Benign Pest and Weed Control

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Question: When gardening with children, what's the best approach to pest and weed control?

Answer: Gardening with kids helps them to understand the world around them at an early age. Pests and weeds are part of that world, and while they can be a nuisance to the garden's production, they are important within the larger balance of life. When youngsters are involved, it is especially important to use benign approaches to pest and weed control.

In an ideal world, it would be great to study a potato beetle's life cycle without sacrificing the crop of potatoes. Finding a balance between investigating the activities in the garden and growing healthy plants is not as impossible as it might seem. By understanding what makes our gardens and plants attractive to insects and disease, and how to maintain soil health, children will learn important lessons about working with nature to create a resilient system. Practicing good gardening habits can avert many problems.

Creating a healthy soil environment works to make the garden much less attractive to pests and disease. Healthy garden practices include: rotating your crops, adding compost to the soil, providing enough space between plants and between rows or beds, planting resistant varieties, using organic mulch on beds, keeping the garden free of debris and weeds, pruning weakened foliage, providing balanced nutrients, watering regularly, and encouraging beneficial insects, such as ladybugs.

There are many home remedies for pest control, such as garlic, soap spray, compost "tea," and baking soda sprays. These are not necessarily scientifically proven, but they have worked in some situations. Organic gardening books are good resources for home remedies. Using synthetic chemicals to control pests or weeds isn't recommended when you're growing food -- especially when kids are involved in gardening.

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132 Intervale Rd, Burlington, VT 05401

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