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7 Organic Pest-Control Methods To Try

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Garden pests are the bane of organic gardeners everywhere. How can you keep your precious veggies safe from damage, without resorting to harmful chemicals? Below are some options.

Whether you’re growing tomatoes and they are being decimated by the dreaded hornworms, your asparagus is being tackled by beetles, or potato bugs have your plants in a funk, garden pests can be the most frustrating thing in the world for organic gardeners.

Obviously we don’t want to use harmful chemicals in our gardens, but what else can we do?

Luckily there are safer options that can help save your plants using natural and organic methods.

Check out these 7 organic pest control techniques – and what pests they are useful for controlling:

1. Floating Row Covers

This translucent, white, porous polyester fabric acts as an insect barrier, while letting in up to 80 percent of the available light. You can buy either lightweight or heavyweight types—you’ll want to use the lighter one for controlling pests in summer, because it will keep out bugs without cooking your plants. The heavier reportedly traps more warmth and so is better for season extending.

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Pests controlled: Row covers are especially useful against mobile pests, including cabbage moths (imported cabbageworms), Colorado potato beetles, most aphids, Mexican bean beetles, flea beetles, squash bugs, and tomato hornworms. Combine row covers with crop rotation if you’re dealing with pests that overwinter in the soil.

2. Pheromone Traps

Many insects produce powerful smells called pheromones that they use to lure the opposite sex. Scientists have duplicated several of these scents and used them to bait special traps for luring the target insect. But because these “sex” traps attract mostly male insects, they aren’t very effective controls. They’re useful as an early warning that a particular pest is moving into your area. When you find the first pests in your trap, you know it’s time to launch your control strategies, such as putting your row covers in position and applying Bacillus thuringiensis.

Pests monitored: Pheromone lures are available for diamondback moths and moths that produce armyworms, cabbage loopers, corn earworms, European corn borers, tomato pinworms, and cutworms.

3. Sticky Traps

These traps—a rigid material of a particular color that’s coated with a sticky substance—are used to catch insects that are attracted to that color. To be effective, the traps must be clean and sticky. Also, use at least one trap (hung at plant height and close to the plant) every 3 to 5 feet. You can buy packaged sticky traps or make them yourself….

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Pests controlled: Yellow traps attract whiteflies, fruit flies, male winged scales, leafhoppers, fungus gnats, midges, male winged mealybugs and leafminers, thrips, psyllids, and winged aphids. White traps lure whiteflies, plant bugs, cucumber beetles, and flea beetles. Light blue traps attract flower thrips, and red spheres attract the flies whose eggs hatch into apple maggots.

4. Insecticidal Soap

Insecticidal soap contains unsaturated long-chain fatty acids (derived from animal fats) that dissolve the cuticle (skin) of insects. Insecticidal soap sprays are commercially formulated products sold specifically for insect control. (Don’t confuse these products with herbicidal soaps, which kill vegetation instead of insects, or household soaps, which are detergents.)

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Pests controlled: Insecticidal soap sprays are highly effective against mites, aphids, whiteflies, and other soft-bodied insects as well as the softer nymph stages of some tough-bodied bugs.

5. Oil Sprays
Oil sprays work by suffocating pests. To be effective, the oil spray must hit the pest directly.

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To minimize potential harm to beneficial insects, limit your spraying to small areas where you can see pests lurking, and leave a couple of unsprayed “refuges” for any good bugs you can’t see. Protect nectar-feeding beneficials by not spraying during peak flowering times and by not spraying blossoms. Spray early in the morning, before bees become active. And if you plan to release beneficials, do it after you apply the oil spray.

Pests controlled: Use horticultural oils to combat aphids, mites, beetles, leaf miners, caterpillars, thrips, leafhoppers, and whiteflies.

6. Bacillus Thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is a naturally occurring bacterium found in the soil. There are many different types, and some can be used to kill a specific insect or class of insects. When a target insect takes a bite of a plant sprayed with the type of BT the insect is sensitive to, the insect gets infected and stops feeding. Inside the insect, the bacterium releases a protein that causes the pest to die within a few days.

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Pests controlled: The most common strain of the bacterium—BT var. kurstaki (sometimes called BT var. berliner)—kills hundreds of different kinds of caterpillars, including cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, cabbageworms, corn earworms, European corn borers, and squash vine borers. BT var. tenebrionis (a new name—until recently this one was called BT var. san diego) kills Colorado potato beetles.

7. Parasitic Nematodes
Don’t confuse these beneficial nematodes with destructive root-knot nematodes. Once inside a pest, parasitic nematodes release bacteria that kills the insect host within a day or two. Although these good nematodes occur naturally in the soil, there usually aren’t enough of them in one place to control pests that have gotten out of hand in your garden. But you can buy them by the billions for use as a living—and organic, safe, and nontoxic—form of pest control.

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Pests controlled: Nematodes attack and invade armyworms, corn earworms, squash vine borers, soil-dwelling grubs (including Japanese beetle larvae), weevils, root maggots, and cutworms (in their soil-dwelling stages).

Read the full article at Rodale’s Organic Life….

 

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