By GEOFF MIERS
An integrated approach to managing the garden has enormous benefits for the home gardener and it’s not hard, it’s actually really quite logical and there are so many benefits.
One important aspect of an integrated approach involves introducing various approaches to managing pest and disease problems in the garden, the use of different procedures to control or manage pests and diseases with one of the main underlying aims being to reduce the reliance on pesticides.
For many of us the easy solution is grab a bottle and spray to our hearts’ content. However, this isn’t necessary. If a series of remedial actions are undertaken, previous practices analysed, records are kept and a greater understanding of the workings of the garden is developed the dependence on chemicals can be reduced.
During the cooler months of the year most pests and diseases are in hibernation or at their least active, lawns and plants aren’t growing vigorously and you the gardener should have more time to sit down and plot out a program.
Looking at garden hygiene is a good way to commence, importantly focusing on cleaning up potential pest breeding sites.
Look at removing seriously diseased or pest ridden plants, undertake pruning programs to remove problems, open up plants to increase air flow and prune to stimulate reinvigorated growth for suffering plants.
Roses for example in a sheltered corner with little air flow may be experiencing a range of fungal problems. By opening up the plant and/or even transplanting the roses to a more open airy location the problem may be solved.
In the vegetable garden introduce crop rotation, companion planting, practice fallowing where plots are allowed to lie empty for a season and make life difficult for pests by using barriers, confusing smells, lures and repellents.
In the vineyard or orchard undertake a pruning program to shape, open up your trees if appropriate and remove weak, pest infested and diseased wood and then undertake a spraying program using an oil, sulphur or a home made remedy to clean up your problems.
Be careful however when using sulphur or oil sprays when temperatures are certainly over 35 degrees, as they will cause foliage burn.
Smothering insect pests with an oil spray is most effective however at this time of the years its best to spray in the evening when the sun has gone down and then wash off the spray early morning before the plant bakes under the oil spray.
While the plants are defoliated it’s much easier to control potential problems so many remedial or corrective programs are often best undertaken over the cooler months when sun damage is less likely.
Knowing your pests and diseases, knowing when to spray or dust and introducing diversity into the spraying / dusting program will have many of benefits. Your spraying will be more effective, pests will not build up a resistance to chemicals and costs of management will be reduced.
Look to using the range of environmentally safe alternatives to chemicals that are available today, research home made solutions such as garlic sprays, bug juice and a range of other methods of control.
Inspect the garden regularly looking closely at your plants and react quickly to problems. Pests in small numbers are often best solved by using your hands.
Periodically give your plants a wash down with a hand held hose.
Plants love to be dusted off and freshened during the dry season with a squirt with the hose, and, the act of washing brings you into close proximity with your plants where problems are often quickly identified.
A sharp jet of water can also dislodge and discourage a range of pests from minute aphids through to the leaf chomping giant grasshoppers.
Work towards keeping your plants healthy, they are then better able to withstand disease and pest attack.
Repair promptly damaged plants, avoid promoting sappy growth through overuse of nitrogenous fertilisers and when damage is limited show some tolerance.
By keeping a record of the activity within your garden, by knowing when problems are likely to occur and under what conditions, sometimes you can introduce preventive measures.
Of course we shouldn’t forget introducing and encouraging predators into the garden. Many insects, birds and other wildlife can be most beneficial.
These are only a few of the many diverse actions that can be introduced into an integrated management program for the home garden.
Don’t forget to do a little research also as every year there are new products being introduced onto the market that are environmentally more friendly and often easier to use.
For example we now have an easy to use means of lowering the pH or alkalinity of your soil simply using a watering can, it’s so much easier than digging sulphur through the soil or introducing masses of compost.
Noting of course that the more organic matter you can introduce into your soil will in the long term offer a lasting solution to lowering your soil’s pH.
COLLAGE at top: A town in the thrall of growing things. Hospital garden 1944. 2019 Spring Flower Show at The Residency. Steiner School gardeners.