Growing your own vegetables is a great way to get back to the earth and save a few dollars and cents. Not only will your organic zucchinis and tomatoes be tastier than those you buy in the store, they will be fresher, more conveniently gathered, and grown with an extra dose of love. What’s not to like? For those who have tried this venture before, they likely know that the answer to that question is pests. It can be difficult to protect your beloved vegetable patch from the natural inhabitants of the local area you live in. It can be even harder to keep them away using green methods. Below are a few guiding principles to starting your vegetable garden, including tips on keeping away the local critters that want to munch on your food.
What does it mean for a garden to be “sustainable”? Answering this question is a good place to start. For one, you will avoid any damaging or toxic chemicals and materials. But you will also want to make sure that you are maintaining water quality, limiting the energy use in the garden, keeping any waste out of the landfills and preventing soil degradation. Knowing these things, you can start to think about your garden.
First - and this may seem obvious - grow the food you want to eat. There is no sense in growing cucumbers if you do not like the way they taste. Make sure that you and your family will consume whatever you grow. If you end up wasting food by throwing it away, you will not be meeting the goals of sustainability. You will also need to think about the climate and weather conditions your garden will be facing and find vegetables that are suited to it.
You’ll also find that planning a rough design for your garden so that you have some sort of roadmap to follow is a smart beginning. Of course nothing will follow the exact parameters - this is nature after all - but this will help you stay organized and make the gardening process easier.
Take care of your soil by making and using your own compost. Though it is rarely required by law, composting is an imperative for those of us who care about the planet. Every particle of food that lands in the compost is saved from the landfill. Buy your own composting bin and start taking your organic kitchen scraps to it to make your own fertilizer. This will not only save you money, it will save the planet. (You’ll definitely want the compost bin outside, as it can get stinky, but keep it near the kitchen to make your job easier.)
Think about pest control carefully - what kinds of pests do you need to protect your produce from? Different critters require different solutions. An integrated pest management plan will reduce chemical runoff that finds its way into (and poisons) your local water. One method is companion planting, whereby the gardener places plants next to each other when they attract insects that are beneficial to each other. For example - plant some dill next to a tomato vine. The braconid wasps attracted by the dill will control the tomato hornworms.
For animals like deer, skunk, rabbits, rats, raccoons, and moles, an electronic repeller (like these from Bird-X) will likely come in useful. These will not harm the planet or the animals - the high frequency sound waves will simply irritate and confuse them, and keep them away from your precious vegetable patch.