Natural Pest Control for Your Garden

Mother Nature does a wonderful job of keeping the pest populations in control by maintaining a balance between them and their predators. Environmental conditions, such as, the amount of rain, hours of sunlight, and temperature levels all affect what pests will survive to reproduce. When land is cleared to plant a garden, it changes the dynamics between pest populations and natural controls. For example, pests can destroy a garden very quickly when their predators need a shady area with thick undergrowth to survive and these areas have been cleared. Pest populations in the garden can be controlled directly by using pesticides. Unfortunately, synthetic pesticides kill beneficial insects and animals that help break down the soil, pollinate flowers, and eat harmful pests. In addition, the use of pesticides contaminates the soil, ground water, and the produce we grow to consume. Provided below, is a list that describes the steps for ecological pest management without using harmful chemicals.

Steps to Control Pest Problems:

  1. Identify the problem. What types of pests are causing problems? Are they manageable? Do they damage your crops or transmit disease?

    Examples:
    • Weeds (such as Crab grass)
    • Animals (such as Deer)
    • Microorganisms (such as Viruses, fungi or bacteria)
    • Insect pests (such as Aphids)
  2. Can this problem be prevented from occurring again?

    Examples:
    • Lay down mulch or plant earlier before weeds appear.
    • Build a fence to keep deer out.
    • Plant disease free or resistant seeds and nursery stock and ensure you use proper sanitation, including the washing of tools to slow down the spread of pests.
    • Use healthy, enriched soil. This builds strong plants with a high resistance to pests. e) Time your crops so that they do not coincide with known pest breeding seasons.
    • Practice crop rotation to stop this year's insect larvae from infecting next year's crop. g) Do not plant too many of one species of plants in the same place, as it gives pests an added advantage.
    • Grow certain varieties together. Marigolds, for example, deter insects. Rue branches placed near strawberries or tomatoes keep most pests away.
  3. Is there something that you can do physically to cut down on the infestation?

    Examples:
    • Weed your garden thoroughly.
    • Leave a strip of uncultivated ground to protect predator and parasite species.
    • Thinning can increase air circulation and consequently reduce the amount of mildew.
    • Traps can be used for slugs, earwigs, and ants.
    • Wash off with water or remove by hand any visible insects that are considered pests.
    • Remove infested plants.
    • Feed and water your plants regularly. Well-nourished plants are less susceptible to disease and pest infestation.
  4. Are there biological control agents available? Biological pest control includes: other insects that prey on pests but won't eat your garden, birds, moles, toads, parasites and diseases produced by fungi and viruses.

    Examples:
    • Lady bugs, praying mantises, and trichogramma wasps are a few of a wide variety of predator insects available at your nursery or through mail order.
    • Make sure you leave an area of the garden such as the border in it's natural state so these beneficial bugs have some where to stay. Predator bugs will die off or move to a new location after they have devoured the pests.
  5. Will home made organic sprays work?

    Examples:
    • In blender mix 4 cloves of garlic and 1 onion. Put mixture into large glass container and add 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of hot pepper sauce (bottled). Let steep for 2 days, then strain mixture and add one tablespoon of mild dish soap (ivory). Dilute with 5 cups of water and spray plants weekly with mister.
    • Add pyrethrum (chrysanthemum) flowers to boiling water and strain for natural pesticide.
  6. If nothing else works, use a chemical for pest control that is acceptable to an organic gardener.

    Examples:
    • Safers soap - is non-toxic and can keep a pest problem under control but does not eradicate the eggs, resulting in numerous applications.
    • Rotenone can be used for aphids, thrips, spider mites, and white flies. It is organic but needs to be reapplied often and is messy.
    • Other acceptable chemicals to an organic gardener are neem, sabadilla, and pyrethrum.

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