing home bed bugs is a sure way to end your vacation on a sour note.  With a few preventive measures you can ensure your time away results in bringing home only pleasant memories.

Back in the 2000’s, I was employed as the office manager for a pest control company in a small British Columbia town.  That decade saw a huge resurgence in bed bug infestations, due in large part to increases in domestic and international travel, and the decline of prophylactic pesticide application in public places. I received many a panicked call at the office from anxious folks concerned about biting creepy-crawlies in their beds.

During that time, my husband and I took our 3 children – ages 6, 10 and 12 – on a 10-day excursion through southern Alberta.  The kids were fascinated by Drumheller dinosaurs and the West Edmonton Mall, but they always remembered my line of work.  Thorough bed bug inspections in every new hotel room became routine.

No luggage even came into the room until inspection had been done.  If that’s not possible for you, pile your luggage in the bathtub until you feel safe to unpack.  The porcelain of the tub will be too smooth for bed bugs to climb, and – thankfully – bed bugs are wingless and cannot fly.

The most obvious spot to inspect should also be your first – the bed.  Even though bed bugs can survive months without feeding, the only thing they do eat is human blood; and with rare exception they only feed at night. Bed bugs will only travel 5 to 20 feet from their harborage, so if they’re present they will likely be close to their food source.  

Move aside the blankets and sheets so the mattress is exposed.  Inspect all seams and folds, and check the head, foot and sides of the mattress carefully. You are looking for any dark or black spots, which are bed bug droppings (the remnants of digested blood).  Other signs of bed bug presence are reddish streaks (blood from crushed bugs) or bed bug casings, which are the shells shed by the bugs as they reach a new growth stage.  The bugs themselves are brown or reddish-brown and resemble flattish apple seeds with six legs.

Next, check any upholstered furniture, especially sofas and sofa beds.  Pay careful attention to any cracks in the wood frames of any furnishings for any droppings, casings, or bugs.  Bed bugs prefer wood and fabric habitats over plastic or metal.  Inspect the carpeting and check over the carpet edges thoroughly.

If the bed, carpet and furniture show no signs of infestation, it’s highly likely that your room is bug free.  Go ahead and unpack.  Should you find anything of concern, you may want to speak to the hotel staff about a different room.  Be warned, however; bed bugs travel easily between rooms and through walls.  Where one room is infested, there’s a very good chance that others in the same building are as well.  And bed bugs thrive in the same environmental conditions that humans do: warm temperatures and medium to high relative humidity. ‘Forewarned is forearmed’ may sound like an overused cliché, but nothing could be truer when it comes to bed bugs.   Be aware, be observant, and make your holiday a happy one!

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Diatomaceous Earth To Aid In Composting

Diatomaceous Earth used in a home compost pile with tolls surrounding it.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a naturally occurring substance mined from specific lakebed deposits. Made up of fossilized single-celled planktonic algae called diatoms, the silica-rich shells of these microscopic organisms give this chalk-like substance exceptional porosity and abrasive property. With many commercial, agricultural and household uses, DE can even play a pivotal role in the health of your backyard compost pile!

Below is a collection of consumer tested application methods in which consumers have used diatomaceous earth like our Stall Dry product to help them with their at-home composting.

Unprocessed manure and compost piles can play host to the larvae of many types of flies. Most, like the common housefly, are harmless, since they do not often bite humans or animals, or carry harmful diseases. Outside of utilizing the pest control power of backyard chickens, the potential for a build-up of potentially harmful maggots could potentially contaminate your composting efforts. A simple sprinkle of a food-grade Diatomaceous Earth-based insecticide will keep your compost pile happy.

Due to its inert nature, Diatomaceous Earth can also be used as a chemical-free deodorant for your compost pile. With smells often being caused by an abundance of wet ingredients like kitchen wastes and fallen fruit, the absorbent nature of DE will allow you to deodorize the pile making it easier to integrate its use into your day-to-day life. 

As it only affects hard-bodied insects, peppering a light sprinkle of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth on the top-layer of your composting bin will allow you to manage pests and fruit-flies from your compost pile while still creating a nurturing and safe environment for your worms. Many people also find adding DE to worming compost can aid in some beneficial digesting and grinding of the food for the worms while benefiting the soil as it contains many good trace minerals.

*When using DE in your working compost be sure to use sparingly and do not mix in so that it does not pull too much moisture from the worms ecosystem.

Rodents like mice, moles, and rats can wreck your garden compost in no time, and if you don’t want to harm them, Diatomaceous Earth is here to help. Rodents hate the strong smells of essential oils like peppermint and lemon citrus and as Diatomaceous Earth is an excellent absorbent. These two ingredients can be combined to create the most potent organic rodent repellent that can keep the rodents at bay when sprinkled around the perimeter of your composting bin.

