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!
and the environment, organic gardening is the only way to go!
Companion 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 health. Although 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.
Organic growers also use tilling and aerating the soil, crop rotation, companion planting and spraying crops with natural environmentally-friendly formulas.
Mulching 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: Both 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.
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 round.
Mulching 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 minimize damage from walking on the soil between rows of crops.
As 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 mold provides only a few. Any 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.
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.
The 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 effective methods of pest control. These methods include crop rotation, the use of dark mulches or foil, hand-picking (of pests), companion planting and ridge tillage.
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
Straw 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 later use.
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.
Composting - 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.
Anything 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 nitrogen.
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.
Some 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. A 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.
Spread 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 material.
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 galvanized iron over the top will do quite well.
Another 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.
After 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.
favourable: Basil, Pepper, Tomato
favourable: Tomato, Asparagus
favourable: Beet, Cabbage, Carrot, Celeriac, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Pea, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Savory, Strawberry, Swiss Chard, Tomato adverse: Onion, Leek, Garlic
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Corn, Garlic, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Onion, Radish
favourable: Beans, Beet, Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Fennel, Leek, Lettuce, Melons, Mint, Onion, Potato, Pumpkin, Rosemary, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Squash adverse: Strawberry, Tomato, Garlic
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Leek, Onion, Pea, Pepper, Radish, Rosemary, Tomato adverse: Dill, Potato
favourable: Celeriac, Celery
adverse: Fennel, Strawberry, Tomato
favourable: Beans, Cauliflower, Leek, Lettuce, tomato
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Garlic, Leek, Lettuce, Onion, Tomato
favourable: Beans, Beet, Cucumber, Melons, Pea, Potato, Pumpkin, Squash, Sunflower
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Celery, Corn, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onion, Pea, Radish, Tomato adverse: Sage, Potato
favourable: Beans, Pea, Pepper, Potato
favourable: Garlic, Horseradish, Onion, Raspberry
favourable: Beet, Celery, Fruit Trees, Lettuce, Potato, Raspberry, Strawberry, Tomato
adverse: Pea, Beans, Cabbage
favourable: Fruit Trees, Potato
favourable: Beet, Cucumber, Onion
adverse: Strawberry, Swiss Chard, Tomato
favourable: Beet, Cabbage, Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Onion, Spinach
adverse: Pea Beans
favourable: Beet, Cabbage, Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Cucumber, Garlic, Melons, Onion, Pumpkin, Radish, Spinach, Squash,
favourable: Cabbage, Corn, Lettuce, Pea, Radish
favourable: Cabbage, Pea, Radish, Tomato, Turnip
favourable: Beet, Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Cucumber, Fruit Trees, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Pepper, Savory, Strawberry, Swiss, Chard, Tomato
adverse: Beans, Pea, Potato
favourable: Beans, Carrot, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Melons, Mint, Pepper, Potato, Pumpkin, Radish, Spinach, Squash, Strawberry, Sunflower, Turnip
adverse: Garlic, Leek, Onion
favourable: Asparagus, Carrot, Eggplant, Onion, Pea, Tomato
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Corn, Eggplant, Garlic, Horseradish, Pea
adverse: Carrot, Cucumber, Fruit Trees, Melons, Onion, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Radish, Raspberry, Rosemary, Spinach, Squash
favourable: Cabbage, Corn, Lettuce
favourable: Beans, Beet, Carrot, Cucumber, Lettuce, Melons, Mint, Parsnip, Pea, Pumpkin, Spinach adverse: Hyssop, Potato
favourable: Fruit Trees, Garlic,
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Carrot
favourable: Beans, Onion
favourite: Cabbage, Leek, Lettuce, Pea, Radish, Strawberry
favourable: Cabbage, Corn, Lettuce, Pea, Radish
favourable: Beans, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Pea, Spinach
adverse: Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi
favourable: Corn, Pea
adverse: Lettuce, Potato
favourable: Beans, Cabbage, Onion
favourable: Asparagus, Basil, Beans, Carrot, Celeriac, Celery, Cucumber, Garlic, Mint, Onion, Pepper, Radish
adverse: Beetroot, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Kohlrabi, Potato
favourable: Mint, Pea
Thank you to the Organic Growers of Brisbane, Greenpeace, and other contributors for the above information.