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Tips to Garden Organically. Down to Earth Ideas for Good Health and a Safe Environment By Paule Hjertaas, B.Sc. Copyrighted Paule Hjertaas. Permission granted for personal use. Other uses please contact the author at dp.hjertaas(at)

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Tips to Garden Organically

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tips to garden organically

Tips to Garden Organically

Down to Earth Ideas for Good Health and a Safe Environment

By Paule Hjertaas, B.Sc.

Copyrighted Paule Hjertaas. Permission granted for personal use. Other uses please contact the author at dp.hjertaas(at)

Photos credits: Paule Hjertaas and the Insect Images, a joint project of the University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service.

organic gardening
Is an approach based on observation and prevention

Deals with the causes of problems

Pays attention to garden design and garden and plant siting

Builds up soil, stability and bio-diversity

Starts by using the safest methods

Is not simply replacing one chemical by a less toxic product

Treated wood of any type has no place in an organic garden (CCA creosote, penta)

Organic Gardening
topics covered
Why not use pesticides?

Timing of Seeding and Transplanting

Indoor or Greenhouse common problems

Organic Fertilizers

Beds vs Rows

Companion Planting

Pest Control

Disease Control

Weed Control

Products Discussion and Demonstrations

Topics Covered
factors affecting plant health insects and diseases

Length of Frost-free season

Soil quality

Type (sand, clay,etc)

Soil test so you can correct deficiencies


Air Circulation


Proper pruning and thinning

Not to much Nitrogen

Factors Affecting Plant Health, Insects and Diseases
10 lines of defense against pests and diseases
Good Husbandry


Resistant Varieties

Cunning Cultivation Methods

Encouraging Predators and Parasites

Mix and Match Companion Plants

Barriers and Traps

Direct Action

Brought-in Predators and Parasites

Organic Pesticides including enzyme cleaner

10 Lines of Defense against Pests and Diseases

Green Manure



Used to build soil

As soil amendment

As foliar spray (Seaweed emulsion, well finished compost tea)

fertilizer recipe
Complete Organic fertilizer Blend (West Coast Seed)

4 parts seed meal (I.e. flax)

1 part rock phosphate or ½ part bone meal

1 part lime

½ part kelp meal

Prepackaged equivalent is All-Purpose Blend (Gaia) or Power Bloom (Gaia)

Some catalogs offering organic and natural fertilizers

West Coast Seeds

William Dam Seeds



Vesey Seeds

NIC Ontario

Fertilizer Recipe
alfalfa best soil builder
Seed in August

pH 6.6 to 7.5

Needs lots of K and P (bonemeal and greensand)

Good drainage

Inoculate seeds and only loosen soil a little

Cover with ½” compost

Next year, each time 10 % flowers, mow to 1 “ tall

Spread clippings around garden

At end of summer cut to 3-4 “ tall

Ass greensand and bonemeal 1-2 times /yr 5 lb/2 lb respectively for 10 ft bed

Stand lasts 5 years

Choose disease-resistant varieties

Can be used to break up compacted subsoil in problem areas

Or buy good-quality pellets

(OG Aug 06)

Alfalfa - best soil builder
indoor seeding 1
My mix:

1/2 peat moss

½ vermiculite

1 handful bonemeal

1 handful rock phosphate

1 handful organic fertilizer

Water with


Seaweed emulsion (and foliar feed)

Aquarium water

Manure Tea

Indoor Seeding 1
physical insect control
Use barriers

Spray water

Prune and destroy


Sticky and other traps (including tree bands)

Physical Insect Control
indoor seeding 2
Indoor Seeding 2
  • Damping offsolution
  • Cinnamon on surface Fungus gnat solutions
  • Yellow sticky trap
  • Insecticidal Soap
  • Hypoaspis miles Predatory mite
  • Steimernema feltiae Parasite
  • Sand on top of soil
neem oil
In Cda, registered as leaf shine

Acts as anti-feedant and pseudo-steroidal IGR

Can prevent swallowing and affects digestion

Chitin synthesis inhibitor

Generally must be eaten

Effectiveness may depend on concentration of azadirachtin

Most effective on larval forms on insects with total metamorphosis (caterpillars, including sod webworms, gypsy moth and cutworms, larval beetles. whitefly nymphs), leafminers and mites

