The current trend with pest control companies is using more green and eco-friendly methods of managing pests. Although many doubt the efficiency of these methods, experts such as Kevin Espiritu, Ben Probert, Melinda Myers and Michael Perry, stand by it. All of these specialists say that all you need is the right tools and the right mindset.
The Fruits of More Work
The key to using natural pest control is to understand and accept that it will never be as effective as chemical pesticides. In order to help the environment become healthy, we must trade our convenience for it. Ben Probert, a horticultural consultant from Pen and Trowel, who has studied gardening for 15 years, stated the following:
“There are several ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ options for controlling insect pests, but none are quite as ruthlessly efficient as the chemicals. Once gardeners come to terms with this fact it becomes a lot easier to work with other products and methods of insect controls. The key to controlling insect pests is to be vigilant and to act swiftly.
“We’ve lived in a privileged time of being able to reach for a quick and effective response to any pest or disease we see in our gardens, but as the environmental impact of the overuse of chemicals is being understood so many of these chemicals are no longer being made available.”
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From these statements, it is clear that chemical products were engineered to kill pests. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of the overall health of the environment. Today, the pest control industry has started adapting greener and more eco-friendly products. But as stated by Probert, it is vital that people should prevent pest infestation by predicting it, even before they reach out for chemical products available in the market.
Prevention from the Get Go
The most effective way to keep deadly bugs from entering your garden is to make it unattractive to them. As discussed above, natural gardening requires more work from you. This means practicing the following to avoid making your garden a pest breeding ground:
- Regularly remove weak plants
- Use natural fertilizers or seaweed fertilizers
- Do consistent weeding
- Clear the garden of debris
- Interplant and rotate crops
- Keep the foliage dry
- Always clean your tools
Doing these will either stop or slow down pests from calling your garden their home. But if these fail and pests arrive, then it’s time to call in the good guys.
Calling in the Good Guys
The most natural method to be able to combat unwanted pests is to rely on your ecosystem. In other words, encourage the natural predators of these pests to live in your garden. These are the “good guys” of your garden.
These beneficial predators are the ones that can devour pests, even during their larvae form. A number of them can directly eat pests, while others may use them as hosts. Naturally, it might take some time for them to be fully effective. However, you must think of them as a long term investment for the health and wellness of your garden.
For example, the braconid wasp lays their eggs on caterpillars. They do this so that, when the larvae emerge, they can feed on the host. This is needed for the larvae to move forward in their life cycle, which means that the host will surely be eaten. By encouraging the presence of these wasps, you can reduce the damage that caterpillars do to your plant’s leaves. You can attract these good guys by planting carrots, celery, parsley, caraway and Queen Anne’s lace – all of which are members of the Umbelliferae family.
Other good bugs include:
- These eat aphids, mites, whiteflies, and scale insects.
- They love gardens with daisies, tansies, and yarrows.
Lacewings and hoverflies
- Adult and larva lacewings and hoverflies feed on aphids and other pests.
- These are similar to ladybugs because of their love for daisies and yarrows.
- They also love goldenrods, blackeyed Susans, and asters.
- These eat most garden pests, which make them an essential good guy in your garden
- Mantis eggs are hatched in the garden and the larvae quickly grow to adults.
- These can kill underground cutworms that are responsible for killing sprouts before they grow into seedlings.
- Probert states that these are “tiny parasitic worms that will eat the young grubs before they do (any) damage”
- They are also effective against beetles and root weevils.
- Nematodes can be bought online. If you order one, you will get a single sponge, which contains a million of these good guys.
- This is applied by mixing the sponge in water and applying it onto the soil, where they get to hatch and grow. Once they’re old enough, they will kill your pests.
- In case they get onto your leaves, then you can simply wash them to fall into the soil.
- Probert also said that “Nematodes are fairly easily available online and are posted straight to you – (just) be sure to use them straight away or they will die.”
The greatest part of this pest control method is that you get a bunch of helping hands in your garden. Melinda Myers, an award-winning TV/radio host and author of over 20 horticultural books, says that this has allowed her to procrastinate:
“I tolerate some damage (sometimes procrastination pays) from aphids while I wait for birds, lady beetles, and other predators to eat them.”
