Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Issue of Natural Garden Practices

      In the garden, pests happen and fertilization needs to happen. Walk through any garden center and you will be bombarded with an overwhelming display of products claiming to fix this problem and improve that growth. Images of giant tomatoes and vibrant flowers cover brightly colored bottles and boxes all in the attempt to catch our eyes and take our money. Yuk. I shake my head and pass on by. This homestead is no place for the chemical crazy offered in those isles. While I do not have a perfect garden, nor do I have all the answers, let's take a look at our line up anyway.

Getting it growing.
1. Amend it with animals.
    The best way to work a garden plot is to put animals on it. Once we are off season in a garden area, the hens and herds are given a chance to do some much needed maintenance. Goats clean what the donkey doesn't; chickens scratch and work the soil eating pests, eggs, and weed seeds- everything adds fertilizer as it goes.
2. Amend with muck.
    I keep a constant rotation of barn gleanings (poo/shavings/hay) going in any area of garden not currently producing. Once spent crops come out of the ground, muck is generously mounded on/worked in and left to decompose in place.
3. Compost tea.
    Oh the wonders of compost tea! So simple and so often overlooked, compost tea is simply well decomposed compost steeped in water and sprayed on garden foliage and watered into the roots. Our local master gardeners make a batch every week adding in kelp and fish emulsion for a little extra boost.
4. Let it rest.
    Every garden needs a time out. My large garden areas where large crops like corn and beans grow are sown with cover crops after grazing and amending. Smaller garden areas and raised beds are covered and solarized with dark black plastic or fabric to kill out anything left behind.
   You can grow plants without fertilization, but they will never produce to their potential with out some additional help.

As for the pest.
1. Pick it.
    A tedious task, but very effective- picking caterpillars, stink bugs, and tomato horn worms is often the way to go. Smaller pests such as aphids are given a blast with the hose to 'pick' them.
2. DE for me.
    I love DE for so many homestead issues, especially the garden. A good dusting under the plants and a light dusting on the foliage takes care of most soft bodied pests. If this doesn't cut it, BT works wonders for caterpillar problems.
3. Soap it.
    Mixing 1/4 cup grated laundry soap (such as Fels-Naptha) or a home made/natural bar of soap with 1 gallon warm water will help. This is often sprayed on the underside of leaves to get little pests.
4. Sick it.
    Ducks and guineas roam my garden freely and love picking nasty pests off the plants!
5. Neem oil.
    This is my last resort because it can be rather harsh and it smells a bit strong in my opinion, but when you have to you have to.
   Let me say, addressing the pest issue is always a bit of a struggle because we often destroy the good with the bad. Over the past several years I have been working to learn and identify garden predatory pests in order to see how nature takes it's course then stepping in only when I have to.

   Summing it all up, my garden style is 'less to more'. Knowing where we draw the line in our convictions about natural/organic/conventional, we can start our approach with less intervention and move toward more as the need arises.


Dicky Bird said...

Great post with some great tips.

Leigh said...

Great post Michele! Hope you and your family are having a lovely Christmas.