Following on from the last post on coping with bugs in your organic crops, there are some more excellent ways to cut down on the damage some little nasties will do to your carefully tended vegetables if you let them!
One sure fire way to practically cut our attacks on two popularly grown vegetables, carrots and onions is to plant them together. I'll explain.
Carrots and Onions
Carrots are often blighted with attacks by the carrot fly, which lays it's eggs on the new growing root and the grubs eat their way through the maturing plant and ruin it. The same goes for the onion fly, which is another real menace when it finds your patch.
But guess what - they each hate the smell of each other's lunch!
Yep, if you inter-plant onions and carrots in the same bed, the smell of the carrots will deter the onion fly and the smell of the onions will deter the carrot fly!
This type of organic gardening is known as companion planting and there are a lot of different combinations you can try that will cut down considerably on damage from common pests.
Being that you are growing your own vegetables organically, of course you won't entirely remove the problem, because nature will always find a way, but you can limit the damage an awful lot by careful planning when it comes to planting your precious crops.
So if you had a mind to create a whole bed just with carrots... don't!
Monocropping as it's known is the bane of the organic gardener and a green light to all the hungry bugs that love that one particular flavour of vegetable, so it's always a good idea to mix up your vegetables in each bed.
Just like it would happen naturally in nature!
Here are more tips to companion planting in the organic garden to keep down the invasion of pests to a manageable level.
Aphids are a real menace on crops, whether they be vegetables, fruiting trees, bushes or berries. When infestations are bad, they can weaken the plants by their sap-sucking.
But they also deposit honeydew on the leaves and branches of crops which eventually attracts mould spores which then turn the area black and sticky, reducing the leaves ability to convert sunlight into chlorophyll and to take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
One great way of reducing their numbers is by planting marigolds around and interspersed amongst the crop beds. Marigolds attract hoverflies which love to eat aphids, so the more of them you can attract into your growing space, the better.
Another hoverfly attracting plant is lemon balm, which also doubles as a great multi-use herb.
In the organic kitchen, chop the raw leaves of lemon balm and add to fish dishes - it goes great with grilled trout! Simply stuff a handful of raw chopped leaves into the fish and grill both sides for a few minutes until cooked.
Whenever you feel stressed, make yourself an infusion of lemon balm leaves, by pouring boiling water onto about a tablespoon of raw chopped leaves and allow to brew for five minutes, then strain. It makes a great natural relaxing tea!
Even More Tips
Another clever bit of companion planting comes in the fruit orchard, or in my case a few years ago a few fruit trees scattered around my back garden! This one involves one of my favourite fruits, apples.
Apples when not sprayed with anything are often troubled by the ever-popular (and oft caricatured in cartoons) coddling moth and it's destructive grubs, which contrary to popular belief actually bore their way out of the growing apple, not in!
That's because the moths lay their eggs in the newly formed fruits in the centre of the dying flowers. The emerging grubs are already inside as the apples grow and simply eat their way out! That leaves open bore-holes for other insects like wasps to get into the fruit and cause more damage.
A great way to deter the coddling moths is to plant Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) around the base of each tree. Tansy flowers at the same time as the tree in Spring and the plants are a great insect (and moth) repellent.
Incidentally, Tansy has been used through the ages as a medicinal herb to safely expel worms in children and as an anti-inflammatory for gout. It was used as a strewing herb to keep flies away from the kitchen. By keeping a bunch of the flowers in a vase near your kitchen door, you should deter most unwanted flying pests from your home.
Tansy can also be planted around the base of most fruiting trees and inter-planted with berry bushes and vegetables to deter moths. The yellow flowers, on the other hand will attract bees, ladybirds (ladybugs as they're known in the US) and hoverflies which are beneficial to all your plants.
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