For any gardener who still hasn’t been convinced about
the need to garden organically, here are some statistics
that may help change your mind. In March of 2001, the
American Cancer Society published a report linking the
use of the herbicide glyphosate (commonly sold as Round-up)
with a 27% increased likelihood of contracting Non-Hodgkins
Lymphoma. John Hopkins University also revealed that home
gardeners use almost 10 times more pesticide per acre
than the average farmer and that diseases caused by environmental
illness, exposure to chemicals etc., is now the number
one cause of death in the U.S.
With the EPA’s recent
phasing out of common pesticides such as Dursban
and Diazinon, we are now realizing that many
of the chemicals that we thought were “safe” were never
actually tested to see what their affect on children,
women, and the elderly could be. The time has come to
reassess our dependence on pesticides. For anyone contemplating
the switch to organic gardening, here are a few ingredients
that should be in every gardener’s toolkit:
Many cultures around the
world have used garlic as a natural antibiotic and antifungal
remedy. When garlic is combined with mineral oil and
soap, it becomes a very effective pest control product.
However, when it is sprayed, it is not a selective insecticide.
It can be used to control cabbageworm, leafhoppers,
squash bugs, whitefly, but will also affect beneficial
insects so be careful where and when you apply this
Recipe: Allow 3 ounces
of finely chopped garlic to soak in 2 teaspoons of mineral
oil for 24 hours. Add 1 pint of water and ¼ ounce of
liquid dish soap. Stir well and strain into a glass
jar for storage. This is your concentrate.
To use: Combine 1-2 tablespoons
of concentrate in 1 pint of water to make the spray.
Do be careful not to make the solution too strong. While
garlic is safe for humans, when combined with oil &
soap, the mixture can cause leaf injury on sensitive
plants. Always test the lower leaves of plants first
to make sure they aren’t affected.
Fungal diseases can be
a serious problem for gardeners, especially in the heat
of the summer. Powdery mildew and black spot seem to
be the most common diseases that cause gardeners to
reach for the spray bottle. Now, instead of reaching
for a chemical fungicide, gardeners can open the fridge
for an excellent fungal control – milk!
In 1999, a Brazilian scientist
found that milk helped control powdery mildew on cucumbers
just as effectively as a synthetic fungicide. Since
the study was published, the news has traveled around
the world and encouraged gardeners and farmers alike
to try milk as a fungal control for a variety of diseases.
So far, there has been success reported on the use of
milk to control powdery mildew on a variety of different
plants. In addition, it has also been found to be an
affective control of black spot on roses.
Any type of milk can be
used from full milk to skim to powder. However, the
low fat milks have less of a chance of giving off any
odour. The recipe calls for milk to be mixed with water
at a ratio of 1 part milk to 9 parts water and applied
every 5-7 days for 3 applications.
Slugs are attracted to
chemicals given off by the fermentation process. The
most popular bait has been beer. However, not all beers
are created equal. In 1987, a study at Colorado State
University Entomology Professor Whitney found that Kingsbury
Malt Beverage, Michelob, and Budweiser attracted slugs
far better than other brands.
Whatever the type of beer you use, you can create your
own slug trap. Use cottage cheese, margarine, or similar
size plastic containers. Put between 1/2 and 2 inches
of beer in each container and place the containers around
your garden, especially around plants prone to slug
damage. Never, sink the containers with their rims flush
with the soil level or you run the risk of drowning
ground beetles, important slug controllers. The rims
should be 1″ above the soil’s surface. You will probably
need to empty the container of drowned slugs every other
The range of slug traps
is only a few feet so you need to supply a few traps
throughout your garden.
Floating row cover
The easiest method of pest control is to prevent damage
in the first place. Using a physical barrier like a
floating row cover will prevent insect pests from reaching
your plants and chewing them or laying their eggs on
them. I find floating row covers a must when growing
carrots to prevent carrot rust fly damage and when draped
over my broccoli, I prevent imported cabbageworm from
defoliating my plants.