Neem Oil
neem oil 2
Low mammalian toxicity

Works slowly

Washed off by rain

Reentry as soon as spray dries

Does not persist in environment

Neem Oil (2)
Pour boiling water down the hole

Citrus oils

Diatomaceous Earth in hole

Borax-based bait

Repellent garlic spray

The tunnels vary tremendously in length and shape between species

Most published controls for indoors or for fire ants which we don’t have

Some species are useful

  • Row cover
  • Spray with water or insecticidal soap
  • Yellow sticky traps or yellow pail with soapy water (flying)
  • Reflective mulch
  • Predators
  • Parasites
  • New horticultural oils
asparagus beetle control
Asparagus Beetle Control
  • Plant in full sun, in area where neither asparagus or onions grew recently
  • Best in sandy loam
  • Enrich with compost
  • Neutral pH (low pH increases Fusarium rot)
  • Well-weeded site
  • Choose crowns over seeds
  • Prepare soil properly
  • Remove asparagus ferns in fall to prevent beetle overwintering
  • Plant oregano nearby as a living mulch to attract beetle predators
blister beetles
Blister Beetles

Hand Pick with gloves

  • Row Cover
  • Lime or lime spray or soap and lime spray
  • Not all bad: Larvae eat grasshoppers
colorado potato beetle
Colorado Potato Beetle
  • Row Cover
  • Clean cultivation
  • Heavy mulching
  • Plant near green beans, coriander, nasturtium
  • Vacuuming
  • Handpick and remove eggs
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • .5 % solution of black pepper for adults
black pepper
Black Pepper
  • .01% extract for tent caterpillars,European Sawfly and some Ermine Moths
  • .01-.02 % for adult striped cucumber beetle, larval lily leaf beetles, Viburnum leaf beetles
  • Also a repellent at .1 % solution
  • Caution: Watch your eyes!
imported cabbage worm
Imported Cabbage Worm
  • Row cover
  • Garlic spray
  • Btk
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Plant near mint, sage, rosemary, hyssop
cabbage root maggot
Cabbage(Root) Maggot
  • 1st generation emerges mid-May-June
  • 2nd generation possible 4-8 weeks later
  • * Destroy all diseased material
  • * Rotate crop
  • * Control weedy Brassicas
  • Row Cover
  • Start inside
  • Transplant into protective screen cones or use collars
  • Dust plants with wood ashes, rock phosphate or diatomaceous earth
  • Encourage predators: Rove beetles, parasitic nematodes,centipedes
  • Had success digging the root some and scraping off
carrot fly onion maggot
Carrot Fly, Onion Maggot
  • Row cover
  • Crop rotation
  • Alter Planting dates
  • Clean cultivation
  • Rock Phosphate or Diatomaceous Earth around plant base
  • Nematodes in furrow
  • Early mulch
  • Row Cover
  • Collar or 2 toothpicks
  • Reduce weeds, especially grasses
  • 10 day weed free period before emergence of crop
  • Tack Trap sticky barrier
  • Mix Btk 12% by weight with wheat bran and grape or apple pomace. Place on soil surface or on boards
flea beetles
Flea Beetles
  • Row Cover
  • Insecticidal soap or surfactant
  • If late in season, harvest plant
  • Brush onto sticky trap
  • Lime
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Would black pepper work?

Natural Control

  • Eggs eaten by bee flies, blister beetles, ground beetles, crickets and others.
  • Parasites, predators and Diseases


  • Early Seeding
  • Trap Strips
  • Row cover
  • Safer’s Insecticidal Soap
  • Bug Juice
  • Chickens, ducks, etc
  • Nosema locustrae
grasshopper damage in 2003 1
Grasshopper Damage in 2003 1
  • Yellow Bush Bean – Nugget
  • Hit hard
grasshopper damage in 2003 2
Grasshopper Damage in 2003 2
  • Green Bean Jade
  • Less damage
grasshopper damage in 2003 3
Grasshopper Damage in 2003 3
  • From left to right potatoes
  • Ruby Gold
  • Kennebec
  • Eramosa
  • Purple viking
grasshopper damage in 2003 4
Grasshopper Damage in 2003 4
  • Potato Purple Caribe
home made grasshopper solution
Home-made Grasshopper Solution
  • Bags of leaves covered with Tanglefoot around the garden (left)
  • The 1930’s drought saw a lot of home-made grasshopper harvesters. They were then dried and used for livestock feed.
  • Clean standing water around home
  • Cover yourself. Avoid mosquito times. Use a good herbal repellent.
  • Bti (bacterial larvicide)
  • Mosquito larvae zapper
scale insects and mealybugs
Scale insects and mealybugs
  • Dormant oil before bud break (trees and shrubs)
  • Gently Scrape off the Plant or touch with cotton swab soaked with alcohol
  • Insecticidal soap
  • Enzyme Cleaner (recipe 2)
  • Parasites
  • Predators
  • Top: scale; bottom: mealybug destroyers eating mealybug
slugs and snails
Slugs and Snails
  • Cultural control:
  • No objects or refuse on


