Natural Pest Control in your Edible Schoolyard Garden

Chemicals are toxic and abound everywhere. People apply pesticides and herbicides often without thinking about the consequences. The purpose of your organic edible schoolyard garden is to connect students with both nature and their food supply. It is also a place for thoughtful contemplation for the students. Commit to using natural means to control pests.

Most insects in your garden are beneficial, so you want to isolate the unwanted pest rather than blanket spraying everything. Not every pest needs to be sprayed. Caterpillars can be hand-picked off tomato and other plants.

Mild soaps and vegetable oils are a good option. Soap needs to contact an insect to kill it. It is a physical damage to the insect not a poison. That is why you need to apply the soap directly to the insect. Oils work the same way and accomplish the same goal. Oils are a good means to get rid of scale on a plant.

There are many natural insecticidal soaps and oils available commercially. You can also make your own by mixing 2 tablespoons of a mild soap in a gallon of water. You can create an oil spray by mixing the same ratio of vegetable oil in water. Some people add ground garlic or cayenne pepper to their sprays. I have some how-to videos on my YouTube – My Earthprints Channel under the Garden playlist, if you are curious to see how they do it.

Reduce your chances of a pest outbreak by  following the principles of companion planting and creating a garden full of  biodiversity. If you have only tomatoes in your garden (monocropping), then your plants are more susceptible to a tomato pest.

Edible School Garden Grants and Donations

Our Fence Looking for some extra money to finance your schoolyard garden project? Try to unearth a grant to pay for your expenses.

Begin your search at KidsGardening.org or the National Gardening Association. Both maintain a database of current grants available for schoolyard garden projects.

There is also your local farm bureau. A county farm bureau may provide seed donations for projects.  As a Master Gardener Volunteer, I was lucky enough to receive seeds and a small cash grant  from the Broward Farm Bureau to fund  schoolyard garden projects on several occasions.

Some seed companies donate seeds to school garden projects. Generally, seed companies will donate seeds from the previous planting season that did not sell. While most of these seeds will germinate without a problem, you don’t have a choice of what seeds you get. If you are open to trying some new things, this is a good option to pursue.

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Listed below are some seed and garden supply companies. Some have seed donation programs.

ARBICO Organics Garden Supply  800-827-2847

GardensAlive.com 513-354-1482

High Mowing Organic Seeds 802-472-6174

Home Harvest Garden Supply 517-332-2663

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds 509-933-7150

Johnny’s Selected Seeds 877-564-6697

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply 888-784-1722

Seed Savers Exchange 563-382-5990

Seeds of Change 888-762-7333

Seeds Trust 928-6498-3315

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange 540-894-9480

Territorial Seed Company 541-942-9547

The Cook’s Garden 800-457-9703

Tomato Growers Supply Company 888-478-7333 or 888-768-3476

Totally Tomatoes 800-345-5977

Vermont Bean Seed Company 800-349-1071

Victory Seeds™ 503-829-3126

Don’t overlook local nurseries and local big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes when you are searching for garden donations. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you receive.

Also, and most importantly, while parent and community volunteers are helpful to the success of a garden project, my experience shows that the most crucial team member is a school staffer to oversea the garden. If the school administration supports the project, there will need to be someone there to regularly water and check the plants, especially  over long weekends and holiday breaks.

I’ve seen many gardens struggle and be left behind because the volunteer moved on and there was no one left to  maintain the project. If all parties have  a vested interest in the project’s success, your garden will thrive.

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Companion Planting-With A Little Help From Our Friends

In nature, many plants have synergistic relationships. Our ancestors saw this and practiced companion planting in ancient times. Native Americans engaged in companion planting by organizing the crops of maize, squash and beans close together and called them the Three Sisters .

Some plants exude chemicals from their roots or aerial parts that repel pests and protect their neighbors. Others attract pests and are used to distract them from the main crop. This is known as trap cropping. Some plants like legumes-peas, beans and clover– are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen for their own use and for the benefit of their nearby companions.

Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham is one of my favorite books on companion planting.

