With more evidence pointing towards illnesses linked to pesticides, I find it important to teach people how to naturally (preferably organically) take care of their gardens. Instead of a hefty shot of “Wonder Grow” ::cough::, I prefer to use fixes and fertilizers that aren’t so caustic – some that will treat the problem instead of forcing my plants to outgrow diseases and illnesses and therefore leaving the problem in my soil.
Our garden was a “Wonder Grow” garden before we moved in, and the soil showed it. It’s taken me three years to see the results of my amendments, and it’s worth the wait! I can finally say with confidence that I will have product of out my garden instead of just hoping for one or two tomatoes. Plus I know that I’m feeding my family anything better than I can buy because it’s picked fresh and served – nothing but fresh organic goodness.
The best way to help your plants is to keep all tools and areas clean so as not to spread disease. Tidy up dead foliage and keep weeds trimmed back. Allow an area for overgrowth so that beneficials can make a home nearby. Just remember that if a chemical can harm an insect you deem harmful, that chemical can probably hurt your beneficial insects as well. Keep a toad house and welcome swallows to munch on insects.
My favorite quick fixes and alternatives to boxed fertilizers:
Iron deficiency: make soil more acidic by adding pine needles, coffee grounds, or seaweed extracts. Oak leaves may also be good for increasing acidity.
Nitrogen deficiency: composted manure, blood or alfalfa meal, fish emulsion. Weed and manure teas. Add comfrey as a mulch or compost. Underplant or cover crop the bed with clover or other legumes.
Phosphorus deficiency: compost, leaf mold, bonemeal, colloidal or rock phosphate.
Potassium deficiency: kelp meal, greensand, wood ashes (use only a small amount).
Powdery mildew: spray plants with a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda to 1 qt water.
Blossom end rot: add finely powdered eggshells or oyster shells and lime which can help the uptake of your calcium source. Keep soil evenly moist.
Damping off: keep soil evenly damp. Sprinkle with cinnamon, or use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Be sure seed starting mix and potting supplies are sterile.
Thrips and Aphids: use ladybugs or wipe leaves with a gentle cloth and a combination of 1c alcohol to 1 qt water.
Corn earworms: add a drop of mineral oil to the top of the corn once the silk has wilted.
Slugs and other soft bodied insects: sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants and on leaves.
Manure tea: fill a bucket or large container 1/8 with manure (composted 8 or more weeks, chicken manure for a year or more) and fill with water. Let steep for about two days before using. This is a concentrate and must be watered down until it is a light red/brown color prior to use.
Compost tea: mix 1/8 bucket of well composted material and water. Let steep for 5-7 days. Strain and dilute before using. Molasses Spray for Leaf Miners: 1 part molasses to 5 parts water
Rodale’s All-Purpose Spray: (discourages leaf-eating pests) 1 garlic bulb, 1 small onion, 1 tsp powdered cayenne pepper 1 qt water 1 Tbsp liquid dish soap. Chop onion and garlick in blender then add pepper and water. Allow to steep for an hour before straining. Add dish soap before spraying. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week.
Soap spray: 1 tsp pure bar soap shavings 1/8 cup boiling water, 7/8 cup water. Dissolve soap with boiling water then add remainder of water. Spray insects by getting both top and bottoms of leaves. Best applied in the evening.
References: The Frugal Gardener: How to Have More Garden for Less Money, Erler, Catriona T., 1999. The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, edited by Ellis, Barbara W. and Bradley, Fern Marshall, 1992
You can find Jennifer over at Unearthing This Life blarging about her daily activities in rural Tennessee.
Read Full Post »