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 product.
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 night.
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 with.
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 Viva Organics.
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 available.
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
Jim 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 water table.
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 Barash
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 butter
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.
Comments, questions, and article suggestions can be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org