5.Garden Design



Chapter - 14

Garden Design and Selection of Plant Material

(Sudhir Kamal Seem, M. Arch. (Landscape), Senior Architect, CPWD)

Though there are many garden design rules, but no hard and fast rule as such. So there is always a scope to give your garden your own personal touch. The only person you really have to please is yourself. Often our gardens are created in a haphazard manner, with whatever plants are at hand or strike our fancy. There are some key elements that make a garden feel more cohesive. Things like repetition and focal points and colors that don’t compete with one another are often easier in theory than in practice, following ideas can be considered and to be incorporated in the garden.

1. Garden Bones

Of all the garden design elements, garden bones are the hardest to incorporate after the fact. Like a building or a story, you need a solid structure before you start filling in the details. The garden where all the plants are of a similar size or height, the garden looks very monotonous. Small trees and shrubs are often used to provide the bones of a garden and evergreens are classic. It may not be possible to have a hedge of evergreens as a backdrop or border, but dwarf evergreens also look good.

2. Color

Most garden design advice begins with a discussion of color, texture and form. Color is arguably the most prominent factor in a garden design and often the first one considered. Color is what most gardeners are drawn to. We know what we like when we see it. Good garden design involves knowing how to combine colors so that the final product will be one we like. It is also a good point at times to combine colors like blue and yellow,that make their opposites appear more vibrant.

3. Focal Points

Ideally, a garden should not be able to be taken in one glance. It should be a leisurely discovery. An easy way to accomplish that is to include focal points in your garden. Focal points can be large plants, structures or ornaments and their function is to grab the eye’s attention and then direct to the surrounding plants. Don’t think your garden is too small to have a focal point. Even containers need a focal point to anchor them.

4. Texture

Plants with different textures spot light the key attributes of each other. Somebody may love soft, billowy plants but an entire garden of them will look like a blur. One needs the contract of coarser leaves or wide, bold foliage. It’s the contrast that gives your garden a crisper definition and keeps it from looking two dimensional. Luckily, texture is one of the easiest garden design elements to conquer.

5. Sound

Sound is probably not at the top of the list, when one thinks about things to include in the garden design. But sound is what breathes life into a garden. Whether it’s the wind rustling plants, the sound of gravel crunching under foot, bird songs or trickling water, sound should be considered and planned for. It can be as easy as using plants with seeds for the birds or as complicated as a series of waterfalls.

Selection of Healthy Plant Material for Garden

At first glance, all the plants in the nursery look lush and glorious.

Usually they are.

However there are times when a few quick checks can prevent us from bringing them home. It is always advised to take some time to look over the plants before it is purchased and introduced in the garden.

The following points must be kept in mind before selecting and purchasing plants :

1. Quality of Nursery : Take in an overview of the plant department. Look to see that the majority of the plants seem healthy and well cared for.

2. Foliage: Evaluate the condition of your specific plant. See that the leaves are green, shiny and lush. Steer clear of any plants that are wilting or yellowing. Stressed plants may or may not recover.

3. Shape: Consider the shape of the plant. It should be compact and full, with multiple stems. Taller sapling is often not better. It could mean the plant has been straining for light and has grown thin and spindly.

4. Insects & Disease: Inspect closely for signs of insects or disease. Check both sides of the leaves and the potting soil. Signs can include: blackened areas, holes, spots, mushy areas, stickiness and distortions.

5. Root System: Don’t neglect the roots. If the plant is pot bound and the roots are growing out of the bottom, the plant may be stressed and take time to recover. If there aren’t many roots and the plant lifts out very easily, it was probably recently repotted and could use more time to become garden worthy.

6. Stem Damage: If the plant has a thick or woody stem, make sure there are no cracks or scars. Even prior damage can weaken a plant.

7. Weeds: Weeds in the pot are competing with the plant for nutrients. They also signal some neglect on the part of the nursery staff.

8. Root Ball: When buying a balled and bur lapped tree or shrub, the root ball should feel solid. If it appears broken, there’s a good chance the roots have had a chance to dry out and the plant will suffer.

9. Buds & Flowers: Plants in bud will transplant and thrive better than plants in flower.

10. When All is Said and Done: If you’ve just got to have it, go ahead and buy the plant. With a little pampering, it just may defy the odds.

11. Orientation: Note the orientation of the plant in the nursery and mark the same on the sapling before lifting from its original position. Plant the sapling as soon as possible in new location keeping the orientation of the plant same.

