May 30th, 2014
Summer just naturally lends itself to gardening. There’s something about digging in the dirt that allows you to feel more in touch with nature this time of year. But as the weather gets warmer, keeping insects and diseases at bay can become a challenge for organic gardeners.
We’ve always believed that the rewards of sustainable gardening are well worth the added effort. Whether you are growing flowering botanicals or seasonable edibles, there are things right in your own kitchen and bathroom that can help keep your garden healthy all through the growing season. Here are a few of our favorites tips.
Banana Peels- Instead of throwing the peels from your favorite fruit into the trash or compost, roast them in the oven for a few minutes. Cut them into smaller pieces and bury a few inches under the soil. The peels will boost potassium in the soil and also deter aphids from munching on new green leaves. If you’re planting a new shrub such as a rose, throw the entire peel in the planting hole and allow the nutrients to be slowly released over time.
Coffee Grounds- Sprinkling coffee grounds around the drip line of your plants adds nitrogen to the soil and encourages frequent visits from earthworms. Acid-loving plants like azaleas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons will enjoy your morning java ritual almost as much as you do. Just dump your used grounds around a different plant each day. Most coffee shops are more than happy to offer used grounds to sustainable gardeners, just ask!
Egg Shells- Next time you’re making deviled eggs for a BBQ, why not feed the shells to your rose bushes? Crumble up the shells and bury them beneath your garden compost to add calcium to the soil. The texture of the shells is also a great way to help control slugs and snails.
Corn Meal- Fungal diseases can be especially difficult to manage in the organic garden. Sprinkling corn meal around berries, tomatoes, peppers or roses every three to four weeks can keep black spot, rust and powdery mildew at bay. Some gardeners even put cornmeal in the holes with tomato plants.
Epsom Salts- The same magnesium sulfate you buy to rejuvenate your tired feet can lend a deeper vitality to your plants. Add a tablespoon of Epsom salts to a gallon of water and pour over seedlings to promote germination. Sprinkling some Epsom salts around continual blooming plants like roses encourages the plant to send up new canes and allows the plant to soak up more phosphorus and nitrogen.
Baking Soda- Leaf spot on tomatoes and basil is a common problem. The baking soda in your cupboard is an effective solution. Mix one to two tablespoon of baking soda to one gallon of water and spray on the leaves of the plants. The foliar spray interrupts the fungal spores mid-reproduction. Repeat after heavy rains, at least once a week.
Compost Tea- Don’t want to add matter directly to the soil? Consider brewing a tea from the compost you’ve been making in the back yard. Compost tea is a quick-release natural fertilizer that increases nutrients and suppresses foliar diseases. Fine Gardening offers some great ideas on ways to do it at home.
The only thing better than learning new organic gardening techniques is sharing them. What sustainable tricks are you using in your own garden? Post them on our Facebook page or send them to us on Twitter. There’s nothing we like more than a green thumb.