Gardening with nature rather than resorting to chemical pesticides sums up the approach to growing vegetable and herbs presented by Belinda Allen who rattled off a compendium of advice on how to make our gardens compatible with wild-life by controlling pests without harming other desirable species. Gardening the organic way starts with feeding the soil using compost and other organic materials to favour the growth of beneficial microbes and invertebrates that promote soil fertility.
The 5 pillars of organic gardening are:-
1. Building and maintaining soil life.
2. Encouraging biodiversity by having a wild-life pond and installing bird feeders.
3. Using resources responsibly, e.g having water butts and building raised beds with re-cycled materials such as timber and plastic to line them.
4. Avoid using chemicals harmful to wildlife
5. Maintain healthy well balanced areas by planting a diversity of crops.
Many examples of using companion planting to deter insect pests from crops were described. They included the use of nasturtiums as sacrificial plants by planting them next to cabbages to attract aphids away from the cabbages. Marigolds too give off a scent that deters aphids making them ideal companion plants for a variety of plants including tomatoes and cucumbers. Marigolds can also deter the carrot root fly, or it can also be controlled by growing onions and garlic alongside carrots.
We were reminded that many insects such as hover flies, ladybirds and wasps are beneficial as they destroy other insect pests and play an important role as pollinators so these should be encouraged. Neem oil was recommended as a natural product for controlling insect pests the organic way.