Containers and Pots for Gardens

Selecting Containers : Containers for Gardens can be almost anything: flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, nursery flats, window planters, washtubs, strawberry pots, plastic bags, large food cans, or any number of other things. The containers should be selected keeping in mind the type of plant, it size, spread, foliage type, colour and requirements of sun and water etc.

Drainage: No matter what kind of container one chooses for the garden, it should have holes at the base or in the bottom to permit drainage of excess water.

Color Considerations : one should be very careful when using dark colored containers because they absorb heat which could possibly damage the plant roots. If you plan to use/ select dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color or shading just the container, not the plants.

Size : The size of the container is important for larger plants. You can grow large plants in bigger containers; however they need to be provided with considerably more water.

Soil and Fertilizer You can use soil in your container, but potting mixes are much better. Peat-based mixes, containing peat and vermiculite, are excellent. They are relatively sterile and pH adjusted. They also allow the plants to get enough air and water. Mixing in one part compost to two parts planting mix will improve fertility.

Using a slow release or complete organic fertilizer at planting will keep your plants fed for the whole growing season.

Watering Pots and containers always require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. As the season progresses and your plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don’t wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water.

Wind Wind can be a real hazard for any container grown plant. Try to place your containers so that they are not in an overly windy location. A breeze will provide nice air circulation and help prevent fungal diseases, but a strong wind can topple plants and containers and can also shred leaves and dislodge fruits/ flowers. If the garden is on a raised deck or a roof top, it may be necessary to provide some type of wind block.

Transplanting Trees and Shrubs Transplanting trees and shrubs appears an easy task — deceptively so. Many transplants die due to improper removal or installation. But if you’re about to give a facelift to a landscape design that has been neglected for years, then you will need to move existing plant matter, whether for relocation or for disposal. To do it successfully, you must take steps to improve the likelihood of survival.

Here’s How 

1. Location: Prior to transplanting, determine whether the tree or shrub likes sun or shade, and what its spacing and watering requirements are. For instance, don’t locate a plant that craves water next to one that prefers dry conditions: their needs will be incompatible.

2. Dig the new hole before you dig up the tree or shrub. Once you dig up the plant, the longer its roots go without a home, the lower your chances for successful transplanting.

3. Estimate the width and depth of the root-ball by doing a bit of exploratory digging around the plant. The width of the new hole should be twice that of the root-ball. The depth should be kept a bit shallower, to avoid puddling and consequent rotting.

4. When you reach the bottom of the new hole, resist the temptation to break up the soil beneath. You would think that this would help the tree or shrub, allowing its roots to penetrate deeper. Instead, it could cause the tree or shrub to sink, inviting rot.

5. Dig out the tree or shrub selected for transplanting. But don’t start digging right at the base of a mature tree or shrub. Rather, start digging about 3' out from the base, all along the perimeter. Get a feel for where the main mass of roots lies. Also begin to judge what the weight will be of plant + roots + soil clinging to roots. You may need someone to help lift it!

6. The idea is to keep as much of the root-ball (roots + soil) intact as possible. But the larger the plant is, the chances of getting anything close to the entire root-ball will diminish — and you wouldn’t be able to carry it anyhow! Usually you will have to cut through some roots on a mature plant (either with a sharp shovel or with pruners — make a good, clean cut).

7. Once you’ve removed enough soil from around the sides of the plant, you’ll eventually be able to slip your shovel under it and begin to loosen the plant’s grip on the soil below it. After it’s loose, spread a tarp on the ground nearby and gently move the tree or shrub onto the tarp.

8. Using the tarp as a transporting medium, drag the tree or shrub over to the new hole step by step. Gently slide it into the hole, and get it straight. Shovel the excavated soil back into the hole. Tamp this soil down firmly and water it, to eliminate air pockets. The formation of air pockets could cause the tree or shrub to shift after transplanting.

9. Mound up the soil in a ring around the newly transplanted tree or shrub, forming a berm that will catch water like a basin. This will help you achieve your main objective from here on out — keeping the new transplant’s roots well watered, until it becomes established.

10. Spread a 3" layer of landscape mulch around the new transplant. But keep it a few inches away from the base of the tree or shrub, to promote air circulation and so as not to invite rodents from nibbling on the trunk. Rodents become emboldened by the cover mulch provides.

