Home gardening is very challenging for me. I love the idea of supplementing my diet with fresh garden veggies, but it has presented obstacles that I didn't anticipate. When I lived in an apartment, I experimented with container vegetables.
This was great in the spring, but the summer Georgia temperatures dried out the soil faster than I could maintain.
We moved into a house, and one of my first projects was building a raised bed planter. I planted three varieties of tomatoes, jalapenos, and bell peppers.
The deeper soil retained moisture much better in the sweltering Southern heat. However, the deeper soil also encouraged taller plant growth, which I didn't intend. I covered it with netting to keep squirrels from digging in the soil, but the tomatoes rapidly grew into an unmanageable, tangled mess. While the netting kept birds and squirrels out, it came under attack from bugs and other pests.
On the bright side, we ended up with a bountiful harvest of tomatoes. I have not eaten store bought tomatoes in three months.
I've focused on 'organic' gardening without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. I was dismayed by the savageness of the bug attacks on my plants. I tried several varieties of 'organic' pesticides, but they had limited effect. I pretty much gave up on pest control. I figured I lost the war on my plants, and the bugs won.
Curiously, over the past few weeks, I noticed a decline in chewed up leaves.
Over the weekend, I trimmed back the over growth. I'm planning on planting a new batch of crops in the next week. I was delighted to see earth worms have moved into my planter, as I noticed them digging to safety as I pulled roots.
I also saw what I believe to be the cause of my declining bug population: spiders and frogs!
I am an admitted arachnophobe, but mostly when they are in my house. I'm cool with them outside - where they should be! Not slinking around my work desk. I noted a couple of small frogs leaping away as I removed the spent plants. It seems the bugs attracted predators. Nature in balance.
When I replant my garden bed, I'm going to focus more on planting 'companion' plants to deter pests. I'm also going to use cedar chips for mulch, which should also act as a natural insect repellant.
Traditional farming techniques of plant diversity and crop rotation in backyard gardening seems to be the best. The ultimate organic gardening is when the plant health is managed by nature. When garden predators manage the pests and garden soil nutrients are replenished at a rate slowing depletion, then there isn't a big demand for topical pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Now that I have learned a little more, my next crop should be even better.