As gardeners, we deal with lots of challenges in our gardens. Unwanted insects in your garden are just that: unwanted. Unwanted insects may eat and destroy your vegetables and prized flowers, something both farmers and home gardeners have in common.
Organic gardening is a means of controlling unwanted insects naturally, without the use of dangerous pesticides. There are many ways to control unwanted garden insects naturally that are also cheap, easy and good for the earth.
Isn’t It Easier to Just Use Pesticides?
While pesticides may eliminate the pest, they most often cause more harm than good. Unfortunately, many home and commercial gardeners are unaware of alternatives to pesticides.
Yet apart from damaging the soil and being a health hazard to people including our children, pesticides present a major problem. They eradicate species indiscriminately, causing helpful garden co-habitants to disappear along with the harmful ones.
Indeed, the fact remains that not all insects are unwanted insects. Any kindergartner can tell you that bees help flowers. He or she could also tell you that a ladybug is good luck. But more than just good luck, ladybugs are a highly helpful natural pesticide to have in your garden, feeding on a myriad of insect unwanted insects including aphids. (If you ever see little alligator like insects around your garden, leave them be! These are the larval stage of ladybugs.) Obviously, pesticides are not as intelligent as your average kindergartner. They kill bugs on a wholesale level while upsetting ecosystems and ruining your plants as well as your soil.
Commercial farmers today have a strong reliance on pesticides. Large companies sell pesticides to farmers who use them on their crops. Over the years the unwanted insects become resistant to the pesticides and increasingly larger amounts must be used. So it is that the farmer pays more and more money and dumps more and more of them onto his/her crops-our food. The result is a coated crop and a pesticide resistant bug, a crop that is more susceptible to the insect pest.
Recent studies have been conducted concerning pesticides effect on local bird populations. Birds eat the insects, which have ingested the pesticides. Because the pesticide is an indiscriminate poison, the bird is targeted as well. Furthermore, if the birds do not immediately disappear, their eggshells become thinner and thinner and often break when parent birds sit on the eggs. This is a huge problem with bald eagles in North America. With no insects and no birds those predators which live off of the birds disappear too, causing a huge disruption in the local ecosystem which is never beneficial to growth of any kind.
Years of pesticide use may be so disruptive to a local ecosystem that the land may become unusable after only a few years. They remain in the soil and become more concentrated with each year of use, eventually rendering the soil unable to produce vigorous plants.
What’s A Gardener to Do?
There are things that you can do to reverse the effects of pesticides and maintain a more natural ecosystem in your garden. There are many natural, organic alternatives to pesticides that are more long lasting, safe, vigorous and generally effective.
The soil can heal. Adding organic matter that does not contain pesticides can work to dilute the concentration of pesticides in the soil.
One of the simplest pest control devices is a barrier. By covering a row of crop with a light netting (which allows the sunlight to come through) unwanted flying insects are effectively kept away from the plants. These are generally used for food crops. Cabbage can be protected from flea beetles and green beans from Mexican Bean Beetles.
Another simple method of pest control for a small garden is handpicking. Many slugs and Hornworms can be handpicked off of plants with great success.
Drop unwanted insects into a dish of soapy water to kill them. Certain moths and bugs can be knocked out of trees with a stick; allow them to fall onto a large piece of cloth so that they can be gathered and, later, submerged in a soapy solution or incinerated.
Beneficial insects will control the bad insects. Some insects like the Ladybug, Praying Mantis and the Green Lacewing are called beneficial because they are the good guys who are on the hunt for the bad guys that are feeding on your plants.
Green Lacewings Chrysoperla carnea are an all-purpose beneficial insect that feed on insects such as aphids and other insects that will come and feed on your plants. Green Lacewings are perfect for a backyard garden, larger garden, or a greenhouse.
Certain varieties of plants are more resistant to insects. Some research into the types of plants you grow and the unwanted insects common to your area could prevent a lot of pest problems. Also, some plants themselves are pesticides. For instance, planting tobacco around your vegetable garden is an excellent way to discourage slugs and aphids!
Plant species in your garden that are native to your area. Buy local transplants to avoid bringing non-native unwanted insects into your garden.
Add mulch and other simple barriers around your crops and check your garden regularly. Healthy plants are naturally more resistant to predators; just like having a strong immune system.
Encourage birds to come into your garden by placing a bird bath in the garden and by planting plants that will attract birds such as sunflowers. There are even perennial sunflowers that will not only attract birds year round but, can also be planted like a hedge and repel deer and other animals.
All of these methods are natural and easy preventative measures to help you obtain a pest free garden.
If your preventative measures did not work, there are many, natural and organic plant sprays that can control unwanted insects. Many oils, shells and plant extracts can also be used as safe, effective, natural pesticides.
Natural pest control is a safer and, ultimately, more effective means of keeping a vigorous organic garden. With a little more knowledge it becomes obvious that the use of non-organic pesticides is not only ineffective but dangerous and irresponsible.
By understanding your native habitat ecosystem and working in partnership with establishing a balance of beneficial insect predators such as ladybugs and praying mantis, and birds, as well as planting species that naturally prohibit invasion by unwanted insects, you too can have a vigorous garden by working in partnership with your garden.