On Monday, I talked about the rivalry between organic gardeners and the regular old pests. I’m an organic vegetable gardener, and I enjoy gardening this way, but I must confess that I do find some elements a touch daunting from time to time.
I think perhaps this is because of the science surrounding creating a biodiverse environment, or maybe because many of the real skilled exponents are incredibly experienced and highly trained horticulturalists.
As a rough benchmark, my organic gardening principles are based on not using any chemicals and being prepared to lose crops to pest and disease. I’m a fairly simple soul, and this standard works for me.
If you’re like me and are looking for some simple organic steps you can implement to help prevent pest and disease, here are 8 easy organic tips that anyone can follow.
Planting crops that you don’t mind losing near to your vegetables is a good way of keeping pests away from the valuable stuff. A common example is nasturtiums (pictured), which are a favourite of blackflies. The blackflies were all over the nasturtiums this year, and I reckon these sacrificial flowers single-handedly saved my runner beans.
Encourage Birds onto the Plot
Birds such as blackbirds, robins, and starlings are rather partial to insects and can be enticed on to the plot by hanging out feeders and putting up nesting boxes. A healthy bird population will help reduce the risk of pea moth, aphid attacks, and blackfly infestations.
Spraying with Warm Water
Spraying off aphids such as blackflies can be done with warm, soapy water (use natural washing up liquid like Ecover or similar though). It will take a few days of successive spraying, but eventually, the aphids tend to disappear.
Pests such as carrotflies are repelled by strong-smelling plants. Try planting garlic and onions in and around your more susceptible crops, like carrots.
I’ve also found the pungent African and French marigolds offer an effective repellent for whitefly.
Homemade Bird Scarers
Noise and light will scare off pigeons, and stop them nicking your soft fruit, pulling out baby onions, and munching holes through your brassicas. Old CDs arranged along string will flicker in the sun, and tin cans and plastic milk bottles on top of canes will rattle in wind.
Natural Slug Barriers
Snails don’t like slithering over sharp or coarse surfaces, so sprinkle something rough around seedlings to keep them away. Broken up eggshells or ashes are perfect, as they will compost down into the soil afterward.
Night Time Patrols
After dark is the best time to hunt and remove slugs from the veg patch, especially when the ground is damp. This is an important daily job during spring, when seedlings are still establishing themselves.
Keep the Plot Tidy
Slugs and snails love hiding out under anything that offers a refuge. Logs, flower pots, and weedy areas are favourite spots, so try keeping things neat and tidy on the plot. I reckon I reduced my garden snail population by two thirds once I’d cleared away the overgrown areas.