Monday, April 29, 2013

Let's Just Keep Chemicals Out of This

No, you don't need herbicide for your garden. Or pesticides. We see so many advertisements these days for chemicals that "help make the most" out our your garden but that leads to who-knows-what on your harvest. Outside of very rare situations, all you really need for a successful garden is healthy plants.
My sage is about to bloom!
Healthy plants fight off their own diseases and pest. It's simply allowing nature to be nature! And it's not that hard to provide your plants the tools they need to stand their ground. First, they need good soil. I'll admit I don't get into soil acidity, but it's easy to simply keep your soil full of nutrients. That's through nutrient-rich compost and rotating your plants. Planting the same annuals in the same spot every year will leave your soil useless overtime. But giving mother earth tasty compost and switching out plants that leave what the next plant needs creates the groundwork for a healthy garden.

Then there is my favorite tool: companion planting! It's kind of like the tick bird and the rhino. It turns out certain plants work really well together and keep nasty pest and disease at bay. One flower I heavily rely on in my garden: marigolds.
As previously mentioned, I planted A LOT of dwarf french marigold this year. And a few Inca marigolds. I'll also buy a few more after we finish off the third bed.
There's a lot of mixed results out there however on whether marigolds live up to their name. Several small-time garden bloggers praise marigolds at keeping bugs and animals away from the garden with their strong fragrance. Others aren't so generous, like the Alabama Cooperative Extension System writing "little documentation exists showing marigolds actually repel insects. In fact, they may attract harmful pests damaging not only the marigolds but also your vegetables."

Later on the provided link above does note that dwarf french marigolds appear to be the most consistent at keeping soil-dwelling nematodes away. Nematodes are microscopic parasite that looks like a miniature worm. Depending on the species, it can do a decent amount of damage to some plants like tomatoes and strawberries.

I keep finding myself going back to the several garden bloggers who swear by marigolds. And they are beautiful. So what's the harm in creating a colorful marigold fort around my cherished plants. It appears to have worked for us before.
Some marigolds keeping guard for my squash and zucchini
Marigold isn't the only flower you can consider to deter pest. In my research for marigolds, I suddenly came upon pages and pages about a beautiful flower called nasturtiums. It apparently keeps away squash beetles, whiteflies, and striped pumpkin beetles. With our beloved squash and future pumpkins, we will have to give it a try.

Some gardeners also swear by certain mints (warning: it's very invasive!) , catnip, and various kitchen herbs to prevent certain bugs. Just mindful planting of your produce plants can improve your harvest too. This simply just takes some research into what you want to grow. Here's a Companion Planting Guide by seed company Burpee.

Oh and before I forget, I decided I will occasionally provide a link to a recipe I discovered on Pinterest. The kicker is that it will be based on what's in season. May is just around the corner so I just finished up a batch of Strawberry Crunch Bars! It's a shame it's only seasonal a few weeks year in my area. But it's worth the wait!
Last year's Strawberry Crunch Bars!

If you ever want to check my attempts at Pinterest recipes and crafts, be sure to follow this board!

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