Gardening … the all-natural way
when you see the odd undesirable insect or
plant? Learn to tolerate them if they cause little damage. It's
simply a question of common sense.
A few “undesirables”
in your garden will not inevitably turn into an infestation. A few simple
tricks will make it easy to keep the number of pests at an
acceptable level. And, more often than not, natural predators, such as birds
and other insects, will help you out. The same
applies to plants that some consider harmful while others see them as beneficial. Biodiversity is your best bet!
Useful organisms: Protect your allies
Pesticides can eliminate or
damage useful organisms that are your allies and that have a beneficial role to play by improving your environment, pollinating
plants, and preying on or parasitizing undesirable organisms.
Remember, when you kill an ally, you just create more work for
yourself. Avoiding the use of pesticides will protect these useful organisms and
encourage their presence.
Protect your allies
Principal roles and functions
- Untiring natural soil aerators
- Transform organic matter in the soil
Ladybugs (also called Lady Beetles)
- Adults eat more than 50 aphids per day while the larvae can devour over 150
Asian ladybugs are also useful. However, they cannot withstand our
harsh winters and invade homes in cold weather
To learn more about Asian ladybugs and how to prevent them from
getting inside your home, go to:
- Eat aphids, scale insects and plant bug larvae
|Parasitic insects (wasps, etc.)
- Develop on or inside another insect, drawing on its food, and
finally, upon reaching maturity, kill it
Bees and other pollinating
- Pollinate the flowers of trees and garden plants that
produce fruit and vegetables
- Adults are good pollinators
- Larvae feed on aphids and the larvae of other insects
(swallows, chickadees, etc.)
- Prey on insects and larvae
- Nocturnal animals - eat slugs, earwigs and other insects
- Decompose organic matter
- Cause little damage to plants
- Active at night, ground beetles prey on large quantities of
caterpillars and slugs
What should you plant to attract
As well as feeding on other insects and drinking water, some useful insects consume pollen and nectar. Why not attract them by introducing plants into your
garden and flower beds that mass produce both?
Plants of the mint family (Lamiacea):
Plants of the carrot family (Apiacea)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Bee-balm (Monarda didyma)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Caraway (Carum carvi)
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Plants of the daisy family (Asteracea)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipannitus)
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
Perennial rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida)
Achillea (Achillea millefolium)
Lures and useful insects
Some garden centres sell useful insects for your
garden, flower beds and/or houseplants. Lures for attracting
useful insects to your garden are also available:
they act as a pantry (offering
nectar and various proteins) or give off the odour of prey such
an aphid. If your garden centre doesn’t stock them, you can put in a special order.
How best to prepare and care for
what you plant
FAVOURABLE CONDITIONS FOR
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Getting off to a good start will help your garden to flourish. Before you plant, prepare a
vegetable garden plan.
For instance you might draft a layout, taking into account the special
needs of each plant and the kind of environment in which you want to plant
Here are your main rules of thumb:
Make sure the soil is fertile and well drained
Turn over the soil each year to aerate and decompact it
Weed and hoe frequently
Water the soil in the morning if possible, not the leaves. Drip sprinklers can stave off
fungus-related plant diseases
Promote species diversity
Make sure that your garden gets at least 6 hours of sun daily
Whenever possible, practice companion planting
Carry out yearly plant rotation
In fall, remove all left over vegetables and plant debris.
This will reduce the danger of infestation in the following year. Undesirable
disease-causing insects and fungi can hibernate in these remnants
Flower beds, trees and shrubs
A crucial stage in flower bed planning involves drafting a
plan or general layout since a vast array of plants can be found, each with its own special needs (hardiness, sunshine, type and richness of soil, dampness, etc.).
Choose plants that are
adapted to the conditions of your site. The rules of
thumb for your garden (fertile soil, rotation, weeding, etc.) apply to your
flower beds as well. And
mycorrhizal fungi can be
added to the soil to stimulate growth.
preparation prior to sowing or sodding is the first point
to consider. A layer of rich soil at least 15 cm in thickness is necessary for
In spring or late summer, sow bare spots or places where
growth is sparse to prevent weed invasion. Promote biodiversity in your lawn. For
example, add white clover to your grass seed mixture. White clover resists
foot traffic and dry spells. Unlike grass, it can capture atmospheric
nitrogen, thereby reducing the need for fertilizer. In shady areas, use
ground-cover plants that are better suited to these conditions.
