By Anne Davies
Most home gardeners use more pesticide per hectare than many farmers. This is not good for our health and can lead to various pests diseases and weeds, developing resistance to many chemical products.
A better way is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a system that reduces or eliminates the use of toxic garden pesticides. This will require more knowledge of your garden's ecosystem, but this will come from observation and experience.
Lower stress improves plant health:
1) Keep adding compost and mulch to your garden, because healthy soil produces disease-resistant plants;
2) Try to use plants that are suited to your climate and soil; your local nursery can advise you with your plant selection;
3) Avoid 'mono cropping' by planting a good mixture of plants (with similar growing requirements such as water and fertiliser);
4) When buying plants or receiving plants from a friend's garden, always inspect for pests and diseases.
Create a garden that is friendly to pest predators, such as frogs, birds and insects (like lady beetles). Ponds, flowers, rocks and logs provide habitats and food; where possible, create an area in your garden that has plants native to your locality.
Instead of chemical products, use organic sprays such as garlic, chilli and pyrethrum which repel the 'bad' bugs, but don't harm the 'good' bugs.
Try this quick and easy organic spray recipe:
8-10 chillies, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed and cut roughly
1 tablespoon of soap flakes
1 litre of boiling water
Combine in a glass jar and set aside for 24 hours. Strain and pour into a spray bottle; keeps for two weeks.
Another way to get rid of pests is remove the larger ones by hand and squash them (or try using a vacuum cleaner to suck up bugs). Yeast-based lures, such as Vegemite and beer traps, work well to attract and drown bugs, while barriers, such as grease bands and hessian can deter pests from climbing up plants to the foliage. Try keeping snails and slugs away from small seedlings by placing sawdust around them. Good hygiene also reduces pest and disease. Disinfect hand tools after use (always disinfect them after removing dead or diseased growth before moving on to the next plant). Remove rotten fruit and diseased leaves from the garden.
Rotate your crops in your vegetable patch and use companion planting. Many plants help repel pests – for instance French marigolds repel nematodes (colourless, microscopic worm-like animals), and garlic, chives and onions can repel plant-eating insects.
Anne Davies is a qualified horticulturist and is the nursery supervisor and horticultural trainer at The Salvation Army's Tom Ouinn Community Centre in Bundaberg, Qld.
Courtesy Salvation Army Warcry magazine