  • Dry surface between watering
  • Plant unattractive varieties
  • Biological: encourage toads
  • Mechanical: Copper bands
slugs and snails34
Handpick at night and drop into soapy water

Agricultural Lime

Pick under boards or other traps (grapefruit rind) during the day

Destroy eggs

Boiling water or salt

Best bait: Crushed slugs

Spray plants w ½-1/2 vinegar-water early am. When #s down, every 2 weeks (untested)


Safer’s bait

Diatomaceous earth

5 % garlic solution provides best barrier and kills 95 %

As the clay hardpan improves, the numbers decrease

Slugs and Snails
wasps and hornets
Wasps and Hornets
  • Eliminate food sources (empty garbage cans frequently, proper fitting lids, no pet food outside)
  • Add lids and straw to sugary drinks
  • Traps
  • Wet Vac at nest
  • Diatomaceous earth squirted into nest
Sticky traps - usually blue; to some degree can trap out population.

Biological controls

Application of compost to soil may help.

Deadheading and removing infested foliage is an option. Do not shear or stimulate new growth. Prune by cutting plants just above branch crotches and nodes.

Insecticidal soap, Horticultural oils and neem oil containing azadirachtin are effective


Spray a test area first to see if not phytotoxic.

All degrade very quickly. Due to overlapping generations, may have to apply several times

avoid ticks
Avoid Ticks
  • wear clothes that fit tightly around your wrists, ankles and waist. Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Discourage animals such as mice, chipmunks and deer that "host" ticks.

* Perform tick checks.

trap ticks
Tick Flag (for med.height brush)

Staple 1 sq yard piece of white flannel cloth with heavy knap to a stick ( hem one end if used often)

Sweep flag ahead. Captured ticks show well.

Turn over, pick ticks and drop in plastic container with cap. Will die in 24 hours. Or drop in soapy water.

Tick Drag (grass or low brush)

4 ft wide x 6 ft long.Velcro strip one end

Add lead weights to lower end

Make a clothesline handle through plastic pipe.

Drag besides and behind.

Trap Ticks
Crows dig up seeds

House Sparrows eat seedlings

Row cover



Grackles squish all peas

Robins eat Fruits

-- timing

-- row cover

-- netting

ground squirrel

Seed early

Row cover


Trap to kill (e.g. Lee’s trapworks)

AC Greenfix (variety of Chickling Vetch - Lathyrus sativus)


Ground Squirrel
meadow voles
Meadow Voles
  • Modify habitat
  • Mow lawn closely in fall
  • Remove mulch from perennial beds
  • Intensive fall trapping program
  • Traps in vole’s runway system
  • Bait with apple
  • Check and rebait daily for at least 5 days or until no more voles captured
pocket gophers
Pocket gophers
  • Build raided beds with 1/2” hardware cloth at bottom
  • Use wire baskets to pretect tree and shrub roots and bulbs
  • Dogs and cats deter gophers
lawn insects 1

Walk on lawn with long spike sandals in late spring or late summer

Basin of soapy water under a light at night


Milky spore disease for Japanese beetle

Lawn insects 1
lawn insects 2
Lawn Insects 2
  • Chinch bugs
  • Wet vac removes 100% all age classes
  • Water area with water or soapy water frequently
  • Id but cover areas with flannel sheet. Bugs will collect on it. Scrape and destroy.
  • Nematodes
  • Permanently deepen your soil with good garden loam or compost
lawn insects 3 webworms
Lawn insects 3Webworms
  • Resistant grass cultivar
  • Reduce thatch
  • Correct hot and dry day conditions (water, compaction)
  • Predators/parasites conservation
  • Use soap drenches and raking for moderate populations
  • Btk
trees and shrubs
Pear Slugs

