How to Grow Your Own Food Without Pesticides and Herbicides

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greens growing in garden - change food

Growing your vegetables without pesticides or herbicides is easier than you may think. If you are looking to start a small backyard garden, organic gardening is the best way to go. While chemicals can be heavily used in large-scale, industrial agriculture production, many sprays are unnecessary for home gardeners. There are plenty of other ways to improve your soil to prevent unwanted pests and support healthy plants.

Prepping your soil, supporting beneficial insect populations, choosing the right plants, and utilizing no-till techniques are just a few tips for pesticide-free growing.  

1. Check Your Soil

Before you put seeds in the ground, you want to know the quality of your soil. You can quickly check the pH and nutrient composition of your land by ordering a soil kit or sending a soil sample to your local extension office. Organic gardening is more than just avoiding chemicals. Growing pesticide-free food involves supporting your soil so that it can produce the best crops possible.  If you are unsure about your soil quality, growing in raised beds is preferred, so you can be sure the soil you are growing in is healthy and toxin free. 

ladybug - change food

2. Support Beneficial Insects

Reducing pest pressure in your vegetable beds doesn’t mean you want to get rid of all insects. Most insects are beneficial and help maintain a healthy growing environment for your plants. Ladybugs and parasitic wasps are just a couple of examples of beneficial insects you should support. These helpful bugs eat unwanted pests and are wonderful assistants in creating a healthy habitat that’s conducive to successful planting.

One tip for supporting beneficial insects while reducing pest pressure is to water at the right time of day, and only use the amount you need. Many unwanted pests, notably fungal diseases, thrive when greenery is exposed to moisture for long periods. By watering in the morning and focusing on soil contact, gardeners can support a healthy habitat for beneficial insects without creating the perfect storm for unwanted guests. All gardeners need to be water-conscious, but it is also an essential aspect of pesticide-free gardening.

3. Choose Heirloom Varieties

Many commercial varieties of vegetables, especially those meant for large-scale production, are genetically modified to respond to pesticide treatment. For example, many corn and soybean varieties are pesticide-resistant, so the chemical sprays kill other vegetation while allowing the desirable crop to thrive.  Unfortunately, this type of farming has led to superweeds that become resistant to the pesticides, thus causing more chemicals to be sprayed on the food.  This is something you want to avoid in your garden.  The sprays are also very controversial and the companies that make them are currently facing thousands of lawsuits.  Change Food does not support genetically modified crops or seeds.  

For your vegetable garden, you will want to find varieties that are specific to home gardens. Many heirloom crops have been bred for years to be disease-resistant and drought-resistant.  This type of breeding is done naturally without any manmade genetic modification.

4. Utilize No-Till Techniques

For home gardeners looking to grow organically, no-till techniques may be especially useful. No-till gardening means that you leave the soil intact at the end of the growing season, and do not disturb the ground during the next growing season.

Research shows that no-till growing may reduce pest pressure, save water, decrease weed pressure and lead to healthier soil. Organic gardening focuses on maintaining healthy soil. When soil is disturbed on an annual basis, the delicate balance of organic matter and microbes is disrupted, making it more susceptible to pest pressure. By reducing tillage, gardeners can improve the quality of their crops while reducing pest pressure.

Pesticide-Free Growing

There is nothing better than growing your own kale or snap peas. If you are looking to integrate more veggies into your diet, growing your own food can be the perfect way to treat yourself to nutrient-dense meals and save money on groceries. Whether you have acres of land to work with or just a couple spaces on the back patio, it’s possible to grow pesticide-free food without spending hours laboring away in the garden.

By implementing a few techniques such as soil tests and no-till growing, you can build beautiful vegetables without the use of harsh chemicals.

Change Food® works toward a healthier food system for people, animals & the planet.  Learn more about Plant Eat Share – planting food in public spaces. For free.


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