Garden pests can be handled organically, both treating them as they occur and working to prevent infestations. Here are some organic pest control ideas that you can start using today.
Garden pests! My top ten list of things I hate includes coming out to the garden in the morning and finding out that the aphids or cutworms have been there first.
I’m not the only one who wants to scream when your squash leaves and blossoms have been turned into pretty lace by those horrible pests!
The trick to dealing with them isn’t just treating them as they occur. That will make you mad, trying to keep ahead of those hungry miniature monsters. Instead, you need to take steps to prevent infestations. And you do NOT need toxic chemicals to do so.
Simple Organic Pest Control Ideas for Your Food Garden
There are many organic solutions available, but you can make your own pest repellent sprays by using recipes that can be found in most organic gardening books. Most of them will be sort of like a tea, made with things like hot pepper sauce and garlic. You can make my recipe for organic red pepper spray with ingredients you have at home.
When you can, you should try to plant species that are native to the area in which you live. This is why we planted Jerusalem artichokes this year and maintain a rhubarb patch. These plants have natural immunity to many common diseases in the area. There are also plants that are pest-resistant, and won’t have as many problems with pests as other varieties. This makes organic pest control a lot easier than if you were growing non-native plants.
Confuse the pests
If you plant early enough, you may be able to avoid the worst part of the bug season. Insects have just a short period of each year in which they will be active and eating your plants. If you plant early, you may be able to harvest before those insects terrorize your plants. Alternately, if you have the growing season in which to do it, plant later than usual.
Bring in the army!
You should do everything you can to encourage natural insect predators like ladybugs, praying mantis, ground beetles, and birds. Some types of plants like mint and rosemary can attract many beneficial bugs that can help you keep other insects under control. When I grow potatoes, I pile on lots and lots of hay, which provides a safe environment for the insects that prey on potato bugs.
You should keep a close eye on your plants to spot potential problems before they get out of control. If you see a hornworm on your tomato plants, pluck it off quickly and drown it in soapy water. By watching your plants daily, you have a chance to stop these problems before they become too difficult to handle. Being in your garden daily is good for the plants, but it’s good for you, too.
Know your enemy
If you’re having trouble with a particular pest, you can take pictures and then try to identify the pest. Organic pest control is often quiet specific to that pest, so you need to know what you’re dealing with.
Go online and try to search for it. If you can’t identify it, you can take your pictures to your local county extension office or library and ask for help identifying it. There are also sure to be gardening clubs in your area. In our community, the gardening club is filled with people of all ages, including seniors in their 80s and 90s who have many decades of experience growing with our climate, pests and weeds.
Once you’ve identified the pest, you can ask for advice with regards to controlling it. Just be sure to tell them you’re an organic gardener, and ask them if they have any ideas for you.
Old School still works
Don’t forget old-fashioned methods like beer traps for slugs and toad houses to encourage those pest-eaters!
You may be able to prevent some pests by installing netting over your plants. Although this is probably a last resort, you may be able to save your plants from utter devastation if you have a particularly bad season of beetles or other such bugs.
Just remember, netting will also prevent beneficial insects from reaching your plants, so if some pests make it through, it may be harder to detect them and for predator insects to control them.
Don’t give up
If you lose a crop to insects, you may be tempted to abandon organic gardening and rush out to buy a chemical spray. A lot of organic gardeners experience this! Don’t feel bad.
It can certainly be very frustrating to deal with pests, especially when you’ve worked very hard to take care of your plants all season. Here is one bit of advice that I found invaluable, though. Beneficial insects (and birds, toads and more) will show up only when there is food for them to eat.
Let nature correct the balance, without introducing poisonous chemicals. If you do that, Ladybugs and lacewings will show up to deal with those aphids.
Actually, most of the beneficial insects eat aphids. Ground beetles will definitely appear to eat delicious slugs, caterpillars and cutworms.
Only a tiny percentage – 1% – of insects are detrimental to your garden. The other 99% are your friends and, if allowed, will happily eat the pests!
But just remember, organic gardening has so many benefits that it’s really worth it to go through all of the extra work. Your family will be rewarded with healthy food that is safe to eat!