11. Water: The first summer would be a difficult one for the plant to weather, unless it gets plenty of water. Watering is as essential as anything to success in shrub and tree transplanting.

Important Tips for Transplanting

1. When should you do your shrub and tree transplanting?

For most trees and shrubs late winter or early spring are the best times for transplanting; fall would be the second best time. In summer it’s not advisable. In the dead of winter it’s almost impossible (in the North) — unless you’ve done all your digging ahead of time (before the ground freezes).

2. The time given for this transplanting project is 2 hours. However, that will depend greatly on the circumstances. To dig a mature tree or shrub out of rocky soil (especially in cramped quarters) is back-breaking work.

References :

Garden Design - Putting it all together, http:// gardening. about.com /od/gardendesign /Garden_Design

Chapter - 15

Persian Garden

(Sudhir Kamal Seem, M. Arch. (Landscape), Senior Architect, CPWD)

The Avestan word pairidaçza-, Old Persian *paridaida-, Median *paridaiza- (walled-around, i.e., a walled garden), was borrowed into Ancient Greek: parádeisos, then rendered into the Latin paradîsus, and from there entered into European languages, e.g., French paradis, German Paradies, and English paradise.

From the earlier times the idea of an earthly paradise spread through Persian literature and to other cultures, both the Hellenistic gardens of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies in Alexandria.

“The god has actually defined paradise as Garden, and it is up to individual not only to aspire to it in the after-life, but also to try to create its image hare on earth”

It is with this theme in mind that the Persian gardens have been created as a model of orderly paradise, devised in the flat deserts of Persia. As greater part of Persia is arid, lacking water and vegetation. It is largely composed of elevated and level land with area of barren plain stretches as far as an eye can see, and for the most part of the year it is extremely hot.

The Persian gardens are enclosed, fertile and rich with fruits and flowers in contrast to the draught, heat and sun outside it has water, coolness and shade. It has order and tranquility, and it is place where one may sit shade and relax, enjoy the sound of birds, water flow and fragrance of flowers.

The tradition and style in the design of Persian gardens, has influenced the design of gardens from Andalusia to India and beyond. The Persian garden is an enclosed space (preferable a square) in its centre is a water source from which channels carrying water divide it into quarters. Each quarter is further divided into quarters and if the garden is large it is divided in further smaller quarters.

Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian Garden interpretations in the world, from the era of the Mughal Empire in India. It has the elements of a Persian Garden- the Enclosure, the Quadrangles, Water channels, Groves of Trees and Plants, Pavilions, Boarders of pathways and lawns.

As the word expresses, such gardens would have been enclosed. The garden’s purpose was, and is, to provide a place for protected relaxation in a variety of manners: spiritual, and leisurely (such as meetings with friends), essentially a paradise on earth. The Common Iranian word for “enclosed space” was *pari-daiza- (Avestan pairi-daçza-), a term that was adopted by Christian mythology to describe the garden of Eden or Paradise on earth.

The garden’s construction may be formal (with an emphasis on structure) or casual (with an emphasis on nature), following several simple design rules.During the Arab occupation, the aesthetic aspect of the garden increased in importance, overtaking utility. During this time, aesthetic rules that govern the garden grew in importance.

An example of this is the chahâr bâgh, a form of garden that attempts to emulate Eden, with four rivers and four quadrants that represent the world. The design sometimes extends one axis longer than the cross-axis, and may feature water channels that run through each of the four gardens and connect to a central pool.

The invasion of Persia by the Mongols in the thirteenth century led to a new emphasis on highly ornate structure in the garden. The Mongol empire then carried a Persian garden tradition to other parts of their empire (notably India).

Use of Vegetation

Planting of trees and selection of species was carefully done in order to improve micro climate inside the gardens.

Elements of the Persian garden, such as the shade, the jub, and the courtyard style hayât in a public garden in Shiraz.

Sunlight and its effects were an important factor of structural design in Persian gardens. Textures and shapes were specifically chosen by architects to harness the light.

Iran’s dry heat makes shade important in gardens, which would be nearly unusable without it. Trees and trellises largely feature as biotic shade; pavilions and walls are also structurally prominent in blocking the sun.

The heat also makes water important, both in the design and maintenance of the garden. Irrigation may be required, and may be provided via a form of underground tunnel called a qanat, that transports water from a local aquifer. Well-like structures then connect to the qanat, enabling the drawing of water. Alternatively, an animal-driven Persian well would draw water to the surface. Such wheel systems also moved water around surface water systems, such as those in the chahar bâgh style. Trees were often planted in a ditch called a jub, which prevented water evaporation and allowed the water quick access to the tree roots.

