(1) Build healthy soil, which yields strong plants that are less prone to disease and pests.
- Many of the practices noted below will help protect and develop soil. Think of it as a top priority.
- Get your soil tested when planting a new garden and every few years thereafter. Fall is the best time for testing–to allow time to adjust the soil’s pH if necessary–but spring is okay, too.
- Here’s the link to UMassAmherst’s soil-testing lab. Cost is $15. Be sure to follow their instructions for soil sampling carefully.
- The soil at PPCG was tested for metals such as lead before we established our gardens.
(2) Avoid agricultural chemicals. No synthetic
- or herbicides.
- When in doubt about a product, look for an OMRI rating on the packaging, like the one pictured here.
(3) Use natural materials instead, such as:
- composted vegetable scraps,
- composted manure,
- bone meal,
- and seaweed.
- Natural materials–unlike the agricultural chemicals listed above–provide organic matter that supports beneficial soil organisms and your plants.
(4) Control pests in the least harmful way possible by, for example:
- handpicking pests,
- installing barrier netting,
- and mingling companion plants.
- The goal is generally not to eliminate pests, but to keep them at acceptable, tolerable levels.
- Use pesticides approved for organic growing only when necessary, as a last resort.
(5) Focus on prevention.
- For example, mulch to thwart weeds.
- Mulches from natural materials such as wood chips, shredded leaves, and hay are especially beneficial for the soil. (See 3.)
- Mulch also helps to regulate soil temperature and keeps your soil moist.
- Learn about the pests and diseases you commonly see in your garden and take appropriate action before they damage your plants. Here’s a very useful guide to the pests, weeds, diseases, and disorders we might see in our region.
- Rotating crops helps to keep your soil healthy and also disrupts the life cycle of pests and pathogens that thrive on particular crops and conditions in your garden.