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The bug-eat-bug world of organic gardening

clara bonnet

Good night, don’t let the pest bugs bite… your plants, that is. Pests can be one problem affecting gardens, but it’s not the only thing to look out for, especially when it comes to organic gardening.

This week on Take Care, Amy Jeanroy talks about the basics of organic gardening. Jeanroy is a gardening expert, and covers herb gardening for the how-to website About.com. She’s the author of Canning and Preserving for Dummies, now in its second edition.

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Amy Jeanroy.

Jeanroy says the major difference between being organic and regular gardening is the use of chemicals.

“Organic gardening means not using any chemical products that you would have to be careful around, or wash off, or that would stick around your fruits and vegetables,” she said.

According to Jeanroy, the idea with organic gardens is to keep the plants strong enough so they don’t need chemcials. She recommends choosing the healthiest plants and starting extra seeds, so that weaker ones can be left behind if necessary.

To keep the plants healthy, Jeanroy says you should visiting your garden twice a day to check on the health of your plants. This means looking for any plants that look stunted, twisted or discolored. This may sound intimidating to a new gardener, but she insists it’s really just precautionary.

Jeanroy says strong plants can be affected by pests, but only when all of the plants are being affected.

“Insects tend to go for the less healthy plants, and then when there are so many in the garden, they’ll attack anything,” she said. This is why it is so important to get rid of weaker plants as soon as they are found.

Not all insects are bad for an organic garden though. Some insects, like ladybugs, are considered beneficial insects because they eat the bugs that eat the plants. Beneficial insects can often be bought in a can and released in the garden.

Asking around about problems affecting other gardens is a good way to determine what to look out for. “Even at the hardware store, find out what problems they end up having and maybe avoid those,” Jeanroy said.

Experienced gardeners are also a good source of information about what problems affect specific geographical areas.

“Different areas are affected by different insects. Here in northern Maine, for instance, we had so many potato beetles. I’ve gardened all over the country and never had trouble with the same exact type of plant,” Jeanroy said.

Jeanroy says that with good soil and good monitoring, just about anything can be grown in an organic garden.