There are good pests and there are bad pests in your garden. Some years it just seems like it’s a never-ending battle, you get rid of one bug and then over there something is eating all your green beans. Then you have the weeds that are actually choking the life out of your beautiful garden. There are a number of natural organic ways to control these pests.
Controlling pests starts with good soil
A healthy garden includes not only the plants but also the soil itself. Starting with good soil is very helpful. Good soil will grow stronger and healthier plants that can fight off the damage done by pests. You will want to dig or roto-till your garden and when you do add some good quality compost to your garden. You can buy this at the garden shop or make your own compost over the year. Compost will already have many beneficial bugs and microbes already in it. The turning over of the soil at the start of the year will loosen the soil and let air in which helps the good microbes survive.
You can buy beneficial bugs at garden shops and nurseries and these include ladybugs (or ladybird), aphid-parasitic wasps, bees, hoverflies, praying mantis, centipedes, earthworms and the green lacewing. When you work in the garden, the more earthworms you see usually means the better your soil is. They are great for making compost and aerating. The ladybug can eat 400 aphids per day. Adding these beneficial bugs to your garden and yard is a great way to control the bad bugs naturally.
White flies can destroy your tomatoes in a short time. You can see them when you shake your plants as they fly around. You can buy traps to get rid of these pests. The trap is basically a piece of yellow cardboard with sticky paper on it. The flies are attracted to the color yellow and then get stuck. You can make a trap with sturdy yellow paper and put Vaseline on it. Spraying the underside of the plants leaves with water can kill these bugs if you get an early start on the problem.
Time for a beer; Earwigs are both good and bad, so if you start to see that they have become a problem you might want to take care of them. Slugs are a garden problem and you can control both of these problems at the same time with beer since they are attracted to the fermented liquid. Put some beer in a small can such as a tuna fish can and leave them around the garden. They are attracted to the beer and drown.
Soapy water can also be sprayed on the plants to deter bugs. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of liquid soap per 1 gallon of water. Make sure the soap is the plain liquid soap, not lemon or perfumed and not a detergent. Something like Ivory soap works fine. And do this in the early morning before the sun is too high and hot as this can cause the plants to burn. Test the spray on a few leaves first.
Neem Oil is a natural product you can buy that many people have had good luck using to control insects.
There are many recipes for do-it-yourself insecticidal sprays using cinnamon, cayenne, Tabasco, garlic, rubbing alcohol and eucalyptus. If you try some of these make sure you test it on a few leaves or you can kill your whole plant.
Weeds are pests
Weeds are very tough to control. If you roto-till, that can causes last years seeds to be redistributed. You pull the weeds but never get the entire root, once you do that the weed will multiply growing off in more directions from the left over root.
As soon as the dirt is workable in early spring start looking for the first weeds and dig them out roots and all. During the growing season if you can’t pull the weeds, pull off the flowers just as soon you see them so they won't put thousands more weed seeds into your garden and yard. By using a hoe you can easily take off the flowers and the top parts of the weeds and keep them from becoming a problem.
Laying down a layer of mulch will help keep the weeds down and also keep the ground from drying out quickly.
There are commercial products now available that are organic and earth friendly for killing weeds. Just remember that the words natural, earth friendly and organic don’t always mean safe. These products can also be poisonous to pets and people.
You can mix up your own homemade weed killer using some of the same ingredients as the insecticide spray. Vinegar seems to be one of the best ingredients, remember what kills the weeds will also kill your flowers and vegetables. So be very careful not to get any of your weed killer sprays on your plants. Controlling the weeds when they are young is much easier than older established weeds that will take multiple applications before they are gone.
Salt and rock salt kills weeds also, but the salt can leach into the ground and into the roots of all your veggies and flowers killing them. Don’t plant on soil that you’ve used salt on for at least two years.
Bindweed is such a terrible and hard weed to get rid of, that I wrote a separate article about this titled how to get rid of bindweed
Adding a bunch of ladybugs to your garden will work great, but don’t expect it to act overnight like a chemical spray. The work and patience is worth it when you eat your organic vegetables.
Warning: Metaldehyde baits for snails and slugs are very poisonous to dogs and cats. Dogs especially are very attracted to these baits. Always read the warning labels.
© 2009 Sam Montana