Tag Archives: garden pests

Tips for Organic Pest Management

Especially for new gardeners, seeing your veggies getting munched by pests can really dampen your gardening enthusiasm. There are a few ways you can solve your pest problem without resorting to chemicals.

Control

Handpicking

If you have a small garden one of the best things you can do is handpick pests. Small insects like Potato beetles are easy to squash with your fingers. For larger insects like tomato hornworms you may want to carry a bucket of soapy water to drop them into.

Note leave any hornworms with white eggs on their back. These are eggs of parasitic wasps that will help control the problem.

Ducks

Ducks and other small livestock can be helpful in ridding your garden from certain pests. Ducks are great at eating slugs! Of course, they’re a serious commitment and can also harm your garden by eating and trampling plants.

Organic Pesticides

These include products like neem oil and diatomaceous earth as well as homemade options. A popular mixture is one quart of water with 4-5 drops of dish soap and a few garlic cloves. After soaking for a few hours the garlic can be strained out and the mixture sprayed onto the plant’s leaves to kill and deter pests.

With any pesticide it’s important to keep in mind you may also be harming beneficial insects.

Prevention

While it may be too late for this season prevention is always the best option. Specially when it comes to termites, it is better to start getting  termite control services early on.

Plant a Trap Crop

If you notice that one particular variety of brassica is particularly infested with cabbage worms you can use this to your advantage. Use these varieties to draw pests away from others. Some folks choose to burn a trap crop that becomes heavily infested. This can help prevent pests from reproducing and being a problem the following season.

Plant a Late (or Early) Crop

If you struggled with Mexican Bean Beetles at the beginning of the summer you may have better luck with a fall crop. Experimenting with when you plant and learning about pest’s life cycles can help you work around their peak times. Keeping a garden journal can be really helpful with this!

Use Row Cover

Row cover can be used for more than just frost protection. Lightweight row cover is perfect for keeping out some pests as long as it’s set up over plants early. We sometimes use row cover or tulle to protect brassicas from cabbage moths.

Practice Crop Rotation

Avoid planting the same type of crop (ie. brassicas) in the same place more than one year. Many pests over winter in the soil and will be ready to attract plants again the following year. Check out our post, Planning Crop Rotation by Plant Family.

Attract Beneficial Birds/Insects

Some birds and insects are the natural predators to common garden pests. Making your property a haven for these creatures can help prevent pests from getting out of hand.

Keep Plant’s Healthy

Weak plants are more likely to attract pests. Keep your plants healthy by weeding, watering, and building healthy soil.

Organic Pest Control: Japanese Beetles

A species of scarab beetle, these iridescent insects can be a nightmare for gardeners. Japanese beetles or Popillia japonica skeletonize the leaves of many plant species leaving just the veins. As the females eat throughout the early summer they lay eggs in the ground, eventually producing 40-60. Around midsummer, these eggs hatch into larvae which feed on grass roots until fall when they burrow 4-8 inches into the ground and go dormant for winter. In late spring they become pupae and eventually beetles which emerge from the soil and begin the cycle anew.

Solutions

If you struggled with Japanese beetles in your garden this summer, fall is the perfect time of year to take care of them. Here are a few ways you can control Japanese beetles in your garden.

Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes or Steinernema feltiae are worm-like parasites that move through the soil and feed on Japanese beetle and other larvae. When beetles are in their larvae stage spreading nematodes on your lawn or around your fruit trees and garden can be effective.

Milky Spore 

Milky spore or Bacillus popilliae is a bacteria that attacks Japanese beetles in their larval stage. It can be spread on lawns and gardens. Apply before the ground freezes.

Chickens

If you have chickens giving them free rein of the garden or around fruit trees during fall and winter can help. Chickens actively forage for insects in the soil. While their incessant scratching can be a problem around your plants in the middle of summer it can be extremely helpful in the fall. They’ll dig up and eat the larvae. During the summer they’ll also enjoy eating the beetles but you’ll want to limit their time in the garden and fence off small plants that can be easily damaged. This is where you choose your color from, plenty to choose from just check this website and find the perfect one for your house.

