Welcome to the August newsletter. I’m digging deeper into ways we can garden more sustainably by managing insect pests without chemicals. Growing a food garden can be frustrating when you feel insects get to enjoy your crops more than you do. This month’s plant profile is rosemary and there are seasonal gardening tips as usual. I hope you find these practical and helpful.
Sustainable Gardening Tips for August
“The more life there is in a garden, the more likely there will be a balance between pests and diseases and beneficial organisms.” – Dennis Crawford (Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs, 2015)
Aphids are sap-sucking pest insects that every gardener deals with at some point. I’ve lost plenty of plants to aphids over the years, so in my latest article, I’m sharing what really works and the science behind why. Unfortunately, aphids are one of the most destructive pests because you can suddenly have plague numbers almost overnight. You’ll discover how this happens and why you need to have some ‘tools’ in your pest management toolkit for getting rid of aphids fast. There’s some fascinating research from scientific studies so you can feel confident about using natural strategies to manage this pest without chemicals. I hope you enjoy reading How to Prevent and Get Rid of Aphids Naturally to learn more about this insect. You’ll be armed with knowledge and tactics for when they visit your garden.
Insect Pest Management Tips
Maintaining a biodiverse ecosystem in your garden is one of the best ways to minimise pest insect numbers. Beneficial insects, soil microorganisms and birds play important roles in the life cycle of pest insects and the food chain. When Nature is in balance we have few issues to deal with. These are some other considerations.
- Habitat. Insect-eating birds need shelter, water and a food source. Locate a bird bath close to a bushy shrub or protective tree canopy to encourage regular visits from small birds. They need to feel safe when looking for dinner and have a place to retreat to, drink and bathe.
- Maintain good garden hygiene. Avoid bringing in pest-infested plants. Carefully check plant stems, leaves and buds at the nursery before purchase.
- Crop rotate. To avoid a build-up of soil-related pest (and disease) problems, it’s wise to move members of the same plant family of annual vegetables to a different spot each season. Like human families sharing the flu, plant ‘cousins’ are prone to similar seasonal pest problems. Rotating crops interrupts their life cycle.
- Propagate for plant health. Crowded plants create an environment suited to many pest insects. Plants weaken as they compete for nutrients. Air circulation becomes poor and parent plants can lose their vigour. Divide and separate perennials to encourage healthy plants. Learn propagation skills!
- Keep weeds in check. Weed species that are related to crops or ornamental plants are hosts or food sources for pest insects. Once they exhaust their food, they often migrate to your more valued plants.
- Avoid using chemicals. Quick fixes that disrupt nature’s sensitive ecological systems results in long-term damage. Every action has a consequence. Many synthesized chemical products indiscriminately kill your beneficial insect populations as well as pest insects. They can also harm bees, lizards, soil microorganisms, birds and aquatic life. Biological non-chemical pest control methods are safer and don’t destroy the very life you need to keep problem insect populations in balance.
- Water consistently. Over or under-watered plants can suffer water stress and are more vulnerable to pest attack. Water the soil deeply and cover with mulch.
- Avoid over-fertilising. Feed your soil naturally with organic matter, compost, minerals and mulch. Soil biology will do the rest. Flushes of growth from NPK or nitrogen-rich fertilisers are a major cause of unnaturally fast soft new leaf growth. This artificially creates a banquet of food for herbivorous insects. Slow and steady feeding avoids creating this issue.
- Record your observations in a garden journal. Each season, write down when pests arrive in your garden and which plants are attacked. Note what remedies you tried. What worked? What didn’t? Your knowledge base is a valuable tool to use year after year.
What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD
August is typically when our temperatures start to warm up during the day. It’s usually dry and windy with an increase in pest insects after overwintering. We also notice many plants starting to wake up from winter dormancy. Some plants may be under stress if it’s too dry. Before the warmer weather arrives, it’s an ideal time to get all those big garden projects finished. Building new garden beds, mulching, setting up vertical garden structures for spring and getting shade covers ready. It’s exhausting trying to do those jobs when it’s hot and humid!
Download your August Gardening Tips PDF for planting suggestions, tasks to do in the garden this month plus issues to watch out for.
If you can, try to time planting in harmony with the moon phases. Working with Nature’s timing can improve seed germination, help cuttings take root when propagating plants, and encourage healthy plant growth and establishment. There are also times each month to optimise the quick uptake of liquid nutrients. This helps plants access nutrition and get off to a good start. Working with moon phases and a Moon Calendar has distinct benefits. It helps me stay organised! I plan forward for the best times to take specific actions in my garden and reap the rewards. The natural cycles of energy and water that ebb and flow each month are there for us to tap into. Learn more here.
The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. It includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting.