Keeping Your Garden Natural
Why natural gardening?
As a natural gardener, I always strive to find an alternative to modern-day chemicals. After all, people have been growing fruit and vegetables successfully without them for centuries. I feel that it is quintessential to preserve this knowledge even if it is considered a little more time consuming or less effective (which is just a myth). There’s a substantial amount of satisfaction knowing that the achievements in your garden, be it on a balcony, in containers or a fully functioning farm, were grown safely and weren’t detrimental to the delicate environment.
Weed killers and other chemical concoctions are highly effective but they can leave residual poisons that can leak into places that eventually end up on our plates. Not only this, but they can also have devastating effects on the natural cycles whether it be fungal or food-related and harm precious insects like bees. You will also find that plants and trees grown with chemicals are not as nutrient-dense as a well-rounded tree grown in a soil that suits its needs.
Weeds can be annoying, not only as an eyesore but as a strangling device to the things that we actually wanted to grow. But is there really a simpler way? Can we really rely on ourselves and not some silly company trying to sell us miracles? I believe that we can.
A simple mulch will prevent most weeds popping up and others can be pulled on sight. Mulch also offers nutrients to the soil as it decomposes and retains up to eighty percent of the moisture. Furthermore, mulching can also help protect your plants from the bitterness of the winter months. Leaves, grass cuttings and other organic materials work perfectly. Or if you are looking for something a little more ornamental, wood chips, seed husks and barks look great. If you are having problems with weeds in the driveway or other cemented areas, a simple solution of salt and vinegar will do the trick. Simply mix the two together and apply directly to the desired area. If you accidentally spill it in a place that you didn’t intend to like your tomato patch for example, just give it a good wash with water. Wet weeds which have been soaked in water for a day or two can be used as a bedding in worm farms to allow the worms to approach things like manure in their own time and ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the new potent matter. Weeds can also be left in water to create a compost tea, if you don’t mind the smell. I tend to do this at the end of the garden in old paint buckets.
It’s important to remember that not every bug we see is there to eat our hard-earned vegetables before we do. They are just playing their part in the food cycle and killing them directly affects something else. Identifying the problem before it spirals out of control or taking measures to prevent problems practically seems a more sensible action. It’s impossible to predict what predators will decide to pounce on your plants at any given time, although there are pests that like specific species of plants. New types of bugs and insects are arriving and departing all the time due to the changing of the seasons and fluctuating temperatures.
Carrot flies can wipe out your crop quickly, but they can’t fly very high, so planting your carrots in a raised bed or a pot and leaving the soil a couple of inches from the top has been very effective for me over the years. Planting them directly in the ground with a mosquito net or cheesecloth tunnel also works well for growing root crops and shorter plants. Growing string beans in the wetter months helps to wash most of the leaf-eating bugs away and planting basil or lavender helps create a smell barrier to bugs as they bounce around the gardens looking for familiar flavours. So on the whole, prevention is often better than a cure.
Making your own bug spray is easy to do and helps to deter bugs rather than execute them. Garlic scrapes/cloves work well mixed with basil left overnight in a bottle of water. Lemongrass helps to deter mosquitoes and cayenne also helps to mask the smell of your plants so that these little critters pass by the buffet without smelling their favourite bush.