The Persian style often attempts to integrate indoors with outdoors through the connection of a surrounding garden with an inner courtyard. Designers often place architectural elements such as vaulted arches between the outer and interior

Historical Descriptions

The oldest representational descriptions and illustrations of Persian gardens come from travelers who reached Iran from the west. These accounts include Ibn Battuta in the fourteenth century, Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo in the fifteenth century and Engelbert Kaempfer in the seventeenth century. Battuta and Clavijo made only passing references to gardens and did not describe their design, but Kaempfer made careful drawings and converted them into detailed engravings after his return to Europe. They show chahar bâgh type gardens that featured an enclosing wall, rectangular pools, an internal network of canals, garden pavilions and lush planting. There are surviving examples of this garden type at Yazd (Dowlatabad) and at Kashan (Bâgh-e Fin). The location of the gardens Kaempfer illustrated in Isfahan can be identified.

Styles of Persian Gardens

The six primary styles of the Persian garden may be seen in the following table, which puts them in the context of their function and style. Gardens are not limited to a particular style, but often integrate different styles, or have areas with different functions and styles.

  Classical Formal Casual
Public Hayât Meidân Park
Private Hayât Chahar Bâgh Bâgh

Hayât

Publicly, it is a classical Persian layout with heavy emphasis on aesthetics over function. Man-made structures in the garden are particularly important, with arches and pools (which may be used to bathe). The ground is often covered in gravel flagged with stone. Plantings are typically very simple - such as a line of trees, which also provide shade. Privately, these gardens are often pool-centred and, again, structural. The pool serves as a focus and source of humidity for the surrounding atmosphere. There are few plants, often due to the limited water available in urban areas.

Meidân

This is a public, formal garden that puts more emphasis on the biotic element than the hayât and that minimises structure. Plants range from trees, to shrubs, to bedding plants, to grasses. Again, there are elements such as a pool and gravel pathways which divide the lawn. When structures are used, they are often built, as in the case of pavilions, to provide shade.

Chahar Bâgh

These gardens are private and formal. The basic structure consists of four quadrants divided by waterways or pathways. Traditionally, the rich used such gardens in work-related functions (such as entertaining ambassadors). These gardens balance structure with greenery, with the plants often around the periphery of a pool and path based structure.

Park

Much like many other parks, the Persian park serves a casual public function with emphasis on plant life. They provide pathways and seating, but are otherwise usually limited in terms of structural elements. The purpose of such places is relaxation and socialisation.

Bâgh

Like the other casual garden, the park, bâgh emphasizes the natural and green aspect of the garden. Unlike the park it is a private area often affixed to houses and often consisting of lawns, trees, and ground plants. The waterways and pathways stand out less than in the more formal counterparts and are largely functional. The primary function of such areas is familial relaxation.

Concept of Persian Garden Carpet Source: Victoria & Albert Museum A Persian carpet of 17th or 18th century is a rectangle. Has a regular border of flowers and leaves and is followed by a wider one of trees- thin and pointed cypress- and shrubs. Each of these borders is enclosed by a thin band with an abstract pattern, suggestion boundary walls and paths. Within these boarders is the garden proper, divided into sections by four “river”.

The four quarters are equal in size, each being divided into six squares. They contain alternately flower with flowers and chenar trees, of which four, the most prominent, grow outwards from the central floral design.

Both cypress on boundary and chenar have been planted to serve as the symbol of eternity and aesthetic importance. Cypress - eternity and earthly equivalent of LOTE tree. Chenar- is an earthly equivalent of TUBA tree, the great giver of shade as per KORAN. The central square and circle design is symbolic of perfection.

References :

i) Study material of SPA, M. Arch.(Landscape)

ii) Persian Gardens, Ankit Singhal.

iii) http://www.google.co.in/persian+gardens

iv) Victoria & Albert Museum.

Chapter - 16

English Gardens in India

Lodi Gardens, New Delhi - A Case Study

(Sudhir Kamal Seem, M. Arch. (Landscape), Senior Architect, CPWD)

New Delhi was designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker as the new capital of British India. It is the last of the seven cities designed on the western plains of the river Yamuna in Delhi. Designed on the Garden city ideals of low density, openness and light, and contact with nature for all, the planning of New Delhi embraced the historic areas of Purana Qila and the tombs of the Lodi dynasty, the Mughal emperor Humayun and the tomb of Safdarjung.

