Simply Down To Earth — Pesky Pests And Organic Garden Matters

Simply Down To Earth — Pesky Pests And Organic Garden Matters

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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Over the last few weeks we laid out the kitchen garden, made compost, prepared the garden beds, seeded, planted out the vegetable seedlings and mulched. Whew! After all that hard work, hopefully you took a well-­deserved rest! So now that the vegetables are coming on nicely, how do we make sure the pesky pests won't enjoy our bounty before we do? Well, instead of using harmful chemicals to combat pests, organic gardeners use more natural methods to deter them from destroying crops. These methods also help to preserve the delicate balance of nature. The result is healthy soil and plants, leading to tasty nutritious food and a nourishing environment.

Good bugs

Not all insects are pests, so lure the good ones in. Plant flowers and let some of your herb plants go to seed to provide food and encourage pollinators and other beneficials to come. Provide a water source for the birds and bees especially in the hot summer months. Plant shade trees and shrubs that feed and provide habitats for them. Dragonflies, ladybugs, toads, birds, spiders, lizards can all be helpful pest managers in the garden.

 

A few tips for controlling the bad bugs

Remember that some of the best garden tools are your eyes. Visit the garden daily to observe your plants closely for pests and disease and identify your crop's enemy before acting.

Keep your garden clean and free from debris. This will help to eliminate places for pests to live and breed. For example, slugs and snails like damp areas. Remove their hiding places, like bits of old wood and bamboo, rotting grass and large leaves to the composting collection area.

For small gardens, simply hand-­picking pests before an infestation occurs can be very effective.

Covering a vegetable bed with fine mesh covers is an effective way of keeping pests away from crops. Water and sunshine can go through, but not the pests.

Diatomaceous earth is a fine off-­white powder which consists of the fossilised remains of aquatic organisms. If you can get it, dusting your plants will rid them of beetles, ants, aphids and other pests. It is suggested that you wear a mask when applying. Best to apply on a dry day after you have watered, as water will wash the dust off.

Save your eggshells. A thick layer of finely crushed eggshells placed around the roots of plants is unpleasant for slugs. The shells will also add calcium to the soil.

 

Good companions

Companion planting mentioned in last week's article describes growing different species together to benefit one or both. This is a very effective pest control technique. When done correctly, planting a diversity of crops will discourage pests and encourage helpful ones. Some plants will attract pests away from your main crops. For instance, I plant nasturtiums around my vegetable garden. The bright and beautiful edible flowers attract pollinators and add a nice kick to salads. But I've noticed that if there are whiteflies visiting, nasturtiums attract them away from my leafy greens and vegetables. Strong scented herbs like rosemary and sage help repel some pests too,. Planting a few among the vegetables will do more than provide seasoning for the pot and a hot cup of morning tea.

 

Mix it up

If the same crop is planted in the same area time after time, the pests get to know this. Once you have reaped a crop from a bed or container, the next crop planted in that location should be from a different plant family. Crop rotation will disrupt insect cycles and separate pests from their host plants. It will also ensure that the same nutrients are not being depleted from your soil continuously. Add more compost to each bed when you are ready to plant again. Keeping a simple garden plan and noting dates and type of vegetables planted will help this method to work efficiently.

 

Kitchen brews for the garden

Be careful what you treat your vegetables with as the whole idea is to eat good food! It is not always easy to find safe biological products at the farm store that are harmless to people, beneficial to insects and the environment, and at the same time able to deter pests. Organic gardeners have learned to improvise and have some very safe and efficient home-­made brews.

The sulphur compounds in garlic make it an effective pesticide and fungicide. Adding heat with Scotch bonnet pepper will usually irritate a number of pests, including aphids and whiteflies from grazing on your vegetables. Use gloves when handling Scotch bonnet, and designate an old blender for your garden brews. Blend 1 head of garlic with 2 cups of water with 1 Scotch bonnet. Let the brew infuse overnight. Strain. Add water to make 1 gal. Stir in 1 T. baking soda and 1 tsp liquid soap, which will act as a sticker and you have a good all-round pesticide and fungicide.

Treat the tops and the undersides of the leaves. Spray in the coolest time of the day or after rain. Always test your brews on a few plants before treating the whole crop.

Regular cane vinegar is a great cleaner for garden pots and tools. It can be used as a weed killer and diluted for fungicidal use.

There are many other safe biological methods of pest and disease control for your garden. Remember, always test one or two plants before treating your whole crop. Use biological approved methods, in minimal doses to protect beneficial insects.

 

Maintaining soil health

With continual emphasis on soil health, adding rich compost, keeping the soil mulched and using other organic techniques in the garden, your soil should keep producing healthy plants which will also keep pests and disease at acceptable levels. However, it is suggested to periodically have your soil tested and analysed for mineral deficiencies if you have problems.

 

Green manure

After your main crop is reaped, plant peas and beans. Cut the green foliage just before they bear, leaving the roots intact. Incorporate the green leaves into the soil. This acts as an excellent green manure and a good way of adding nitrogen to the soil.

 

Compost tea

Use your finished compost to make a tea for your plants. Place a few handfuls of finished compost in a bucket. Add a gallon of water. Cover and leave to infuse for 2 – 3 days. Strain through a fine cloth and use the liquid as a foliar spray your vegetables.

 

Harvest rainwater

The season, your soil, and how well mulched your crops are will determine how much water your garden will need. Rainwater harvesting, conservation and recycling are essential to help reduce the use of this valuable resource. And rainwater is best for your crops. When watering, be mindful that too little may result in nutrient deficiencies, weak plants and pests. Too much water is not only wasteful, but it also depletes nutrients, can cause root rot and encourage slugs and snails to breed. Of course, some plants like more water than others.

Develop a practical watering plan that suits your soil and environment. A good rule is to feel the soil; if it is dry, water it! A useful tip for watering plants in containers is to place a bottle filled with water and a small hole in the cap upside down in the container. This water will drip down over time, especially good if you are going away for a few days.

 

Time to gather...

Finally it is time to gather and share all the great-tasting home-­grown flavours with family and friends. When reaping leafy greens and vegetables like lettuce, instead of cutting the whole heads, reap from the outer leaves. This will ensure a good supply for weeks to come. Preserve by pickling, drying and freezing when you have an abundance of herbs and vegetables.

 

...and time to do it all over again

Save your seeds! This will preserve older and often tastier varieties of vegetables and give you a continuous supply of organic seedlings to keep your garden growing year after year!

There has never been a better time to explore our connection with local and home-­grown food and all that it offers our mind, body and soul.

 

Grow. Gather. Cook. Create. Eat. Deliciously!


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