One of the main reasons many of us turn to growing our own produce is to control the amount of harmful chemicals and pesticides we expose ourselves to via food.
Organic fruit and vegetables used to be something that only hippies and tree huggers would go for, but it’s increasingly becoming a dirty word in the general public. They have been linked to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and washing your fruit and vegetables does little to rid them of pesticides. Worse still, commercially grown fruit and vegetables are loaded with pesticides, with an apple containing as much as 30 different types!
Many people are turning to grow their own food in order to limit the number of pesticides they are exposed too, but forget that they still need to use organic growing methods in order to reap the benefits.
Bespoke greenhouse specialists Hartley Botanic have compiled some tips on how to garden organically and reduce your gardens exposure to pesticides.
Use disease resistant plant varieties
The main purpose of pesticides is to reduce pests which cause disease and death in plants and produce. By choosing disease resistant varieties, you reduce the need to use pesticides as your plants are already protected. This means you can stick to organic, natural methods of protecting your plants and not have to worry about failed crops or reduced turnout. Most catalogues will have disease resistant or hardy varieties which do not cost much extra, and will save you money in the long run as the produce better foliage.
Make natural pesticides
If your plants are being attacked by pests, DIY organic pesticides work just as well as toxic filled store bought versions, and don’t damage your soil or pollute your plants. Biodegradable liquid soap is an excellent ingredient to use if you already have a problem as it smothers pests and prevents them from breathing. To deter, use ingredients like cayenne pepper and garlic which repels pests and prevents them from attacking your plants in the first place. Check out some natural pesticide recipes here.
Rotate your crops
Growing plants in the same spot can lead diseases to build up in the soil, meaning when you grow a new crop in the same space yearly they can be attacked head on from the second they’re planted. Rotating your crops yearly so that plants which are resistant to a specific disease follow from a plant which is prone to the disease will mean that your crops are protected from any diseases in the soil which it is planted in.
Water plants in the morning
The best time to water plants are in the morning as they are active during the day and will use the water. Watering in the evening can mean your plants and soil stay waterlogged overnight, promoting fungal growth. Avoid watering the leaves as wet leaves also attract pests: apply the water straight into the soil or roots and avoid over watering. Pesticides can sometimes leak into the water supply so collect and use rainwater for your plants.
Use organic mulch
A layer of mulch over soil can prevent pests and spores from getting in to the soil, and also prevent weeds from getting the sunlight needed to grow. Mulching also holds in essential nutrients in the soil, ensuring your plants grow healthy and strong which will help to protect against diseases.
Dispose of diseased material properly
Occasionally, despite your best efforts plants will get diseased. If this happens, the best solution is to completely remove any infected leaves and prune the plants right back. Completely clean and disinfect your gardening tools to prevent the infection spreading to other plants, and use natural pesticides to help ward off the infection. If your plant continues to deteriorate, dig up the entire plant, rake any fallen material such as leaves and dig up the soil surrounding the plant to make sure there is no disease left in the soil. Get rid of any diseased material by putting on a bonfire or taking to council composting facilities as the temperatures here will kill most diseases.
Invite natural predators into your garden
Animals like birds, frogs, spiders and even ladybirds are a great addition to your garden if you suffer from slugs, snails, aphids and other insect pests. Encourage them to stay in your garden by creating ideal conditions such as having fat balls, ponds or bird baths. They will repay you by getting rid of pests for you.