If free-ranging your chickens even for a bit isn’t an option for you, consider putting up moveable fencing. A plastic deer netting will work in a pinch or you can invest in something electric netting which is easy to move, allowing you to rotate your chickens’ pasture.

If you’re reading this because you are suffering from pest infestation at home there are many companies that can assist you. Kevin Scappaticci from Platinum Squirrel Removal in Michigan helps homeowners daily with squirrel infestations. He warns the biggest issues with squirrels in the attic is entry points allowing water into homes causing mold damages and home or business fires from gnawing wires in the attic.

Welcome-to-the-Garden Pollinator Collection

Wildflowers

Some studies (like this one from 2015), have indicated that wildflower plantings can increase insect biodiversity and the number of beneficial insects in gardens and reduce pest issues.

Floating Row Cover

While not necessarily the easiest solution, adult Japanese beetles can also be kept at bay with floating row cover.

Neem Oil

Some folks have also had success using neem oil to protect plants from adult beetles. It’s an organic pesticide and fungicide that’s used for a variety of garden problems and is available in many garden supply stores. It’s generally sprayed directly onto the plant. Multiple applications may be necessary throughout the season.

Crop Rotation & Cover Cropping

As always we recommend keeping your soil and therefore plants healthy by employing crop rotation and cover crops. Healthy plants are much less susceptible to pest problems. Fall is the perfect time of year for a soil test as well.

Sources

Organic Integrated Pest Management

As lovely and romantic as organic gardening can be it can also be really tough. A huge struggle for many organic gardeners is dealing with pests in an efficient and economical way without the use of pesticides or rodenticides. Developing an organic integrated pest management system or IPM can help.

Monitor & Identify

The first step is to monitor your garden and identify any pest issues. Record any problems in a garden journal and be as specific as possible. Research the type of pests you’re seeing and their life cycles. Are they cabbage worms or cabbage loopers attacking your broccoli plants? Also record dates and conditions when they attack your garden. Do aphids destroy your fall crop of lettuce or do the only impact your spring sowings? The more you learn about these pests the easier it is to prevent them. You should also consider at this time if the pests are actually a problem. Having to pick off a few tomato hornworms may not be worth putting major preventative measures in place if they’re not actually affecting the productivity in your garden and are otherwise easily managed.

Prevention

This is the most important part of an IPM. Once you’ve gathered information you can put preventative measures in place. Knowing a pest’s habitat and life cycle can be key. Examples of of preventative measures include planting a crop late or early to avoid a major pest season (ex. planting quick maturing cabbage early when it’s too cold for cabbage moths), attracting certain bird species to keep pest populations in check, encouraging or purchasing native predatory insect species (ex. ladybugs can be purchased online and are excellent at reducing aphid populations), growing pest resistant varieties, or using row cover over your most vulnerable crops. Sometimes you’ll need to employ a combination of these strategies. Often a well planned preventative strategy can keep your garden productive without a lot of additional work.

Control

In severe situations where pest prevention has been ineffective control measures are used as a last resort. These controls may be very effective against pests however they’re typically costly in other ways. Some, like handpicking can be very time consuming while others may actually be pricey for the small gardener like neem oil. Even though they aren’t as problematic as chemical pesticides they also may have unintentional environmental impacts despite the fact that they’re organic. Organic pesticides like neem oil, diatomaceous earth, or milky spore powder may be implemented with the intention of only harming a single pest species but unfortunately there’s no way to protect the good species. These organic pesticides can still kill beneficial insects like butterflies, bees, parasitic wasps, predatory beetles, and more.

Using integrated pest management can help you successfully maintain an organic garden. While no strategy is perfect, researching and recording your specific pest problems and then implementing preventative strategies can be effective.

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