For a full list of items we suggest you add to your compost bin (in addition to DE) we have sourced a list from our customers on the blog. 

Now you’re ready to compost!

Please note: Stall DRY can also be added directly to the compost to help keep down the odor and absorb any excess liquid (just be sure not to add too much Stall DRY, as you want the compost to keep a wet/dry balance).

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Solutions for Those Winter Whoas!

Dog with snow shovel

 Winter is an enjoyable time of year for many folks.  When the snow starts falling, many people head outdoors for a myriad of recreational pursuits.  Of course, day-to-day activities still must be accomplished reliably.  Shoveling away the snow often results in ice-covered surfaces, such as roads and walkways, which require treatment to reduce or eliminate falls and accidents.

 

The most popular ice treatment has traditionally been rock salt (sodium chloride). While cheap and plentiful, rock salt is slow to act and it works even slower as temperatures drop.  Below -17 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit), the melting action of rock salt has so little effect that it takes a full pound of salt to melt just four pounds of ice!

Adding calcium chloride to traditional rock salt results in a product that works better and faster.  The calcium chloride absorbs moisture from the surrounding environment, and actually generates heat in an exothermic reaction as it melts ice to form a brine.  A calcium chloride/rock salt combination remains effective at far lower temperatures than just rock salt alone, and melts the ice more rapidly.

Absorbent Products’ line of Diamond Glacier Ice Melters feature a calcium chloride formulation for rapid melting and low-temperature effectiveness, as well as soluble dyes for easy visibility and application. 

An alternative ice treatment gaining popularity is granular traction aid.  Instead of brining away the ice, traction aid is applied to the top of the ice to reduce slipperiness and improve grip.  As there is no melting action, roads and pathways remain dry and clean. 

Absorbent Products’ Diamond Glacier Traction Aid is made of volcanic zeolite, which has a strong, honeycomb-like molecular structure.  These granules can withstand foot or vehicle traffic without being crushed, making them a durable and economical choice for safety applications. 

An added benefit of zeolite is there is no chance of harming pets or plants, as it is a natural, inert mineral.  Any overapplication can easily be swept onto lawns or shrubbery.  In fact, this is beneficial to vegetation as zeolite is a registered soil conditioner.  Zeolite is also used as a non-toxic, chemical free animal feed additive so there is no danger of poisoning if it is accidentally ingested.

 

Get out there and enjoy winter…safely!

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How do you get water out of a rock?

Zeolite

How do you get water out of a rock?  Easy – if that rock is a zeolite!

In 1756, Swedish scientist Axel Cronstedt discovered that
heating stilbite (a natural zeolite species) to a high temperature caused the
rock to steam, as if there was water inside it.  Cronstedt coined the term “zeolite”, a
combination of the Greek words for “to boil” (zeo) and “stone” (lithos).  We now know that the structure of zeolite can
‘trap’ and hold water molecules.

Zeolites are composed of molecules of oxygen, aluminum, and
silica that form interlinked tetrahedra. 
These structures are like molecular cages, which can trap and hold other
molecules such as water.

The zeolite cages retain the water and release it slowly,
making zeolite a very useful addition to soils and growth media. Zeolite can
also be pretreated with elemental nutrients such as potassium; the zeolite
holds the potassium and releases it slowly into the soil, making it an
effective slow release fertilizer.

The stable tetrahedra structure of zeolite provides the
additional benefit of soil aeration. 
Zeolite, unlike other mineral additives, does not break down over
time.  Adding a soil amendment like
Absorbent Products’ Green Patch™ increases the soil’s porosity and allows more
oxygen to reach the plant root systems.

There are 40 naturally occurring zeolite species, and over
200 more that have been created artificially. Natural zeolites were formed
thousands to millions of years ago, in areas where volcanic rock and ash
reacted with alkaline groundwater.  Synthetic
zeolites can be ‘custom-made’ so that their tetrahedra are specifically shaped
to encapsulate the target material.  Due
to this, synthetic zeolites are used in a wide variety of industrial
applications, from petrochemical processing to nuclear radiation remediation.

One particular natural species of zeolite, called clinoptilolite,
has a strong exchange affinity for ammonium. 
This makes it an excellent odour absorber when used for cat litter and
livestock bedding, as ammonia is trapped and held.  Absorbent Products’ line of zeolite
treatments for animal waste management, such as Horse Sense™ and Poultry
Sense™, are all made from our deposit of natural clinoptilolite located in the
mountains of southern British Columbia. 
For more information on the many uses of zeolite and our products, give
us a call!

