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There is nothing more delicious than a luscious strawberry or juicy tomato, picked at the peak of ripeness, and on your table ten minutes later. If you have never tasted vegetables that have not been treated with chemicals, you do not know what you have been missing. Many people think that organic gardening is too difficult. Others think it is too time consuming. It is neither, and in this article you will learn everything you need to know in order to get started.
The first thing to know about organic gardening is that the best defense against insects and disease is prevention. When you are planning your garden, choose plants that are well suited for your climate. Choose a variety of plants, so that if you do get an infestation of a particular insect it will not wipe out your entire crop. Keep your plants healthy. The best way to do this is to have your soil tested in either the spring or fall. Your county extension office will do this for a nominal fee, and make recommendations on what to add to your soil for optimum health. Something as simple as lime, well-rotted manure, or compost can make all of the difference in your garden’s health. Once your soil is in condition, go ahead and plant your crops. When you plant your crops, make sure to give each plant plenty of room to allow for the circulation of air. This greatly reduces the chances of fungal infections. When planting your vegetables you may want to plant some herbs among the rows, as some herbs have pest-repelling properties. Sage repels cabbage moths and flea beetles, chives repel aphids, and marigolds repel a wide variety of harmful insects. Once you get your vegetables planted, plant a flower border. Wildflowers and sweet alyssum provide food and shelter for beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises, as well as frogs, lizards, and birds, which will eat pests from your garden. By keeping your garden weeded you also reduce hiding area for pests.
Despite your best efforts, you will undoubtedly see some insects in your garden. The first thing you should do is look carefully at the bug. Is it actually eating the plant, or just resting on the leaves? If you deduce that it is a harmful bug, pick it off your plant. You can dispose of it any way you like. This is the simplest method of pest control, and a stroll through your garden in the evening may be all it takes to keep your garden pest free. If you feel like doing a little more, you can spray your plants off with soapy water. Just add a squirt of lemon scented dish soap to your watering can and make a pass over the affected plants. They will appreciate the bath. If your plants are strong and healthy, they will be able to withstand the occasional nibble from a pest. If your plants develop a fungus, you can bring it under control by picking out all affected leaves and plants and throwing them away, but not in your compost! Do not work in your garden while it is wet, or you will spread the fungus to other plants. If things do get out of hand and you have a real problem, there are several organic solutions. Sticky traps and row covers are available at your local garden center, and are simple to use. Bacillius thuringiensis is also available from your garden center, and disrupts the digestive tract of leaf eating insects. There are also a variety of insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, and garlic and hot pepper sprays that will work on pests. The most important thing is to identify your pest before you treat your plant. If you do not recognize the bug take one into your garden center, they should be able to help. Likewise, if your plant develops a fungus, take a few leaves into the store, and they should be able to recommend an organic solution.
Organic gardening is both fun and rewarding. The challenge of staying in tune with your garden is rewarded with succulent fruit and an incredible harvest. I encourage you to give it a try.