Most advice on vegetable crop care necessarily includes examples of chemicals that can solve various problems in the vegetable garden. However, when growing crops “for yourself,” you have to wonder if you can do it without the use of chemicals. And as it turns out, we can! A healthy garden is not a fantasy. It is achievable and is based on the right approach to the care of plants and soil.
COMPLY WITH CROP ROTATIONS
When making your crops sustainable, the first thing to understand is that healthy plants grow on healthy soil. Therefore, it is important to consider crop rotations when planning to plant your seedbeds in the spring. By planting crops in the proper order, you will not only improve growing conditions, distribute nutrients in the soil and reduce the need for fertilizer, but you will also increase yields naturally.
One of the main principles of crop rotation is to alternate crops that belong to different families. This method naturally protects plants from diseases and protects the soil from infections and accumulation of root excreta.
The second rule of thumb is to put crops in a specific order according to their nutritional aggressiveness. So if you fertilize your bed with manure and plant cabbage – the next year your garden will be depleted of micronutrients. If cabbage is fertilized on the soil after a few years, it will take its food due to its strong root system. Still, the organic matter contributed in those years will play a role in the production of other crops, and you do not have to do additional fertilizer in the garden.
And the third principle of crop rotation is that each plot of land involved in the rotation can alternate rest. This is an excellent precaution for growing healthy crops in the future. And, if the land is not kept black fallow (just dug up) but planted with green manure, there is no need to apply fertilizer.
APPLYING THE “ALLOPATHIC EFFECT” THERAPY
The correct proximity of crops also plays a very important role in the spread of diseases and pests. It is important to remember here that the chemical secretions of plants can both suppress and improve the health of their neighbors, a property known as the “allozyme effect.”
For example, lettuce strengthens and revitalizes cucumbers, garlic protects strawberries from nematodes, and onions repel carrot pests.
Tomatoes, fennel, and sunflowers, on the other hand, can suppress their neighbors and greatly reduce yields.
It is also good to plant zucchini and potatoes, turnips and cabbage, dill and carrots, spinach and radishes nearby. Asparagus, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and parsnips can be paired with just about anything.
INTRODUCING INSECT REPELLENT PLANTS
Another way to care for vegetable crops without chemicals is to use repellent plants on the planting site. What is this? These insect repellent plants in the vegetable patch release aromatic substances that prevent pests from finding the plants they eat.
For example, the well-known velvet grass repels chard moths, aphids, and nematodes with its phytohormones.
Cabbage whiteflies, aphids, ants, and ground fleas do not like mint.
Nasturtium is excellent protection against whiteflies, Colorado potato beetles, aphids, and chard moth caterpillars.
Lavender repels ants in the bed.
In addition, most insect repellent plants have insecticidal properties. Therefore, you can use them as infusions and decoctions to control pests and diseases. For example, infusions of onion husks, calendula, chamomile, pine needles, nettles, and tomato stems help control aphids.
Spraying potato beds with a tincture of calendula reduces Colorado potato beetle attacks.
Soaking with onion hulls, potato stems, and burdock repels leaf-feeding caterpillars.
Spraying plants with onion shoots tincture provides good control of tomato blight.
However, although repellent plants are familiar crops, they contain glycosides, alkaloids, esters, and other chemical elements and should be treated with the same precautions as chemicals.
ADHERENCE TO AGRONOMIC PRACTICES
Controlling pests and diseases is good, but prevention is better. This includes adhering to the cultivation practices used for the crop in question.
For example, cabbage sprouts, which we are very familiar with, most often attack the roots of plants when there is too much moisture in the soil, which is why the leaf tips of garlic and onions turn white. Lack of moisture can lead to light spots on the tips of peppers that turn into rot. High nitrogen levels in cucumbers and irregular and inadequate watering favor powdery mildew. In most cases, white gourd rot is the result of overgrowth.
At the same time, competent watering, adherence to recommended planting patterns, timely weed control, loosening, and mulching will keep plants healthy and resistant to sucking insects.
IMPLEMENTATION OF HYGIENIC PRECAUTIONS
Of course, when talking about the principles of pest control in our gardens, it is important to remember the importance of hygienic measures. In general, they involve destroying the remains of diseased crops, deadwood and harvesting crops that have not been cleaned up in time. What is left in the bed either carries disease spores or provides shelter for pests. Therefore, our gardens should go into winter and be well-groomed.