Guest column: Embrace nature’s ways in caring for your garden
June 24, 2014
Most people know what veggies grow up here in the high country, but do people know how to keep weeds at bay naturally or how to keep bugs and pests away as well.
First off, one can start from the beginning to keep those weeds at bay before you plant your flowers or vegetables. Solarizing the soil is a method of roasting the weeds in the soil by heating it up with the sun naturally. First you clear all the beds of vegetation, water vigorously, and cover you area with clear plastic (2-4 mil). Secure the edges as tight as possible with rocks or bricks and then let the sun do what it does best, radiate heat. It may take between four to six weeks of this to effectively kill weed seeds, nematodes, and soil-borne diseases.
The second recommended way of keeping one's weeds from emerging is to provide a barrier of newspaper between your soil and your mulch. Four layers of the black and white sections of the newspaper should be sufficient and is an excellent way to re-purpose the reading material. Wet the paper as you apply it so it does not blow away before you mulch and eventually it will decompose and become part of the earth again. After one has planted, there are a couple of other ways to prevent weeds from continuing and that is to either cut seed heads before they disperse or one can spread corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent after the seeds germinate. Corn gluten is a natural herbicide that not only kills weeds, but also acts a slow-release, high nitrogen fertilizer. This method may take several years to work effectively. Finally, if you still have weeds appear and want an immediate solution, one can apply vinegar to any plant you want to kill. Vinegar kills all plants when applied, so do not spray plants you like. Hot water or a weed burner can be effective alternatives also.
Secondly, once you have your plants growing, there are those pesky bugs that want to come eat them before you get to harvest. There are numerous natural ways to combat them. One way of keeping bugs at bay is to encourage birds in your garden. Put out feeders and birdbaths and plant colorful flowers to attract hummingbirds. You can also introduce friendly bugs into your garden like ladybugs, which love to eat aphids and mites. Neem seed oil spray is a good natural insecticide that kills insects and also prevents damage from fungal disease. Black spot and mildew on your flowers can be controlled by mixing 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of dish soap to 1 gallon of water. Spray generously.
One more way of ridding oneself of undesirable insects is to companion plant in your garden. By planting certain plants you can either attract beneficial bugs to your garden or some plants simply repel bugs with their scent. A few examples are: Marigolds, which repel beetles, mosquitos, and nematodes; and the Catmint, which is known to help prevent aphids and mites by attracting a good bug, the Lacewing; and along with mint, basil, and nasturtiums, catmint attracts good bugs and repel flies, mosquitoes, and other insects.
Try these ecologically friendly alternatives to toxic chemicals and feel safe having your children in the garden and when eating home-grown vegetables. And remember, planting a garden means planning for the future.