In a recent post a reader asked several questions which I thought important enough to address in a post so everyone could benefit.
Question #1 -How Do You Care for Your Plants?
Basically the best way to care for your plants – and the way I care for mine — is by consistently adding organic material to the soil and keep it mulched.
Other than that:
I plant them. Mulch them. Watch them. Harvest what they give me. Pick bad bugs off if there are any. And that’s about it.
Question #2 – Do you ever use organic fertilizers?
As I mentioned in the post Gardening Keep it Simple Because It Is — for my first decade of gardening I thought I needed to add some blood meal, or bone meal or greensand —– the list was endless.
Then I thought I needed a wonderful organic fertilizer that the advertiser said would “promote vigor and stress resistance for salad greens, beans, melons, squash and all (my) garden vegetables.”
Now let me tell you what happened in real life:
I bought some of those fertilizers that first decade. It always seemed to me that the plants didn’t do as well with all that stuff.
The thing I wasn’t considering was that everything has to be in perfect balance for growth to be optimum. Nature can create the balance I need. I really don’t have to worry about it at all if I continue to add organic material AND mulch my soil.
A lot of people are big advocates of getting a soil test and then adding this and that to “make the soil right”. According to them, it is the only “educated” thing to do. And you certainly can do that if you want.
My philosophy is: Why should I do that when nature does it all for me? All I need do is my part by adding organic material and keeping the soil covered?
I might note here that I think it beneficial to use a foliar spray on my seedlings growing in pots and flats in the Spring. It’s a great way to tide them over until they get their roots into my rich organic soil.
Question #3 – Do you ever use manures from organically fed animals?
If I had access to manures that didn’t have residual herbicides I would load up on them.
The animals would not necessarily have to be fed an organic diet. Not all animal feed is genetically modified — and that would be my primary concern along with residual herbicides. The thing is — I don’t know how the genetically modified feed would effect the soil or my plants if the organisms remain in the manure. So to be on the safe side I’ll stay away from it until I know for sure.
If some manure comes along that I know is safe, I’ll nab it in a heart beat!
Question #4 – Do you ever use home-made Pesticides?
The recipes for home-made pesticides have appealed to me ever since I started gardening almost 34 years ago. In spite of that, I never make any.
If I raised Jalapeno peppers I would boil and/or steep a good amount of them and make a spray for any particularly bad infestations of squash bugs, Colorado Potato Beetle, or cucumber beetle. I’ve read of great success with this, although it has to be applied a few times. One of these days I’ll grow Jalapenos just to try the spray.
Question #4 – Other organic pesticides?
As you may or may not be aware — just because a pesticide is approved by the NOP (National Organic Program) or individual State Organic Programs for use in an organic garden does NOT mean that it’s safe for everything. Many of the organic pesticides kill the good bugs as well as the bad bugs.
I would be particularly concerned about the loss of any of my bees — especially since they are very much on the decline anyway — and are crucial to a successful garden.
More About the “Organic” Pesticides I Use
EscarGo but not EscarGo Supreme
If you are a regular reader you know I use Escar Go from Gardens Alive at least once a year and sometimes twice a year in places I’m having a lot of slug trouble.
Iron phosphate (the ingredient) is considered very safe, but I still don’t want to apply too much of it to my garden beds.
Two kinds of EscarGo are offered now. Garden’s Alive did not explain the difference in the “original” EscarGo and the New Supreme EscarGo in their literature.
I did find out that the Escargo Supreme has spinosad which I don’t want to use in my gardens since it is highly toxic to bees. Maybe in this form there would be little opportunity for the bees to be harmed by it. Nonetheless, my bees are too important to chance it.
I have and do from time to time use Pyola. But it’s not often.
Pyola is lethal to bees (and other beneficials) when wet. If your bees go home at night you could spray late without damage since after it dries it is safe for them. But my bees stay around the garden and sleep on the plants sometimes very late, so I have to be extremely careful.
Supposedly it kills the adults of the squash bug and the Colorado Potato Beetle. I will agree that it kills the nymphs but I personally have found it not particularly effective on the adult versions of these two garden nemesis.
Another reason I don’t use it very much is because I have found it just as fast to put gloves on and kill the adults, nymphs and take the eggs off as I go along. (And I don’t worry about messing up the leave.)
Getting the pyola, measuring, getting the sprayer, filling it, taking it to the garden and then going back for a refill is just more trouble than its worth in most cases. I find it easier and faster to hand kill.
Bottom Line –
Gardening is pretty simple. So read all the hype with a cautious eye and know for sure if you keep adding organic material and covering your soil you’re going to have a great garden. And yes – without adding anything else.
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient —– and it’s a lot healthier too.
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