Organic Pest Control: Part 1

This month’s theme is Organic Pest Management!  There are dozens of pests out there that want to munch on your veggies as much as you do!  However, not all bugs in your garden are bad.  In fact, most of the bugs you will see will either be neutral or even beneficial for your garden.  Before killing a bug or spraying your plants, it’s a best practice to identify the insect in question.  Try these resources:

Before you spray, there are important steps you can take in your garden to encourage natural predators to do the hard work of controlling pests for you.  By playing host to the “good bugs” in your garden, you are welcoming in an army that is on the hunt 24/7 for pests (aka Dinner).  Try implementing these practices in your garden, and watch the benefits for years to come!

  • Create lots of habitat for beneficial insects (5% of garden space should be in habitat)–flowers, mulch, hedgerow, brush/rock piles, water elements.  Make the “good guys” happy and they will solve a lot of your garden problems for you.
  • Learn to identify “natural enemies” aka “good bugs,” so you don’t try to kill them.  Avoid using “broad spectrum pesticides” (anything that isn’t for a specific insect problem) because these will kill far more good bugs than bad.
  • Avoid using chemical fertilizers as this will make your plants look really tasty to pests.
  • Avoid over or under watering your garden (this knowledge is built on experience, so do your best and learn from mistakes!)
  • Remove stressed, diseased or damaged plants.  They emit distress chemicals that insect pests can detect sometimes from miles away.
  • You can inoculate your garden with beneficial pathogens (milkyspore, nematodes) and purchase predators (ladybugs, lacewings, etc), but this is expensive and not always effective.  Creating habitat is cheaper and more effective in the long run.
  • Building habitat for birds, bats, lizards and amphibians will help attract these important predators to the garden.

These are preventative practices for your garden.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will discuss proper use of organic insecticides!

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