Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Morag's seven 'do-nothing' strategies for managing pests


I have a 'do-nothing' approach to managing pests in my garden. Don't be mistaken, this is not an idle or lazy approach, but rather a quite carefully considered way of gardening. It does however, simplify gardening and feels somehow more joyful. 

I like to think of it as a peaceful way of gardening - about being mindful and observant in the garden. I don't do 'pest management'. I don't fight pests or disease. Instead I observe and work with nature to create a 'cultivated ecology' - an ecological balance in the garden that has resilience. 

I don't use any sprays or traps in my garden - natural or other.  Even natural sprays can harm beneficial insects which help to pollinate and keep insect populations under control. 

Instead I work to create healthy dynamic soil environment that supports healthy robust plants, and I invite many helpers into the garden that will help to keep the balance.

I have developed a garden of diversity and resilience. This cultivated ecology is in balance and because of this, I am not bothered by pest infestations.


Listen to my recent Simple Life segment on ABC Radio QLD chatting with Trevor Jackson about this topic:
https://soundcloud.com/user-523529725/edible-gardening-and-wildlife-a-nature-inspired-approach

Below I have included the 7 key strategies of my do-nothing approach and five ways to think differently about 'pests'. Here too are two videos made by my friends, Hana and Rado back in 2015.

The first is a recording of a presentation I did in a Brisbane Library about my 'do-nothing' approach to pest management called Goodbye Garden Pests in December 2015. (It's a full recording of my presentation - almost 90 minutes).




This second clip is from when Hana and Rado brought a Raw Foods group to my garden April 2015. In it I am talking about how I approach the management of 'problems'. (just a snapshot from the garden tour - approx 4 mins).



Our diversity garden includes flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, perennials, self-seeding annuals, natives, water, lots of worm towers, a moveable compost bin, lots of organic matter and thick mulch.

Without any spraying or 'active' methods of pest management, the vegetables in my garden look amazingly healthy and unaffected by pests. There is always lots of flowers (mostly seeding vegetables) that attract beneficial and predatory insects into the garden.

Small Insectiverous birds have declined in the cities. They are vulnerable to predation from the bigger birds that do well in the cities such as currawongs, noisy miners, butcherbirds.   Also in cities, there is less habitat for insects (their food) and often people spray insects (poisoning their food). Image: www.birdsqueensland.org.au
I feel that an important part of this approach is in the way I perceive the garden and the insects, and manage my expectations.  For example:
  • I expect that there will be some damage. 
  • I accept that various insects come in flushes. 
  • I understand that things come back into balance in a healthy system even though there may be times of chaos and uncertainty. 
  • I accept diversity and difference and hold a more flexible notion of what is 'perfect'. Did you know that we waste up 40% of crops at the farm because they do not conform a certain aesthetic. This is beginning to change with the 'ugly food movement' - but who is to say it's 'ugly'. It is just natural!
  • I am also quite certain that 'holes cook well'.  For example, I cannot tell the slightest difference in taste between a silverbeet leaf with a hole in it and one without.
Holes cook well too!
My 'do-nothing' pest management approach is primarily about cultivating residence. My strategy includes:

1. Selecting plants well. 
By choosing plants that are seasonal, locally adapted and hardy they are more robust and resilient.

2. Planting at the right time. I do not expect plants to flourish in conditions that not conducive to their growth.


3. Keeping plants healthy. 
Healthy plants are more resilient to pests. I make sure the soil is healthy, that the soil fertility is maintained, the soil temperature kept relatively stable with mulch, and I maintain the organic matter in the soil to hold soil moisture and diminish the water stress of the plants.

4. Building healthy soil. Healthy soil nourishes the plants over time and supports their healthy development. Healthy plants are less prone to pest attack.

5. Watering deeply. As far as possible, I try to rely on rainfall to water the garden- setting up terraces, swales, and adding lots of organic matter and mulching thickly. When things are really dry, I will water but give the soil a big long soak. This encourages the plants to root deeply seeking out that deeply soaked water  - and nutrients. If plants are watered regularly with just a little bit, they form shallower roots. These plants are more vulnerable to heat, dry and pests because they are stressed. 

6. Perennialising plants. Where possible, I encourage plants to keep producing over a long period of time, just harvesting the edge leaves. The deeper and stronger root system they form makes them more resilient. Disturbing the soil less also helps to cultivate good soil structure.

7. Creating habitat for my helpers. Growing a diversity of plants helps to develop a cultivated ecology which provides homes for a range of species that become helpers. An example of this is insectiverous birds (there are many more that I will write about another time). I attract these little feathered helpers into my garden by providing protection from predators. This means cultivating dense bushes and layers of cover - such as native shrubs, sacred basil, dwarf fruit trees and plants like pelargonium. It is also essential to ensure a constant supply of water. Importantly too, is leaving materials and spaces for nests - not cleaning up too much. For more information: http://birds of queensland.org.au


Superb Fairy Wren (Image: www.birdsqueensland.org.au)
As well as supporting the ecological development of your edible landscape system, this approach gives you more time to sit back and relax, and ENJOY your garden.

Thank you!

Thank you to the growing community of people who help me keep this blog and youtube channel free and ad-free through Patreon.  If you appreciate this work, you might like to consider supporting me too. In a way it's like a new version of subscribing to a magazine you like from $1/month. You can find my Patreon page on http://www.patreon.com/moraggamble

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2 comments:

  1. This is great! I use similar methods, nearly by accident. My father-in-law keeps asking where all the pests are, he uses so many sprays and now has a garden with netting over it to keep out all the pests and yet he still has problems. I just let if sort itself out and hope that I create a garden ecosystem in balance. Sometimes I don't get to eat broccoli because the bugs get them first, but there are plenty of other vegetables for me to chose from! I'm so glad you explained it in detail, I'll be sharing this post!

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  2. I absolutely agree about cooking holes 😉😁

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