Basically “The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life – one meal at a time” Source www.cleaneatingmag.com
One of the main issues she had was about whether I used pesticides and sprays on the crops that I grow and as we stood chatting about gardening I realized that in a way I try to “clean” garden and thought I might share a few tips today and in future blog posts
Giving plants the best start – I sometimes have folks who say to me that they can’t be bothered with growing from seed as the slugs eat them before they get time to establish or they get too much rain/not enough rain. I grow almost everything from seed but prefer to start them in trays or modules so that I can ensure that I have strong healthy plants before they go into the ground.
I am fortunate enough to have a greenhouse but a kitchen windowsill or garage/shed with a window was what I used before I had it. As I’ve said before I’m a stingy gardener and have had seed trays for years washing them after use and reusing them. This year I also kept lots of those little plastic boxes you get soft fruits in (mine had lids) and used those after making drainage holes in the bottom. With the lids on they made the perfect mini propagators. Loo roll inners are also fabulous for planting things like bean or pea seeds as they allow plenty of root development and you can plant straight into the soil tube and all.
Once I have a nice healthy strong young plant I’m ready to put it out into the garden – but don’t just lift it out of the warm greenhouse or shed and stick it in the ground - how would you like to have someone turf you out of a warm bed and ask you to sleep under the stars with no forward planning!
Accustom your plants to the colder weather by sitting them outside each day for a few hours (bringing them in at night) and only after that they are ready to go into the ground. I tend to be extra careful and cover any new plants I’ve planted out with some fleece pegged down over the top (you can buy gardening fleece in many discount shops these days and if you take care of it you can reuse it easily). After a few days I remove the fleece and by then the plants are able to withstand a bit of variation in temperature.
Protection from predators – The fact is that there will always be things that want to eat your lovely produce as much as you do but you can protect without resorting to horrible chemicals!
- Slugs – basically with slugs you want to make approaching your precious plants as nasty as possible for them so barriers are the best method. I save all my ash from the fire all year and after sieving this into a bucket to get rid of any big lumps I scatter it around my plants to create a nice gritty approach road!
Eggs shells crushed up are another great one and if I’m making pavlova or an omelette I always give the shells a quick rinse and drop them into an old plastic bag. You don’t have to rinse but I wait until I have a good pile in the bag before I crush them and it means they don’t stink.
Cloches - a plastic drinks bottle cut in half with a pair of sharp scissors popped over the top of plants protects them from slugs (keep the top half and don’t throw away – more later). If you start keeping your plastic bottles instead of sticking them in the recycle bin and just dump them in a black bag in the shed it is amazing how quickly you can gather them up
Once they are reasonably sturdy your plants can survive the odd slug nibble but giving them this chance to establish into the ground safely will pay dividends
- Aphids/Greenfly – I plants French marigolds each year at the same time I start off other seeds. Try to plant a single flowering variety as they are very attractive to bees (and much easier for them to extract pollen from the flowers) If you intersperse the marigolds amongst other plants and in particular tomatoes the strong scent they give off deter aphids/greenfly and also carrot fly. I always keep about a dozen plants in pots and if I do get an insect attack I call in reinforcements by moving the pots in around the plants to increase the effect of the others planted in the ground. You can get a packet of 90 seeds for under £2 so it is definitely more cost effective than buying greenfly spray
If, however you do get an outbreak of greenfly all is not lost. You can use a spray that isn’t nasty and horrible. I keep a plastic milk just with this recipe made up and use it as needed – I have taken this directly from the website of the http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/leisureandlibraries/parksandgardens/inbloom/plantdoctor.aspx where I first found it
Garlic spray is generally an effective repellent and will kill some soft-bodied insects. Spray regularly for maximum effect.
Ingredients 3 large cloves of crushed garlic
1 teaspoon of liquid soap
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 litre of water
Method: Combine the garlic and vegetable oil and leave overnight to soak. Strain the mixture and add to the water and the liquid soap. Spray regularly.
Caution: Sprays, which kill harmful insects, will also kill beneficial insects. Use these homemade remedies selectively, only spraying the infected plants. Apply them early in the morning or just before dark. Re-apply after a rain. Wear protective clothing when spraying insecticides.
- Carrotfly – I have in the last few years grown my carrots in the large potato bags that you can buy from many of the discount shops. The reasons are that I can ensure a nice even planting medium for good straights carrots but in addition the height off the ground means that the carrot fly can’t get at them. However before I did that I used to grow a row of leeks around my carrot beds and they definitely helped because of the smell