If you’re an organic vegetable gardener, take the time now to plan and prepare for a successful and productive year.
Taking steps now will ensure that you have a vigorous and healthy garden, and fewer pests to bother you later.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Start off with a clean slate. Clean up leftover garden debris. If you had diseased or infested plants, remove the plant material to avoid infecting new plantings with fungal spores, insect eggs or bacteria.
2. Make sure you have the right plant for the place. Read instructions, and plant in a location that suits the plant’s needs for sun exposure, soil type, water, temperature and shelter.
3. Most flowering plants need plenty of light and airflow. Make sure you have these conditions, or plants become spindly and anemic-looking, or susceptible to fungus.
4. If possible, choose cultivars of plants that are genetically resistant to disease and pests.
5. Time your planting according to plant temperature preferences. Some plants, like corn, and most fruits and tomatoes grow best when the soil and air is warm, while others (cabbage, lettuce, spinach) should be planted in the spring, when the soil and air are still cool.
6. Plan to plant a lot of different plants in the same location, rather than using only one type of plant. This will make it harder for pests to find plants, and for fungus and bacteria to “jump” from plant to plant.
7. Rotate your planting layout every couple of years, so plants become a moving target for soil-borne pests.
8. Favour plants that produce nectar and pollen, as those attract insects and birds that pollinate.
10. Add organic compost (well-rotted dead plant material from healthy and non-toxic sources) to your soil every year before you seed. This helps the soil become healthy and biologically active, so it contains lots of critters that help break down dead plant material to feed plants and to help keep pest populations in check.
11. Use organic mulch once you seed, to keep weed growth suppressed, and to fertilize the soil as it breaks down.
12. Water regularly. Letting plants dry out and then flooding them results in uneven growth, deformed foliage and reduced yields. And water roots rather than leaves, since wet leaves are susceptible to diseases.
13. Don’t spray chemical pesticides because they kill all insects, including the beneficial ones. Predators like lady bugs, lacewings, spiders, as well as birds, frogs and toads will snack on insects and bugs that attack your garden. Various types of parasitic insects that prey on plant pests also help.
Taken from What’s Wrong with my Plant (and How do I Fix it?), by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth.