“The goal of life is living in agreement with nature.” - Zeno (335 BC—264BC from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
If you want a healthy garden, free from the toxins of
pesticides which could pollute your health and the environment, organic
gardening is the only way to go! (Daily Gardening News here.)
For details on ORGANIC GARDENING COMPANION PLANTING MULCHING & COMPOSTING ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY GARDEN SPRAY RECIPES simply scroll down.
"Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees." —Revelations 7:3
planting is the art of growing complimentary plants together to form a
beneficial partnership of growth patterns and secretions. This valuable
technique helps to repel pests, dispenses with the need for noxious
chemical sprays, promotes faster growth, and encourages better plant
some plants combine to produce very successful associations, other
pairings of fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs can prove to be
detrimental and should be avoided. For example fennel is, with very few exceptions, an undesirable partner - the exceptions include cabbage, catnip, thyme and yarrow. However, some plants usually prove to be a very good plant `partner' such as marjoram, marigold, nasturtium, oregano, parsley, sage and yarrow. These beneficial plant partners (with the exception of yarrow) are not compatible with fennel, and sage is also not a favourable companion for cucumber.
Other techniques used to ensure
an abundant, healthy crop or garden, without the use of toxic chemicals
include using mulch to control weeds, the encouragement of birds and
beneficial insects into the cultivated area to control pests, and the
recycling of organic matter to replenish the soil's nutrient level.
also use tilling and aerating the soil, crop rotation, companion
planting and spraying crops with natural environmentally-friendly
simply means covering the soil in and around your gardens with a layer
of material that will soon degrade into the soil. It is beneficial to
both the soil and plants if an appropriate mulch is applied in the
right way and at the right time. Mulches can be used to:
- Control weed growth
- Retain moisture in the soil
- Alter the temperature of the soil and air just above it
- Improve soil structure
- Add nutrients to the soil
- Help keep crops clean and disease free
Properties of Biodegradable Mulches
Compost and Well-Rotted Manure:
provide many nutrients but are usually considered too valuable for use
as a weed suppressor. Fresh manure is not used as it can burn plants.
Hay—A very good insulator but can introduce annual weed seeds.
Straw - Longer
lasting than hay but is not as effective as a weed suppressor.
Partially rotted straw is preferred as it is less likely to contain
residues of chemical weed killers. Leafmould -
It looks attractive and provides some nutrients but release them very
slowly. Street-swept leaves are usually avoided because they can have a
very high lead content.
Moss- It is slow to decompose and is very acid.
Newspaper and Cardboard -These can bey very useful under other biodegradable mulches to improve weed control.
Lawn Cuttings—Cuttings can be
used to control weeds but are only a short term solution unless topped
up regularly. If obtaining lawn cuttings from an outside source growers
should beware of cuttings treated with herbicide. Lawn cuttings provide
nutrients but are of little benefit to soil structure and may introduce
annual weed seeds.
Hardwood Sawdust -This material
should be weathered for several months before being used otherwise it
may cake and repel water and if dug into the soil will cause nitrogen
ForestBark—It is longer
lasting than most materials and is available in various grades. Phenols
and tannins in the mulch can contribute to weed, pest and disease
Mulch as a Weed Controller A
layer of mulch of the correct thickness will stop most weeds from
germinating, and those that do appear should be easy to remove from the
loose material. The thickness will partly be determined by the size of
the plant being treated. Small plants must not be smothered, but tall
ones like tomatoes will happily grow in mulch 15 - 20cm (6 - 8 inches)
deep. Mulches should be kept clear of the stems where rotting is likely
to occur but in some cases such as tomatoes, rosellas and brussel
sprouts, plants will make new roots into the mulch placed around their
stems resulting in stronger, more vigorous plants.
Preventing Moisture Loss Through Mulching Mulching
will help prevent the evaporation of moisture from the soil thereby
reducing the need for watering. This procedure is especially beneficial
for shallow-rooted crops that need a constant supply of moisture,
but it is essential that the soil be damp before mulch is applied since
rainwater will only percolate through slowly, and some if it will be
absorbed before it reaches the roots.
Regulating the Soil Temperature Biodegradable
mulches act as an insulating barrier, and in areas where very low
winter temperatures are experienced mulching will prevent a cold soil
from warming up which can cause crop losses or significantly slow down
plant growth. In such regions, mulches should never be put down in
winter or early spring, but in milder localities where winter
temperatures rarely reach below 8 - 10°c mulches can be used all year
is beneficial to plants during summer as it moderates the temperature
fluctuations of the soil. Mulches applied in autumn keep the soil warm,
helping root growth of newly planted shrubs and fruit bushes, and
protecting the crowns of tender young plants as the air above the mulch
material is also warmer.
Improving the Soil Structure Beneath
the mulch the soil will remain moist and subject to less extremes of
temperature, creating a good environment for soil organisms. The surface
of the soil is protected from pounding by heavy rain and will develop a
good crumbly structure as it is mixed with organic matter from the
decaying mulch. Earthworm activity is encouraged - vegetable matter is
carried down into the soil, and worm burrows create channels for
drainage and aeration. Mulches of straw will also minimise damage from
walking on the soil between rows of crops.
mulch decays, nutrients become available to the plants. Varying amounts
of nutrients are provided by the different mulches, for example rotted
manure contributes many nutrients whereas leaf mould provides only a
material high in carbon and low in nitrogen such as straw, hay or
sawdust will cause nitrogen starvation if dug into the soil,
obstructing the decaying bacteria from obtaining nitrogen - thus
preventing the process which facilitates good soil and plant health.
Encouraging Nature Strong
vigorous plants will resist disease and insect attack but the most
effective agents against insect pests are the parasites, predators and
diseases of the pests themselves.
organic gardener does all he or she can to encourage these predators
which include birds, frogs, lizards and many beneficial insects such as
ladybirds, lacewings, praying mantis, bees, the trichogramma species of
wasp, dragon flies, garter snakes, thrips and predacious mites.
In addition to encouraging predators to protect the vegetation from pests, organic growers have many other natural, safe and
methods of pest control. These methods include crop rotation, the use of
dark mulches or foil, hand-picking (of pests), companion planting and
Organic growers also use barriers such as collars made of
stiff paper to stop hatching larvae burrowing into the soil, and pieces
of cheese cloth are placed over seedling beds to protect developing
plants from chewing insects, cats and birds, and also prevents flying
insects from laying their eggs.
Keeping the Crops Clean and Healthy
and forest bark do not provide readily available nutrients, however
straw is useful because it keeps sprawling vegetables such as bush
tomatoes and marrows clean and will prevent disease spores from being
splashed on to the fruit. Leaves and forest bark will similarly keep
ornamental plants looking their best.
ORGANIC PEST CONTROL & ORGANIC SPRAY RECIPES Hot Pepper Spray- Blend
two or three very hot peppers with half an onion and one clove of
garlic in water. Boil, steep for two days and strain. This spray will
not damage indoor or outdoor plants and can be frozen for future use.
Tobacco Water Spray - Place
a large handful of tobacco into four litres or four quarts of warm
water. Let this stand for twenty-four hours. Dilute and apply with a
spray bottle. Tobacco water is poisonous to humans so use caution when
handling or storing.
Garlic Spray— Mix
four litres (four quarts) with 1½ tablespoons of garlic juice (do not
use garlic powder as it will burn the plants), 1½ cups of diatomaceous
earth and 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. This spray can be frozen for
Soap Spray - Use
only pure soap as detergent will damage your plants. When using liquid
soaps mix 1½ tablespoons into one litre (one quart). If using dry soaps
mix fifty grams per litre of water.
is an extension of nature's own method of returning waste vegetable
matter to the soil in the form of nutrients for soil organisms and
plants. In nature the decomposition of organic matter is slow and
gradual, but compost is such a valuable material to the organic gardener
that various methods are used to accelerate the process. Ideas on
making compost vary from one experienced gardener to another. Some
organic growers simply pile the material on a vacant garden bed, cover
it with black plastic, and leave it for about a year, while others
carefully build their compost heaps in layers, turning and mixing the
organic matter at regular intervals to produce good compost in about six
weeds. Compost tumblers are favoured by some because they take the hard
work out of turning a heap of organic material by hand, and depending
on the design of the tumbler will produce compost in fourteen days.
that was once alive is suitable material for composting. Leaves, straw,
plant prunings, vines, paper and cardboard will compost more
effectively if they are shredded first. An easy way to do this is to
spread the material out on an area of lawn and go over it with a rotary
lawn mower. Materials which can be included in the compost heap vary
greatly in the amount of carbon and nitrogen they contain. These
elements are important because bacteria use nitrogen in breaking down
the carbon in vegetable matter. This bacterial action creates the heat
of a compost pile which can reach 55°c, hot enough to kill most weed and
grass seeds and potentially harmful pathogens. A
compost heap should contain materials that provide both carbon and
Fresh lawn cuttings and animal manures, materials most readily
available to the home gardener are both high in nitrogen. Hardwood
sawdust, paper, cardboard, woody prunings from shrubs, dry leaves and
straw are high in carbon. A rough estimate of both types of materials is
usually adequate and a proportion of about four parts nitrogenous to
one part carbonaceous material is suggested.
moisture is needed to encourage bacteria which thrives on oxygen to
facilitate the break down of materials in a compost heap. If the pile of
organic matter is too soggy the bacteria can be smothered. This can
cause the heap to smell and work less efficiently. The moisture of the
compost heap should be kept at the level of a wet sponge that has been
wrung out. However, fresh lawn cuttings contain from 75 to 90 percent
moisture so very little water, if any, needs to be added initially when
lawn clippings provide the bulk of nitrogenous material. Air temperature
also plays an important role in the decomposition of organic material.
During the summer months the warmer temperatures promote a faster
breakdown of organic matter, consequently compost can be made more
rapidly than in winter when the process slows down.
compost heap should be of manageable proportions. A metre in diameter
and a metre high is ideal. If this seems too large, remember that the
heap will reduce considerably in volume as composting progresses.
a layer of plant material about 15cm (6 inches) deep and on top of this
a layer of manure about 5cm (2 inches) thick. Then cover the manure
with a 3cm (1½ inches) layer of good topsoil. Continue with this
sequence of layers until the heap is a metre high. Ensure that each
layer has sufficient moisture content and in a few days the heap should
be noticeably warm when the hand is placed on the outer surface of the
In two to three weeks turn the heap so that the composed material
on the outside goes to the interior. Repeat this process after about
four to five weeks and the compost should be ready for use in about
three months. Ventilation can be improved by placing a cylindrical tub
of plastic rainwater pipe up the centre of the heap like a chimney and
withdrawing it in a day or two when the heap has settled. If
the heap is not turned good compost can still be made but it will take
longer. However, if the process of breakdown needs to be accelerated the
heap should be turned more frequently than every two to three weeks. It
is always a good idea to protect the compost heap from becoming
drenched by heavy rain. A cover of black plastic or galvanised iron over
the top will do quite well.
method of constructing a compost heap is to shred all materials and
blend them together before building the heap. The heap is then turned
after three days and thereafter as often as necessary to ensure that all
material is fully composted. Each turning of the material provides an
opportunity to adjust the moisture and the nitrogen content if the
process seems to be slowing down.
a little practice and experimentation all growers find it quite easy
and uncomplicated to produce this excellent source of plant nutrients.
After a surprisingly short time of composting earthworm activity
increases, indicated by worm casts on top of the soil. These worm casts
are extremely rich in all plant nutrients, and in a properly fed soil
the earthworm population will yield from ten to fifteen tonnes of casts
per hectare each year. Earthworms condition the soil far more
effectively than digging or mechanical cultivation, and do so without
upsetting the biological life which exists in the top 10cm of soil. They
create burrows through the soil through which air and water can
penetrate. Earthworms and other soil organisms convert mulch material,
compost and plant residues into humus. Humus is a colloidal substance
that is not subject to drying out or leaching from the soil and is
a storehouse of plant nutrients. Soil that is deficient in humus does
not absorb moisture readily and dries out rapidly due to evaporation.
COMPANION PLANTING CHART - Choosing compatible plants for an improved harvest.