Local Gardner Gets Back to Basics
At the age of six, Karen Redlin started gardening with her mother in their home garden. “Everyone had to work and be a part of the garden in our family,” she recalls. Five decades later, she integrates what her mother taught her years ago with what she believes is the best way to garden today; naturally.
“I have always felt that chemicals alter the soil and the chemistry in our bodies. That is why I grow everything as naturally as possible,” she said.
On Jan. 10, Redlin will be giving a seminar on “Back to Nature Gardening” during the annual MonDak Ag Days at the MSU-EARC facility north of Sidney from 11:30 a.m. -12:15 p.m. in an effort to help others discover the benefits of organic gardening.
Her seminar will reflect some of the ways she uses natural remedies to maintain her garden without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Some of the areas she will touch on will include pest control, the use of flowers, composting and plant companions.
According to Redlin, there are many things you can do to keep your garden safe from pests without resorting to pesticides. You can buy or make natural barriers such as netting and row covers to protect crops and flowers. Row covers can be beneficial in the spring but in the summer the thin, papery cloth can trap too much heat and cause plants to wilt. The use of row covers should be determined by weather conditions. Veil like netting can serve as a better covering in hot temperatures because it allows the to air pass through the net while keeping bugs off the plants.
Netting provides an excellent barrier from plant eating green worms known as cabbage loopers. For more invasive pests such as Voles, a destructive rodent capable of peeling enough bark from a tree to kill it, traps can be used. To keep deer away from her trees Redlin uses a natural repellent called Deer Off that she orders. “It is more expensive to do it this way, but I think it’s worth it,” she said.
Homemade remedies can also do the trick for keeping bugs at bay. Simple solutions consisting of garlic, chili powder and other home products can keep bugs off plants.
A short term solution to getting rid of garden bugs is to blast them off of leaves with a strong stream of water. But, they will come back.
To keep the biting bugs away, Redlin makes two-liter pop-bottle traps consisting of a mixture of sugar, water and yeast. She then wraps the bottle in a black plastic bag.
Of course, not all bugs are bad. Good bugs in the garden can eat harmful insects, pollinate fruit trees and berries, decompose plant waste and break it down into fertilizer, serve as food for birds and animals that also eat pests and aerate and improve the soil.
Many people think crops and flowers won’t grow without chemicals to help in the form of fertilizer. Most natural soils are easily able to supply all of our plants with natural nutrients. Plant growth will be steady, sustained and more natural than rapid growth produced by adding large quantities of artificial fertilizer. This can also be achieved by recycling plant wastes such as dead leaves and lawn clippings in the garden and by introducing animal manures and composts.
It is also beneficial to grow flowers in the garden. Clusters of flowers can provide nectar to bees who can then pollinate the area. Many plants can also deter pests naturally. For example, planting wormwood can repel moths.
Today, Redlin’s garden expends a half-acre lot where she grows enough fruits and vegetables to sustain her family for nearly an entire year. It is full of strawberries, juneberries, rhubarb, asparagus, horse radish, cherries, garlic, peas, onions, squash, pumpkins and just about every other delectable edible imaginable.
While the temperatures outside are currently not suited for gardening, Redlin is already looking through stacks of catalogs and magazines to map out what she will grow next year. “I love experimenting and trying new things,” she said. She also keeps detailed maps and journals of her garden to refer to and help her decide what she wants to do during the new growing season.
Redlin gets started with her garden long before the snow melts. Inside, she starts her own plants from seedlings by cutting up milk cartons to serve as pots and warming them with a heating pad and moveable lights to compensate for sunlight.
She also maintains over 100 house plants.
Working at a desk-job for many years, Redlin said gardening has always been the one place where she could go for some fresh air, exercise and to enjoy the outdoors. “It’s very satisfying to watch something grow. I have always found that I am most creative when I am in my garden. It has also always been the one place where I could go and relax,” she commented.
In recent years she has taught her children and her niece about gardening and they too enjoy growing gardens.
“I think one of the most important aspects of gardening is always remembering your garden controls you. When it’s ready to be harvested you can’t wait until you have the time to do it. When it’s ready, you need to be,” she said.