Natural Gardening

Linda Fierheller

Spring has arrived, so why not plan to garden ‘ naturally’, and by doing so, help to improve the health of the garden soil, plants, as well as the environment.

Plants, like us, not only require food, air, water and sunshine to grow well, but also need to be planted next to compatible companions, some of which protect them while others contribute to their improved health. Many plants are bug repellents, while others have fragrances, which attract beneficial insects. With the knowledge of these properties in mind, the garden as a whole can be greatly improved.

Roses like garlic, but dislike boxwood, tomatoes like basil, cabbage likes dill and sage. Carrots like lettuce and chives, while basil dislikes rue. Cucumber dislikes sage; carrots dislike dill and most plant dislike fennel. The alliums are good companions to most plants, as they tend to deter insects, but inhibit peas and beans. Nasturtiums are a good bug repellent and are beneficial to radishes and apple trees. Yarrow benefits surrounding plants but wormwood inhibits its plant neighbours as it produces a toxic root secretion. Petunias and marigolds are generally beneficial throughout the garden. Caraway, planted here and there, helps to loosen the soil, as do potatoes.

When gardening naturally, it is essential to use additives properly. Commercial fertilizers can cause problems for soil. Used improperly they can leave a buildup in ammonia, chlorine, and nitrates, acids and salts, which will destroy beneficial soil organisms. Natural fertilizers, used correctly, provide necessary nutrients. Fish emulsion is an excellent source of nitrogen for those plants where leaf production is most important. Bone meal adds many nutrients as well as helping to neutralize the soil. Compost, of course is terrific for the garden as it adds nutrients, helps to improve soil texture, and encourages beneficial organisms.

Here are some homemade sprays, useful for insect and disease control. Soapy water (15 mils soap to 4 L. water); strong smelling herbs (chamomile, chives, garlic, thyme, rosemary, catmint) blended with a little soap or oil to help the solution adhere to the plants. Garlic is the most frequently used; bring 1 liter of water and several crushed garlic cloves (or any of the above herbs or a combination of them) to a boil, cool, and strain. This will deter insects and also help control fungus. Both garlic and chamomile ‘tea’ are known to help prevent powdery mildew and dampening off of seedlings.

Remember – One of the healthiest ways to gamble is with a spade and a package of garden seeds. (D. Bennett)

Happy gardening.