If you’ve committed yourself to an organic garden, you’ve probably heard the stories. They’re legendary. They’re the stories of fellow organic growers whose soil is so healthy, whose plants are so vibrant, whose diversified crops are so varied that they never, ever have any real problems with pests. The idea is that if your garden is truly healthy, it won’t attract pests. Sure, they may come. They may nibble on a few leaves here or there, but they don’t stick around. That’s how the story goes. Only sick plants get eaten by pests. Only sick plants are susceptible to fungus or mold. Only sick plants….
Maybe there’s truth to those stories. After all, I can’t deny the results when I walk through my local community garden. There are some gardeners who’ve taken such good care of their little plot of soil year after year that you can literally see the difference. Nevertheless, when you’re newly starting out, when gardening is not your passion, when your time is limited and you’re a little on the lazy side (like me!), you probably don’t have the soil of legends. You’ve got the soil of the suburban backyard.
So, how are you supposed to keep pests at bay while still sticking to your organic principles?
The video below provides a good, brief introduction to the topic. In it, Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening magazine shares some of the most useful tips out there.
I especially liked the tips on how to deal with deer (a big problem in these parts). I also appreciated how Scott warns gardeners to watch insects closely to see if they’re actually harming your vegetables or not. Part of embracing organic principles is to acknowledge that not all insects are bad — even if they’re making your broccoli leaves look like swiss cheese.
The most exhaustive resource I know about is well worth the $10. It’s The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control. I’ve got an older edition on my bookshelf, and it’s the perfect reference manual for identifying pests, diseases, and prescribing natural, effective treatments.
One thing the video above hinted at, which the book does excellently, is describe preventative measures you can take to combat pests and disease. The video mentioned planting edible flowers to attract beneficial insects and placing a bird bath nearby to attract insect-eating birds. But the book goes into greater depth, even giving the names of specific varieties of vegetables that are resistant to particular pests and diseases. Until a few years ago, I had an incomplete view on exactly why variety is so important when it comes to fruits and vegetables. I used to think that any variety would do, and I picked seeds based on the pictures in gardening catalogs. Now I’ve learned to be more discerning, choosing varieties that are proven to do well in my area and which have been cultivated through the generations to be hardy and vibrant (and TASTY!) despite the heat and the pests common here. I wish someone had told me this the first time I tried to grow tomatoes!
How about you? What has gardening experience taught you that you wished you’d known earlier?
I wrote this post while participating in the Sowing Millions Project by Real Food Media on behalf of Seeds of Change. I received product to facilitate my post. However, my thoughts and opinions are my own and not of those of Real Food Media or Seeds of Change.
(photo by pipdiddly)