- Maintain soil fertility. Learn to identify weeds since they are good indicators of soil health (dandelions are an indication of poor soil,
hawkweed is an indicator of acidic soil, etc.).
Maintain soil pH level of between 6 and 7 to ensure optimum
uptake of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
If necessary, compensate for acidic soil (pH < 6) by applying
dolomitic lime in the fall.
Apply top dressing
compost to your lawn after aeration to
promote microorganism soil activity. Top dressing consists of
uniformly spreading 0.5 kg of compost per square metre in the spring and
using a leaf rake to filter it through the lawn to the soil level.
Fertilize in spring, and again in fall if
you applied only half the fertilizer dose early in the season.
Leave grass clippings on the lawn if you cut less than one-third the total height of grass at a time. If you can, use a mulching mower,
which finely grinds clippings and accelerates decomposition. Grass clippings
can supply up to 30 percent of a lawn’s fertilizer needs.
Choose a natural fertilizer
A fertilizer is a substance, or a mixture of substances, containing
nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and any other plant nutrient. Nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium are essential to plant growth and development
and their respective percentages in the fertilizer are shown on the
Natural fertilizers can be organic (animal or plant residues) or
mineral (stone powder). These fertilizers have not been altered
chemically. Unlike most synthetic or chemical fertilizers, natural
fertilizers need to be broken down by organisms that live in the soil in
order for their nutrients to be released. This means that, in addition to
feeding plants, natural fertilizers contribute to healthy soil life.
Practice good mowing techniques.
Cut lawns to a height of 6 to 8 cm during the summer. The
first and last cuts of the season can be 5 cm. The shorter the lawn height, the more
vulnerable it is to weeds.
Regularly change the direction of cutting to reduce accumulation of clippings.
Sharpen mower blades for a clean cut, ideally after every 8 hours of use.
Torn blades of grass are more vulnerable to disease.
Weeds and mowing
Lawn maintenance and
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Would you like to learn more about lawn maintenance? Click on
Alternatives to lawns along lakes, rivers and streams
Leave a strip of natural vegetation (trees and shrubs, indigenous
ground-cover plants, uncut herbaceous plants, etc.) along the edges of
lakes, rivers and streams to vegetate the shoreline. Ideally this strip–which should be wider
when slope is steeper–should never be treated with fertilizer.
Fertilizer must not be applied within 3 metres bodies of water.
This wise approach helps save our lakes and watercourses
and preserve and showcase wildlife.
Lawn watering control
In Québec, drinking water consumption doubles in the summer. Lawns, flowerbed and garden
watering is at the root of this resource overuse. A hose
at full throttle spews out 1000 litres of water per hour, which is the equivalent of
the recommended water consumption for one person over 18 months.
Contrary to popular belief, lawns do not require large amounts of water to thrive.
Indeed, over half of the water applied to lawns is lost through evaporation or
- Water early in the morning–as soon as the dew has evaporated–or in late afternoon. This will minimize water loss
from evaporation. After a
heavy downpour, no watering is required for at least a week. Obviously,
abide by municipal water usage restrictions.
- Water your lawn when the soil is dry at root level. If this is the
case, water less often, but deeper (2 to 3 cm in depth per watering at
ground level) to improve plant rooting. Place similar-sized
containers around the lawn in several locations and stop watering when the
recommended amount of water has accumulated in them.
- If a lawn turns yellow during a dry spell, do not water or mow. The
grass is dormant, and growth will resume after a rainfall and when weather
conditions return to normal.
- Mow your lawn to a height of 6 to 8 cm to encourage deep root growth
and make grass more drought-resistant.
- In the spring, insert a screwdriver to a depth of 15 cm in several
locations around the lawn; if you feel resistance, aerate the soil
mechanically by withdrawing small soil plugs. This practice allows water to
seep into soil, improves gas exchange and enables roots to spread.