Every gesture is important for the protection of the environment. The amateur gardener can play his part by going back to a healthier way of gardening, replacing synthetic pesticides with more natural, less aggressive treatments. Let’s have a look at some ecological alternatives.
The Bordeaux Mixture or Bordo Mix
The Bordeaux mixture is the most well-known treatment. After spraying this, the leaves are covered with characteristic blue droplets. This is a mixture of natural products (lime and copper sulfate), which is applied to protect fruit trees, tomato plants and vines from cryptogamic diseases. However, some precautions should be taken when used near a pond, as this product may be very harmful to fish.
The Bordeaux mixture is a copper-based universal fungicide. It is a traditional recipe comprised of copper sulfate (20%) added to lime. This mixture has a remarkable blue, turquoise color. It was originally used to protect vines from mildew.
What is the Bordeaux mixture used for?
It is effective against the main diseases of fruit trees and vegetable patch plants.
- leaf curl
- bacterial diseases
This treatment is used on fruit trees from the month of February as a preventative measure. Apply the treatment before the buds flower and avoid doing so on rainy days. A blue sediment remains on the plants after application – this allows you to see the parts which have been treated.
- Treat the peach tree, the apple tree, the apricot tree, and the prune tree in February.
- Treat potato and tomato plants, vines and strawberries from May onwards.
- Treat the peach, apple, apricot and prune trees in Autumn after they have shed their leaves.
Bordeaux mixture can be applied from February to November.
The different forms of Bordeaux mixture:
It can be found in powder form, micro-pellet form or in spray form.
What precautions should be taken when using the Bordeaux mixture?
Be careful…Bordeaux mixture is poisonous to animals and fish. Use the prescribed doses and avoid spraying fragile plants.
Bordeaux mixture is used in organic farming, but its use is limited to 6kg per hectare per year.
Keep your powder out of reach of children!
This is a natural insecticide produced from the Chrysanthemum. It is used against greenflies and caterpillars. Not to be confused with rotenone, another insecticide of plant origin, which is no longer sold as it has been banned since May 2009. After investigation, it was proved to be very dangerous to both humans and pets.
More commonly known as ‘lime milk,’ this is applied to tree trunks with a paintbrush at the end of winter in order to kill the larvae of insects lodged in the bark. It also prevents moss and lichen from developing and fends off cryptogamic diseases. This is called ‘tree liming.’
Available in powder form, it can be used in tandem with the Bordeaux mixture. It is essentially used as a preventative treatment on vines and fruit trees to treat against powdery mildew and scab.
Glue Stickers and Bands
Bands of glue are placed around tree trunks at about 80 cms. from the soil. This is a very handy way of stopping the progression of insects up the trunk. It is an efficient way of fighting against ants, caterpillars and greenflies. Stickers, often yellow-colored, are used to catch thrips and other insects, which are widespread in greenhouses.
Fungi and Bacteriae
These lesser-known products attack certain parasites selectively. The Bacillus thuringgiensis, sold in powder form, is sprayed on plants attacked by caterpillars. Trichoderma viridae spores in granule or powder form, placed in the openings of trees or in the crevices of the bark, are a good answer to leaf curl.
Whether made from common horsetail or from nettles, slurry-based treatments are very efficient as they strengthen the plant. They are also good for fighting cryptogamic diseases and parasites, so use them at your will!
As soil wears out, it is important to maintain it to keep its properties and structure. It is, therefore, necessary to regularly add organic matter which is consumed by the vegetation and which allows the soil to maintain a light, ventilated structure.
When Autumn comes, a thorough treatment of your soil, especially that of the vegetable patch, is needed. Turn the soil over, adding your homemade or organic compost, which is available in the shops. Turf can also be used, as it decomposes slowly and therefore structures your soil for longer. Read our article called “Should I add worms to my compost pile?”
The decomposition cycle doesn’t operate in Winter. Bacteriae get back in action with the first warm weather when your plants need them most.
An Organic Vegetable Garden
You should take heed of certain basic principles when starting your first organic vegetable garden: the choice of plants, natural fertilizer, rotating the plants, and other treatments of parasites.
An organic vegetable garden demands good exposure to sunlight and protection against dominant winds. Avoid, wherever possible, planting close to a house (which will create shadow) and to trees (which consume a lot of water). Once the plot has been chosen, the gardener should choose plants adapted to the region and to the weather conditions. To facilitate working the soil, the garden should be divided into squares separated by walkways.
Hardy perennials like herbs, asparagus or even rhubarb should be planted at the bottom of the garden or on the edges to facilitate future digging and hoeing. Once the squares are marked out, planting can start according to the season.
To avoid using chemical pesticides and fertilizers, sow plants that complement each other: for example, garlic, onions and even shallots slow down the development of leguminous plants like beans and peas. The same can be said for cabbage and fennel, which affects the growth of strawberries and carrots. Carrots are traditionally planted beside leeks, onions and coriander. Tomatoes are planted near onions, beans beside radishes. Marigold flowers keep insects away from carrots, cabbage and lettuce, whereas the French Marigold, with its peculiar smell, protects tomatoes from damaging insects.
The best protection from ravaging insects is to leave part of the garden half fallow. The plants’ enemies will find plenty to feed on here, and so will the plants’ allies like the redbreast and bees.
If you have the good fortune to have nettles growing nearby, keep them for their protective quality against diseases. Nettle slurry works wonders against diseases. Once your plants are in place, you can start making your own compost to enrich your soil in the low season. This compost will give the same chemical benefits as a fertilizer, without any polluting side-effects.
Finally, rotate your plants the following year. This technique avoids impoverishing the soil. Watering drip by drip with recovered rainwater will add the final touch to your organic vegetable garden.
The best way to garden organically is to create a great environment for your plants to grow in and basically leave them alone to get on with it. Choose plants that are suitable for your garden rather than trying to force those you’d like to grow into a place where they’ll never be happy. Use pest and disease-resistant plants.