The organic garden equation
The calendar says its suppose to be warmer sunnier weather, perfect for gardening instead were having cool somewhat inclement weather. The frustrated gardener foiled by the weather will be found inside pouring over his gardening books. How about some review for pest and weed control?
When soil temperature is too low seeds wont sprout, but the weed sure do. While youre waiting out these last few days while the soil temperature does reach optimal spread some organic mulch. Organic mulches like straw, compost or shredded leaves is one of the easiest ways to keep weeds under control. Apply a layer three-seven inches deep right over the top of that young weed crop. Cover the entire garden, when youre ready to plant uncover a row or dig your holes right through the mulch. Mulching will help hold much needed moisture as well as nutrients during drier times cutting down on the amount of watering as well as weeding.
For healthy disease free plants you need healthy soil, reason #2 for mulching. If the soil is too moist and the base of the plant in moldy or developing a blight, pulling the mulch away from the base of the plant will allow for more air circulation and will dry the soil reducing plant damage.
Solarizing the soil by laying a sheet of clear plastic over the soil is also an effective way of dealing with weeds. Solarizing your garden will keep tender new plants warm and moist.
Dont forget though, weeds have their own importance in the plant kingdom. Weeds hold the soil in place, break up compacted soil with their vigorous root systems, and help to conserve nutrients that leach away if the soil is left bare.
To control weeds later in the season, first identify the ones you need to control. Learn to recognize the annuals from the perennials so youll know whether to till them in (annuals) or whether you must pull them out (perennials.)
Preventing pests and diseases in the garden when the weather is less than perfect is always a challenge. If the pest reaches epidemic proportion it will be difficult to control, so get in the habit of checking your crops weekly. Dont worry if you find a few and dont immediately go running for the pesticides. Start by picking them off, or blast them off with a forceful stream of water. If pests or a disease is limited to one plant or stem, prune away the infested part and destroy them along with the invader.
Planting herbs interspersed with your crops will control many common pests. Marigolds, parsley and dill are good. The first two can be used in cooking and the pests find their odor ver offensive. If youre dealing with an infestation try some insecticidal soap. Know your pests before you buy, as different pests will need different things.
The best reference I have found is a small booklet called "SHEPHARDS PURSE, Organic Pest Control Handbook for Home and Garden." Besides good remedies it wonderful illustrations of the more common pests for identification. Happy gardening till next time, Rebecca