Keeping weeds and pests at bay can be one of the greatest challenges of any organic gardener. While insects are natural, and sometimes actually beneficial to a garden, some can destroy the fruits of your labor… quite literally. To rid your garden of weeds and pests, it can be tempting to use heavy-duty chemicals for fast and effective results. However, there are many natural methods for weed and pest control in an organic garden.
Know your soil
The first step in weed and pest control in an organic garden is ensuring the soil is healthy to begin with. Naturally fertilizing the soil and making sure it is prime for growing will keep weeds at bay since weeds love weak and unhealthy soil. Here are a few tips for improving soil quality:
- Add organic matter- Organic matter is essential to healthy soil. It helps air and water flow through soil and helps retain moisture in soil. If your garden’s soil is heavy on the sand, silt or clay, adding compost, animal manures, or mulches can greatly improve soil quality.
- Provide air and water- it’s a no-brainer that plants need air and water to grow, but many home gardeners forget that the soil itself benefits from these elements as well. Well-aerated soil provides room for air to circulate to root systems. Adding organic matter, not overworking the soil, and not compacting it are all ways to help provide soil with the space it needs. Healthy soil also contains about 25 percent water. Like air, soil needs enough room for water to move to root systems and into subsoil. Again, adding organic matter can be a way to achieve this because it absorbs and retains water until plant roots need it.
Organic weed control
If, despite your proactive soil measures, weeds still become a problem in your garden, there are some other organic methods to try:
- The acetic acid in vinegar can be used as a weed killer due to its plant-killing properties. Regular household vinegar purchased at the grocery store only contains 5% or less of acetic acid, so it needs to be repeatedly applied to actually kill weeds. There are stronger concentrations available, marketed as organic commercial weed killers. Because it’s a general plant-killer, be careful when applying to only aim at the things you want out of your garden!
- Other natural products, like herbicidal soaps and natural oils, can control weeds, mosses and algae. Like acetic acid, they also affect all plants, so use carefully.
- If sprays and soaps are not your thing, there are also specially designed weed puller tools available at most lawn and garden stores. These tools also boast the added benefit of aerating your lawn. So, when used regularly, it virtually eliminates the need for any other weed control.
- Another tool becoming more popular is a weed flamer. These are similar to propane torches and are used to burn stubborn weeds away.
Pest Control in an Organic Garden
Most experienced gardeners have run into a pest problem at some point. Depending on your region, there are numerous insects that can plague and destroy gardens. However, there are also organic ways to remove them. Natural barriers and repellents, natural pesticides, and soaps and oils can all be found in lawn and garden stores and can be effective against repelling nasty pests. Additionally, attracting beneficial insects can lead to a healthy garden. Some insects will eat other pests that damage plants and also aid in the pollination process. In order to attract these beneficial insects, a gardener must:
- Recognize which insects are beneficial for your region. Read more about how to attract these beneficial bugs here.
- Plant the types of plants that attract these insects. Coriander, cone-flower, sunflower, garlic and fennel are all popular plants that will bring these beneficial insects to your garden.
Remember, that no matter how bad your pest or weed situation, there are always options for treating these annoyances with organic methods. A healthy garden starts with healthy soil. Minimizing soil and health-damaging synthetic pesticides and using natural solutions will allow your garden to thrive.