Organic Pest Control
What chemicals, if any, do you use in your garden? When you are presented with a pest control problem on your plants, do you reach for a bottle of toxic chemicals or opt for a more ecologically responsible alternative? Granted, there may be more work involved with organic methods. Picking bugs off your prized plants can be tedious and time consuming. But don't you really believe its worth it to do your part for our environment? Below are a few organic pest control strategies from the University of Maryland.
Organic Pest Control Strategies
- Learn to tolerate some damage - Most healthy herbaceous and woody plants can tolerate 20-30% leaf defoliation without suffering long-term damage or yield reduction.
- Wait for beneficials - Aphid feeding in the spring alarms many gardeners. Natural predators and parasites usually clean up local infestations in a month or so.
- Timing of seeding and planting - Some pests can be circumvented by growing vulnerable plants when damage is least likely. For example, late summer squash crops are less troubled by squash vine borer. This requires knowledge of pest life cycles.
- Late fall or early spring tillage - Many pests over-winter in the crop debris of host plants or in the soil around host plants. Tilling can disrupt pest habitats.
- Use a spray of water to dislodge pests - A strong hose spray may temporarily dislodge mites, aphids and other pests. Be careful not to damage plants.
- Hand picking garden pests - Pick off adult and immature insects and egg masses. Pests can be squashed or dropped into a jar of soapy water.
- Grow pest resistant or tolerant plants - Check with the nursery or gardening catalogs when selecting plants for those with resistance or tolerance to pests and diseases. Many native plants are good choices.
- Do not overfertilize plants - Aphids and spider mites will produce more young on overfertilized plants.
- Plant Pest Barriers - A floating row cover is an excellent material for excluding insect pests. Other examples are paper collars for cut-worms and diatomaceous earth for slugs.
- Rotate crops to prevent localizing pest colonies - Rotate crops that are prone to pests and diseases. However, it is often very difficult to rotate away from disease problems in small gardens that over-winter in soil or garden debris.