One of the basic tenants of organic gardening is to feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants.
Adding organic matter improves any soil's texture as well as attracting soil organisms that create nutrients in the soil.
Good soil makes for a good garden. The easiest, best way to amend soil in a new bed is to add compost, and plenty of it.
If you make your own, add all you can to your new bed. You can also purchase compost in bulk and have it delivered to your home, or purchase it in bags at home and garden centers.
If you took the extra step of sending your soil samples to Think Soil for testing, follow their recommendations regarding nutrients and acidity.
Grass clippings should not be lost as a resource shipping them off to the landfill is a true crime against sustainability. Grass-clippings mulch in paths can be slippery underfoot, and unpleasant to work on.
Let lawn or pasture grasses grow to 8 to 12 inches, then cut them with a scythe, rake them up after a couple days of drying, and apply where needed.
An undervalued source of organic matter is the wood fiber in newspapers and cardboard.
Modern newsprint in from the US, and cardboard produced in the United States and Europe, do not pose environmental hazards.
Compost such as McGill Compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration, and increases the soil's water holding capacity. It also promotes soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development.
The most important step in pest management is to maintain healthy soil. It produces healthy plants, which are better able to withstand disease and insect damage.
For the best soil, sources of organic matter should be as diverse as possible.
Add manures for nitrogen. All livestock manures can be valuable additions to soil as their nutrients are readily available to soil organisms and plants.
Manures make a greater contribution to soil aggregation than composts, which have already mostly decomposed.
Apply manure with care. Allow three months between application and harvest of root crops or leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach to guard against contamination.
It is best to restrict fresh manures to heavy feeding, fast-growing crops like corn, and process additional manure by composting.
The best organic matter for bed preparation is compost made from anything that was once alive, for example leaves, kitchen waste, and grass clippings.
Soaker hosesdeliver water directly to the base of the plant, reducing moisture loss from evaporation. Early morning is the best time of day to water.
To increase water conservation, look for drought-resistant plants.
Usually these plants have silver leaves, deep taproots and small leaves. Succulents are also able to withstand dry weather.
A five percent increase in organic material quadruples the soil's ability to store water. This is a significant amount in hot, dry landscapes.
Don't water in the middle of the day. Water in the early morning or wait until dusk, when the temperature and rate of evaporation have abated.
How Do You Control Pests and Diseases without Chemicals?
Since you are trying to garden in cooperation with nature, sometimes you have to accept the occasional pest in the garden.
Your first line of defense should be vigilance. Inspect your plants regularly for signs of a problem and take action quickly.
Keep in mind that not every insect is a foe and that action doesn't necessarily mean pesticide.
There are many organic pesticides available, but first make certain that there is a problem and that you know what it is. You can live with a little damage. Some insects, like the 4-lined plant bug, do their damage and then move on for the season.
Consider if you are having a pest problem because your plants are stressed and don't have the resources to defend themselves.
Diversity will protect you from losing an entire crop to an infestation. Large swaths of a single plant are pretty, but are also a landing strip for interested insects.
Many insects and larger animals are considered beneficial, preying on the insect pests. Reaching for the spray can every time you see a pest, you will be killing of the beneficial insects too.
Lady bugs and parasitic wasps enjoy an aphid banquet. Birds will munch on grubs. Frogs, lizards and even snakes all contribute to the balance in your garden and prevent a pest population from becoming a problem.
Barriers prevent problems. Floating row covers prevent moths from landing and laying eggs. Yellow sticky traps can easily catch dozens of flying pests. Foil collars around the base of plants will foil cut worms and many borers.
There will probably come a time when you will need to apply a pesticide or lose your plants. Organic pesticides can be very effective and are usually less toxic to wildlife, pets and humans than synthetic pesticides. Many organic controls can target specific problems, such as using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a type of bacteria, which kills caterpillars, but not much else. Just be sure that you know what the problem is before you treat it and that you always follow the label instructions.
Organic pest control is a comprehensive approach instead of a chemical approach. Create a healthy biodiversity so that the insects and microbes will control themselves. Using natural products and building healthy soil is the best long-term treatment for pests.
Spot-spray with common full-strength household vinegar, on a sunny day. It's an organic weed killer that's safe for you and the environment.
Try the following methods as applicable: first physical removal, barriers, and traps; next, biological controls; then, appropriate botanical and mineral pesticides.
Less than 2 percent of the insects in the world are harmful. Beneficial insects such as ground beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, green lacewings, praying mantis, spiders, and wasps keep harmful insects from devouring your plants. They also pollinate your plants and decompose organic matter.
There are many elements that can contribute to a healthy garden climate.
Select plants that are suited to your site conditions.
Plants that are happy with their growing conditions will be healthier than plants that are stressed.
Stressed plants are very attractive to pests.
Don't choose plants that require full sun if you live in shady woodland. Similarly, don't select plants that like a moist environment if you have sandy soil and lots of sunshine.
Mulching your garden beds serves multiple purposes. Mulch suppresses weeds, conserves water, moderates soil temperature, feeds the soil, prevents erosion and is attractive to boot.
As mentioned above, create diversity in your garden. A mix of plants will attract more beneficial insects and prevent a problem from spreading throughout your garden.
Most importantly, get to know your plants so that you will notice if a problem is manifesting Nature is cyclical and learning the seasonal changes your plant will go through can help you anticipate problems. Organic gardening is a constantly evolving dance that allows you to be a full participant in your garden.