What do we want from our gardens? That’s easy… healthy plants!
Unlike other animals, insects do not generally eat healthy plants… they simply lack the enzymes necessary to digest the complex sugars, carbohydrates and proteins healthy plants turn simple sugars, minerals and whatever other base stuff into. It is the same for fungi… the mildews, molds… and the viruses that are carried by plant eating insects that sometimes plague our plants… they cannot digest, and are not attracted to, healthy plants. This is so important a concept to understand because when you realize that a garden is only as healthy as its soil, you begin to think differently about the role you play in your garden. As a gardener, you are there to add:
Water: A gardener who need not water, is a wildharvester, not a gardener.
Seeds: Many plants do better when sown directly into or on top of the soil they are intended to grow in… these include plants that like to quickly send down a taproot, such as carrots.
Seedlings: Many plants are easier to germinate in the highly controlled conditions of a separate seedling tray or greenhouse, away from slugs, and are transplanted to the garden bed after they have grown a few inches.
Compost: Compost releases nutrients, creates a microhabitat for microbes and other tiny critters, and a balanced texture bringing sandy or clayey conditions to become healthier for plants.
Mulch: Mulch slowly releases nutrients into your soil and provides a microhabitat that encourages beneficial insects and fungi… it is a sort of roof to the house that is your garden soil.
Do not think about fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, etc., not even the organic ones. Break away from the concept of bettering or assisting nature… and accept the concept of providing for nature to do what it does better than anyone… grow plants. All nature needs from you 99% of the time is healthy soil. Spend the time to develop your soil before adding any plants, and you will have very few if any problems.
There are sometimes circumstances where an exception to this rule presents itself, but this is usually because the methods involved in adding any of those things was done improperly. For example, I had a small mature chard garden that had bolted (started producing seeds) and that I was going to collect seeds from. I watered them daily during that warm summer. I usually watered during the afternoon when it was hot and I sprayed those plants from top to bottom, keeping them bird dropping and dust free. But one day I watered just as the sun was setting… the next day I realized that I had created the perfect conditions… warm and wet… the warm summer night and the wet leaves were an open invitation for powdery mildew to completely cover my chard plants overnight. This disease had not been there until I provided for it… I had invited powdery mildew into my garden! I now never water the aerial parts of my plants unless early enough on warm enough days that the water will completely evaporate by sunset.
But the point is that no matter how well we think we are caring for our plants, if we disregard the condition of the soil, then our plants will be sick (nutritionally imbalanced)… they will then therefore send out pheromones that attract insect predators to eat them… it is the beginning of the decay process and is how plants ensure that only the healthiest members of their species survive to pass on their genetic code.
An unhealthy plant is a plant that has a deficiency or excess of one or more nutrients, such as nitrogen. This is the root cause of plant disease and insect predation. Thus… because it is so easy to add too much of any one nutrient by way of using fertilizers… adding fertilizers will attract insects that will eat your plants, as can applying manure which is very high in nitrogen, or too much imbalanced compost.
Pesticides negatively affect the soil microcosm and will disrupt the balance of nutrients in the plants, which then attracts the insects. The manufacturers of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, etc., they know this science very well… it is how they make money! All they have to do is deceive you into believing that you need a fertilizer, then a pesticide, then a fungicide, and then they have you full circle needing another fertilizer. Once you use one of those products, you will need another, then another, and another… until you either give up on gardening like most people… but only after you have imbalanced and poisoned your soil and the water table that we all get our drinking water from… or until you realize that a healthy garden relies on healthy soil, built naturally with only compost and mulch that you get from your garden by replacing less desirable plants with more desirable plants. It’s one cycle or the other… the expensive and poisonous corporate lie’s cycle… or nature’s free and perfect cycle.
that pests starve on healthy plants…
is known as the Trophobiosis Theory, a thesis put forth by Francis Chaboussou, an agronomist of France’s INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), in his Healthy Crops: A New Agricultural Revolution.
So, once again… the key to a successful pest free garden is soil quality. Healthy soil is built up by adding a little compost every time a plant is planted. Mulching with the “weed” plants that you pull also helps build healthy soil… their nutrients are slowly released into the soil. Stay away from adding fertilizers… the nutrients they provide are in excess and are taken up by plants very quickly and cause nutrient imbalances… and thus sickness… and thus predation by insects and diseases. Stay away from pesticides as well… a poison is a poison and will negatively effect the entire microcosm that is your soil and thus your garden… don’t be deceived by the greenwash advertisement techniques the manufacturers of poisons are using to sell their so-called non-discriminatory products as “environmentally safe”… they aren’t and they never will be.
So take the time to build your soil naturally… happy gardening!