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Important Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners

Welcome to the world of gardening! If you’re new to this fun and rewarding activity, here are some important tips to help you out along the way!

A sunny area with level ground is the best place to plant a vegetable garden. Planting on level ground will make it much easier to prepare the soil, plant and irrigate your vegetables. In the case that planting on a level surface is not an option, be sure to run your rows across the slope, rather than up and down. This will help to keep the soil from washing away when watering your garden.

Avoid planting a garden under trees as well as on the north side of buildings, shrubs or other tall objects, as they will block the sunlight.

When planning the layout of your garden, place the tallest plants on the north side. This will prevent them from blocking shorter plants from receiving sunlight.

Be sure to leave enough space between the rows or beds so that you can easily move around to work and water the plants.

Try to keep your soil evenly moist while your vegetables are growing. To do so, apply water when you see that the top 1 – 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) of soil is dry.

Water only the base of your plants. Watering from above will waste water (through evaporation) and moisture on the foliage of your plants can potentially lead to leaf diseases.

Try to move your crops around (or plant different crops) after each season. Planting the same crop (or crops from the same family) in the same area two years in a row may encourage pests that feed on certain crops to inhabit the soil in these areas.

Image by mccun934

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Stall DRY in Compost

Stall DRY is used to control wetness, odor and ammonia in stalls, cages and other animal dwellings. It is an all natural product and is safe to use with nearly all animals.

When used with bedding and waste that is composted, Stall DRY is safe to be composted and used in the garden. In fact, as a natural product containing food grade diatomaceous earth, individuals have found that Stall DRY provides many benefits, resulting in a more compostable and drier product that is easier to spread in the garden. When contained in compost and added to the garden, Stall DRY can also help to aerate the soil and will act as a natural insecticide.

Mixed with water, Stall DRY has a pH of approximately 6 while pure water has a pH of 7 or 8. Therefore adding Stall DRY to your compost and garden will not affect the pH of the soil too drastically and will not harm your plants (unless they are highly sensitive to changes in pH).

Please note: any end-product meant for human consumption that has come in contact with Stall DRY should be washed well before being consumed. This is due to the fact that government regulations state that no food grade diatomaceous earth should be present in any end-product that is meant for human consumption.

Image by suavehouse113

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Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth: A New Construction Material?

While many people find food grade diatomaceous earth a very useful form of pest control to use around their homes and in their gardens, some individuals have become very creative in their attempt to protect their homes from insects. Recently, individuals have informed us that they have applied DE not only around the perimeter of their homes, basements and attics but that they have also sprinkled diatomaceous earth in the walls of their homes during construction, in an attempt to deter termites and other crawling insects! In fact, customers who applied food grade diatomaceous earth in the walls of their home over 8 years ago have seen great results and have never had a termite problem!

Individuals have found diatomaceous earth to be very effective as an insecticide. In a world where sustainability is key, individuals prefer to use this natural method of insect control in order to minimize their impact on the environment.

We love to learn about your creative uses for this amazing product and to hear about the results that you have seen! Please share your story using the form below!

Image by Martin Pettitt

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Growing a Safe and Natural Urban Garden

Many individuals are moving towards more sustainable living, with urban gardening becoming a very popular hobby.

While urban gardens are great for the environment and the health and well being of those who grow them, there can also be some risks to watch out for.

Studies have shown that gardens near heavy traffic areas may become contaminated with high levels of heavy metals. There are steps that you can take, however, to reduce the risk of your garden becoming contaminated, even if you are working in a contaminated area.

Learn about the land you are working with. Before planting a garden it is important that you try to identify whether or not your soil may be contaminated. Your local land authority and health or environmental agencies may be able to help with records of past uses as well as soil testing. If you discover your land may be contaminated, is near buildings where lead paint may have flaked off or is in a high traffic area, you may want to consider growing your crops in a raised bed. Line the bed with a sturdy liner and bring in new, clean soil in which to grow your crops. Barriers such as a wall, thick hedge or other thick vegetation can also be helpful in blocking the dust and contaminants that may threaten your crops from the presence of heavy traffic. If you are in an area with lots of traffic, creating a barrier around your urban garden is a great idea to help eliminate the risk of contamination.

These simple suggestions can be very helpful in ensuring the growth of a clean garden and supplying you and your family with fresh, natural, homegrown ingredients.

Image by qmnonic

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Jump Start Your Garden: How to Plant Seeds Indoors

Are you planning on planting a vegetable garden this year? If so, get a head start by planting your seeds indoors!

While not all plants are suited to this method, many vegetables are. Suitable vegetablesinclude broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leeks, onions, parsley, peppers, tomatoes and squash. Vegetables that do not do well when transplanted and therefore should not be planted indoors ahead of time include root crops such as carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips as well as corn, beans, peas and okra.

