Bug-Free Zone: Outdoor Pest Control
Gardeners have fought to keep their plants free of destructive pests for millennia. Organic gardeners try to control bugs and other pests with a range of options, from companion planting to organically-certified pesticides.
Garden pests may not seem like picky eaters, but they have their preferences. Some plants are so distasteful to specific pests that the bugs will look elsewhere for meals. Over the years this awareness has led to the practice of companion gardening, which is planting mutually beneficial crops together.
The effectiveness of companion gardening depends on many factors, including how large the local pest population is. Still, it can’t hurt to arrange your crops with natural defenses in mind.
Aphids are a common garden pest, but they dislike chives and nasturtiums. Planting chives around your tomato plants and nasturtiums under broccoli also dissuades aphids. As an added bonus, nasturtium flowers are edible, adding a peppery taste to salads.
Carrots and leeks are a popular pairing. The carrots deter onion flies, while the leeks return the favor by fending off carrot flies. Bush beans and potatoes share a similar relationship. Colorado potato beetles don’t like the beans, and the potato plants deter the Mexican bean beetle.
For furry pests, mice hate daffodil bulbs, and a garden bordered with bulbs adds some color in the spring. Rabbits hate onions, so planting them among your lettuce, peas, beans and cabbage can send bunnies foraging elsewhere. Many people recommend castor beans as a mole deterrent, but bear in mind castor beans are highly toxic: a small handful of castor beans can kill a child. (Daffodil bulbs are also toxic, and they can be mistake for onions, so plant the two well apart).
Your choice of mulch can help prevent pests. Surround plants with material to deter crawling insects. Crushed eggshells, nut shells and even used coffee grounds make life difficult for snails, slugs, caterpillars and cutworms.
If you’re dealing with a serious slug problem, buy them a drink. Bury an old, deep-sided pie plate in the earth up to its lip, and fill the container with stale beer. Slugs love the taste, fall into the beer and drown. Granted the results aren’t attractive, but at least you’re not running around the garden with a salt shaker.
Neem and Pyrethrin Insecticides
Pesticides were developed to control pests quickly and effectively. Chemical pesticides can also be highly toxic, lingering in the environment, contaminating harvests and building up in your family’s bodies. In many ways chemical pesticides are the antithesis of organic gardening.
Fortunately, it is possible to find pesticides with no synthetic or man-made chemicals. Look for pesticides that are OMRI Listed® and compliant for use in organic production, such as neem or pyrethrin. Safer® Brand End ALL® is an example. This spray-on pesticide uses both neem and pyrethrin.
End ALL® eliminates insects at all stages of development and can be used up until the day of harvest.