Organic Pest Control

Limit damage to your garden without harming the environment

By Ed Perkins

There are over 1000 different kinds of insects in your garden, only a handful are harmful garden pests. Most are beneficial and a necessary part of any natural system, including your garden.

The goal of an organic gardener is to limit the damage done by the pests without causing major harm to the environment. The following is a list of some of the methods.

Barrier: Lightweight floating row covers keep insects off crops. The regular weight allows some heat buildup and can be used as season extenders in the Spring and Fall. The super light cover is used for an insect barrier in the Summer. For crops requiring pollination, the covers must be removed when flowering starts.

Physical removal. Hand picking and destroying the pests is an effective method. I have had good success controlling potato bugs by shaking the plants into a lined basket or box. Potato bugs fall off easily into the box. Also, a butterfly net comes in handy. I use it to capture flea beetles on eggplants and the white cabbage worm butterflies fluttering around, looking for a cabbage family plant to lay its eggs on.

Traps. Trap slugs in a shallow dish containing beer. Commercially available slug traps are also available. If you cant stand to waste good beer, mix your own brew: 1 Tbs. molasses, 3 Tbs. cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup of water, and 1/2 Tbs. yeast. Sticky red spheres hung in apple trees help trap apple maggot flies. Japanese beetle traps are effective if placed in the right location. I use home made sticky yellow traps to get cucumber beetles. Nail a small board on a stake, paint it yellow, and coat with brush on insect rap coating.

Biological Pest control: There are several types of beneficial insects available which, when released, will attack a particular pest species. The trichogramma wasp layís itís eggs on the eggs of cabbage worms, cut worms, corn borers, and others. The larvae feed on the eggs and destroy the pest eggs. Spray containing the bacteria containing bacillus thuringiensis has long been used to control cabbage worms and other related species. However, its effectiveness decreases within days of itís application. the new bio-engineered sprays can be effective for up to a week.

Botanical Sprays. Natural insecticides made from certain plants are the heavy weights of organic pest control. Rotenone, pyrethrin, sabadilla, and others are broad spectrum poisons and should be used sparingly. Fortunately, these insecticides break down quickly and there fore do not leave residues.

Products mentioned above are available from most garden supply stores.


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Cuyahoga Bioregion
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