Thoughts for the New Year
As the New Year grows closer, I would like to end this festive period with some final thoughts to consider in the new growing season. I know that you are all itching to get out there and some are already preparing the patches and anxiously anticipating what to plant at allotment. I hope that these notions can help spark new ideas and get the creative cogs turning.
As a natural gardener, I always strive to find an alternative to modern day chemicals. After all, people have been growing fruit and vegetables successfully without them for centuries. I feel that it is quintessential to preserve this knowledge even if it is considered a little more time consuming or less effective (which is just a myth). There’s a substantial amount of satisfaction knowing that the achievements in your garden, be it on a balcony, in containers or a fully functioning farm, were grown safely and weren’t detrimental to the delicate environment. Weed killers and other chemical concoctions are highly effective but they can leave residual poisons that can leak into places that eventually end up on our plates. Not only this, they can have devastating effects on the natural cycles whether it be fungal or food related and harm precious insects like bees.
Weeds can be annoying not only as an eyesore but as a strangling device to the things that we actually wanted to grow. But is there really a simpler way? Can we really rely on ourselves and not some silly company trying to sell us miracles? I believe that we can. A simple mulch will prevent most weeds popping up and others can be pulled on sight. It also offers nutrients to the soil as it decomposes and retains up to eighty percent of the moisture. Furthermore, mulching can also help protect you plants from the bitterness of the winter months. Leaves, grass cuttings and other organic materials work perfectly. Or if you are looking for something a little more ornamental, wood chips, seed husks and barks look great. If you are having problems with weeds in the driveway or other cemented areas, a simple solution of salt and vinegar will do the trick. Simply mix the two together and apply directly to the desired area. If you accidently spill it in a place that you didn’t intend to like your tomato patch for example, just give it a good wash with water.
It’s important to remember that not every bug we see is there to eat our hard earned vegetables before we do. They are just playing their part in the food cycle and killing them directly affects something else. Identifying the problem before it spirals out of control or taking measures to prevent problems practically seems a more sensible action. Its impossible to predict what predators will decide to pounce on your plants at any given time, although there are pests that like specific species of plants. New types of bugs and insects are arriving and departing all the time due to the changing of the seasons and fluctuating temperatures. Carrot flies can wipe-out your crop quickly, but they can’t fly very high, so planting your carrots in a raised bed or a pot and leaving the soil a couple of inches from the top has been very effective for me over the years. Planting them directly in the ground with a mosquito net or cheese cloth tunnel also works well for growing root crops and shorter plants. Growing string beans in the wetter months helps to wash most of the leaf eating bugs away and planting basil or lavender helps create a smell barrier to bugs as they bounce around the gardens looking for familiar flavours.
Making your own bug spray is easy to do and helps to deter bugs rather than execute them. Garlic scrapes work well mixed with basil left over night in a bottle of water. Lemongrass helps to deter mosquitoes and cayenne also helps to mask the smell of your plants so that these little critters pass by the buffet without smelling their favourite bush.
The water in the hose pipe contains chemicals like chlorine which kill beneficial bacteria on the topsoil. Filling a couple of containers on a weekly basis can prevent this. I usually wait five days before I use it on the garden. After a while you can establish a good rotation and have water all the time. I also keep a fish pond which I empty up to eighty percent of for nitrogen loving plants. . I allow leaves to fall in the water and stew for a while the fish are fed with natural feeds and oxygen is pumped into the water two times a week. I call this my fish pond fertilizer.
I hope that I have given you a glimpse of whats to come and hopefully sparked your imagination. I look forward to seeing your work in our group and sharing more knowledge for a better future.
Happy New Year from the Soily Dreams Team