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 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.
What is Considered Organic Gardening?
As a rough benchmark, organic gardening is based on not using any chemicals and being prepared to lose crops to pests and diseases. I’m a fairly simple soul, and this standard works for me.
If you’re like me and are looking for some simply natural and organic steps you can implement to help prevent pests and disease, here are 8 easy organic tips that any gardener can follow:
Tips to Grow Plants Organically and to Keep Gardening Natural
Don’t Worry About Losing Crops
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.
Spray Plants 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.
Plan to Sow some Companion Plants
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.
Put Homemade Bird Scarers into Your Garden
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.
Plan for 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.
After dark is the best time to hunt and remove slugs from the vegetable 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.