Demythologising the use of biologicals

Biologicals may not yet be a buzzword, but they are the next building block for a healthy, safe environment.

As societies actively move from self care to earth care, biomimicry is being consulted for inspiration and innovation, says Donvae Hooker from Andermatt Madumbi, part of the Swiss based biological solutions group.

That includes biological products that use living organisms to manage pests and stimulate growth for agriculture, food gardening or general gardening.

For instance, biostimulants use kelp or fulvic acid, while those that target pests or disease use micro-organisms, natural predators, like ladybirds, and even insect pheromones.

Because today’s biological products offer effective pest and disease control, they can reduce the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. With low to no residues, they are suitable for organic use and are friendly to beneficial insects, says Hooker.


Make your choices count

Hooker hopes that as people become more aware of the link between healthy food and a healthy environment, they will realise that their choices do matter and that each person has a role to play in creating a healthier environment.

While it can start with an intentional move away from synthetic or chemical garden-care products to softer and safer solutions, what’s really required is a complete change in mindset, Hooker suggests.

It’s about understanding the cost to the environment and not just to our own pockets. By proactively making the right environmentally friendly choices, the expense of mitigating the effects of chemical fertilisers and pesticides on the soil, water resources and air, fall away. That includes the expense in terms of our own health and well-being.


Safety controls

Although biologicals like EcoBuz range of root health, plant vitality and bio protection products, are still new to the garden scene, they have moved from the ‘pioneering’ to the ‘competitive’ stage, as more gardeners change their choices to safer nature friendly products.

While biological solutions differ from conventional synthetic solutions they are not exempt from registration, says Hooker.

“Biological products need to meet the same criteria as conventional chemical solutions which means they are governed by the same stringent controls.”


A new season

With March being the start of a new sowing and planting season, it’s the ideal time to start a biological programme that boosts soil health, provides the correct nutrients and protects and strengthens seedlings from soil borne root diseases.


What to sow

March and April are the main sowing months for cool season veggies like lettuce, Swiss chard and Asian greens, brassicas (Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi) and root veggies like leeks, onions (Texas Grano), parsnip, radish, carrots (Cape Market), beetroot, and turnips.

March is also the ideal time for sowing sweet peas. Plant climbing sweet peas in well prepared trenches 50cm deep. Those sown now will flower in June and a second batch sown in April for flowering in spring.

Other cool season annuals to grow from seed are African daisies, alyssum, carnations, calendula, gazania, nasturtiums, pansies, primulas, poppies and violas.


Step-By-Step Guide

Most winter flowers are suitable for sowing in situ (directly into the soil) while it is generally easier and more successful to sow veggie seeds in seeding trays and later transplant into the garden.


Growing in situ

After in situ sowing, make up an EcoBuz root health mixture in a 5 litre watering can: 5g packets each of HumiGro, StartGro and Root Pro. Water the bed with the EcoBuz root health mixture and keep the soil consistently moist during germination.

Two weeks after germination drench with another application of StartGro and thereafter once a month with MultiGro, the all-in-one nutrient blend that acts as a biostimulant to maintain healthy growth.


Starting in seed trays

Fill the seed tray with a specialised seedling mix. Add a 5g-packet each of HumiGro, StartGro and Root Proto a 5litre watering can with a fine rose, fill it up with water, stir and gently moisten the seedling mix.

Sow the seeds, pressing them down lightly and cover with a thin layer of seedling mix.

Gently water the seeds, again using the watering can filled with the EcoBuz root health mixture.

Place the seed tray in a warm, sheltered place in light shade and make sure that the soil mix remains moist during germination.

Transplant once the seedlings are large enough to handle. After planting, water with StartGro diluted in a 5l watering can. This helps them overcome root shock. Thereafter feed once a month with MultiGro.

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