As the building of new capital of India was in the making and was being made in classical style of architecture using Indian materials and construction practices the dominance of English style is still there. The influence of English garden can also be noted on the Lodi Garden.

Important features of English Garden

Set in the natural surroundings land in the European countries is rolling ground undulating landscape the English gardens/parks featured vast lawns, woods, and pieces of architecture, such as the classical mausoleum.

The Landscape Architects designed alleys into winding paths, built a gently turning stream, used the natural landscape features and slopes, and created a series of views and tableaus decorated with allegorical statues of Apollo, a wounded gladiator, a lion attacking a horse, and other subjects.

The gardens had “eye-catchers,” pieces of classical architecture, to decorate the landscape, and he made use of the “ha-ha,” a trench used to hide fences so the garden seemed to go into the far distance. The use of eye catchers was so important a part of these gardens that it almost became an essential element of the gardens.

Historical Background

Similar situation was found in the area known as the Bagh-I-Jud during the rule of the Lodi Sultanate Later on it formed a part of a larger necropolis of the Islamic rule in India, along with the Humayun’s Tomb and Safdarjung Tomb. In 1936, on completion of the layout of New Delhi, or Imperial Delhi as it was known then, the Lodi Tomb complex was designed as a park known as the Lady Willingdon Park, with native and exotic trees planted around the monuments.

Lodi Gardens: The Design Programme

In the design of the Lodi Gardens, Joseph Allen Stein teamed up with the landscape architecture firm of EDAW -Eckbo, Dean, Austin and Williams, from California. The programme was a part of an initiative of re-vitalization of the area known as the Lodi Estate on the edges of New Delhi. The Lodi Garden was designed as a part of the open space system of Lodi Estate, integrating the park and its historic structures with the new development at the fringe.

Design Features

Ëye Catchers

Elements to Define Vistas and Linkages

  • Planting features like the alleyé and clumps of vegetation to define and link the monuments.
  • Use of vegetation in the horizontal and vertical planes in an asymmetric manner to highlight the monument-the eye catcher 
  • Mixing of vegetation species to generate effects of texture, impermeable backdrops and silhouette 
  • Use on natural, Man-made elements in landscape 
  • Winding paths are used to create different views along the path to make the garden picturesque.

Changes in the Planting Structure

Over the years, Lodi gardens have seen a variety of changes in the manner of use of plant material. This has created new dimensions in the interaction of the monuments with the landscapes, and the resultant visual perception. The Thuja orientalis shrubs were replaced by Roystonea regia (Royal palms), forming a square enclosure along the pedestrian paths around the entire monument. A clipped hedge of Ficus benjamina runs along the perimeter of the lawns of the monument.

Trees  of  Lodi Gardens

Today there are over a hundred varieties of trees in Lodi gardens. This is a partial list documenting the local, native and exotic species:

Acaia auriculiformis Vilayti babul : Grevillea robusta Silver oak

Acacia leucophloea Ronjh/ safed kikar : Holoptelea integrifolia papri

Ailanthus excelsa Maharukh/ uloo : Haplophragma adenophyllum

Albizzia lebbeck siris : Lagerstroemia speciosa jarul

Albizzia procera Safed siris : Madhuca latiflolia mahua

Azadirachta indica neem : Magnolia grandiflora magnolia

Bauhinia purpurea kachnar : Melia azederach bakain

Bauhinia racemosa kanchan : Michelia champaca champa

Butea monosperma Dhaak/ palash : Mimusops elengi Bakul/maulshri

Casaurina equisetifolia Vilayti jhau : Mimusops hexendra khirni

Cassia fistula amaltas : Morus indica shehtoot

Cassia siamea kassod : Pithecolobium dulce Jangli jalebi

Callistemon lanceolatus : Bottle brush Plumeria rubra/ alba champa

Chorisia speciosa Floss silk tree : Polyalthia longifolia ashok

Chukrasia tabularis chakarsi : Prosopis cineraria jhand

Crateavea religiousa barna : Prosopis juliflora Vilayti kikar

Diospyros cordifolia bistendu : Pterospermum acerifolium kanakchampa

Ehretia canarensis Desi papri : Salvadora persica pilu

Eucalyptus citrodora safeda : Schleichera oleosa kusum

Erythrina indica pangara : Taxodium distichum Bald cypress

Anogeissus acuminata

References:

i) J.K. Maheshwari 1963)

ii) Shriganesh Ravindran, Landscape Research Work, M. Arch. SPA, New Delhi.

