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Six smple steps to manage your garden organically

Here are some simple steps to manage your garden organically. It helps to think about your garden as part of a living system. And the more biodiverse your garden is, the more independent, resilient and flourishing it will become.



Plant selections

Select plants that are suited to your garden conditions, that are generally trouble free and known to have good disease resistance. This is particularly important for your structural plants, which need to hold your garden together long term.


Encourage biodiversity 

Encourage all kinds of biodiversity in your garden, including a wider range of plants, soil life, insects, pollinators and birds.

Try to avoid too many plant mono cultures. Noting, it’s ok to have lawns and hedges; but bulk up your diversity elsewhere. Try mixed trees, mixed layered hedges; mixed balls. And it's ok to have a few "weeds" in your lawn. Dig them up before they go to seed, dry them off, and throw them in the compost.


Think about a variety of seasonal plants for your enjoyment, and as a source of year round food for birds, bees, and insects. For example, seasonal plants with flowers & nectar in spring, fruit in summer - autumn, and seed heads & berries in winter. Try to add some winter flowers to your garden.


And there’s a real movement towards wilding gardens overseas, which provide more diverse habitats & food sources for a wide range of insects and bird life. Mow your lawn a little higher, and cut grass at different levels in different parts of the garden - apparently different insects live at different levels! Encourage flowers & seed heads to grow in amongst longer and ornamental grasses. Make sure there are a variety of water sources in your garden - up high for birds, with landing pads for bees, and don't forget their bowls at ground level for cats and dogs.


Improve soil structure, water retention & drainage


Bulk products - fresh + biologically active compost is best. Make your own compost + use organically certified compost, garden mixes and mulches if available. this will avoid the risk of unknown contaminants. Capital Compost supplies organic products in Wellington certified by BioGrow. This means that their products have been tested and have gone through a rigorous and trusted  process that remove seeds, pests & diseases, and potentially toxic contaminants.

Organic fairy dust - add organic conditioners and catalysts to improve and speed up soil making processes and fertility. Beneficial micro additions include effective microrganisms (EMOs), rock dust & seaweed which contain a wide range of trace minerals, mycorrhizal fungi, and biochar.



Keep your garden in good condition - fed, watered & mulched

Have you ever noticed that your plants get into trouble when they are stressed, dried out, or lacking food? The best advice is to keep your garden and plants healthy, well fed & watered.


Feed – your garden organic/carbon based/biodegradable/compostable fertilisers like compost, seaweed, blood & bone, worm castings, sheep pellets. What you are doing is feeding the creatures that live in the soil like worms, microbes & fungi; and they in turn will feed your plants, and build better soil structure, with better water & air holding capacity, which are vital for soil & plant life. Chop & drop as you go - don't take healthy garden waste off-site; return waste plant material to where it came from; or turn trimmings into homemade compost. 


Water – consider setting up a drip irrigation system on a timer, a rain water harvesting system and storage tanks, and a chlorine filter for your mains fed garden hose. Rain water is free & is much gentler on the garden; chlorine kills off the beneficial microorganisms in the soil.

Mulch – helps to keep your soil dark and moist, and these are the preferred conditions for soil life. Mulch will encourage worms, reduce transpiration and the need for watering, and help regulate the soil temperatures in summer and winter, and block out the light and reduce weed seed germination. Try and avoid bare earth at all costs– it will dry out, crack, blow or wash away, and the soil life disappears off underground. Weeds will move in.

Minimise & avoid

Be careful not to kill off the good guys in your garden, with the bad guys. Minimise, avoid and preferably eliminate your use of chemicals like:


  • Herbicides - which kill grass & weeds

  • Pesticides - which kill insects

  • Fungicides - which kill fungi & microbes


Many chemicals are indiscriminant, and will kill the good guys as well as the unwanted ones. They upset the natural balance in your garden. Remember, the good guys eat the bad guys; and it’s much better to keep things in check & in balance, than eradicate a whole food group from the food chain.

Develop alternative strategies

Develop alternative garden friendly strategies for managing problems.

Instead of herbicides develop other ways of clearing areas and managing weeds. For example, create new garden beds by lifting grass and lasagne layering organic matter, instead of clearing by weedkillers; use mulch in gardens to suppress weed seed germination; hand weed before weeds go to seed and spread; use a weed torch or BioGro certified organic sprays like Slasher to manage pathways and hard surfaces. 


To help manage fungal problems - pick off & pick up infected leaves & debris and dispose of in your off-site rubbish (not compost); winter spray with copper; and select plants that better suited to the conditions, and with known better disease resistance.

Instead of insecticides - keep your garden & plants healthy, well fed & watered. Avoid using some plants that are highly prone to certain insects eg lilly pillys attract psyllids. Hand pick, hose or wipe off unwanted insect infestations. Consider using beneficial insects like ladybirds, and insect traps, available from Bioforce NZ. Use a gentler organic sprays for aphids, containing garlic & dilute dish washing liquid. For slugs & snails, use less toxic based bait like Quash, which contains Iron EDTA Complex instead of than alternative metaldehyde or methiocarb based slug and snail baits, which can be poisonous to dogs (and I wonder about birds). I'm currently trying out copper tape around planters and pots to stop snails & slugs. Companion planting, in particular fragrant herbs, can act as a decoy and attract pests away from plants – or deter pests and put them off. For example, David Austin rose breeders highly recommend planting salvias and garlic as good companions and insect deterrants around roses. Nasturtiums and marigolds are sacrificial. Use netting over vege beds to keep away white butterflies.



Summary of 6 good habits

Remember - it’s just about heading in the right direct & developing good basic garden practices:

  • Right plant, right place

  • Encourage biodiversity

  • Improve soil structure, water retention & drainage

  • Remember to feed, water and mulch: use edible organic fertilisers in your garden garden & synthetic fertilisers on pots

  • Avoid herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides

  • Develop alternative strategies for managing problems

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