Published on August 1st, 2012 | by Chris Keenan
Organic Pest Control: What Works and What Doesn’t
If you have a garden, chances are that pest control is a constant preoccupation if not a full-out obsession. Many of us opt for organic pest control options, but the solutions are varied and numerous depending on what you’re trying to grow and your geographical location. Sometimes researching organic pest control is more overwhelming than the Japanese Beetles covering your roses. In this article we’ll discuss the top five garden pests and the best organic solutions to get rid of them in order to enjoy a bumper crop.
Although sprinkling crushed egg shells around plants where slugs are seen is a commonly touted solution, it’s not very effective. Gardeners report little success with the egg shell technique. Instead try handpicking or hire your chickens and ducks. As it turns out, ducks are excellent slug spotters. They’ll pick your garden clean of slugs and give you an egg in return.
Summer and winter squash are the main foods for squash bugs, and one would think ducks and chickens would be able to control an infestation. They’re not. Squash bugs can take over a squash crop in a day, and a flock of ducks won’t be able to stop them. The most effective solution is handpicking. Then at the end of the season, be sure to dispose of infested plants to break the squash bug life cycle.
In the early morning, take a piece of cardboard to the garden row and place it under a plant. Gently shake the plant, and when the bugs and eggs fall to the cardboard, brush them into a bucket of soapy water. Row covers are another good solution.
Insecticidal soap is good for coping with aphids or prune the parts of the plant that are infected. However, most gardeners will agree that planting companion plants to attract beneficial insects is the most affective practice.
Companion plants such as zinnias, cosmos, calendula or nasturtiums will attract birds and beneficial insects that will feed on the aphids. Some gardeners prefer to buy ladybugs and release them over plants with aphid infestations, but there’s no way to ensure that the ladybugs will stay after they’ve eaten the aphids. Companion plants will stay right where you plant them and will lure beneficial insects like hoverflies to feast on your garden pests.
Imported Cabbage Worms
You’ll know you have these worms if you see small white butterflies with brown spots in your garden. A row cover is a good way to cut down on the butterflies that will lay eggs on your plants, but your best organic options are two biological pesticides. Bt, or Bacillus thuringiensis, and spinosad are the best biological pesticides to use against imported cabbage worms. Companion plantings do not work well against this particular pest. Another option is paper wasps.
“They’re friendly, docile and voracious eaters of cabbageworms. My garden is full of cabbage butterflies, but I’ve yet to see a single worm; the wasps beat me to it,” said one Mid-Atlantic gardener.
To attract paper wasps to your garden, hang small bird feeders without their bottoms.
Squash Vine Borers
These furry looking flying insects bore into the stems of squashes. Crop rotation will disrupt their life cycle, but the most effective way to combat these pests is by carefully choosing the type of squash you plant. Butternut squash and pumpkins aren’t as susceptible to squash vine borers, and open-pollinated varieties survive best. Because the open-pollinated varieties grow more roots than hybrids, they can survive better if a borer attacks one of their stems. The C. moschata varieties are also more borer resistant because they have solid stems.
Choosing organic pest control solutions for your garden are better for the environment and your family. Depending on the pest, you can discover the best way to combat the insects in ways that will preserve the soil and prove non-toxic to those eating the fruits of your gardening labor. Some trial and error may be involved, but ultimately, you will be gardening for the better.