flower garden

By Jen Byiers

Going green isn’t just about recycling; it can also be about having an organic garden. There is just one problem – how do you have a weed and pest-free garden without harmful pesticides?

The good news is that there are ways to minimize the effects of weeds and pests naturally so you can create an attractive organic garden. Here are some tips.

Dealing with Weeds

One approach to dealing with weeds in an organic garden is to make it hard for them to grow. Some people double – or even triple – seed their gardens with grass. When the grass springs up, there’s so much of it that there’s very little room left for weeds – and a nice lush lawn is a great side effect.

When you cut your lawn you will have lots of grass cuttings left over. Instead of discarding this, keep it to use as mulch in your vegetable patch. Spread it thickly and weed seeds won’t get the sunlight they need to grow. This is a particularly good tip for vegetable gardens.

Most plants love water – and weeds are no exception. If you water weeds, they will grow, so avoid this if you can. Instead use a vinegar solution to spray the weeds – this won’t hurt the environment but will get rid of the harmful plant.

Insecticidal soap, available at most garden centers, controls aphids by clogging their breathing holes. Alternatives: Mix a teaspoon of vegetable oil, a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and a cup of water. Or, mix three tablespoons of liquid soap and a gallon of water. Spray to wet the entire plant thoroughly, particularly the undersides of leaves, because aphids must come into contact with the soap solution to be affected. After a few hours, wash off the oil and soap with a garden hose to protect sensitive plants. Repeat the application every few days as necessary.

Some weeds grow, no matter what you do, but you still have two more weapons in your weed-fighting arsenal. First, pull the weeds out by the root with a tool made for that purpose. Second, search for an organic weed killer – there are some around.

Handling Pests

Creating a beautiful organic garden also means fighting the pests. If you don’t want the local pests to treat your garden like a holiday spa, then call in the natural pest control in the form of birds and other insects. Flowers with lots of nectar will attract beneficial insects and often these will eat the pests. If you have spiders and ladybugs in your garden, that’s a good start. Soldier bugs, certain breeds of wasps and certain types of flies also help.

Attract birds with a bird bath and bird feeder. Not only will the birds make your garden more attractive but they will also eat a lot of the insects you want to get rid of. The right mix of plants can also keep some insects away, so research co-planting for a natural approach to pest control. Even in a vegetable garden, adding some flowers might help attract beneficial bugs and cut down on the work of pest control.

Finally, for the pests you just can’t get rid of, head back to the garden store and get a natural pesticide – you’ll soon have a virtually pest-free organic garden!

Jen Byiers writes for Gardens Galore

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