Forceful spraying with water

Home recipe 1

Insecticidal soap on larvae

Try .01 % black pepper spray

Lime sulfur


Banding, but may blow in

Insecticidal soap sickens


Trees and shrubs
lures and traps 1


Beet Armyworm

Cabbage Looper

Corn Earworm

Diamondback Worm

European Corn borer

Fall Armyworm


Apple maggot

Codling Moth

Oblique banded Leafroller

Omnivorous Leafroller

Oriental Fruit Moth

Peachtree Borer

Grape Berry Borer

Available from Natural Insect Control

Lures and Traps 1
lures and traps 2

Indian Meal Moth

Clothes Moth


Fruit Flies

Cluster flies



Gypsy Moth

Sm. Elm Bark Beetle


Lygus Bug and European Sawfly

Ash/Lilac Borer

Lures and Traps 2
disease control
Keep things clean

Discard diseased material, don’t compost


Baking Soda Recipe

Compost Teas Sprays

Competing Organisms

Disease Control
Identify and find the source

Fungi spread by spores

Viruses when sap from infected plant transferred to healthy plant

Bacterial D transmitted by insects like leafhoppers, aphids and thrips

Prevent stress from over- or under-watering, overfertilization, extreme weather or other.

Beware of family connections (i.e petunias, tomatoes, delphiniums are in different families but all host the tobacco mosaic virus)

Get rid of infected plant

anthracnose on tomatoes
Anthracnose on tomatoes
  • This disease splashes from soil
  • Spread several layers of newspaper around the plants; moisten; top with 2-3 “ grass clippings
  • This traps the disease into soil
  • (OG Aug 06)
powdery mildew
Powdery Mildew
  • Spray solution of 1 pt milk to 2 parts water on plants
  • Make sure stems and underside of leaves sprayed too
  • Repeat after rain
  • (OG Aug 06)
blackspot on roses
Blackspot on roses
  • 2 tbsp baking soda + 2 tsp liquid hand soap + 2 quarts water
  • Put in spray bottle and coat the leaves
  • The change in pH maes leaves inhospitable to the fungus
  • (OG Aug 06)
weed control
Weed Control


  • Don’t plant any in your garden
  • If you do, keep them dead-headed, and the perennials in one spot
  • Know Your Weeds and choose the proper control method
  • Looser soil means easier weeding
weed control methods 1
Minimize Imports

Clean tools and shoes

Don’t throw flowering weeds in compost

Pick seeds with lowest % weed seeds

Don’t disturb soil unnecessarily

Don’t till areas infested with perennial weeds, dig them up

Encourage healthy competition

Anti-weed Watering

Weed Control Methods 1
weed control methods 2
Timing is everything

Hot water works

A little salt will do the trick

Sprout them out

Crowd them out

When in doubt, mulch

Action must follow planning

Weed Control Methods 2
weed control methods 3
Organically herbicide them

Corn gluten

Cook them out


Propane weeder

Infrared weeder

Choke them

Green manure

Cut of their heads

Before they go to seed with mower or string trimmer

Mow them down

Before they go to seed

Pull them out

Dig them out

Follow the roots to China if you have to!

Graze or eat them

Weed Control Methods3
weed control tools
Weed Barriers

Sweep and Vac



Japanese Weeding Knife (Maria Rodale)

Dandelion Digger

Water-Powered Weeder

Garden Fork

U-Bar Digger

String trimmers

Lawn mowers


Herbicidal Soap

Propane Weeders

Eco-Weeder – Infrared


Weed Control Tools
herbicidal green manures
Herbicidal green manures
  • A solid stand of Buckwheat (photo) suppresses all annual weeds and deters some troublesome perennials such as quackgrass, nutsedge (here?) and Canada Thistle
  • Mow after 5 weeks, no more, to prevent volunteers.
  • (OG Feb 07)
fir and pine mulch
Fir and pine mulch
  • Needles are compostable but better as mulch
  • Slow decomposers and don’t blow away as much
  • Do not really acidify the soil
  • (OG Feb 07)
creeping charlie
Creeping Charlie
  • Use de-thatching rake to remove
  • Most critical time to weed is spring before flowers set, and fall
  • After thorough weeding, plant dense ground covers in ornamental beds and keep lawn thick and healthy
  • Renovate thin lawns in fall and reseed with shade-tolerant grass such as fine fescue
  • (OG Feb 07)