During our first year in Buddha Garden the battle with the bugs was unrelenting. They ate the seedlings, roots and leaves of all our plants. Much of the vegetables that we did manage to grow were infested with bugs of various sorts. It often felt as if there was a war going on between us and them.
In the beginning we tried to get rid of all the pests using a wide variety of different substances. Sometimes we used simple things like ash and other times we made complicated mixtures and sprays consisting of things like chillie, garlic and anything else that we thought might repel the bugs.
Generally speaking these were not very successful.
What we have realised over the years is that as organic farmers we need to control pests, not eliminate them as chemical farmers do. We have found that the best way of repelling pests and diseases is to grow strong plants in a good soil. This doesn’t get rid of the pests but creates a balance on the land that enables most of the plants to repel any pests that come their way.
We use crop rotation so pests do not build up in the soil and sometimes we need to cover delicate plants with nets to keep the insects off when they are at a vulnerable point of their growth. Where plants do succumb to disease or attacks from insects we find that removing any diseased plants or parts of plants as soon as possible is often enough to stop the disease or the pests from getting hold and destroying the plants.
We have developed a spray based on neem which we use when necessary. What we find, however, is that we are using it less and less as our soil becomes better and better and our plants stronger and stronger.
We had a student who came and did a very elegant piece of research which showed that the more insect species we have in the garden the less pests there are. We therefore mimic nature by growing as much of a diversity of plants as we can that encourages a diversity of insect species.