For a garden to be certified organic it has to be free of toxic chemical fertilisers, harmful pesticides and carcinogenic herbicides. All of us gardeners know that the food we produce is not only attractive to humans but also to animals; titanic and microscopic.
The village I live in is also inhabited by small-scale cattle farmers who let their cows loose during the day. This required me to erect not only a fence that would safeguard my yard from these intruders but another perimeter fence outside the yard to keep them out of my front yard garden as well. This little perimeter is about 500mm in height but does the job perfectly as cows do not jump quite high.
Even with its strong timber frame and sharp wires, my fence cannot keep out bugs that feed on my leafy greens. That is why I have planted marigolds around the edge of the front yard garden along the fencing. These marigolds do not only repel bugs with their smell but also attract butterflies and bees their flowers and help pollinate my fruiting vegetables such as squashes, tomatoes and cucumbers. My front yard garden also serves as an ornamental focal point. With its yellow and orange flowers, the marigolds blend well with the grass green of the potato leaves, the oxblood red leaves of my Bright Lights Swiss Chards and the red and dark green leaves of my beetroot.
Not only are marigolds great for attracting bees with their colourful flowers or repelling bugs with their unagreeable smell they’re also great prevention and cure for nematodes that attack roots of vegetables such as tomatoes. At the end of warm weather season when they die, I flip them over with the soil and in that state they serve as great winter vaccine for root-knot nematodes.
Every garden that has tubers faces an underground threat of moles. Even though moles are loner creatures they share their channels with rodents that live in colonies. Rats, particularly, can do great damage to potatoes, carrots, turnips and many other vegetables that grow beneath the soil. Moles have poor eyesight, but an amplified sense of smell which makes them averse to crops with a “foul” smell such as garlic and onions. It is for this reason that I plant garlic, onions and wild garlic as companions for my potatoes. There are plenty naysayers around the subject of garlic’s effectiveness as a mole repellent, but I have evidence of moles only popping on the outskirts of my front yard garden.
Spiders, wasps and even lizards are seen as pests by many people, but they’re a gardener’s best friends as they feed on insects that eat vegetables. I have placed a small pile of bricks close to each vegetable patch to serve as “lizard hotel”, these lizards pay rent by eating the small intruders in my garden. I have seen on the internet people strategically placing a pile of twigs to attract wasps and hornets to their garden to prey on insects. It is something I will consider for the future if ever encounter an infestation of aphids, ladybirds and grasshoppers, but presently this drastic measure has not been a necessity yet.
My most trusted organic pest control is crop rotation. Diseases, pests and parasites are crop-specific so planting the same crop on the same patch year-in, year-out results in an infestation. Planting different crops each new season ensures that soilbourne diseases do not have a constant source of food; as a result they do not stay in the soil for long. I rotate my crops from year to year, avoiding planting the same or related crops on the same patch of soil for consecutive seasons. Generally it is safe to place the same crop once every four years on the same patch to make sure all the related diseases, pests and parasites have completely vanished.
Botanists make a distinction among six different vegetable types of Leafy Greens such as lettuce and spinach, Roots like potatoes and carrots, Alliums that include onions and garlic, Brassicas of cabbage and cauliflower, Marrows such as pumpkins and zucchini and Edible Plant Stems like celery and asparagus. Being aware of these groups help me avoid planting them too close to one another and too soon after each other since they attract the same diseases, pests and parasites.
I am a salad lover; and a cheesy one at that as my favourite is lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber. Snails, unfortunately, are as cheesy as I am as they also love lettuce. Many people find the idea of killing a creature as seemingly harmless as a snail quite grotesque, but I do it when circumstances dictate. Naturally, I crush eggshells and sprinkle them around lettuce. But once in a while that doesn’t work, which forces me to employ Plan B: the Beer Trap. Snails are nocturnal feeders so trapping them involves pouring beer into a saucer and leaving it overnight close to the plant they feed on. The fermenting smell of beer attracts them and once drunk they drown in the ale.
Weeds are other intruders in our gardens and although there are a million and one ways to get rid of them, only one is truly effective in the long run: hand picking them and taking them out by the roots. It is a tedious exercise that is definitely not practical for most people in today’s busy life. Hence I prevent weeds from ever establishing a foothold in my garden. Mulching is covering the ground with organic matter such as wood chips, compost and grass clippings. Mulching not only inhibits weed seeds from germinating, but also serves to feed the soil as well as preserve the moisture of the soil.
Besides mulching I also intentionally plant my crops close to each other and make it very difficult for weeds to take over the garden.
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