Guest Post: Six Tips for Kid-friendly, Chemical-free Vegetable Gardening

Alessandra Winfield
Alessandra Winfield enjoys spending time out in the garden with her kids and shares her tips
Today’s guest post is written by Alessandra Winfield – a Dietitian, homeschool mum of 2 boys and writer of the blog Practical Skills for Kids. She has been gardening since she was a little girl, learning from her grandmother. She just loves teaching kids all sorts of skills like gardening and cooking. 
As a Dietitian I am seeing a lot of children and adults with food sensitivities. Unlike an allergy, food sensitivities can be subtle and symptoms only appear when the person has eaten over their threshold on certain types of food. While there is much more research needed in this area, there have been suggestions that chemicals in farming may have contributed to these sensitivities.
One of the best skills we can teach our children is how to grow food without the use of chemicals, also known as organic gardening. Here are my top six tips to deter the damaging pests and diseases in your garden:
Healthy Soil
Healthy soil is important for growing a healthy and bountiful garden.
  1. Make sure you have HEALTHY SOIL. Healthy soil means feeding it with plenty of compost and natural fertilisers like manure and worm castings. Healthy soil also depends on water, so keep the water up and provide mulch to prevent evaporation. Remember not to add your diseased plants into the compost or they’ll end up back in your soil.
  2. CROP ROTATION can prevent pests and diseases. Each season plant something different in the plot of soil. This prevents any disease or pest to establish themselves e.g. where you had tomatoes this year, next time plant a root crop like carrots. When the carrots have finished, plant a leafy crop like cabbages. Each time your crop has finished, feed your soil with more compost and manure. In some instances you may need to add lime, so check what your next crop needs in the soil.
  3. Consider COMPANION PLANTING. This simply means placing other plants with your crops to deter pests. Companion plants help the other plants in a variety of ways like feeding the soil, sending off an aroma that pests avoid or protecting from diseases like nematodes. Tomatoes grow well with basil and marigolds, beans grow well with sweetcorn, and parsley grows well with capsicum.
  4. Attract the GOOD CRITTERS into your garden. Not all insects are pests, some are great at eating other insects that damage your food garden. To attract these good insects try planting flowering herbs like feverfew, lavender, basil, rosemary and nasturtium.
    Frogs can help control pests in the garden
    Many different animals, including frogs, can help control pests in the garden.
  5. Other ANIMALS can help. The good old backyard chook can help control pests in your garden, so too, can frogs and birds. Why not create a pond habitat to attract the frogs and some bird-attracting shrubs to help you produce organic food?
    You can make your own pest spray at home
    Making your own organic pest spray is much better for the environment and many are safe for kids to use too.
  6. Make your own PEST SPRAY. There are many recipes on making your own pesticide spray that only use natural ingredients. Some are more effective than others, so give some a try to see what works best for you. Try mixing crushed garlic, onion and chilli with some water, place in a spray bottle and spray around the plants.

I hope you find success in some or all of these strategies to reduce chemicals in the food your family eats. You never know, it may go a long way in reducing their susceptibility to food sensitivities.