Blog Action Day October 15, 2007 is a network of posts relating to the environment.
My topic: What worked for me this year to avoid the use of pesticides in my kitchen garden
1. Row covers. My newly found triumph. They were easier than I thought and very effective in keeping the cabbage worms away (photos here).
2. Admit defeat. Black aphids ate my fava beans this year and I admitted failure and pulled them up (pictures of the favas and aphids are here). Soon after, the lady bugs arrived in force and I haven't seen another aphid all year (my lady bug photos are here).
3. Plant many varieties: My fava bean failure was a big disappointment, but since I had many other crops, it didn't matter so much that I lost one. I also had a problem with my green beans this year - probably a bean mosaic virus (pictures here). It affected my heirloom varieties that were not virus resistant. Since I had planted at least 6 or 8 different varieties of beans, including both heirloom and new varieties, I just pulled the affected plants and enjoyed the resistant ones.
4. Encourage birds. I don't know how much the birds really help by eating bugs, but I see them out in the garden every day - rain or shine - eating this and that. I mostly get house sparrows in the bird houses I've put up around the garden. Also robins, chickadees, cardinals, blue jays and house wrens. But I think they are a part of natural pest control.
5. Wrap squash stems with cheese cloth. I didn't have many stem borers in my squashes this year, which may in part be due to wrapping about half of my squash stems with cheese cloth. It looked ugly, but I have to admit that it seemed to work. In previous years, many of my squash and cucumber plants were killed mid year by borers. The plants suddenly wilt and die. Pesticides effective against borers are toxic to bees.
6. Rotate crops. A garden plan helps with this. Mid-winter is a good time to figure out where to move your crops to next year.
7. Get a soil test: A soil test will tell you if what applications of nitrogen and other nutrients are necessary to avoid problems that can occur as a result of stressed plants. I tested my soil late last fall and the results detailed a fertilization regime, organic matter additions and pH adjustments.
8. Irrigation: I highly recommend a built in easy and effective irrigation system for use during dry periods. I have a network of small PVC pipes that I lift to work the soil every spring and then bury prior to planting. (Here are pictures.) It works great. I have a computer controlled system that I use to irrigate early in the day. This promotes the drying of leaves and decreases pests that thrive in moist conditions. (Next year, my hope is to attach a rain barrel my irrigation system. What fun!)