Greene Acres is an Organic Garden
Greene Acres is an organic garden
How do we define organic? Well, we are still working on that, but MiracleGro is definitely not organic. Neither is "tomato dust" which is actually not at all made from tomatoes. Rat poison isn't organic either, but we haven't figured out an organic way to deal with our rats, so for now we put poison under the shed.
Organic Gardening does not just mean "let the bugs take over" -- whiteflies carry mildew from plant to plant and can ruin a whole crop of crucifers. Organic gardening takes vigilance. It also takes compost. MiracleGro is a petroleum product, but that doesn't mean you can't fertilize your garden. Manure is a fabulous source of nutrients. Bone Meal is a good source of WHAT, while roses and tomatoes will thrive on periodic fish emulsion feedings.
Organic Pest Control
Step 1: Companion planting -- plan your garden out by looking over companion planting guides. There are some in the shed if you are a Greene Acres gardener, or look at some Rodale books if you can't get to our shed. Flowers and herbs that deter insects can't repel an active infestation, but they are a good place to start planning your bed.
Step 2: Maintain your plot-- don't leave dead leaves on the ground and pull out any diseased plants. Truly diseased plants should go in the garbage, but dead leaves can go in the compost. If you know you are prone to Squash Vine Borers, rumor has it that tin foil and/or old stockings around the vine will keep them from boring in. If whiteflies have been a problem in the past, spraying cabbages and kales with garlic spray can keep them from settling in this year. Some other rumors that sound appealing: cornmeal around the base of your roses to keep aphids at bay.
Step 3: Nip it in the bud-- Inspect your plants regularly for bugs. Every time you water, peer in there and check for aphids. A strong hose spray will knock aphids off, or you can kill a few with your fingers. Squash vine borers leave telltale bits of brown dirt where they enter a vine. If you catch them early, by gently carving them out with a pen knife, you can kill them before they chow your whole vine. Even if they have started to do some damage, you can often see their work before the vine is beyond repair. Cut along (not across) the grain of the vine to open a hole and pop out the borer. In theory, most squash vines will send out new roots if they are buried in soil, so you can protect large vines by elbowing them in.
Step 4: When rinsing and squishing won't cut it-- a dilute mix of soap and baking soda, sprayed evenly on the underside of afflicted leaves will get the whiteflies, but you have to be persistent. Neem oil, some people suggest neem oil. I have to look into that. Flypaper is as good for whiteflies as it is for houseflies, and you can buy tanglefoot and sticky traps to keep the flying insect populations down.
Step 5: Discriminate-- not all bugs are bad. Ladybugs, especially in their larval state, are voracious carnivores and they like nothing more than a few juicy aphids for breakfast.
Good resources on organic pest control: