As I look back at a lifetime of gardening, I realize how much I’ve changed and grown as a gardener. I learned better ways to garden, as well as learned from my past mistakes. Of course, I find there are always new mistakes to be made. This is what makes gardening challenging for me. And if I’m challenged, I’m never bored.
Chemicals Were Common
Nonetheless, I find the most striking way I’ve evolved as a gardener is by reducing my reliance on chemicals. Although the trend toward organic farming started in the 1940’s, I was raised in a family where chemical usage in the garden was common practice. Whether pesticide or fertilizer, it came from a bag.
Yet as a child of the 60’s and 70’s, I was alive when chemicals like DDT and lead in paint were banned. The growing awareness of the effects chemicals have on the environment and our bodies didn’t escape my youthful naiveté.
Thus, when hubby and I bought our property, I opted for using fewer chemicals in the garden. However, I still used some. After all, old habits are hard to break. Here are seven gardening practices I’ve adopted over the years which have helped me eliminate chemical usage in the garden:
- Composting – Mixing greens and browns, whether it be grass and leaves or horse manure and wood shavings, compost is nature’s recipe for fertilizer. Years of amending my garden soil has created a fertile patch of earth which can provide adequate nutrients for even the heaviest of feeders.
- Timed planting – Pest control is all about outwitting a critter with a brain much tinier than my own. I’ve discovered that by planting my cucumbers and squash a few weeks later, I can avoid the initial onslaught of cucumber beetles and squash bugs.
- Barriers – Netting to keep insects off my veggie plants and birds from devouring my blueberries have proven effective. And while the birds will simply forage elsewhere, by not actively feeding undesirable insects I’m also not contributing to their population growth.
- Plant selection – With the wide availability of hybrid plants bred to withstand pests and diseases, it’s easy to select varieties which will thrive in my garden without requiring help from chemicals.
- Mulch – Whether I use shredded paper or grass clippings, mulching retains soil moisture and greatly reduces weeds in my annual veggie plot. Plus, these two mulches decompose quickly and add nutrients back into the soil.
- Beneficial insects – I’ve learned to employ practices which attract and protect beneficial insects. This includes planting flowering annuals near the veggie patch and not using harmful pesticides in the garden or lawn.
- Companion planting – When I first gardened, I didn’t intermingle species. A row of beans was just that – a row with only beans. Now that I have a better understanding of the symbiotic relationship between plants, I plant marigolds between my cabbages and alternate corn and legume seeds in the same row.