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I am new to gardening and am trying the whole food way of living. I live in Michigan so right now (Oct.) gardening is over, but I want to get a jump start for next year. I just ordered a hot compost bin, so that is the start for me. My question is: My yard is ALWAYS full of aphids (at least that is what I think they are) and my hostas always have whole all over them and I do not want this to challenge my gardening next spring. Any ideas on how to get rid of aphids? Also, how do I keep the bugs away from my garden in general. I am afraid this will be my biggest problem. While I am asking questions: My yard used to be a soy bean field and there still is one behind us. I want to make sure that the chemicals in our yard are gone. Next spring we will have owned our yard (and had no soy beans in it) for 4 years. Is there a place where I can send my soil for testing? Is there a book that you recommend for "first time gardners". I have all winter to read :) Thank you in advanced and I am SOO HAPPY I found this website!
Welcome to kgi! I really like your thinking ahead to head-off problems now! You are wiser than your gardening years to think ahead about *persistent herbicides* from commodity crops that are grown GE genetically engineered & RR Roundup Ready. And the new generations of *persistent herbicides* are showing up in the feedstocks for farmer & home gardener composts. You can see a very strong response to this present & growing problem at www.greenmountaincompost.org - where they are making the best possible response all around & for more than 500 gardens that have been adversely affected by *persistent herbicides.* Lab testing for chemicals is expensive in the $125 & up range, depending on how many or few tests you do at one time. For home gardeners, scientific sources recommend first a *bio-assay* - which is a handy term for *plant bean or pea seeds in 4" pots of your testing soil & if they come up normal & stay normal until there are ~4 leaves, your soil is ok.* Here is a description of the bio-assayprocess in pdf from Washington State University: http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/soilmgmt/pubs/clobioassay.pdf Right now I am using a simpler version with only two 4" pots to test some new compost that was donated to our community food bank garden. Each 4" pot has 4 bean seeds in it - of two different varieties. In brief, so far so good. This new donated compost is probably ok. Two years ago some compost was donated that is still adversely affecting plant growth where it was used. This means there can be no edible crops where *persistent herbicide* affects are seen - because the product literature for *ph-s* clearly states that all plants treated with *persistent herbicides* will themselves pass on the *ph* ill-effects & can not be used for compost. The ill-effects includes the manures of any animals that may have eaten grass treated with *persistent herbicies* to kill broadleaf weeds. Please let us know how the bio-assays turn out in your own well-observed potential new garden site! Thank you for your timely & forward-looking questions!
Holes in hostas? Around here in in the PNW, that means slugs or snails. Do you have those critters in Michigan? If so, you can make a beer trap--bury a large, empty yogurt (or other similar sized) container, leaving @ 4 inches exposed above ground level. Fill with beer. During the rainy season, you can cut holes in the exposed rim and put the lid on. (Maybe that's the best idea in any case.) And there is always the possibility of "slug patrol" at night to pick off the pesky things. You can also remove slugs or snails from an area and place copper tape around that area to keep them out. This also works around the rims of raised beds and pots. As for aphids, tipping the balance by building up the soil, so your plants are healthy is the best insurance against pests, along with interplanting a variety of different plants. Along with the testing Jessica describes above, you can get the ph level of your soil checked, so that you can begin your garden with the optimum ph levels for healthy plant growth. There is much out there that can be used to organically correct ph levels. Some people plant nasturtiums as a decoy plant for aphids--they might be more attractive to aphids than the plants you really care about. Ladybugs are a great method for controlling aphids. They can be purchased, although it is difficult sometimes to keep them on your property. If there are not enough aphids or other soft-bodied pests to eat, the ladybugs will move on. Also, using insecticidal soap, which you can easily make yourself or purchase is a good last resort. Best of luck and kudos to you for beginning your garden.
First of all,do not worry about being surrounded by destructive practice,as a burning candle is not worried by the darkness it's surrounded with.Second,part with the idea of "out of the box" solutions for natural gardening.Natural methods usually have to be adjusted to or redeveloped anew for each habitat.What works in one place doesn't necessarily work somewhere else.In fact,the providing of "out of the box" solutions is one reason for the popularity of industrial agriculture.The other one is business.Bugs and diseases often are secondary infections of an unanticipated primary cause.What is needed,is observation of nature and minimized action carried out carefully.If this is done, practiced, then a change of view, assessment and attitude takes place,and the understanding of this constitutes a major milestone on the road You are looking at.Try to grow as many different crops as You can; this will minimize failure.Also, consider each failure a step on the staircase of understanding.As for long winter evenings,the authors I recommend include Masanobu Fukuoka(The One Straw Revolution,Natural Farming),Sepp Holzer and Bill Mollison.They all point into the same direction but each one of them has a different focus.Fukuoka is quite spiritual and a little dense; be prepared to read him more than once before getting the message.But if You do, You will never regret it. Fire up Your internet connection and try,for instance,http://www.permaculture-media-download.com ,they have a large collection of good literature and videos, some of it free of charge.Greetings,antonis.
P.S. : As a rough rule,the less money a particular solution requires the better it will be for Your garden and for You.It's not always so, but very often.

 

 

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