Organic Gardening Class
Organic Gardening Class - Part One
Organic Gardening: The Basics
Organic gardening is basic gardening without the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides. Organically grown food is more nutritious and higher in antioxidants than non-organically grown food. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body that cause disease and aging. Toxic residues of pesticides can also cause cancer and contribute to other health disorders. Consuming foods without pesticides and with higher levels of antioxidants and vitamins is optimal for good health.
Going the organic route takes careful observation. Since you will not be relying on the powerful, but toxic chemicals to take care of the garden pests for you, you will need to closely observe any changes or damages that are being made to your plants. Inspect your plants on a daily basis for fungus, signs of disease, and infestation of pests.
Signs of diseased plants:
- Powdery mildew
- Thick liquid excretion
- Yellowing of leaves
- Leaf spots with yellow rings
- Crinkled and withering leaves
- Growth stunt
- Dark spots on leaves
- Rotting stems
- White mold
Good bugs, bad bugs
Many of the bugs that inhabit a garden are actually helpful because they eat the pests that destroy the plants. Chemical pesticides kill bugs indiscriminately, including the ones that protect your garden. These pest eaters are your natural allies and should not be exterminated:
- Hover flies
- Praying mantises
Use these insects to exterminate harmful pests naturally. You can purchase lady bugs online or attract them to your garden by planting daisies and other plants in the daisy family. Ladybugs, hover flies, and lacewings help to eliminate aphids, mites, and similar pests. You can also purchase praying mantis eggs online and spread them around your garden. These hatch and grow quickly and feed off of a wide variety of pests, large and small.
It is best to avoid pesticides in general, however, in the event that you do need to use a pesticide to avoid losing your plants altogether make sure that you are using organic and natural products. Apart from purchasing organic pesticides, you can make your own by mixing:
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
- 2-3 drops of ivory soap
- 1 quart of water
Shake these ingredients together in a spray bottle and spray it onto your plants where needed. This will take care of insects such as aphids and mites.
To treat fungal diseases naturally mix:
- 2 tablespoons of baking soda
- 1 quart of water
Shake these ingredients together in a spray bottle and treat the contaminated areas every couple of days until the disease is eliminated.
Placing yellow fly paper around the garden is a good way to catch wandering pests. For rodent and rabbit pest problems, soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and leave them wherever you see signs of rodent activity to ward them off.
These options work very well when pest problems arise in the garden, however, it is best to invest in prevention before the problems occur. Here are the best ways that you can prevent your garden from being destroyed by pests and diseases:
Eliminate weeds and debris. Debris and weeds often harbor pesky insects that are harmful to your plants. By getting rid of these, you eliminate the breeding grounds in which they multiply.
Keep the foliage of your plants dry. Wet leaves attract insects and allows fungus to form on your plants. Try to water as early as possible so that your plants can be dry for the majority of the day, reducing the conditions that attract pests and fungus.
Pull your weak and dying plants. Plants that are weak or dying is often a sign of disease, so you want to pull them before whatever is killing them spreads to your healthy plants. They can also attract pests and other harmful insects to your garden.
Create barriers at the top of the soil. Make barrier collars out of foil to place around your plants to prevent burrowing pests from destroying the roots.
Rotate your crops. Rotating your crops prevents disease by discouraging the growth of pathogens that are harbored by certain plants. These pathogens are eliminated from the soil when new plants that do not support them are planted in their place. Doing this will also result in healthier soil by preventing nutrient depletion, keeping pests at bay.
Use a variety of plants. Adding variety to your garden prevents the spread of disease and plant specific pests. It also elevates the health of your soil which wards off pests, fungus, and disease.
Use mulch. Mulch is a layer of organic matter that is mixed into the soil surface to provide nutrients and, in essence, “feed” the soil. Mulch is typically made up of organic matter such as grass clippings and dried leaves.
next class: Mulch and Compost