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Organic gardening made easy

Updated: May 19

A study of organic gardening made easy with methods to control bugs and beasties

orange red wallflowers and tulips

Here in the UK, we don't have to deal with large mammals or insect plagues in the garden, but little critters can still cause heart-breaking damage to an unprotected garden. My garden is 100% organic, giving consideration to feathery friends who are encouraged to visit and of course, the garden needs to be pure for our honey bees. I do not use netting

Organic gardeners tools
over seedbeds, avoid tepees of canes if I can, as both could catch or snag a bird. There are no chemicals on the garden, instead, I rely on various organic substitutes or environmental gardening practices leaving a minimal impact on the garden.

All of these methods work for me, but you also have to consider that I am in the garden every day, so some pest prevention may be simply because I am about and not necessarily just the method I practise.

Black tulips with bluebells and pink wallflowers
Beasties and bugs I have tamed
Green Fly

Taming Tools
Chilli spray
Crushed garlic spray
Bicarbonate of Soda
Tibetan prayer flags

mesh on the grass
Sticky tape
Tea bags and coffee granules
Chicken mesh
Crushed eggshells

Taming Besties and Bugs
Deer are tinkers for jumping high fences and hedges, so keeping them out is quite a problem. It is lovely seeing them strolling in from the ungated meadow at the back of the garden, but they are hearty eaters and will pick tulip heads just for fun! We

laid an 8 ft band of chicken mesh on the grass, pegged down in all corners. This deters the deer when they step on it if they've not seen it first. The mesh here is about 2 inches square, any smaller and the deer may get its foot stuck, any larger and the deer may not notice it!

Rabbit hutch plant protector
Rats come in off the meadow, especially if there has been a lot of rain so the water table is high. They pinch my apples by climbing the trees, love my sweet pea seedlings and climb my sunflowers for the seed heads. Most rural gardens have rats, but when they start chewing seedlings you have nurtured all winter, it is time to take action. I do two things:
1. I make a hot chilli wash and spray it everywhere they might go. You'll know if they have licked a wet, chilli paw! Avoid flowers and pollinators as this is an

aggressive spray that shows no distinction from honey bees or pests!
2. Human pee puts them off, so I pour it down their holes! I know this sounds really gross, but if you only use the pee from one male, it won't stink. I use male pee as male rats will be threatened by it. Fabric softener bottles are great discrete pee caddies and a watering can at the back of the garden is used to decant into. Don't let it stale or it really will smell, use it fresh. Diluted pee is also a great fertilizer, more on this later. I also use an old rabbit hutch to protect trays of seeds from scavenging rats and munching deer.

empty greenhouses in spring
Cats as a rule don't bother me, except when you put your hand through a freshly laid gifty! There tends to be one flower bed cats use, and the area started to stink of cat pee. I made a crushed garlic wash and sprayed a large area around where the cat went. Since I did it there haven't been any further visits that I know of, but I have come across the odd gifty buried in other parts of the garden, but at least the cat pee stink has gone. Cat poop can be scooped into rat holes too! Classic Tom and Jerry-type situation!

Tropical summer vegetable plot
Green Fly and Aphids are treated in the same way, but I do a prevention wash, and then an eradication wash if I have an infestation. I make a bi-carb wash that is perfect for keeping away chomping bugs which doesn't hurt the good bugs like ladybirds, but if it rains you have to redo it. If the weather is wet the bi-carb wash is quite ineffective as it gets washed away, so there have been times I have had greenflies and aphids problems. I start by using a big soft paintbrush to dust the
roses or lupins, then spray with my chilli

wash (NOT if in flower). I've not tried it yet, but I am hoping the chilli wash will put an end to a lily beetle problem I have, that the bi-carb wash doesn't seem to touch!

A blackbird
This is our Mrs Blackbird. She is hand-tame on occasion and has taught us to open the back door when she wants raisins. She sits outside the window staring at the door when we are at the kitchen sink- we think she hears the water going down the drain. If we are digging or planting in the garden she will follow us around, in case any worms turn up and she will pass close enough to touch, totally unfazed! I never have many problems with birds, we feed them seed so maybe they are full!

