Ten Steps to Healthy Gardening for You and the Environment

Step #1 Educate Yourself and Know your Property:

Know what pests are prevalent in your area before choosing plant varieties. Think about your willingness to maintain your chosen plants as some varieties need more care than others. Know your soil type and pH. Know your garden’s water characteristics. Consider companion planting. Know your garden’s exposure to wind, sun, shade and affects of winter. Know your zone hardiness. Know what is a garden friend and what is a garden foe.

Step #2 Seek out resistant varieties where possible:

For example, if you love roses but have no time to coddle them then choose cultivars bred for disease resistance. Choose zone hardy varieties so there are no winter protection needs.

Step #3 Select plants that will thrive in your garden environment:

steps to create a natural gardenChoose the correct plants for your soil conditions and sun/shade exposure. It is easier to obtain the appropriate plants for your gardens conditions than to change your garden’s soil and so on to suit the plants. Plants not suitable to your micro-climate and conditions will be stressed and weakened and thus vulnerable to disease and pests.

Step #4 Maintain balance/harmony:

It is vital to maintain a balanced eco-system which will provide optimal, healthy growth and prevent problems. Imbalances allow opportunistic infestations from weeds, diseases and pests. Too much high nitrogen fertilizer makes for overly succulent greenery which is like an “all you can eat” sign to insect pests. Too much water or not enough affects the soil ecology and thus plant health. Pesticide use kills the beneficial insects as well as the pests and thus wipes out the beneficial insects’ work at maintaining a balance. Many of us know that ladybugs eat aphids, but how many of us realize what a ladybug nymph looks like and know that they consume many more aphids on a daily basis than the adults.

Step #5 Learn when to step in and how to with Mechanical Controls:

Sticky traps attract flying insects with their yellow colour. Crawling insects such as ants, tent caterpillars and gypsy moths get stuck to tree guard tape when it is wrapped around the trunks of trees. For ground crawling insects such as slugs, snails and earwigs use diatomaceous earth which controls by external abrasive action. Slug bait and traps are effective too. Use beer as an attractant and slugs crawl in and drown. Floating row covers or fine mesh netting is another way to protect fruits and vegetables from insects and birds.

Step #6 Companion Planting:

companion planting garlicCompanion planting is vital for organic vegetable production. It is very beneficial for flower beds too. There are plants that assist each other to grow; plants that repel insects; plants that repel or retard other plants growth; plants that delete the soil and others that add to the soil.

You may have heard that “roses love garlic”. Allium is the Latin word for garlic. Vegetable alliums are chives, garlic, leek, onion and shallot all of which are excellent protective companions for roses.

The flowering ornamental alliums are of course more decorative to plant with roses and also provide excellent protection from mildew, black spot, aphids and many other pests too. Alliums repel moles and rabbits. Onions repel cabbage moths. Garlic is good against fruit tree borers.

Step #7 Good garden hygiene helps to prevent pest problems:

Pick up and rake plant debris so that spores and insects cannot over winter. Pruning shrubs and trees annually to remove dead, diseased and damaged stems is all part of ongoing garden maintenance.

Step #8 Avoid killing beneficial and harmless organisms in your garden:

Encourage beneficial insects by planting plants that attract bees, ladybugs, lacewings, butterflies and so on. Know that the parsley worm becomes the swallowtail butterfly.

Step #9 Horticultural soaps, vinegars and oils are a part of an integrated pest management approach:

natural organic pest control tipsOil sprays smother insects and coat their eggs to prevent hatching. Use dormant sprays which are a combination of horticultural oil and lime sulphur on fruit trees, ornamentals and roses early in the spring before budding to control over-wintering pests.

The fatty acids in Horticultural soaps are safe to use on edible plants and work quickly on contact. They are best for aphids and other small soft-bodied insects.

Homemade sprays can be made from onions to control red spiders and various aphids. Hot pepper spray is effective against ants, cabbageworms, spiders, caterpillars, and tomato worms.

Rhubarb leaves spray for clubroot, greenfly and black spot. Tomato leaves spray is effective against aphids and caterpillars.

Elderberry leaves spray controls blight and caterpillar damage. A simple soap spray is often effective against aphids, thrips, & mites.

Step #10 Natural pesticides may be necessary:

Botanical pesticides such as pyrethrin is derived from chrysanthemum flowers. Sulphur another natural element kills fungi such as powdery mildew, rusts, black spot, apple scab and stone fruit diseases. It also controls mite populations. It is applied as a dust or as a spray.

Rotenone is found in the dried and ground roots of 68 species of legume plants and is another effective pesticide. Be careful though as natural does not mean they are completely nontoxic. Rotenone is deadly to fish and toxic to mammals.