The Organic Gardening Approach
Introduction to The Organic Approach to Gardening
The healthy growth of plants may be disrupted by a pest or disease attack, a nutrient deficiency or a disorder caused by climatic or environmental conditions.
The organic approach to coping with plant problems should be a long-term one, involving a “whole-garden strategy”. The easiest way of dealing with a problem, after all, is to prevent it occurring in the first place.
There are also more instant techniques available which can be used to deal with problems as they arise; these should be used in conjunction with the longer-term strategy. For some problems, of course, there is no cure.
If you follow the steps below, the majority of plants will remain hale and hearty with little further attention. There will, unfortunately, be times when the system fails and more specific action is required.
• Encourage nature
The aim in an organic garden is not to eliminate pests and diseases entirely but to keep them at a level where they do little or no harm, creating an environment, both above and below ground, that encourages healthy plant growth and where beneficial creatures thrive while pests and diseases are actively discouraged.
The first step in an organic pest and disease management strategy is to create a garden environment in which the natural predators and parasites of pests and diseases thrive. The work of these creatures — ladybirds, beetles, bluetits and many more— often goes unrecognized, but without it we would soon be overrun. They cannot always achieve the level of control that we would like so other measures may also be required, but they should always be given a chance to do their bit.
Encourage predators and parasites by providing them with suitable food, shelter and breeding sites and, of course, not killing them with harmful sprays.
• Know your friends
Having encouraged beneficial creatures into the garden it is important to recognize them so that they- are not killed in the mistaken belief that they are pests. Most gardeners are familiar
In order to prevent problems happening in the first place, adopt the “whole-garden strategy”. This entails selecting vigorous plants and growing them in the right place, making sure youris healthy, and always keeping an eye out so that you can act quickly if there is a problem.
With the distinctive markings of the adult ladybird, for example, and know it for a friend — yet they might easily take the ladybird larva for a pest instead.
• Attend to the soil
Build up a healthy, well-structured soil in order to provide plants with a balanced diet and a regular water supply. Such plants will be less susceptible to attack, and more able to resist problems that do arise. The key to building a healthy soil is the addition of organic matter in the form of compost, animal manures and other materials.
A good start
Give plants a good start in life. Buy the best you can, sow and plant correctly, and in the right conditions. Poor planting can result in reduced growth and poor performance throughout the life of a plant.
• Right plant, right place
Get to know your soil type and the prevailing conditions in your garden and then choose plants to suit them. This is a much more successful strategy than buying the plants first and then trying to keep them growing in conditions that are less than appropriate.
Grow resistant varieties where regular problems occur, especially if there is no other way of dealing with the pest or disease.
• Good gardening
Useand other good gardening techniques to keep plants growing steadily and to avoid pest and disease build-up.
• Keep a watchful eye
Take a regular walk around your garden and get to know what is going on. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases and nip problems in the bud before they have a chance to get out of hand.
Protect your plants
Use protective barriers, traps and scaring devices to keep pests and diseases at bay.
What to do when problems arise
• Identify the cause
A lot of time and energy can be wasted in trying to control a problem if it has not been correctly identified in the first place. Do not jump to conclusions: remember that poor growing conditions can cause as much damage as pests and diseases and that not every creepy-crawly is a pest — indeed, it could well be a friend.
• Find out more
Having identified the cause of a problem, find out more about it. Knowing the habits of a pest or disease, and the underlying causes of a disorder or deficiency, can make planning a control strategy easier and more successful. Knowing more also helps you to assess the severity of a problem, so you know whether instant action is or is not necessary.
To tackle a problem efficiently, first identify it is and then find out more about it. When you have all the relevant facts at your fingertips, take the appropriate action to solve it. There are times, however, when a solution cannot be found, in which case it is best to give in gracefully and try and avoid future problems.
• Action options
There is a range of options available for dealing with specific problems associated with specific plants. There are many control methods: action could involve removing the culprits by hand, altering a care regime, waiting for natural controls to take over, trapping, introducing a biological control agent or, if essential, using a pesticide spray.
Give in gracefully
Not every problem has a solution, and there are times when the best option is to give in gracefully, while planning for success in future seasons.
Prevention is better than cure
Having tried to deal with a problem, you will have discovered that prevention is easier, and much more effective, than cure.