Did you know that it is estimated that gardeners use 136 Million Pounds of pesticides each year? Believe it or not that is 3 times the amount that American farmers use! I will admit that I contribute to this figure; sometimes it seems only a pesticide product can fix the problem that is “bugging” you. However, over the last few years I’ve found that there are less expensive and much safer ways to deal with problem insects and while I could probably write a dissertation on this topic I’ll share just some suggestions with you.
When it comes to pest control I would place treatments into 5 broad categories. The first category would be to prevent a problem from even starting. This involves simple things such as making sure you do a thorough fall clean-up. Insects love to hide out in plant debris and many lay eggs or have larvae that can live through the winter only to become a problem in the spring. Another prevention method sometimes comes across as a little brutal but getting rid of weaker plants, which are already susceptible to insects because of their poor condition can also prevent insects form coming to your yard.
The second category is really more of a benefit that arises when you limit pesticide use. There are plenty of beneficial insects which can fight your battles for you if you attract them to your garden. Ladybugs are voracious feeders of aphids and wasps feed on flies and even stinkbugs! Even though they may eat some of the good insects Praying Mantis can be beneficial to your garden. Pesticides can kill beneficial insects at the same time as the trouble makers so keep that in mind when you’re deciding how to address your insect problem.
Sometimes insect prevention can be as simple as using plants to protect their more susceptible brethren. Garlic is a great insect repellant and therefore a good plant to work into your vegetable garden to protect your tomatoes and peppers but keep it away from your beans and peas as it can stunt their growth. Marigolds have a chemical compound that helps repel aphids, nematodes and white flies. French and African type marigolds have been found to be the most effective and they also look great in your garden!
The fourth category is to provide some physical protection to your garden. Good old-fashioned fly paper is a great way to get rid of insects as it will trap white flies as well as house flies and barriers such as cloth, also known as row covers can prevent insects from getting near your squash or cucumber plants. There are also traps that utilize pheromones which to lure problem insects, such as Japanese beetles to a trap that once they get in it they can’t get out of it! There is some debate about whether these pheromone traps actually may attract more bugs to your yard than they kill so you’ll have to decide for yourself how truly effective you think they are.
The final category is what I call “home remedies”. These are tips that have been passed down from generation to generation where pesticides may not even have been invented yet. Putting out beer in bowls or placing upside down citrus rinds in your garden to catch slugs are examples of such solutions. I know some people who use 1 teaspoon of natural dish washing soap and water in a one quart spray bottle can do wonders for repelling those problem insects. If you have your own such home remedy why not share it on our Facebook page so everyone can benefit from your knowledge!