Below are five organic gardening hacks for a healthier garden.
- Bugs for Bugs
Incorporating bug bits, bug poop (frass), or crustacean shells into your soil mix will deter bugs from your garden. Remember, bugs are lazy like the rest of us. If there’s a weaker, more desirable plant to munch on nearby, they will avoid the healthier (or bitter tasting) plants in your garden.
But how does it work? Ground bugs and frass provide chitin. Chitin’s presence triggers a plant’s defense mechanisms, including strengthening its cell walls and excreting substances to ward off pests and soil pathogens.
Where do I find the bug bits? Feed stores and pet shops should have dried crickets and other bugs. Frass can be bought from specialty shops, such as OnFrass.
- Oil + Soap = Dead Bugs
Some gardeners cycle through foliar sprays of neem oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil, and peppermint oil as insecticides and plant immunity boosters. Combining oil and a mild soap such as Castile soaps forms an effective mixture for spraying against small insects like aphids, mites, white flies, and fungus gnats.
These soft-bodied insects will suffocate when exposed to an oil/soap mixture. So be sure to coat them thoroughly.
Note: Always test sprays on a single leaf before applying it to the entire plant to make sure that the spray is not harmful to the plant.
- Plants for Plants
Dynamic accumulators are plants that store nutrients taken from the ground or air in their leaves, stems, and roots. These natural fertilizers are not created equally; each has a uniquely accumulated nutrient profile, and several sources list the nutrient profiles for a variety of accumulators.
Dandelion, kelp, stinging nettle, comfrey, and watercress are standout dynamic accumulators that have a broad spectrum of nutrients, among other beneficial properties. Dandelion is particularly handy because it grows just about everywhere. When possible, pick dandelions from areas free of herbicides and pesticides.
The plants can benefit your garden by being mixed into the soil or applied as a botanical tea. For example, kelp meal, alfalfa meal, and/or neem meal can be bubbled in water with an aquarium pump for a duration of 24 hours (or longer).
Alfalfa, kelp, and neem are easy to obtain and widely used by gardeners as organic fertilizers or pest control in tea form. Kelp and alfalfa are dynamic accumulators, and neem has documented properties against harmful insects, fungi, and bacteria. For example, neem provides a bitter taste that bugs will avoid. So they will go on to munch on your neighbor’s garden patch instead of yours.
Making other botanical teas beyond the basic trinity of kelp, alfalfa, and neem is encouraged since each plant offers a unique combination of benefits. For example, fresh dandelion, stinging nettle, comfrey, and watercress can be chopped and soaked for several days to make a fermented tea or bubbled for 24 to 72 hours to make a botanical tea.
- Enzyme Tea
Now we’re getting in deep. Enzyme teas are not covered in any gardening book that I know of.
Enzymes are equally essential for humans, plants, and microbes. For gardening, we are interested in enzymes that accelerate organic matter decay or stimulate soil microbes, which also produce enzymes that convert soil components into a form that plant roots can absorb.
A DIY method for increasing enzyme levels in soil has been devised by a clever gardener named “ClackamasCootz”. Basically, barley seeds are sprouted and then blended in water, with the resulting blend added to water for watering soil. The young sprouts are rich in enzymes, making this is a cheap and easy way to enrich your soil.
Enzymes teas can be given a boost with fulvic and humic acids, which enhance enzymatic activity. Such acids are present in high-quality compost and are also available in concentrated form in products such as BioAg’s Ful-Power fulvic acid and TM-7 humic acid. Both products are highly recommended add-ons to enzyme teas or botanical teas, and only require weekly applications.
- C(l)over Crop
A cover crop can be planted in almost any container as a companion plant to a larger, fruiting plant such as cannabis. White clover, particularly white Dutch clover, is one of Nature’s best nitrogen fixers. Fixing, in this context, is the process of converting atmospheric nitrogen into root-absorbable nitrogen. Cover crops also promote stronger soil structure and soil life.
For container gardening, a cover crop of microclover or Dutch white clover is fine; add some barley grass if you want to get fancy. Ideally, grow and maintain your cover crop before, during, and after the life cycle of the associated fruiting plant.
Cover crops also play a canary-in-a-coal-mine role for your garden: cover crops will show signs of distress, such as wilting from drought or pests, before similar signs occur or can be recognized in a larger plant.
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DIY Natural Gardening Hack is from our green friend Kip, a professional writer that loves breaking down complex concepts into simple, understandable prose. After being bit by the gardening bug and reading almost every reputable cannabis grow guide, Kip set out to write the book he wished he could have read from the start.
If you like what you just read, then check out his book, Kick-Ass Cannabis & Veggies, which goes into more depth about natural gardening.