While most old, discarded railroad ties no longer pose a risk from creosote (due to age and weathering), if you choose to use them to frame your raised beds, consider putting a heavy plastic liner between the ties and the soil.
- Work compost into soil to increase soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients. Compost also supports beneficial soil microbes that help spur healthy plant growth.
- Avoid planting large blocks of the same crop, which offers an easy target for pests.
- Protect soil from compaction with wide rows or raised planting beds. Permanent footpaths also prevent soil compaction.
- Inspect plants daily to catch pest and disease attacks before they become major problems.
- Research pest and disease problems to learn all control options.
- Choose synthetic chemicals for pest control only when all other methods fail. Select a target-specific chemical (which targets a specific insect) instead of a broad-spectrum one (which targets many different types of insects).
- Hang birdhouses and add a birdbath to attract insect-eating birds to your garden, but be ready to share some fruit with them, too. (Or, don’t do this one.)
- Let leafy crops, such as broccoli or greens, flower at the end of their season to provide nectar for beneficial insects.
- Mulch planting beds to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.