Believe it or not pest problem is much less when no pesticides are used. Pests are there but not usually in great numbers to overwhelm the garden. Usually they are kept in check by the friendly bugs.
Most people know the lady bug and some are also familiar with the lacewing but there are number of other insects which will be inhabiting your garden a few weeks to months after pesticide use is stopped.
Fertilizing the plants does not need any chemistry knowledge. A healthy soil is what plants need. Mimic nature to feed the soil and it will be healthy. Healthier the soil, better are the plants and more nutritious is the produce.
In El Paso, as in other desert areas, soil varies from region to region even within the city area. There are rocky lands, clay areas and others are sandy, loam. Some houses may have builder’s sand in their backyards with no organic matter. Whether sandy or clay, the soil is alkaline in desert.
There are challenges to gardening in alkaline soil with little rainfall (about 8” annual rainfall for El Paso, TX). Alkaline soil makes absorption of some nutrients by the plants difficult. As a result plants may get various deficiencies and may exhibit some stress signs.
There are many chemicals available in the garden stores to fix the soil pH, mineral imbalances, nitrogen depletion and other soil deficiencies. Soil and plant problems as well as their solutions are complex and not completely understood by science.
There is a simpler and healthier way to solving most soil and plant problems. Organic Matter and plant diversity. No one is spraying fertilizers and pesticides in a forest and yet it thrives, better than a lot of gardens.
An already diseased plant may not show quick response by adding organic matter but there will be less diseased plants in your garden to begin with. A chemically fertilized garden may show quick growth response or quick disease fixes but there will be a lot more disease process to deal with and the fixes are temporary. It is similar to human health in some ways - best way to deal with diseases is to not let them happen in the first place, prevent them. Maintaining good health is the best way to prevent diseases. Maintaining good soil health with organic matter is what the plants need to maintain good health.
Again, science may not have all the answers to precisely how the organic matter solves various problems but it has worked for thousands of years and it still works well in nature, in forests. Some facts are known, that increasing organic matter improves soil fertility, texture, water holding capacity and pH. There are probably other several unknown factors in the organic matter essential for plant growth.
A chemical free garden is not only healthier for everyone but is also much easier.