While it is helpful to start early with many types of seeds, it is also important that you don’t plant the seeds too soon. In order to determine when to start sowing your seeds indoors, count backwards from the suggested planting time on the back of the seed packet. Most seeds will need to grow for approximately two to eight weeks before being transplanted into the garden. The suggested timeline will refer to your last frost date. If you are unsure of when this is, visit The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Canada or the The Old Farmer’s Almanac: United States.

All the supplies you need to start growing your seeds indoors can be found around the house or at a local hardware store or garden centre. For example, old food containers can be used to plant seeds in.  It is important, however, that any materials you are using or re-using are sterile. To sterilize seed trays use a weak bleach solution (approximately one part bleach to nine parts water). If you are using your own soil it is a good idea to spread it in a shallow pan and to set it in the oven (at 180 C, 350 F) for thirty minutes to be sure that it is sterilized as well.

How To Get Started:

Please note: Before getting started, it is important to read the back of the seed packet for any additional steps that may be required.

Step 1: Fill your starter tray (or re-useable food containers) with loosely packed soil. Using the spacing instruction on the back of the seed packet, poke holes in the soil for the seeds.

Step 2: Plant your seeds in the holes.

Step 3: Lightly water the newly planted seeds (be sure not to over water, as the seeds may float out of their planting holes). Once watered, cover the tray with a plastic lid (or, if you are re-using containers, place them inside zip-lock bags) to keep the moisture trapped. (At the first signs of germination, uncover the tray or remove the container from the plastic bag.)

Step 4: Over the first few days, check the tray to test moisture levels. Add water as needed.

Please Note: Water carefully. Use a small watering can to gently water the seedling only when the top of the soil appears to be dry. It is important that you do not over water as this can lead to the death of young plants.

Keep the tray in a relatively warm environment and provide at least eight hours of light daily. A bright window will work however, grow lights or fluorescent tubes are better, especially in dull winter climates. If you are using grow lights or fluorescent tubes, make sure to keep the seedlings approximately eight to ten centimeters (three to four inches) away from the light source.

It is important that you pick a good growing site for your seeds to germinate. The top of a fridge is a good spot, as the heat will help keep the soil warm and aid in germination.

Step 5: Transplant healthy sprouts to larger pots so they can develop a stronger root system. This will help make the transplanting process easier on them.

Once the outdoor gardening season arrives you will have strong, healthy sprouts to plant.

Good luck and have fun!

Image by Leaf by Leaf

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Not All Weeds Are Bad: Your Guide to Reaping the Benefits of Good Weeds in the Garden!

While most gardeners are quick to rid their garden of weeds, what many people don’t know is that some weeds can actually be beneficial to a garden! Therefore, rather than eliminating all of the weeds from your garden, learn to recognize those that will be helpful and use them to your advantage!

There are many different types of weeds that can provide numerous benefits to your garden. These benefits include the protection of topsoil, helping to pull up nutrients and water deep in the ground that other plants are unable to reach, luring harmful pests away from your crops and flowers and attracting beneficial insects to the area.

Protecting Topsoil:

Weeds such as spurges, purslane, lamb’s-quarters, chickweed and ragweed can be very helpful to have in a garden, as they will protect essential top soil from being washed or blown away.

Bringing Up Nutrients and Water:

Dandelions, prickly lettuce, spiny sow thistle, wild amaranths, cockleburs, nightshades and Queen Anne’s lace are examples of weeds that have very strong roots that go deep into the ground. Weeds with deep taproots can benefit a garden by breaking up hard soil and bring up nutrients from the areas that most plants are unable to reach. If the weeds are composted or turned into the soil, the nutrients that they have absorbed will be distributed for other plants to use. As well, moisture is also wicked upwards outside of the roots for other plants to benefit from. Weeds like Mugwort may also be helpful in absorbing heavy metals from the ground, stopping erosion and adding nutrients to soil.

Attracting Beneficial Insects and Luring Away Pests:

Certain repellent weeds such as dandelions, cockleburs and goldenrod can help to deter pests such as army worms. As well, other weeds including Lamb’s-quarters and Rosa multiflora will help protect your garden by luring away insects such as leaf miners and Japanese beetles that might otherwise feed on your plants.

Pennycress and dandelions are also great weeds for attracting beneficial insects. Clover is a common weed that can be used to attract earthworms and also to lure away pests such as rabbits. In addition, certain weeds such as Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, evening primrose, wild mustard, amaranth and dandelions will help to attract beneficial insects that will feed on and eliminate the harmful ones.

So, next time you go to weed your garden take a closer look and remember not all weeds are bad!

Image by davetoaster