Floating row cover is
a fabric made of spun polypropelene fibres. The fabric
itself is very lightweight and will sit on top of your
plants without causing any damage. The fabric allows
both light and water to penetrate it but prevents even
the smallest insects like flea beetles from getting
to your plants.
The fabric is sold at
most garden centers under many names like Reemay, Agrofabric
and Agribon and comes in a variety of different weights.
The lighter weight fabrics are best for use during the
summer. The heavier fabrics do hold in some heat and
are best used in the early spring or late fall. The
added bonus is that they can also help extend the gardening
season by a few weeks!
Weeds are some of the
hardest pests to control organically without resorting
to physically pulling each one out. If your weeds are
coming up in small clusters, it is easy to deal with
them by pouring boiling water over them. However, if
you’ve got a large area, the best way to control them
is to smother them, also known as sheet mulching.
I prefer to use either
newspaper or cardboard to smother my weeds instead of
plastic. Both newspaper and cardboard degrade naturally
and will, over time, add carbon into my soil, helping
provide organic material. In addition, most newspapers
are now printed with soy-based inks, which will also
degrade in the garden.
If you decide to use newspaper,
make sure you place it at least 4-6 sheets thick over
your weeds. One layer of cardboard is usually sufficient
to get the same effect. It takes at least a month to
kill most weeds so I find the best way to use this method
is to place the newspaper or cardboard over the weeds
in the fall. Come springtime, the weeds are dead, the
mulch has degraded, and I’ve got wonderful soil to work
For anyone who is concerned
about the aesthetics of newspaper or cardboard, you
can also cover the mulch with grass clippings, compost
or bark mulch for a nicer look. Make sure whatever you
use is free of weed seeds.
Arzeena is an agronomist and freelance gardenwriter.
When she’s not working on her garden, she runs Terra
If your passion is vegetable gardening, you may have had
this experience: All your children are grown, but your
vegetable garden hasn’t got any smaller. Your neighbors
and closest friends don’t seem to be at home when you,
loaded down with garden produce, knock on their doors.
You begin to get the distinct impression that they are
trying to avoid you.
Sounds like your garden
has been out-producing your needs-and that of your friends
and neighbors. The obvious solution would be to cut
back on your gardening. While that may be obvious to
the non-gardener, it’s not an option for an inveterate
gardener like you. But there is a solution that will
keep you and many more people well fed and happy!
Why not consider becoming
a vendor at your local farmers’ market? It worked for
me, and it can for you, too. Your garden doesn’t have
to be humungous to meet your own needs and still have
enough produce to take to market. Farmers’ markets,
especially those in small communities like ours, almost
always need more fresh produce vendors.
For the past four years
my wife and I have been vendors at the Selah Farmers’
Market where we have sold vegetables, small fruits,
and bouquets. We can count on selling out almost every
week. The money we make is always welcome, but the real
payoff is the joy we have in making new friends and
knowing we are putting fresh food on the tables and
beauty in the homes of our community.
Think back to last year
when you visited your local farmers’ market. Think about
the surplus produce you grew that would have sold quite
well. How about some of the things you grew that weren’t
available at the market? And if you can fill an unfilled
niche, you will have a steady flow of customers coming
back to your stall week after week. The niche we found
and filled was supplying old-fashioned country bouquets.
Only one vendor had flowers-beautiful
sunflowers sold by the stem. I decided to sell bouquets.
I turned part of my vegetable garden into a cutting
garden-mostly for annuals-but also some perennials to
use in the following years.
Knowing that people who
shop at the market spend a lot of time looking, buying,
and visiting before leaving for home, I add some extras
to my bouquet sales-bouquets in vases packed securely
in low boxes to stabilize them for the trip home. We
also let all our customers know that we will hold their
purchases until they are though shopping.
