Organic gardening is good for the environment and good for your health. But what about organic garden pest control?
First, remember that some bugs are not pests; they actually help protect your organic garden. Ladybugs eat aphids, mites, whitefly, and scale. Lacewings and hover-flies eat aphids and other pests. The Praying Mantis likes most garden pests. And one problem with pesticides is that they kill both the wanted and unwanted bugs.
Pest control for organic gardening starts with some basic prevention steps:
- Make sure the soil is healthy and fertile by rotating your plants, adding compost, and mulching.
- Choose the right plants for your location, using native species when possible. Native plants are naturally better protected from native pests.
- Learn about plants and the bugs that affect them. Some plants are more pest-resistant than others. Diversify your organic garden with a variety of plants so that the plants protect each other from pests.
- Remove any diseased or weak plants from your garden immediately, as they are more likely to attract pests. And wash any tools used on those plants before using them on healthy plants to avoid spreading problems.
- Keep plants dry when possible. Water early in the day so that plants will be dry for most of the day. Wet plants are more likely to attract insects and fungus.
- Keep the garden clear of debris where insects could breed.
Other methods of organic garden pest control include using strong smelling substances, such as garlic, rhubarb, and fish. Using fish fertilizer has been shown to deter mites, caterpillars, and nematodes.
For an all-purpose pest control spray, The Organic Home Garden by Patrick Lima recommends the following mixture:
- Blend a few garlic bulbs, a small onion or a handful of chives, and one tablespoon of cayenne pepper in one quart of water.
- Let the mixture steep for one hour, and then strain though a cloth and put in spray bottle.
- Add one tablespoon pure liquid soap or cooking oil to help the spray stick.
- Shake well and spray on plants. Store in a cool place.
Many other such formulas are available, based on the particular pest and other factors. Probably the most basic method to get rid of pests in your organic garden is by hand picking the bugs off the plant. Of course, it’s time consuming and only works for bugs you can readily see, but it’s a favorite technique of many organic gardeners.
Effective organic gardening pest control techniques can vary depending on the types of plants, the types of pests, and the climate. You may need to experiment and keep track of what works for a particular plant and particular pest and what doesn’t work. But in the end you have the satisfaction of having pesticide-free vegetables and other plants in your organic garden.