Weed and Pest Control
Since organic gardening, by definition, means avoiding harsh chemicals to control pests, weeds and diseases in your garden, care is needed when picking products for these uses. Hand weeding and hand picking of small insect pests and fences and barriers against larger pests are the traditional methods used by organic gardeners, there are times when other methods make good sense. We have found the products you need to make your disease control, weed control, and pest control easier.
Birds, ladybugs and praying mantises are the gardener's best friends when it comes to insect control. Birds can be encouraged into the garden by providing a feeder, a birdbath, or by providing plants that grow berries for them to eat.
Ladybugs are now for sale by the pint, quart or gallon. The average-sized garden can get by on a quart or less, as there will be about 25,000 to 30,000 bugs per quart. The cost is generally less than five dollars a quart. The average adult ladybug consumes between 40 and 50 aphids a day.
Praying mantis cases are also available and each one hatches up to 400 young. The cost is rather nominal for a case. A few gardeners have reported that this insect disappears rather rapidly from the garden, so you might want to experiment with just a few to begin with. They will eat any insect they can catch.
Get them before they start... Weeds compete with garden plants for nutrients, space, and sunlight. Weeds can make your otherwise tidy organic garden appear scraggly, and weeds harbor insect pests that carry diseases. The best way to control weeds without chemical herbicides is to prevent them from establishing themselves in your garden.
Adding a 3-inch layer of organic mulch is one of the best methods you can use to prevent weeds. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching weed seeds, preventing them from germinating. Mulch retains moisture in the soil and keeps it from compacting, so that you can easily pull young weeds as they sprout. You can choose bagged wood chips or shredded bark for your garden mulch, but compost makes excellent mulch. If you use compost or other finely textured mulch like grass clippings, replace it as frequently as once a month, as it breaks down quickly.
If you are preparing to dig or till a new plot of exposed earth, devote a day to removing as many weeds as possible first. Many perennial weeds, like bindweed and thistle, spread by means of rhizomes or creeping stems. If you leave root segments behind, your tiller could distribute these viable plant parts throughout your garden, multiplying your weed problem a hundredfold.
You can make the greenhouse effect work for you by baking weeds and their seeds in the sun before you plant a barren plot. In the summer, cut all existing weeds to ground level. Water the area thoroughly and lay a sheet of clear plastic over the entire plot. Old shower curtain liners work well for this chore. Pin the plastic down with metal u-shaped stakes so the wind doesn't move the plastic sheets. If you use a single large sheet, weigh the center portion down with rocks to prevent cooling air pockets from forming.
After 8-10 weeks, the suns radiant energy will have sufficiently raised the temperature of the soil so that all weeds and seeds are no longer viable. As an added benefit, solarization kills many soil-borne diseases and pests. Your organic plot is now ready for a fall planting of cool weather vegetables.