There’s nothing more natural than a garden; and nothing more appropriate than natural products and techniques for developing and maintaining your garden. Gardeners have a choice: either work with nature, or work against it.
When you work with nature gardening becomes so much easier. You don’t need to do so much because nature is doing it for you. Successful natural gardening is really all about choices like the following:
Choose to grow plants that are suited to your soils and climate, and that don’t suffer too much from pests and diseases.
Choose to use materials that don’t decay or corrode readily
Position garden features, furniture, and walk ways in places where they won’t become overgrown.
WHAT IS NATURAL?
By natural, we usually mean those things that haven’t been altered significantly by people, or things that we can make without using sophisticated technology.
NATURAL PEST CONTROL
There are plenty of products that use natural components to physically control, repel or even kill pests. Examples are; ‘Neem’, ‘Derris’ and ‘Pyrethrum’, which contain plant derivatives.
Another method is using repellent plants and companion planting. Companion planting works by using strongly-scented plants that attract insects away from the host plant. For example Marigolds (in flower) seem to keep whitefly away from prized vegetables.
Pheromones These are naturally occurring attractants that can be extracted and used in traps. The one for catching coddling moths in fruit trees is particularly effective.
Biological Controls encourage birds, ladybugs and other beneficial insects by providing nesting areas and not using chemicals in the garden. This will help you create a “natural balance”.
Introduce nematodes to control problem insect populations such as weevils. These are tiny parasitic worms that feed on the larvae of the weevils in the soil. They will only survive in temperatures above 12 degrees Celsius.
PYRETHRUM is an insect killer that is sold as concentrate by commercial suppliers, but it is a natural product that comes from a Daisy flower that grows naturally in New Guinea.
NATURAL WEED CONTROL
Weeds can be controlled many ways, without needing to resort to chemicals.
If you have the time, weeding by hand, or with a hoe can be great exercise. It also has less impact on the garden than just about any other technique.
Thermal weeding is another method to clean up weeds. Thermal weeders deliver a short blast of heat which does not burn the plants. Afterwards, they wilt and die. The heat may be in the form of a flame, hot air or radiation.
Perhaps one of the best natural weed control techniques is mulching. The main mistakes people make with mulching are that they do not kill strong weeds before covering them, or they do not lay a thick enough layer of mulch. If weeds are killed, or weakened by cutting the tops off, and then covered with thick cardboard and a further 5-10cm of organic mulch: weed growth is greatly reduced.
Machinery can cause pollution; particularly if you spill petrol. They can also be noisy, disturbing wildlife and the peaceful atmosphere in your garden. Hand tools are always better for the health of your garden (and yourself).
WHAT IS COMPANION PLANTING?
Companion plants are ones that have a beneficial affect on plants growing beside them. Garlic for instance tends to deter some diseases and insects in nearby plants.
WHY GO NATURAL?
In the early 1960s Rachel Carson wrote a book called “Silent Spring”. It described the dangers and harmful effects of widespread use of toxic chemicals in the environment. Some of these chemicals take many years to break down. Since that time there has been a growing trend towards natural products that don’t pose a threat to either humans or the environment.
INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT
Sometimes the natural way of doing things will not give you the results you are looking for. When this happens, consider using a range of natural and mechanical or chemical controls. This technique is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
An example of IPM is when you have a woody weed such as lantana or blackberry that will grow back from the roots once the foliage has been removed. In this situation, you can remove the foliage by hand, then paint concentrated herbicide on the freshly cut stems. Alternatively, you can use the spray in a solution to kill off the foliage, then remove the dead foliage and dig out the roots.