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PROTECTING PLANTS AND PREVENTING PESTS

How to protect your garden without the use of toxins.

In today’s superficial world, we tend to think of failure with such permanence, such disgrace. But failure is only permanent if we don’t learn anything… if we walk away without asking questions, without analyzing, without making improvements. If we don’t learn anything, we can’t change anything.

Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

When it comes to gardening, Edison’s sentiments may resonate with our experience. We definitely know what does not work. Gardening, like any endeavour, takes knowledge, hard work, and dedication, but also a bit of dynamic ingenuity. What works one year may not work another. Weather, environment, and ecology play a role as well. Gardening has been relegated to a “hobby” rather than a necessity for living. Could this be part of the problem? Could its demotion be responsible for quick-fix-solutions with long-term-consequences?

Think of your garden like a business. You have a manufacturing plant to produce a product. You have employees. You have customers. You have threats to that business. You have partners to ensure success. You are the CEO, ensuring that everything runs smoothly, knowing that everyone has a role to play. If a machine breaks down, you don’t set fire to the building. You repair the machine.

A garden works in a very similar fashion. There are many contributing ecological elements which can help or harm the success of your “product”. Thinking beyond the ‘end product’, though, is essential if we are to understand gardening as an element of healthful living, as a connection to the environment around us, as well as the impact our choices make.

Here are 5 Key Ways to Protect Plants While Preventing Pests, Without the Use of Chemicals or Toxins.

  1. PREVENTION: Prevention is always the first line of protection. Learning about garden pests is the first step to successfully planning the right tools, plants, and ecosystem that will help our garden to thrive.
  2. BARRIERS: Both organic and inorganic barriers can be used to ward off larger ‘pests’. Fencing, chicken wire, garden netting, cloches, and floating row covers protect the plants physically, while planting Rosemary, Garlic, and Oregano can deter naturally.
  3. BALANCE: Don’t adopt a “mass-genocidal-mentality”. Some pests in the garden are actually beneficial, as they serve as a food source, not only for the “beneficial bugs” in your garden, but also to birds which feed them to their young.
  4. HEALTH: Plants, like humans, are living organisms, which are better equipped to ward off pests and disease when their environment is ideal. STRESS and DIET affect them, too. Knowing the needs of the plant (sun, shade, organic diet) is essential to be well-equipped to fight for their survival.
  5. BIODIVERSITY: Planning a diverse garden also encourages diversity in natural pest control. Interplanting flowering herbs and annuals with vegetables (rather than row planting) confuses pests from isolating their “host plant” and making a meal out of it. “Beneficial bugs” such as ladybugs, bees, mantis, and net-winged insects require pollen and nectar for food, as well as feeding on pests. Planting food sources such as Mint, Cabbage, Sunflowers, and Carrot creates a diversity of pollen and nectar producing flowering plants which encourage their survival, to the benefit of your garden.

In our technologically stimulated world, it is important to ground ourselves in the reality that we are connected to our environment. With long-term thinking and careful planning we can successfully protect our investment, while protecting our environment.

Salty Paws, Pitted Sidewalks, and Parched Plants

How to Safely Minimize the Damaging Impact of Rock Salts on People, Pets, Property, and the Environment.

Treachery: From the Old French word, “trechier”, meaning: to cheat. Treachery is defined as cheating, trickery, or deceit; betrayal of trust; deceptive action or nature. When it comes to winter, there is a bit of “cheating” that can indeed be treacherous.

Rock Salt, comprised of large amounts of Potassium Chloride or Sodium Chloride, certainly cheats the effects of wintry ice and snow, but underneath that briny veneer lies a formidable breach of trust. While paving the way for safer, drier traction on slippery surfaces, untold damage lurks beneath. Rock salt may be friendly to your wallet, but has a great cost on humans, pets, property, and the environment.

Dangers include “salt burns” and rashes to exposed skin, accidental ingestion leading to vomiting, coughing fits and gastrointestinal symptoms, accidental exposure to pets and other animals leads to diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, fatigue, drooling, disorientation, long-term gastrointestinal issues, and salt poisoning. Further damage is seen in scorched plants as the melted solution seeps into the soil, as well as topically, dehydrating plants of moisture and nutrients. The soil becomes less fertile as salty concentrations create poor water infiltration and erosion. When large amounts of rock salt are used it seeps into the water supply, harming aquatic life and damaging drinking water.

When it comes to your home and property, the immediate benefits of rock salt are outweighed by long-term damage. The chlorides that quickly work to melt ice and snow create a brine that breaks the surface tension of ice on concrete, but also weakens the surface of concrete, resulting in disintegration. The subsequent freeze/thaw cycle that is created deteriorates concrete, creating pockets which allow more moisture to penetrate the surface, and thus slowly chip away as the integrity of the substrate breaks down. These chlorides similarly corrode steel, break down wood decking, even “burning” or “bleaching” indoor flooring.

Happily, there are safer alternatives, equally as effective, without such caustic effects. Other types of ice melts comprised of magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, cost slightly more, but prove their efficacy in lower freezing points, reducing the risk of salt burns, and proving more effective longevity in colder temperatures. Care and discretion must still be exercised as these do not provide as much traction, but can easily be supplemented by substrates such as kitty litter, sand, and coffee grounds, the latter of these also acting as natural ice melt, absorbing sunlight, heating surfaces to melt ice and snow, while providing extra traction. To protect our indoor and outdoor furry friends, look for a product that features “Pet Safe” on the label.

Other safety measures include storing any ice melting product in a sealed, air-tight container, away from sunlight and moisture, to prevent accidental leaching or spilling. Do not allow direct contact with skin or paws. Apply on surfaces before a storm arrives to minimize potential build-up. After a storm, first remove snow by shoveling, then use ice melt minimally, supplementing with traction alternatives as sand, coffee grounds, or kitty litter. Upon finishing, always remove shoes so as not to track substrates into the home, and immediately wash your hands, to prevent any accidental ingestion in yourself, or family members, especially the furry ones.

When it comes to safety, we would not intentionally harm ourselves, our loved ones, or our environment. Educating ourselves, we can make better choices for our family, our home, and our planet. Small choices can have a big impact.