Chapter - 17

Organic Gardening Basics

(P.S.Sodhi, M. Arch. (Landscape), Architect, CPWD)

Organic gardening is not just about replacing harmful fertilizers and pesticides with natural alternatives. The art of organic gardening involves both theory and practice. The organic approach acknowledges the complexity of the natural world and aims to work within these systems.

What is Organic Gardening - The Basics for Gardening organically

The short answer is that organic gardening means not using synthetic products, including pesticides and fertilizers. Ideally, organic gardening replenishes the resources as it makes use of them. Like feeding depleted soil with composted plants, or planting legumes to add nitrogen to an area that had been planted with heavy feeder. The bigger picture involves working in cooperation with nature, viewing your garden as a small part of all the natural system.

What is meant by Organic Matter?

Organic matter is decaying plant and animal waste. It includes everything from compost, grass clipping, dried leaves and kitchen scraps to manures and fish heads. Organic matter is used as a soil amendment or conditioner. It can be worked into the soil of a new garden or used as a top dressing or mulch in an existing garden.

What’s so Important about the Soil?

One of the basic tenants of organic gardening is to “Feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants”. It’s really common sense. Plants get water, air and nutrients from the soil. Clay soil is higher in nutrients than sand and hold water better. Sometimes it holds water too well and the plants can’t get enough air. Sandy soil is well drained, but can use some amending to make it great garden soil. This is where organic matter comes into play. Adding organic matter improves any soil’s texture as well as attracting soil organisms that create nutrients in the soil.

Soil

Conventional fertilizers are generally soluble, making their ingredients readily available. Organic gardening relies on soil-living creatures to make food available to plants.

Natural Pest Control

Organic gardening aims to attract natural pest controllers to your garden. Ladybeetles, birds and lizards all help to keep pests such as aphids, snails and insects in check in your garden. Other methods such as barriers and traps, disease and pest resistant plant varieties, and crop rotation also provide natural alternatives to pest control.

Managing Weeds

Weeds are a valuable composting resource but can also compete with other plants in your garden for food and water. Options such as hoeing (Godi), mulching or the use of solar heat are natural alternatives commonly used in an organic garden.

Environment

By minimising the impact on the environment organic gardening can help make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability. This means recycling and reusing, providing habitats for natural wildlife and the use of sustainable practices.

Diseases and Pests

Organic Gardening methods are great for protecting and nurturing your plants without having to resort to environmentally harmful practices. Organic gardening emphasises the balance between healthy soil, healthy plants and the health of your family and the wider community.

Organic gardeners work with natural systems to promote healthy gardens, with the ultimate goal of sustainability without the need for artificial chemicals or additives. Listed below are the main causes of disease and ill health in your garden.

General Growth Problems

Environmental factors can have profound effects on the overall health of your garden:

Water

Water shortages leave plants susceptible to disease and pest attack. Prolonged drought stunts plant growth and can alter the natural cycles of flowering etc.

Mineral Deficiencies

Minerals such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium become unavailable to plants in extremely acidic soil and can lead to damaged leaf systems. Iron deficiency leaves plant leaves yellow in colour, however seemingly healthy. Well managed, biologically active, gardens utilizing compost and mulch tend to have only slightly acidic soils which promote healthy plant growth.

General good gardening

Many methods of organic control in the garden are simply examples of sound gardening practice.

Tip: Pests that are attracted to their host plant via smell can be confused by strong smelling companion plants e.g. inter-planting carrots with onions.

Garden Cleanliness

Carryover of pests and diseases from season to season can be prevented by good garden maintenance. A good compost heap can help kill of disease in older dead plants and methods such as winter digging can expose hibernating pests to predatory birds and ground insects.

Companion Planting

It is described as the growing of two or more different species of plant together for the benefit of one or both. For example many adult insects visit flowers for pollen and nectar and can be effective natural controllers of other unwanted pests.

Garden Cleanliness

Carry over of pests and diseases from season to season can be prevented by good garden maintenance. A good compost heap can help kill of disease in older dead plants and methods such as winter digging can expose hibernating pests to predatory birds and ground insects.

