How To Use A Natural Gardening Approach Against Pests

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If you’re wondering how you can use a more natural gardening approach in your home garden, stay tuned.

You don’t have to of rely on harmful chemicals to protect your garden.

That is, not once you know the benefits of organic pest management and how you can it to repel pests from your plants.

From planting marigolds and dill, to sprinkling chili powder, we’ve got you covered with effective and eco-friendly pest control methods.

Continue reading to get started on creating a healthy and thriving garden without harming the environment!

Natural Gardening: A Non-Toxic Way to Eliminate Garden Pests
Natural Gardening: A Non-Toxic Way to Eliminate Garden Pests

CONTENTS — In this article, you will learn natural gardening techniques that reduce or elminate pests, including:

Rid Your Garden of Insect Pests the Non-Toxic Way: Organic Pest Management

If you’re a gardener, chances are you’ve heard of planting marigolds with tomatoes to repel bugs.

But do you know that planting dill nearby will lure cutworms away?

Or that sprinkling chili powder on the leaves of ornamentals will keep pests from nibbling?

These are good examples of Organic Pest Management (OPM).

What is Organic Pest Management?

OPM is a modified version of Integrated Pest Management IPM, a regiment that was devised for use in commercial crops. When you practice OPM, you’ll be managing garden pests by choosing the least toxic but most effective method.

Why Use An Organic Approach?

Although chemical controls are included, the organic farmer uses chemicals only as a last resort, and only those based on naturally occurring substances.

Over the last twenty years or so, consumers became more aware of the connection between the food we eat, our health, and the environment.

Out of concern for lasting damage to the environment and people, organic gardening “grew” in popularity. That meant eliminating harsh chemicals used to manage insect damage.

Instead, Organic Pest Management uses four types of methods to to control pests more naturally:

  • Cultural
  • Biological
  • Physical
  • Chemical (Nature-Based)

Let’s take a look at each, and how you might integrate them into your home gardening practices.

Cultural Controls

When you’re planning your garden, begin by choosing well-adapted, disease-resistant cultivars.

Many plants have been bred to be resistant to problems common to their species. For instance, “La Roma VF” plum tomato is resistant to verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt. (That’s what the “VF” at the end of its name means.)

You want to look for indications of special resistance on plant labels, and consult your garden center if you’re not sure.

Opt for plants that are native to your area, because they will be as they more likely to thrive in your garden. For example, The rugosa rose (Rosa Rugosa) and yarrow (Achillea species) are two of many plants that are native to the Northeast.

Your local Extension Service or Wildflower Association will know of numerous species from which you can choose. Including any of them in your garden will be rewarding, since natives are plagued by relatively few problems.

The effectiveness of planting marigolds (Tagetes) with tomatoes is based on the fact that certain plants emit odors that repel bugs — scented marigolds are one of them.

The technique called companion planting uses the special properties of one plant to benefit another.

Try planting Rue (Ruta graveolens) with your cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles. Or plant lettuce beneath trellised peas to provide the cooler conditions required by lettuce.

Also, all plants become vulnerable to prey when they are in a weakened state.

So, take steps to promote healthy growth by ensuring that plants do not suffer from:

  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Water stress
  • Crowding
  • Low light
  • Keep the garden clean of debris to avoid creating a haven for pests

Having a good weed removal tool can make it easier to keep the garden clean, too.

These cultural controls will help give your garden a strong starting defense against pest.

Biological Controls

Natural Gardening: A Non-Toxic Way to Eliminate Garden Pests
Lady Beetles and other beneficial insects are an important part of natural gardening.

But insects that want to damage your plants are inevitable.

So, you’ll want to look to biological controls.

You can think of biological controls as fighting fire with fire. That’s because in many cases, living organisms are used to combat living organisms.

The easiest form of biological control is to attract beneficial insects and birds, or “beneficials,” that will help you keep pests in check.

Predatory or parasitic beneficial insects prey on those insects harmful to your plants.

They have small mouths and can’t reach deeply into flowers for food. In order to sustain themselves, they need plants that bloom over a long period in numerous small flowers.

Fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, dill, candytuft, goldenrod, anise, calendula, and gazanias will provide an interesting contrast to other ornamentals in your garden while attracting a variety of beneficial insects.

This includes the well-known beneficial lady beetle, whose larvae have a taste for aphids.

Birds also ingest great quantities of insects – far more than the garden find and handpick. Did you know a house wren can eat more than 500 insect eggs, beetles, and grubs in one day!?!

To encourage birds to visit your garden, provide:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Cover
  • A safe place to nest

Then enjoy watching them feast on your garden pests!