GardenGuides.com lists Good and Bad Companions For Vegetable Plants below:

Plant Good Companions Bad
Companions
Basil Pepper, Tomato, Marigold
Bush Beans Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Lettuce, Pea, Radish, Strawberry, Savory, Tansy, Marigold Onion
Pole Beans Carrots, Corn Cucumber, Eggplant, Lettuce, Pea, Radish, Savory, Tansy Beets, Onion
Beets Bush Beans, Cabbage, Onion, Sage
Cabbage Family Bush Beans, Beets, Celery, Onions, Tomato, All Strong Herbs, Marigold, Nasturtium Strawberry
Carrots Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Lettuce, Onion, Peas, Radish, Tomato, Sage Dill
Celery Bush Beans, Cabbage, Onion, Spinach, Tomato
Corn Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Cucumber, Melons, Peas, Squash Tomato
Cucumbers Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Radish, Marigold, Nasturtium, Savory No Strong Herbs
Eggplant Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Spinach
Lettuce Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Carrots, Cucumbers, Onion, Radish, Strawberries
Melons Corn, Nasturtium, Radish
Onion Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Cucumber, Lettuce, Pepper, Squash, Strawberries, Tomato, Savory Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Peas
Parsley Tomato
Peas Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Carrots, Corn Cucumber, Radish, Turnips Onion
Pepper Onion
Radish Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Carrots, Cucumber, Lettuce, Melons, Peas, Squash Hyssop
Spinach Celery, Eggplant, Cauliflower
Squash Corn, Onion, Radish
Strawberry Bush Beans, Lettuce, Onion, Spinach Cabbage
Tomato Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Mint Corn, Fennel

For additional information check out the following websites:


Vegetable Planting Guide by Month for South Florida Gardeners

Gardens can be planted year-round in Florida, but fall is the preferred seed-planting season. Below is a planting guide published by the University of Florida/IFAS with recommendations for vegetable planting by month.

Many factors influence the productivity of a garden -including; soil quality, water, drainage, amount of available sunlight, nutrients and integrated pest management. We’ll explore some of these in later posts. Happy Planting!

January

February

March

April

May

June

BeetsBroccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Collards

Corn

Chinese Cabbage

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Eggplant

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Summer & Winter Squash

Tomatoes

Turnips

BeetsCantaloupes

Carrots

Collards

Corn

Cucumbers

Eggplant

English & Southern Peas

Kohlrabi

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Okra

Peppers

Radish

Summer & Winter Squash

Sweet Corn

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Turnips

Watermelon

CantaloupesCucumbers

Corn

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Okra

Peas (Southern)

Peppers

Radish

Summer Squash

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Watermelon

Lima, Pole & Bush BeansSweet Potatoes

Peas (Southern)

Black-Eyed Peas

Sweet Potatoes

Watermelon

Cassava

Chayote

Cherry Tomatoes

Chinese Yams

Malanga

Pigeon Pea

Pumpkin

Sweet Potatoes

July

August

September

October

November

December

CassavaChayote

Malanga

Summer Squash

Yard Long Beans

CantaloupesCarrots

Collards

Corn

Eggplant

Escarole

Lima & Pole Beans

Mustard

Onions

Okra

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Summer Spinach

Summer Squash

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Watermelon

BroccoliCabbage

Cantaloupes

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Eggplant

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Onions

Okra

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Summer & Winter Squash

Watermelon

BeetsBroccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Eggplant

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima , Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Strawberries

Summer Squash

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Turnips

BeetsBroccoli

Cabbage (regular & Chinese)

Carrots

Cauliflower

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Strawberries

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Turnips

BroccoliCabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Chinese Cabbage

Collards

Corn

Cucumber

Endive

English & Southern Peas

Escarole

Eggplant

Kohlrabi

Lettuce

Lima, Pole, & Bush Beans

Mustard

Onions

Parsley

Peppers

Potatoes

Radish

Spinach

Strawberries

Tomatoes (larger fruit varieties)

Turnips

This book is by James Stephens, a professor in horticultural studies at the University of Florida. It is well illustrated and an excellent reference guide for vegetable gardening in Florida.

 

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