Companion Planting

It is described as the growing of two or more different species of plant together for the benefit of one or both. For example many adult insects visit flowers for pollen and nectar and can be effective natural controllers of other unwanted pests.

Using Natural Predators

A fundamental part of maintaining an organic garden is allowing the natural predators that exist in the wider environment to thrive. Many animals in the garden feed on pests. Ladybirds and their larvae are amongst the hardest workers, helping to control green fly as well as aphids. Mixing flowering plants with fruit and vegetables encourages predators such as parasitic wasps and hoverflies. It is important to recognise these natural predators and encourage their existence.

Barriers and Deterrents

Barriers around gardens certainly aren’t new and have been in use for centuries. However the use of barriers etc to control insects and smaller pests are relatively new. Simple methods such as hanging shiny silver objects in the sunlight can confuse insects such as aphid which orient their flight patterns by sunlight. Medium mesh netting can also be effective in keeping out smaller birds etc from fruit growing areas of the garden.

Where prophylactics do not work, and pest populations reach proportions where economic loss is a surety, there are a number of non-chemical methods of pest control. These include, among others:

Picking off the pest by hand (where the pest is a large caterpillar for example)

  • Use of pheromone traps
  • Use of light traps (for moths and other insects)
  • Use of predator species (a point of debate)
  • Growing trap crops (e.g. Mustard with cabbage; Maize around cotton)
  • Use of microbial pesticides and biological agents like Heliothis, Spodop-tera, Trichogramma, Trichoderma etc.
  • Using easily-prepared natural pesticides

For preparing natural bio-pesticides, a number of plants can be used. Neem, ginger, chili, vitex negundo (Indian pivet tree), custard apple (the seeds), pongamia pinnata (pongam/ karanj), asafoetida, turmeric, garlic, tobacco, sweet flag, nux vomica, tulsi and Persian lilac are among the many plants that are commonly used in pest control. Each pest requires a specific preparation.

Mulching is the use of organic materials (plastic mulch is expensive and non-biodegradable) to cover the soil, especially around plants to keep down evaporation and water loss, besides adding valuable nutrients to the soil as they decompose. Mulching is a regular process and does require some labour and plenty of organic material, but has excellent effects, including encouraging the growth of soil fauna such as earthworms, preventing soil erosion to some extent and weed control. 

Green manuring is an age-old practice prevalent since ancient times. Green manuring is beneficial in two ways - firstly it fixes nitrogen, and secondly the addition of biomass greatly helps in improving the soil texture and water holding capacity. Green leaf manuring can also be carried out if sufficient leguminous tree leaves are available.

How Do You Control Pests and Diseases without Chemicals?

Organic gardening doesn’t mean you have to share your apples with the worms, but you will probably have less than pristine looking plants and produce. Since you are trying to garden in cooperation with nature, sometimes you have to accept the occasional pest in the garden. Your first line of defense should be vigilance. Inspect your plants regularly for signs of a problem and take action quickly. Keep in mind that not every insect is a foe and that action doesn’t necessarily mean pesticide.

There are many organic pesticides available, but first make certain that there is a problem and that you know what it is. You can live with a little damage. Some insects, like the 4-lined plant bug, do their damage and then move on for the season.

Consider if you are having a pest problem because your plants are stressed and don’t have the resources to defend themselves.

Inter-planting and diversity will protect you from losing an entire crop to an infestation.

Large swaths of a single plant are pretty, but are also a landing strip for interested insects.

Many insects and larger animals are considered beneficial, preying on the insect pests. Reaching for the spray can every time you see a pest; you will be killing of the beneficial too. Lady bugs and parasitic wasps enjoy an aphid banquet. Birds will munch on grubs. Frogs, lizards and even snakes all contribute to the balance in your garden and prevent a pest population from becoming a problem.

Barriers prevent problems. Floating row covers prevent moths from landing and laying eggs. Yellow sticky traps can easily catch dozens of flying pests. Foil collars around the base of plants will foil cut worms and many borers.

There will probably come a time when you will need to apply a pesticide or lose your plants. Organic or natural pesticides can be very effective and are usually less toxic to wildlife, pets and humans than synthetic pesticides. Many organic controls can target specific problems, such as using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a type of bacteria, that kills caterpillars, but not much else. Just be sure that you know what the problem is before you treat it and that you always follow the label instructions.

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