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Organic Pest control – Disease Management – Working on the Cause rather than the Symptom.

Before I ever started gardening I had complete faith that I could garden organically in spite of what I was told to the contrary. And from the stand point of using only organic “stuff” in and on my garden — I was organic.

But looking back I see that at least for the first 5 years I had the same approach (or attitude) as any conventional gardener — I was addressing  symptoms — rather than studying nature and addressing the main reason or cause for the symptoms. I was looking for quick-fixes — which is just what chemical agriculture does.  And quick-fixes don’t really “fix” the problem they just cover it up by helping temporarily.

I fell for all the marketing hype that said adding a little bit of this would solve one problem and a little bit of something else would solve another.

Didn’t use too many organic sprays since I didn’t have the money to buy them, but had I been able to afford it I’m sure I would’ve had them all.

What made me realize that all I needed to do was mimic nature and work in harmony with her — I’m not sure.

Organic is now Big Business

As you know “organic” is becoming big business.  If you’ve lived any length of time and/or have studied human nature and/or history you also know that the companies and merchandisers who make a fortune selling goods to conventional farmers can and will use the same strategies to sell goods to organic farmers.  They promote Nature as being something you conquer and work against rather than with and use chemicals to supposedly subdue her.  In other words one “bad” chemical is often exchanged for another that is considered “organic”.

Their effort to brain-wash the public has been for the most part very successful.

The Real Truth — the Way to Successful Gardening

The real truth of Nature and basic tenets necessary to be successful in gardening are unknown to almost all modern day conventional  chemical gardeners and many organic gardeners.

The gardener who works with nature feeds the soil because he/she knows that the soil feeds the plants.

  • He/she uses natural soil food like cover crops (green manures) and various forms of compost rather than bagged fertilizers (organic or otherwise) to increase soil fertility.  They know that most problems can be avoided by feeding the soil well and increasing organic matter.
  • Organic matter in turn creates better soil structure and drainage.
  • Working with nature also means paying attention to good air circulation.

Diversity has a profound effect on success:

  • Rotate your crops the best you’re able.  It can be difficult in a small area but do it to the best of your ability. Avoid planting the same crop over and over in a given area.  Use cover crops to help you break the monoculture pattern.  And diversify your cover crops as well.
  • If certain varieties are prone to certain diseases choose another variety.

Principles to Successful Agriculture known for Thousands of Years 

In my study of the history of agriculture this year, I have found — but not surprisingly — that all these tenets were known thousands of years ago.  The knowledge of them began to be suppressed when chemicals came on the scene over a 100 years ago.  So as time passed what was promoted (the use of chemicals) and then considered the “in thing”  became what was accepted as truth. And the real truth about what causes good garden health was almost lost except to the few.

Improvements to Optimum Conditions take Time  – but they’re worth it!

Depending on the soil and garden environment we started with — it can take a while to achieve the goal of giving our plants the optimum conditions for growth.  And the best way does not always give the most production from a plant — but rather a better quality fruit.

The best way is not always the quickest and easiest way. But the rewards of that way are tremendous!

  • It’s low cost,
  • low maintenance,
  • pretty much self sustaining, and
  • crops are more nutritious (which means better health for us)

One of the biggest rewards is that we end up with a healthful product that is not available on a wide scale — and certainly not available in big food stores even if it’s marked 100% organic.  (There’s an exception to every rule, but I’d bet an exception to this one would be rare.)

The Cause of Problems

If something is “out of balance” with nature — it puts stress on plants and that’s when you have problems — be it pest or disease. Even when I’m out there picking squash bugs in the summer, I know that handpicking bugs is only a temporary way of dealing with the problem. As I continue to improve the condition of my soil the bugs will decrease as will early blight and any other problems that show themselves.

Final Thoughts

When you’re dealing with various problems this coming growing season I urge you to look for the underlying cause of the problem and keep striving to give your plants those optimum growing conditions.  You may be a while in reaching that goal, but I can guarantee that if you do everything you can to attain it — each year your garden will be far better (and more enjoyable) because of it.

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Related Posts:

Organic Pest Control – Eliminate the Cause

Organic Pest Control – Two Stories

Garden Diversity Can Equal Better Organic Pest & Disease Control

Defense Against Garden Pest and Disease

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Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.

________

All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All rights reserved.

4 comments to Organic Pest control – Disease Management – Working on the Cause rather than the Symptom.

  • Thanks for a great post Theresa! Observing nature and first learning how things work and then working with the nature of things seems like such common sense–now! I had to learn the same lessons about my bees as we’re learning here about gardening. In the beginning I wanted to treat the bees with organic mite treatments, most of which were herbal with strong smells that interfered with the way bees communicate with each other–pheromones. I had to learn the best thing for bees was to support their natural tendencies, make sure I left them enough of their own good honey for nutrition, over time use the strong hives that learned to deal with the mites to make new colonies that were more resistant–that is, work with nature! Easier and cheaper!

