Organic Gardening In The Backyard – Fun, Healthy, and Easier Than You May ThinkWritten by C.J. Gustafson
Organic gardening, which is sometimes thought of as something out of 60s hippie culture, has been steadily growing in popularity over years. Not only can you find entire aisles of organics at local supermarket, number of specialty stores dedicated to organically grown foods has increased dramatically. Part of this popularity is due to an increasing understanding of dangers associated with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Growing organically generally means gardening without these potentially dangerous chemicals. Many backyard gardeners are turning to organic methods as they realize how easy and effective organic growing can be.
Part of reason chemical pesticides and fertilizers are so widely used is because they work well. In deciding to use organic methods in your backyard garden, you first will need to accept fact that you will likely have more pest damage and lower yields than if you were employing chemicals. Many people are willing to make this trade off in return for opportunity to harvest chemical-free foods for themselves and their families.
There are several different approaches and techniques used in organic gardening. You may find that you are using some of them already. If you have selected cultivars that are resistant to pests or drought, you are involved in one form of organic gardening. If you put out a scarecrow or bars of hand soap to keep animals away, this too is organic gardening. Compost is an organic fertilizer. Organic techniques are around in many gardens already. By utilizing them more and moving away from chemicals, you can improve environment and lead a healthier lifestyle.
There are different levels of organic gardening and different reasons why people choose organic methods. Some do it because they do not want to harm any animals, even aphids or cutworms. So they try to develop a system where they can cohabitate peacefully, keeping insects and other animals out when possible and removing them or learning to live with them when other options don’t work.
Some people are not opposed to pest control and extermination but they don’t want to add any more chemicals to environment or to food that they eat. Others go organic as a means of getting back to a more historic, natural, and even challenging way of gardening. You will need to decide which methods match your personal philosophies and reasons for going organic.
Pest control and fertilization are two of key areas to focus on with organic gardening. In addition to using native, resistant plants, mulching, and practicing crop rotation, use of other natural methods of pest control and of compost and manure as fertilizer can go a long way toward creating a more organic garden.
There are many ways that backyard gardeners can control insects and other pests without use of synthetic chemicals.
- Use mesh row covers to keep insects off of plants. They need to be removed from squashes, melons, cucumbers, peppers and other plants that require or benefit from pollinations during flowering. - Collars placed around young plants will help prevent damage by cutworms. - Allow natural predators such as ladybugs and wasps to assist you in your efforts by planting vegetation that will attract them to your garden and avoiding pesticides that harm them as well. - Screens, cold frames and fences can help keep some insects and animals such as rabbits out of garden. - Aphids can be removed from plants with a strong stream of water. Hand removing insects such as potato beetles can be effective in small gardens. - Weed your garden and turn soil regularly to help reduce growth of insects that like to nest in certain plant debris. - Learn to identify egg clusters of harmful insects and remove them immediately - Use homemade insecticides such as garlic spray or other harmless pest inhibitors. - Try using non-invasive methods of pest control including soap bars, cuttings of human hair, or an alert dog in yard. These techniques may or may not be effective, but are worth a try before resorting to chemicals. - Some home pesticides such as those that use rhubarb or tobacco plants can be very dangerous to humans and other mammals. Use caution and be sure you know what you’re getting into before you begin.
Pest Control for the Vegetable GardenWritten by Karen Gross
One of biggest challenges for vegetable gardeners is pest control. Anyone who has tried to keep a determined deer from eating sweet corn knows how difficult it can be to deter animals, including insects, birds, rabbits and other wildlife from what, for them is a natural smorgasbord. From their perspective, there sit these wonderful veggies, all neat and weeded, almost as if you placed plants there just for them. And so animals that we might otherwise enjoy can become a nuisance when it comes to garden.
While avoiding wildlife is nearly impossible, chemical pesticides are often an effective means of deterring unwanted insects. However, many gardeners are uncomfortable using these harsh chemicals that can leak into water supplies and harm environment. They also have concerns about using chemicals in foods they feed their families. Here are some ideas for more organic pest control.
Practicing crop rotation every year in your vegetable garden and using companion plants will improve your soil and keep pests under control. Most insects need time to become established in soil. They may take two to three seasons to get their life cycle established. By practicing vegetable rotation and varying type of plants grown in a particular area from year to year, you can avoid establishing plant specific types of garden pests.
Certain varieties of garden plants are less attractive to pests. To deter rabbits, plant green onions amongst lettuce plants. Plant several radish seeds in each hill of cucumber seeds to protect against cucumber beetle. And when planted near each other, cucumbers will prevent raccoons from eating all sweet corn, while corn will reciprocate by preventing cucumber wilt.
Tomatoes like to be near chives, parsley, marigolds, garlic bulbs, nasturtiums, gooseberries, asparagus, and carrots. Tomatoes have a natural defense for pest control against asparagus beetle and are also effective in keeping insects away from gooseberries. Carrots on other hand are nearly every garden pest’s friend. To control carrot fly pest, plant onions, rosemary, or leeks nearby. Potatoes like to be planted near corn, horseradish, broccoli, cabbage and peas. Avoid planting by tomatoes, melon, and cucumbers.
Some vegetable gardeners plant pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers among corn. The heavy growth and scratching of vines and leaves helps keep rabbits, raccoons and other hungry critters at bay.
Tricks of Trade
In addition to planting methods described above, there are a number of non-pesticide options for organic pest control. Human or dog hair spread around garden and hung from tree limbs acts as a good pest repellent, as do bars of soap hung from shepherds hooks or laid right in soil. Deer do not like smell of rotting eggs, so a mixture of 9 eggs with 2.5 gallons of water sprayed on ˝ acre of crop will deter deer from entering area, but solution is diluted enough to avoid annoying humans.
Deer tend to be nervous and wary animals and can be scared off by annoying wind activated garden fixtures, plastic foil tape, scarecrows and whirligigs. Those that make noise, such squeaking, fluttering, or tinkling, work best. You may have to move these items around and rotate selection to keep deer from getting use to them. Dogs are also a good source to keep watch over garden and help scare off unwanted wildlife diners.
Tall fences (9 to 10 feet high) planted firmly in ground are best way to keep deer out of vegetable garden. An inexpensive chicken-wire fence at least 24 inches high is often enough to keep those pesky rabbits out of your garden. Or a solution of cayenne pepper spray on plants after a rain will sometimes deter rabbits from nibbling. Dried blood meal, which rabbits do not favor, can be sprinkled around when planting. The flavor will absorb though root system of vegetables, making them less appetizing. As an ongoing garden pest control, blood meal can be added to soil every two weeks.