By Dave Truman
Though many gardeners prefers mulching to weeding, there are times when you have to think about weeding anyway. When the plants are very small, and before you apply any summer mulch, you need to get right there and pull out (or snip out) the weeds which may come in to choke your little new perennials or annuals, or the little shrubs you may decide to grow from seeds.
Since many weeds are truly beneficial – either for good influences from their root exudates or plant aromas, and in certain instances for food for the gardener – it pays to be cautious about your attempts to eliminate them. Good deep-rooted weeds will bring up into the topsoil and into plants’ stems fine supplies of nitrogen. When you till them in, weeds will supply the soil with good nutrients, nitrogenous and otherwise, and will supply nutrients of the sort certainly needed by the young plants which will grow in a healthy way to maturity.
People who want to make gardens that are geometrically neat and unchanging will have a tendency to blot out all weeds. I do not think that organic gardeners garden that way. Their technique will be to nurture those weeds which will benefit the garden, and to use mulches to get the others to subside.
You do not have to go into a lot of work and trouble about pest control aside from the normal, sensible garden practices which tend to keep pests at a minimum. This means things like giving plants plenty of room and air; seeing to it that they are not too damp, unless they are water plants or bog plants; planting in the sun if that suits them or the shade if that suits them; and are well provided with the nutrients they require.
Always select disease-resistant varieties and use companion plants. Just as important are practices which create a harmonious environment of living creatures: bees on the flowers; birds in the air and in the trees and bushes, for they are notorious consumers of insects; beneficial bacteria in the soil, for they and the molds and fungi living in the soil provide antibiotics of various sorts; predators other than birds, like the beneficial praying mantises, trichogramma wasps, lady bugs and lacewings which we know consume unwanted pests like aphids (or even the ants who farm and milk aphids for their honeydew).
Berried shrubs and bird houses are good to attract birds; lady bugs can be bought, and so can the tiny wasps and the egg cases of praying mantises. Sprays can be made from garlic, hot pepper and botanicals such as the plants which have rotenone, pyrethrin andryania in them; and certain plants can be planted together which have the effect of repelling pests one from another in the practice called companion planting. And then there are the mechanical devices like traps with molasses and bran baits, or like tanglefoot as a gooey substance to put around the trunk of a tree, or like black lights to attract flying insects at night.
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