“These taste delicious!” my daughter announced today when she tasted the first organic strawberry picked this morning at the peak of freshness. While I finish this post, she and her sister will quibble over who gets the next “biggest” strawberry from the basket. They’re learning to appreciate that ripe strawberry smell that only comes from berries that reached perfection on the vine.
I’m smiling because they’re getting the ideal delivery system for the vitamin C, folate, potassium and magnesium their growing bodies need. I can be assured they’re NOT ingesting toxic pesticide residues.
Our reasons for growing some of our own food organically in a family garden?
- Fresh-Picked Taste
- No Toxic Pesticides
But what about the pests? Don’t I need chemicals to protect my plants?
Not necessarily. There are methods that were used for years, long before many of today’s chemical farming approaches came about. Here are some concepts to think about for gardening organically:
- Nurture Healthy Soil – Healthy soil helps your crops thrive and be somewhat naturally pest resistant. Clean up last year’s dead vines and leaves (unless you’re composting them back into the soil) to minimize attracting pests.
- Rotate Crops – Legumes like beans are fairly pest resistant, so after they’ve grown in one area, replant that patch the next year with a crop more vulnerable to pests like broccoli or cabbage.
- Embrace a Balance of Insects – A proper ecosystem is not insect-free, as per fumigations of neorotoxins that kill everything (and what is that doing to us?). In an organic garden, spiders eat flies, ladybugs eat aphids, wasps eat smaller pests too. We especially want pollinators, from bees and butterflies to other winged creatures that might not be as showy.
- Use Companion Plantings – We’re trying garlic plantings that will linger throughout much of the garden to see if they help protect the squash plants. Basil with tomatoes, plus rosemary and lavender all help keep pests away from more delicate vegetables.
- Perfection is not the Goal – If an insect munches lightly on the tops of my potato plants, that’s okay. If I miss a walk through the garden and lose a small part to pests, most of the crop remains. More herbs and more variety can help either deter pests or keep them happily distracted.
Specifically with the strawberries, they tend to thrive if they remain dry and arid, and I see pest problems if they get crowded and damp. Overall, this year’s light mulch of pine needles seems to keep the strawberry patch dry. I need to manually check the plants and make sure the new runners are resting atop the needles instead of damp in the soil. The Epsom salts and diotomaceous earth I sprinkled around them have seemed to deter most of the slugs and other pests. I continue to have eggshells in the bed, as well, and I don’t have as much problem with pillbugs as last year.
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Next week: peek inside the secret world of garden insects