Pest is an incredibly huge topic to write about. This is an area that will ultimately become its own section here at The Garden. Books a 1000 pages long have been written on it. Here I hope to give you a general over view of what you can do to minimize the damage by pests. I hope to soon have a section on pest and the remedies you can use to rid your plants of them.
I’m not really concerned with Killing them. I just don’t want them on my plants. Many of our plants are pollinated by insects and you really don’t want to kill them all. The best way is to keep a natural balance of good bugs bad bugs. If you have no bad bugs, all the good bugs will die or go away and then the bad bugs will return. If you kill all the bugs in your garden you will only have bad bugs coming because the good bugs only go where the bad bugs are. So watch your efforts to exterminate. An Organic Garden is a living garden where all Gods creatures live in a balanced harmony.
All the details on pests is more than anyone can learn. There are many things that you can do to protect your plants.
Many pest only attack certain plants or plant families. Some also winter over in the soil where they lived on a host plant the year. Others lay their eggs in the soil were their is a good food supply for their off spring. By rotating your crops you reduce the chances of having a problem.
At the first signs of problems, act immediately. First try to identify pest. You can check in the Growing Guide under the specific plant as a starting point. This won’t show you what they look like so you may need a book (I’m working on getting a set of pictures on all of the more common pest in the garden from a supplier of beneficial insects. These are hard to come by cheap). You can go to the library, or I recommend the The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control. It a great book with all the insects and organic remedies in it (I have a lot of other remedies, some of which are in the Growing Guide, and the rest I hope to get posted soon).
After identifying the pest, pick your best plan of action. You don’t have to nuke the whole garden. If the pest is plant specific, only treat that plant. Sometimes it may be best to remove the whole plant (although this is more common with diseases). Assess the solutions available. If the problem is not a crisis try the cheapest or easiest way first. If that doesn’t work then use the more expensive method or commercial methods.
Look for Pests
Look at all of your plants. Gently turn the leaves over and check the underside. Get a flash light and go out to the garden about 2 hours after it gets dark, you’ll be surprised, I was. I had never gone out to the garden at night with a flash light. One night a buddy of mine who owns a garden store stopped by around 10:30 at night after the store was closed. He had never seen my garden because he works all day and I wanted to show it off. To my surprise when we got out there my plants were covered with slugs. Since then I’ve been going out their regularly at night and salting the slugs.
Beneficial Insects and spiders consume a huge amount of insects. Certain beneficials like praying mantis eats all insects including their own kind. Others lay their eggs inside of pests and are very pest specific.
Now you can buy beneficial insects or you can encourage them to dwell in your garden. You can buy 1500 ladybugs for about $7.00 or a praying mantis case that hatches over 100 young for about $3.00. Much of the difficulty is in getting them to stay after the food is gone. I release ladybugs each year. Now I never use to see ladybugs in my garden but now I see a few. Since my garden has few bugs most fly away, but a few stay, and some lay eggs in the garden, and their young hatch later in the season.
There are several ways you can encourage beneficial insects. First of all, don’t use any toxic sprays. These kill all insects, not just the bad ones. Have a bird bath full of stones and water for them to drink (without the stones they will have no place to land). Plant flowers in the garden with plentiful pollen that beneficials like.
At the end of the season clean up around the garden. A lot of insects like to winter over in the debris of the plants. Clean it up and put it in the compost pile where the heat will kill them.
Most insects that eat plants don’t like the strong taste of garlic or the smell. By planting a little garlic here or there the bad bugs will keep moving on when they stop by your garden. Basil is another plant that is good to interplant because it has a similar effect.