In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
July, 2004
Regional Report

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Invite ladybugs to your garden to devour softbodied insect pests. Do not mistake this ladybug pupa for a pest.

Vegetable Gardening the Organic Waya

Growing organically stresses methods that avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers, weed killers, and bug poisons. These are replaced with natural sources of fertilizer, compost, and biological and botanical controls for insect pests. When you create a healthy soil environment, maintain healthy and vigorous plants, introduce beneficial insects and wildlife, then you won't need to resort to any chemicals in your garden.

Soil management is the key to successful gardening in the Rocky Mountain region and a basic approach to environmentally friendly vegetable gardening. If you start by imitating or enhancing your garden's existing resources before adding synthetic chemicals or so-called miracle aids, you will avoid the destruction of Nature's helpful organisms naturally present in the soil.

Preparing Your Soil
Vegetables will only be as healthy as the soil that nourishes them. No matter how much tender, loving care you bestow on young vegetable plants, it doesn't guarantee they'll turn into healthy, productive plants if you neglect the health of the soil.

Add quality organic matter such as compost before planting -- it will work wonders. Compost will improve drainage in tight, clay soils. And it will improve the water-holding capacity of sandy and gravelly soils. It will turn 'contractor dirt' (the soil you're left with after house construction) into a loose, friable soil, ready to grow successful vegetable plants.

Compost will also provide many of the nutrients plants need for optimum growth. It helps to buffer the soil and unlock nutrients that were once unavailable to plants. Organic matter helps to buffer soils so natural sources of iron will become more readily available to plants.

Getting Rid of Harmful Pests in the Garden
Vegetables that are growing and thriving in a healthy soil can tolerate some activity of insects. When insect pests seem to overrun the garden, it's generally an indication that something is out of balance.

Pests usually attack unhealthy plants first, so make sure your plants have their roots in healthy soil. Water properly, and mulch to conserve water, prevent the soil from baking, and reduce weed invasion.

There are many alternative methods to combat pests without resorting to harmful pesticides. Handpicking bugs works well for the larger of the species including hornworms and other caterpillars. Homemade remedies like a soapy water spray can keep bugs at bay. Also encourage toads in garden -- they find insects a tasty treat.

Cover your plants to exclude many insects pests, including aphids, flea beetles and leafhoppers. Floating row covers are made of spunbonded fibers that resemble cheesecloth, but they are much stronger. Sunlight and water can pass through to allow for healthy plant growth but insects are excluded. (If you are growing insect-pollinated vegetables, such as squash, you'll need to remove the row cover once the plants begin to flower to allow pollinators to work their magic.)

Anytime we can use methods that make sense to nature, without the aid of harsh chemicals, our efforts at gardening make sense to us, too.


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