We prevent problems by design, rather than fighting symptoms with poisons.
Instead we gently protect the surface of the soil with living plants and when that’s not possible with mulch (compost, straw, leaves, landscape fabric). This lets the creatures in the soil do their work without the chaotic disruption caused by plows, cultivators and rototillers — just imagine one of those driving through your house! A healthy soil, teeming with life is the foundation of healthy crops and healthy food.
That means we don’t plant all our tomatoes right beside each other. If we did that and a pest or disease found one of them, all our tomatoes would quickly fall victim to that pest or disease. Instead we mix things up. So the tomatoes are separated by beds of onions and carrots. We pay attention to which crops like each and do our best to make them neighbours. That’s companion planting. Fortunately, as veggie growers, we grow a lot of different crops which makes it easy to have diversity in the garden.
So, we mulch our tomatoes with straw. The straw prevents the tomatoes from getting muddy and splashed with soil when it rains — that helps keep the tomatoes healthy, even in cool and wet years. Plus the straw keeps the soil nice and cool and moist — that also helps the tomatoes, especially in a dry year. And it keeps the weeds down. Pruning and trellising the tomatoes also keeps them healthy by keeping them off the ground and dry.
That means we move crops around rather than planting them in the same spot year in and year out. Our rotation is 6 years along. So if we planted tomatoes in a part of the garden, it will be 6 years before they come back. That makes it harder for pests and diseases to get a toe-hold.
Do we really need to explain this one?
We use cultural practices to keep everyone healthy and thriving. Cultural practices are a bit like table manners. Ways of doing things that make everyone more comfortable. We nurture many different plant species and make space for a diversity of animals (including pollinators, reptiles and amphibians, sheep, flying squirrels and birds).
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