The tricky part of this is that these beneficial bugs arrive in your garden because of the presence of their food source – the harmful pests. Thus, if you kill all of them, then the good guys will also disappear because they need to look for other sources of food. If you haven’t done your proper gardening practices, then you will be open to pest infestation for a period of time. In order to always have a healthy garden, the key to managing your bugs is to have a good balance of harmful and beneficial bugs. You must have enough bad guys to attract the good guys but not too much that your garden will suffer. In order to make sure that you do not reach a dangerous level of harmful pests, you can (finally) reach out for some products to aid you.
Keeping it Natural
There are organic and natural tools, recipes, and methods that you can practice in order to “implement a layered approach” as stated by Kevin Espiritu – founder of Epic Gardening, a website that has and continues to teach millions of people how to do do-it-yourself (DIY) gardening and farming. Espiritu says that he practices this layered approach by doing the following:
This is what the preventive measures and good guys are for. But when the pests still persist, then you must follow the next measures:
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Facebook: Epic Gardening
Millions of his students have followed this approach and have become well-trained gardeners.
The second step in this layered approach is using organic and home-made products to not only save you a lot of money, but also give you the peace of mind because you know exactly what is entering your soil. One of the top 20 horticulturalists in the UK, Michael Perry (aka Mr Plant Geek) also uses natural methods – a spray of soapy water in particular. He states that:
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Facebook: Mr. Plantgeek
Melinda Myers agrees with the use of natural products and mentioned that “I will use insecticidal soap, BT (bacillus thuringiensis), and other organic products if I feel intervention is truly needed.”
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Clearly, even the experts are big fans of keeping their garden and themselves healthy without resorting to chemicals.
Listed below are common garden pests and what natural remedies you can use to combat them:
Mites and Other Soft Bodied Insects
- Mix one tablespoon of canola oil along with a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water.
- Place it into a spray bottle and shake it well before using.
- Start spraying it onto your plant from above while going down its height and from below going up; doing this will get all mites, aphids, and mealybugs on all side of the leaves.
- The mixture smothers the insects; Proberts states that this and similar mixtures “coat the aphids so that they suffocate, rather than killing them by affecting their nervous system.”
Grubs and Beetles
- Use milky spores, which are granules that cause disease in grubs; this doesn’t affect beneficial bugs.
- Apply this by spreading it on the soil.
- These multiply over time and will sit in wait for a grub to infect; it can last for as long as 40 years.
- Grubs are actually young beetles, so killing them will also mean less beetles in your garden.
- Mix hot pepper sauce, Ivory soap, and water. Let it stand overnight.
- Place it in a water spray. Shake well before use.
- Most pests cannot handle the intensity of the pepper onto their senses; it kills them.
Earwigs, Snails, and Slugs
- Diatomaceous earth has small diatom particles that are sharp.
- Sprinkle this on and around plants.
- The soft exoskeleton of insects, earwigs, snails, and slugs cannot handle the sharp particles and drive them away from your plants
These are only a few examples of natural pest remedies. You may look here for the complete list. However, there are more straightforward ways to deal with pests. Espiritu states in his second and third steps that he resorts to cutting leaves and picking off the insects by hand. This and other physical interferences are a good last resort to minimize infection damage.
It’s a Trap!
When infection starts to become bad, you will need to use traps and barriers to save some of your plants. These will prevent physical contact between these plants and pests. Using these will lessen the infestation and allow you to have breathing room to be able to think of ways to exterminate them yourself or for a professional to do it.
Here are a few examples of traps and barriers.
- The good old fashioned fly paper will attract insects to fly into the sticky trap with pheromones.
- The critters caught in this trap will die from hunger.
Apple Maggot traps
- These are traps hung in apple trees so that apple maggots lay their eggs here instead of in the apples.
Floating row covers
- This is basically a material that is draped over plants to prevent physical contact from pests while still allowing water and sunlight to come in.
- Myers states that she uses these to “prevent cabbage worm damage.”
- This is just like floating row covers, but for seed beds and young plants.
- It created a greenhouse effect for the young plants.
- These need to be opened for watering.
Clearly, there are multiple methods in which a gardener can practice natural pest control. Natural products, beneficial pests, preventive gardening, traps, and barriers are all available to use for one to garden without damaging the environment. It may require more work than using chemical pesticides, but you will be repaid with a beautiful and healthy garden free from annoying and destructive critters.