Tibetan prayer flags
I do put out Tibetan prayer flags on freshly sown carrot and salad beds, which stops most birds from trawling through my drills to pinch the seed. I love the prayer flags, even when they are old and tatty from snagging on things in the wind. Cheap, very eco-friendly and pretty in Spring when there's not much colour in the vegetable garden.

I used to grow kale for the bunnies but would have to go out three times a day with tongs to pick off the caterpillars in

damp weather, when my bi-carb had been washed away. If it is dry the bi-carb wash works well, but not do it for a week and it's instantly out of control. I only grew brassicas organically a few times as the work involved was too time-consuming, with using tongs to pick off any caterpillars three times a day!
Brimming full raised vegetable beds
Companion planting is also a great way to control bugs but I do find it a bit hit and miss, though it does brighten the veg garden. I grow both nasturtium and pot marigolds to accompany the salad leaves and as a pest deterrent. My first crop of cauliflowers was successful, as seen in this photograph, but it was a tough job keeping on top of the Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars even with the nasturtiums and camomile helping.

Taming Tools
Chilli spray: WARNING, THIS IS AGGRESSIVE so avoid flowers, bees, butterflies, ladybirds...all the good guys! A handful of hot chillies, blended, boiled, sieved. I brew mine in a hot water bottle overnight as the vapours will make you cough and sneeze. Add a cup full of this chilli cordial to 5 gallons of water, and add 3 drops of fairy liquid to help it stick to the leaves. Spray away but watch where you spray it and never on a windy day. AVOID EYE CONTACT.
An aggressive insecticide for hostas, lupins and roses (except flowers), spray on plants if there's an infestation, or to deter rats from the garden, spray where they go.

Garlic spray: Chopped garlic boiled, sieved and sprayed as strongly as you like
Great for keeping cats away

Bicarbonate of Soda, NOT baking powder, BIG difference!: Where to start?
1. Make a spray insecticide with 3 teaspoons of bi-carb for 5 gallons of water, a few drops of fairy liquid and throw in a cup of brewed tea, black, no sugar. I use this twice a week when it is dry, and it is brilliant. Bugs don't like tea so I always add a brew for good luck.
2. Bi-carb is salty, so sprinkle sparing light pinches a few inches around new seedlings like nasturtiums, sunflowers or sweet peas and slugs won't go near them. Repeat if it rains. Avoid the leaves as concentrated it may burn.
3. To kill stubborn weeds, cut the weed away then pour several spoons of bi-carb on the open weed cut. Be aware this may lead to a short-term salty patch when the weed is gone, watch out for cherished plants.
Bi-carb is an organic gardener's must-have, great for sterilizing garden tools too!

taped apple tree
Pee: I know it doesn't sound good, but if you want organic, pee is a must-have too!
1. Dilute one eight in water and use it as a fertiliser. Remember where your vegetables are as it's OK to use before veg plants fruit! 2. Use neat pee down rat holes. Remember to use just one person's pee, preferably male if you have a ratty problem, the plants won't mind whose it is! Mixed pees will smell! Neat pee may damage plants by burning them.
Really great for plants needing or loving nitrogen and rat problems in the garden.

Bugs stuck to tape around an apple tree
Sticky tape: I love our apple tree, crispy, sweet and juicy apples, quite remarkable but the bugs love them just as much. We have put gaffer tape, sticky side out, around the main branches, so bugs crawling up will get stuck. Before blossoming I use my chilli wash and during flowering and fruiting, I use the bi-carb wash.

Tea bags can be buried in the ground, or split open and scattered as an insecticide.

Eggshells crushed up and sprinkled around plants will stop slugs in their tracks as they're too sharp to slide over. Egg shells work better than a bi-carb dusting as they are more permanent. However, birds may scratch through the shell bits which makes a mess. Make sure the shells are washed and clean or you might attract unwanted visitors!

There is so much about organic gardening and I think that is because every garden is different, so different things work for different people, plus there is the amount of time available to make organic gardening easy, the more time invested, the greater the reward. There is definitely trial and error involved, so maybe test before going full-on. The only things from above to be aware of:
1. Bi-carbonate can kill if too concentrated, lightly sprinkled pinches are enough
2. Neat pee will burn leaves and roots, dilute one-eighth of pee to water for fertilising
3. Chilli wash will harm garden guests, do not spray on flowers, avoid your eyes

Happy Gardening!

Colourful Country Cottage garden

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