Organic Pest control
For the natural gardener, pest control might seem like a daunting task. After all, you’re committed to not using harmful chemicals in your garden, yet these chemicals can get rid of pests quickly and easily.
There are still many ways you can take control of your garden without resorting to chemical treatments. Natural pest control is actually quite easy. We certainly understand that many gardeners become
anxious when they see pests on their plants and want to react decisively when they see their plants damaged. But we must remind you of the central principle of organic gardening: growing plants in harmony with Nature.
And insects, even those that eat your plants, are a crucial part of that system. When you see insects in your garden, take some time to really watch what they're doing. Are they actually destroying the plant or just nibbling it a bit? Many plants can outgrow minor damage.
Also, in many cases, insects attack stressed out plants. Do you have enough healthy plants to spare the sickly ones? Can you restore sickly plants to robust health so they can resist insect attack?
The best defenses against insect attack are preventative measures. Grow plants suited to the site and they'll be less stressed out. Don't let them be too wet, too dry or too shaded. Design a diverse garden, so that pests of
a particular plant won't decimate an entire section of the garden. Healthy soil will naturally produce plants that are resistant to insects and disease, but pests are a part of gardening.
There are different ways you can control pests naturally.
SPRAYS AND POWDERS
There are a number of natural botanical sprays and powders available in garden centers. These are derived from plants and not made in a lab. We’ll look at a few of the more common ones available .
Insecticidal soap is sodium or potassium salts combined with fatty acids. If you use soap, it must come in direct contact with the insect and it must be wet. It is no longer effective once it has dried.
The fatty acids in the soap penetrate the insect’s outer covering and cause the cells to collapse. This is one of the safest organic pesticides to use because there is no residue, it is non-toxic to animals, and you can use it on your vegetables all the way up to harvest.
Be cautious, however, soap can burn or stress plants, so don’t use it in full sun or high temperatures.
Bacteria spray is also commonly known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). There are more than 80 types of Bt used as pesticides. It is a stomach poison that releases toxins in the
stomachs of insects that causes them to stop eating and starve to death. It is generally available in powdered form that is sprinkled or dusted on a plant. It must be eaten by the targeted insect. Bt strains are very host specific and will not harm people, pets, birds or bees, but it can be very slow
acting taking days for the insect to completely stop eating and die. It can also kill some of the beneficial insects in your garden.
Neem is a spray that is derived from the seed kernels of the neem tree fruit. It is sprayed onto the plant’s leaves which will upset the insect’s hormonal system and prevents it from developing to its mature stage. Neem is most effective on immature insects and species that undergo
complete metamorphosis. Use caution with Neem as it can be damaging to pets, so keep them away from freshly sprayed leaves until the liquid dries. Neem is non-toxic to humans.
Horticultural Oil is highly refined petroleum oil that is mixed with water and sprayed onto foliage. It coats and suffocates insects or disrupts their feeding. There is a low toxicity to humans, pets, and birds and does not leave behind any toxic residue. Be careful you
don’t burn the leaves of your plants when you use this oil.
Rotenone and Pyrethrum are most readily available and are often used in combination. They are derived from the roots of tropical legumes. It generally comes in powder form that is dusted onto the plant. These will inhibit the cellular process thus depriving insects of oxygen in their
tissue cells. This is a broad spectrum pesticide and can be used with many types of pests.
If you are using a spray, dilute it in water and use only as needed. Of course, follow application directions on the label. The best time to apply sprays and powders is in the evening or in early morning. And always read the labels of anything you buy commercially. Just because a pesticide is
organic doesn’t mean it isn’t toxic.
You don’t HAVE to use anything on your plants if you depend on other animals to help you control pests.
ANIMALS AND BUGS
Birds, ladybugs and praying mantises are the gardener's best friends when it comes to insect control. Birds can be encouraged into the garden by feeding, hanging a birdhouse providing a bird bath or by planting plants that provide berries for them to eat.
Ladybugs can be purchased from your local gardening centre (not all centres sell them) The average adult ladybug consumes between 40 and 50 aphids a day.
Praying mantis cases are also available and each one hatches up to 400 young. The cost is rather nominal for a case. A few gardeners have reported that this insect disappears rather rapidly from the garden, so you might want to experiment with just a few to begin with. They will at any insect they can catch.
Frogs and lizards can also control pests by eating them. You can make your garden hospitable for your natural allies by keeping a water source – just a dish full nearby for them and by not wiping out the entire pest population with a pesticide, sending the beneficial elsewhere in search of food.
Also, grow plants with small blossoms like sweet alyssum and dill, which attract predatory insects who feed on flowers' nectar between attacks on pests.
Organic pest control is a comprehensive approach instead of a chemical approach. Create a healthy biodiversity so that the insects and microbes will controlthemselves.
Using natural products and building healthy soil is the best long-term treatment for pests.