Plan your garden so you
will have a steady stream of produce throughout the
market season. You will need to use successive planting
to insure that you do have a continual harvest right
up to the first killing frost. Nothing is more disappointing
to the vendor and customer than not having enough produce
Successful vendors greet
all potential customers as they pass by their stalls.
Take time to answer their questions about your produce
and how it can be prepared for the table. Having copies
of recipes available for your customers is a good idea,
especially for unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. Do
not hesitate to let your customers know that you stand
behind your produce with a money-back-guarantee.
Take time to get to know
the other vendors. Before the market opens each week,
make the rounds to see what produce is available. When
your regular customers ask for produce that you do not
have, you can direct them to vendors who do. I also
like to check prices being asked by other vendors so
my prices won’t be out of line, but I don’t hesitate
to charge a little more if my produce warrants it, or
less if I feel their prices are a little high.
This is the time of the
year to contact the market manager (sometimes called
the market master) to talk about your interest in becoming
a vendor. Ask for a copy of the rules and regulations
that govern the market. It’s better to know well before
the market season begins what the health regulations
and expectations of vendors are. Market managers are
excellent sources of answers for many of the questions
you will have.
If you do not grow enough produce to make it worthwhile
to operate your own booth, consider joining forces with
one or two other gardeners. By pooling your produce
you will have plenty and you can alternate weeks operating
your stall. This is a common practice at some markets,
but check first with the market manager to see if such
an arrangement is acceptable.
Whether you have a market
stall of your own or partner with another gardener,
you will find that being a vendor at a farmers’ market
is not only richly fulfilling, but will add another
dimension to your gardening
McLain is a Master Gardener in the Yakima Valley
of Washington state. He is a retired public school teacher
who writes a monthly gardening column in the “Voices
of Selah” supplement of the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Jim has been a vendor for four years at the Selah Farmers’
Market in Selah, Washington. He has served on the operating
committee of the market for the last three years.
Edible flowers are a wonderful way to spruce up your meals
and add character to your table. Many flowers that we
consider common weeds or only ornamentals for our garden
can make a grand entrance to our kitchens.
A basic knowledge is needed
for proper identification of edible flowers. Use several
books with clear photos to cross reference information
on flowers, talk to your nursery people where you purchase
your plants to help you select the proper species for
your home garden, do web searches under the Latin name
for additional information and most of all, if in doubt,
leave it alone.
If you have children, especially small ones, educate
them along with yourself for a fun family project. But
be very sure to stress with them the dangers involved
in eating just any flower they see. Many common house
plants and flowers are highly poisonous and extreme
caution is the key to enjoying tomorrows feast.
Always be sure that the
flowers you use for your recipes have not been treated
with any sort of pesticides such as the flowers you
would get from a florist. Growing your own flowers is
the safest route to go since you will know what they
have been subjected to. Organic pest control is easy,
economical and safest for our environment. If wild crafting
edible flowers collect them as far from roadways as
possible to insure the flowers have not absorbed noxious
gases and fumes from passing motorists and if collecting
from wetlands and marshes take the time to find out
if there is factory run-off that may affect that specific
Do not over collect blooms
in the wild that depend on their flowers for propagation.
Several wild plants have already been over harvested
to the point of endangerment of extinction across North
America and good wild crafting ethics will insure the
continued existence of wild plants for future generations.
Various Links of interest:
Edible Flowers From Garden to Palate by Cathy Wilkinson
Native American Gardening Stories, Projects and Recipes for
Families by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Now that you’re convinced that spraying your dandelions
just isn’t worth your risking your health, here’s a recipe
to put all those dandelion flowers to good use:
1 tbsp sweet/unsalted
20 dandelion buds
1 tbsp water
4 dandelion flowers
Melt butter in a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat.
Add buds, cooking until they start to open into flowers.
Whisk the eggs and water until the mixture is light and
frothy. Slowly pour the eggs into the cooked buds, stirring
gently as the eggs set. Cook to desired consistency.
Organic Living ISSN 1492-5451.
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