Controlling Garden Pests Without Chemicals
If you are like us, you love to share your herb garden with family and friends, and you don’t even mind if some of the native wildlife takes an occasional taste, but you can get bothered and annoyed if invasive insect pests take up residence and claim the best of what you have planted. Luckily, most herbs aren’t really affected by bugs like other types of flowers in your garden, especially woody varieties, such as thyme and lavender. However, there are other herbs that can be a challenge to grow to harvestable quantities, like my basil. Not only do deer love basil, but it appears to attract garden slugs. So when you’re growing organically you might find that you’re going to get some slug holes on your leaves, early in the growing season. One good way to grow organically, and to not have that problem, is spread a layer of bark dust over your garden bed. Even acorns or seashells will work, if they are available. Another good trick to growing organically is to just use raised beds with good drainage, and make sure there’s not a lot foliage on the very bottom of each plant – just trim them up a little bit, so the slugs don’t have something to grab on to.
At Organic Gurl’z Gardens, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, we have learned that when the slugs do inevitably appear, there are many natural pesticide solutions out there. One simple, inexpensive option is ordinary vegetable oil. Should you find any annoying, unexpected guests on your plants, just rub a little bit of vegetable oil on your plants. The oil suffocates and discourages the insects, and they seek an easier, less deadly harvest.
Attracting or importing beneficial insects into your garden is an environmentally-friendly and natural way to reduce the number of detrimental insect pests without having to resort to toxic synthetic or chemical pesticides or insecticides. Some of the most common of these are the voracious ladybug and praying mantis, which feed indiscriminately on a wide variety of other insects, to more specialized predators such as the tiny gall-midge which specifically, and almost exclusively, attacks aphid colonies. Beneficial insects feast on aphids, mites, caterpillars and other plant-consuming bugs, and are harmless to people, plants, pets, wildlife, and the environment. For best results, introduce these natural predators at the first sign of a problem. In those rare instances where pest populations are exceptionally high or persistent, use the least-toxic, most short-lived natural pesticide, such as botanical insecticides, horticultural oils, or insecticidal soaps, to initially establish control before releasing predator insects.
Additionally, some types of insect like one type of herb, while another type of insect may prefer a different variety of herb. Try intermixing your herbs in the same bed to help ward off an invasion by a particular species of insect pest. By improving the diversity of plants in your garden, you can ensure your landscape is more attractive, and has the positive side effect of meeting the needs of a variety of beneficial insects. Including plants of differing heights in the same garden bed provides benefits from the ground up. Leaf litter, mulch, and ground debris provides beneficial insects some measure of protection from birds as well as offering shelter from the elements, while low growing plants act as a shelter for ground beetles. Taller herb plants, flowering shrubs, and even fruit trees, can help create a safe habitat for praying mantis, parasitic wasps and other flying insects.
Some organic growers can become frustrated and impatient, because using biological control and natural enemies, in controlling garden pests without chemicals, is not a quick fix. In fact, it may take 30 or 40 days to notice a measurable decline in the pest insect population. The prudent gardener will realize that this is a long-term solution, one which will ultimately lead to healthier plants, a healthier environment and, ultimately, a healthier you.
“Let The Muddy, Messy Girl Build Your Garden Today”
The Organic Gurl’z Gardens
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