Garden-patch Organics

1. Treat soil as a living thing. Loosen it to allow air and water to flow. Feed it with compost.

2. Act rather than shop. Organic means simple, thoughtful, direct action without accessories.

3. Pick hard-working, disease-resistant varieties. Capital letters V, F, N, or T on a plant’s label indicate disease resistance.

4. Focus on health. The most natural pest-control system is a healthy plant fending off its own problems. Encourage health by learning what light, water, and soil the plant prefers.

5. View plants as your partners. If a species or variety doesn’t measure up and demands continual aid to survive, escort it to the compost.

6. Keep a clean garden. Remove discolored leaves and fallen fruit. Bathe plants now and then with a shower hose, rinsing away dust and pests.

7. Change what you grow. Don’t plant tomatoes where tomatoes or their relatives (potatoes, eggplants, peppers) were last year. If you do, problems that were minor can increase in intensity.

8. Use smart sniper tactics. Once you know which pest or disease is likely to attack, set traps or aim to thwart it at its youngest stage. Avoid broad-spectrum blockers or killers so that natural enemies of the pests will remain healthy.

9. Avoid feeding the earth with “junk food” such as salt-based granular fertilizer. And spare it the side effects of manufactured “medicines.”

10. Practice manual pest control with fences, nets, and screened enclosures.