  • Sarah

    What are your thoughts on tilling? My husband does it way too much in my opinion. I’ve read that tilling (or over-tilling) can deplete the soil. I can’t seem to get him to listen to me. 🙂
    Any thoughts or advice? (not on how to get him to listen to me, but on the tilling)

  • Don Rutherfird

    In your post Organic Pest control – Disease Management – Working on the Cause rather than the Symptom.

    I truly love and appreciate your philosophy. Many “organic” chemicals we can buy or make are just as harmful, or more to nature than non organic ones.

    It may take time, but it took me 10 years to build up my soil, very heavy clay, to where I was happy with it. I did get produce, just not the quality and amount I desired.

    It took you time to realize that you were addressing symptoms. When you write “mimic nature and work in harmony with her”, I read, work in harmony with God, not play god.

    Thank You

    Don

  • Theresa

    Betty, Sarah and Don – great comments!
    Betty, I find what you said about the bees fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing all that. Loved the part about supporting their natural tendencies. I’ve read that many (most) bee keepers use sugar instead of leaving the bees honey. That never has made sense to me because the bees own honey is as far from white sugar as day from night.

    Sarah – I’ve addressed tilling in many posts, but it’s good to have it brought up again here because all of us can benefit by refreshing our memories regarding why tilling is not the best thing.

    As I have mentioned “To continually till the soil each year keeps nature from doing all she can to help your garden be the best it can be. Every time you till you destroy much of the soil web (soil life) that was just starting to rebuild itself.”

    You (and your husband if he will) may want to review two posts in particular:

    http://tendingmygarden.com/comments-on-a-readers-plan-cover-crops-turning-the-soil-and-more/

    Especially the part on:

    Tractors, Ploughing, Tilling, Discing and Hoeing

    These things are so much apart of us and how we perceive gardening and farming it’s hard to believe that their use is not the best practice.

    When ground is first broken — it’s expedient to use a tiller to help with deep preparation. For some, deep preparation would be impossible without this help. (I have always hand dug beds, but Bill has done both — hand dug and used a tiller for deep preparation.)

    Every time we do this “severe manipulation” (whether hand digging or tilling) to the soil — it kills a lot of the microorganism (soil life) in the soil. Our goal is to strive for more and more soil life — not less.  The more active the soil life is — the better our plants will perform.

    Can the soil recover?  Of course it can.  But here’s the thing — why would you want to set your garden back with continual severe manipulation of the soil once or even twice or more a year? If you strive for permanent beds, you can go out in the spring — pull back the mulch and plant your crops.  Done.

    Even your cover crops can be planned so their roots remain in the ground and work for you.  Although you can certainly turn under your cover crops if you want — studies show that cutting them and laying them on top of the beds is just as effective and sometimes even more so.
    End Cut and Paste from Post

    The other post that you (and your husband) may want to review is:
    http://tendingmygarden.com/soil-preparation-mulching-raised-beds-cover-crops-better-ways-to-do-things/
    Especially this part:

    What Happens When We Till and Dig the Soil
    When the soil is tilled — or even if there is a lot of digging going on with a shovel — much of the soil life is killed.  Over time the soil life will build again if organic material is replenished, the soil is kept covered, and it’s not severely disturbed again.

    When ground for a garden is first “opened” it should be loosened deeply. Done properly deep soil preparation should be necessary only one time.

    To continually till the soil each year keeps nature from doing all she can to help your garden be the best it can be. Every time you till you destroy much of the soil web (soil life) that was just starting to rebuild itself.

    The Super Advantages of Covered Permanent – no till Beds

    Permanent beds that have organic materials added to them each year and are always mulched (replicating nature) allow the activity of soil life to increase continually and thus — improve your garden.

    As soil life (also called microbes or microorganisms) increases its activity —- it helps:
    • suppress disease organisms,
    • improves soil structure, and
    • digests the organic matter.
    In turn the organic matter improves the soil’s ability to
    • hold water,
    • to drain properly, and
    • allows the nutrients in the soil to be better used by the plants.

    In other words –  nature will be making your garden stronger and better.

    And one of the most rewarding advantages is when you go out in the spring: All you need do is to pull back the mulch where you want to plant — and plant.  That’s it!  No other work needed!
    End Cut and Paste from Post

    Sarah, I think once your husband understands the concept behind not tilling (after unbroken soil is initially prepared) and once he has experienced not having to till — but rather just pull back the mulch and plant — he may find it easier to resist the urge to pull out the tiller. (Although if he’s like Bill — he may have to be reminded from time to time about exactly why it’s better not to till. 🙂 )

    Don,
    Thanks for the affirmation. It helps others to know of your experiences and thoughts.
    And you are reading correctly. 🙂

    Theresa

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