With the growing evidence that chemical pesticides are harmful to human health, many gardeners are looking for smart, organic solutions for pest control. Most problem pests can be controlled naturally, eliminating the need for toxic pesticides or harmful chemicals. We provide the information – and experience – to help you maintain a beautiful, chemical-free yard and garden that’s healthy for you, your family and the environment.
Organic Pest Control
It’s the time of year when powdery mildew raises in its dusty, unattractive and growth-sapping cloud. It’s the most common and widespread of fungal diseases, attacking both fruit trees, ornamentals and vegetable plants. Controlling it presents special challenges to the organic gardener. And this summer’s weather patterns — warm and dry — tend to favor its spread.
With its patchy, gray, talcum-like dust that covers leaves and stem, powdery mildew is easy to spot. Detecting it early is one of the many reasons to regularly give your plants close inspection. Once it turns black, which signifies that it’s starting to fruit, you’ll have real problems controlling it from spreading. While the fungal threads that make up powdery mildew stay on a plant’s surface and aren’t as harmful as some other diseases, they can retard growth and affect flavor, especially on fruits. Controlling powdery mildew starts in the spring by choosing plant varieties that are resistant to the fungus. Give your mildew-susceptible plants plenty of room so that air can circulate between leaves and stems. (more…)
These warm and often humid days of mid-summer bring the first signs of an unsightly pest: aphids. Aphids don’t do much damage when there’s only a few around. It takes clusters of them — and there usually are by the time they’re found — to make leaves curl and yellow as they deposit their sticky “honeydew” made from the moisture taken from the plants on stems and on the underside of leaves. If left untouched, this substance turns black with the presence of sooty mold fungus. Roses are often the victim of aphid infestations. The more damage you have, the harder it is to rid your plants of aphids because they hide inside curling leaves. Often, the presence of ants is an indicator of an aphid problem. Nasturtiums are a known aphid favorite. Think of them as an early-warning device. If you’ve previously had aphids in or around your garden, you should check them frequently. Aphids are wind-borne creatures. If your garden is large, check the upwind section most carefully.
The common ladybug or lady beetle — every school kid’s favorite insect — is a great, natural solution to aphids. It’s reported that a ladybug will eat some 50 aphids a day. If you’re lucky enough to have a ladybugs in your garden, their larvae will eat their weight in aphids each day. The University of Kentucky Extension Service reports that a single ladybug will eat 5,000 aphids during its lifetime. (more…)
There’s a sinking feeling that comes when you spot the first cabbage moth hovering over your garden. Traditional gardeners use some of the worst chemical sprays to control them. And that doesn’t always work, especially as the larvae eating your plants mature. (Personally, I’d rather eat worms than pesticides.) Organic gardeners hunt for egg clusters on the underside of leaves and smash them, pluck the worms that they find and even snatch the egg-laying moths right out of the air (okay, I was successful doing that once). Other natural solutions include using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) a bacteria that attacks certain larvae. Or you can try Neem oil, which works on a variety of pests and fungal problems. (more…)
While you’re savoring the second most enjoyable time in the garden — planting season (harvesting would be our number one) — here’s a reminder about the least enjoyable garden practice: Weeding. The earlier you start, the better. In fact, good garden weeding practice involves getting them before weeds even make themselves seen.
Over at Mort Mather’s “Happy Blog” there’s a post on the ten day weeding program. Basically, Mather suggests cultivating between rows and around plants 10 days after planting. He suggests you’ll get weeds when they’re just threads, before they start sending out spreading roots. Repeat the process again in another ten days. He claims to get 80% of the weeds using this technique. What he doesn’t say is where certain gardeners, like myself, will find the discipline to cultivate 10 days after each planting (or the smarts to keep count). (more…)
The decline of honeybees in the United States — a third of the country’s hives were wiped out in 2008 — and elsewhere has been a matter of concern for a number of years. Recent studies in France and Britain now point the finger at a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These commonly-used pesticides, which are often used to treat seed corn ahead of planting, work against the bees in two ways: by confusing their homing capability and limiting their ability to provide enough food to their hives for producing new queens. Other studies in the U.S. and Germany indict the pesticides but for different reasons. Calls for banning neonicotinoids were immediate.
Why should we care about bees and pesticides? Honeybees are responsible for pollinating some 70% of the earth’s food crops. No less an authority than Albert Einstein predicted that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live.” (more…)