If you must intervene with nature’s delicate balance to rid yourself of a pest before it devours an entire crop, a number of biological controls are available at garden stores and by mail order.

Microbial insecticides contain diseases lethal to insect pests. Examples include:

  • Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) bacteria, which attack the digestive system of insect larvae
  • Milky spore disease, which affects Japanese beetle grubs
  • Beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic parasites, may also be used to eradicate beetle larvae and grubs.

Use various horticultural and insecticidal oils to combat fungal rusts and mildews, and to kill insect eggs in mites.

Insecticidal soaps will destroy aphids, mites, and white flies. Similar results may be achieved with common vegetable oil or dish soap.

With all oils and soaps, however, use caution, as they easily damage some plants.

Physical Controls

Natural Gardening: A Non-Toxic Way to Eliminate Garden Pests
Food traps can help reduce certain pest populations, and is a simple natural gardening technique.

Nothing replaces the effectiveness of hand picking weeds, diseased plants, and insects from your garden to help prevent the further spread of problems. (And if you’re into natural gardening, you’ve probably handpicked your share of bugs, too.)

However, a number of physical controls can keep pests from your plants. Protect your plants from harm using:

  • Barriers, such as floating row covers
  • Fences
  • Netting
  • Cutworm collars
  • Tree bands

This physically prevents pests from reaching your garden.

Diatomaceous earth, a fine powder with microscopic sharp edges made from fossilized shells, will most certainly deter soft-bodied pests, such as slugs. A layer of cinders has a similar effect.

Use traps, which rely on color, odor, or shape to lure and capture pests, thereby reducing their population. Food traps are one form.

Here’s how it works:

You’ll bury pieces of potatoes in early spring to attract wireworms, then remove and replace them to reduce wireworm populations before you plant your potato crop.

Plants trap crops as a sort of decoy to detract pests from the crops you are trying to protect. Nasturtiums, particularly the yellow varieties, are known as an effective trap for black aphids.

Once the trap crops are infested, pull and destroy the plants for the pest don’t reproduce in your garden.

When you use traps that rely on color, odor, or shape to lure and capture pests, it helps reduce pest populations in your garden.

You’ll find plenty of resources online to guide you through the process and learn how to trap armadillos or whichever other pest you’re targeting in no time. In regards to this method, food traps are one such form.

Soil solarization is another way to control pests, insects, nematodes, weed seeds, and many disease organisms in the soil. Simply cover an area of soil with clear plastic for a few months before planting to generate a high temperature.

You’ll be harnessing the power of the sun for more natural gardening!

Chemical Controls

You should use chemical controls d only as a last resort to manage garden pests and when other controls prove to be ineffective.

In an organic regiment, such as OPM, you would use only those chemicals found in naturally occurring minerals or plants:

These include:

  • Neem oil
  • Pyrethrins
  • Rotenone
  • Sabadilla
  • Nicotine

They are toxins derived from plants and are quite poisonous to insects.

But don’t be fooled by the fact that they are natural –– in many instances, they are also poisonous to beneficials, wildlife, and people.

So, use them minimally when it comes to natural gardening. And always carefully consider your alternatives before resorting to a chemical control.

How to Using OPM in Your Garden

Use OPM in your own ornamental a vegetable garden for an integrated approach to managing pests by following these steps:

  1. List problems you are experiencing or have experienced in the past growing season and the plants affected.
  2. For each problem, identify and note the cause by consulting your gardening resources. You may find the cause of some problems are not pest related, such as lack of water or inadequate fertilizer. But be alert for diseases spread by insect pests.
  3. Think like a pest. For each problem for which a pest was identified as the culprit, learn as much about its characteristics, life cycles, favorite conditions, and predators.
  4. Using gardening resources, identify the specific alternatives to treat each pest, listing them in order of least toxicity. Choose the least toxic but most effective alternative.

You’re on your way more natural gardening when you manage your pests organically.

Final Thoughts on Natural Gardening

Whether you use any combination of cultural, biological, physical, and chemical controls to manage pests in your garden, remember that no ecosystem can be sustained without insects.

With an OPM plan, the objective is not to eliminate all insects—without them there would be no garden.

In addition, predatory and parasitic beneficial insects like the dung beetle break down decaying material, enriching the soil. Some insects simply attract birds to the garden.

Others, such as bees, flies, and moths, are pollinators, making the cycle of plant reproduction possible.

The garden has a natural balance. The complete elimination of one pest may provide the opportunity for another to become a problem, perhaps one upon which the former preyed.

Practicing OPM means effectively but minimally intervening to keep any one pest from overrunning your garden.

Next Steps

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