Tag Archives: organic pest control

Pros and Cons of Gardening with Ducks

Animals are part of any natural ecosystem. Adding small livestock to your garden can provide a host of benefits. One great option is ducks. However, there are pros and cons to adding ducks to your garden.

Pros

They’re great at slug patrol.

Having a couple ducks roam through your garden is one of the easiest ways to deal with your slug problem. They love slugs! They’ll happily wander around keeping your plants or mushrooms slug-free. They’ll also eat a host of other pests. 

They don’t scratch like chickens.

Unlike chickens, ducks don’t scratch to forage for food. While chickens are helpful to turn over a plot after or before the growing season they can be destructive to plants in the garden. Their vigorous efforts tear up roots and shorter plants. Ducks on the other hand simply plod flat-footed through the garden. They’re generally not destructive. However, they may eat or trample seedlings and some greens. 

They provide fertility.

Ducks obviously produce manure which is an excellent source of fertility for the garden. If they’re allowed to roam the garden during the day they’ll add fertilizer as they go. Ducks should be kept in a coop at night and you can compost the manure/bedding from their coop. 

Cons

They need a water source.

Ducks need a water source big enough for them to bath in. It helps keep their feathers in good condition. Muscovy ducks, native to South America, need less water than other breeds but still benefit from being able to bath.

They’re noisy.

I’ve heard some people claim that ducks are a quiet alternative to chickens but in my experience it isn’t true. Ducks quacking can rival a rooster’s crow. They may not be a great choice if you have close neighbors who wouldn’t appreciate barnyard noise.

They need a coop, space, and other care.

Ducks aren’t free. You’ll need to build or buy a sturdy coop, predator proof coop as well as feed. You’ll also need to care for them at least twice a day all year round which can make it tougher to leave for family vacations. The more space you can offer them to roam the happier they’ll be/

They can be destructive. 

They’ll dabble in wet areas adding to any mud problems you may have. As mentioned above they can also destroy small plants and won’t hesitate to sample your lettuce!

If you decide to add ducks to your garden system consider the pros and cons. They can be very helpful and rewarding but they still require money, time, and patience. 

 

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.

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 Pest Control: Squash Vine Borers

Early White Bush Scallop Summer Squash

Squash vine borers are a type of clearwing moth. They’re a bit unusual because unlike other moths they’re active during the daytime. The adults resemble wasps, are about 1/2 inch long, and have an orange abdomen with black dots. The adults lay eggs near the base of squash plants. These eggs take only about a week to hatch and then they bore into the base of the squash plant and up inside the stem, preventing the plant from getting water or nutrients from the soil.

Signs of their presence include the plants wilting, holes at the base of the plant, and of course spotting adults flying around plants. If your plant has vine borers present you can slice into the stem and kill the insects. If you carefully bury the wounded part of the stem with moist soil and keep it well watered your plant may survive. While this is an option, the best methods for combating vine borers are preventative.

Plant late.

Depending on how long your growing season is you may be able to avoid vine borers by planting your summer squash at the end of July. Adult vine borers typically lay eggs in late June or early July so your late planting of squash won’t be mature until after vine borers are finished laying eggs.

Use crop rotation.

Once squash borers feed for 4-6 weeks they burrow into the soil where they spend the winter pupating. Rotating crops can help minimize the pressure on your plants.

Choose resistant plants.

Some cucurbits are much less likely choices for vine borers. Try planting squashes in the moschata and argyosperma family as well as watermelons and cucumbers.  Check out the post below for how to use young winter squash like summer squash.

Winter Squash as Summer Squash

Invest in row cover.

Covering your squash with row cover before late June can prevent vine borers from reaching your plants to lay eggs. This method needs to be used in combination with crop rotation as vine borers hatch from the soil.

Plant a trap crop.

You may be able to eliminate some of your garden’s vine borer population using a trap crop. Wait until your plants have vine borer larvae present and then pull and burn the plants. You may never get all of them this way but it can help reduce the problem next year provided you don’t have close neighbors also growing squash.

If you struggle with squash vine borers in your garden consider trying one of these preventative methods this summer. They can help you combat squash vine borers in without resorting to pesticides.