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Organic Pest Control: Exploring the Options

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How can you control garden pests without resorting to chemical pesticides? Here are some options for organic pest control that will have a minimal impact on the environment…

Many people think that organic gardening is too difficult because you can’t use chemical pesticides in your garden, so they worry about how to control garden pests. However, there are numerous methods of organic pest control that work quite well, and without all the environmental and health hazards that may be caused by chemical pesticide use.

Your first line of defense against garden pests should be solutions that don’t upset the natural balance of your garden’s ecosystem – such as companion planting, crop rotation, and physical barrier methods such as netting or screens that help keep pests away from your crops.

For example, as GreenHome.com suggests…

There are certain plants that you can incorporate into your garden that act as natural pest repellents which can protect other vulnerable vegetation.

Some species to consider include:

  • Camphor
  • Mints
  • Scented pelargoniums
  • Wormwood
  • Southernwood
  • Lavender
  • Balm of Gilead
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

These plants work by masking the attractive scent of surrounding plants. Look for other herbs that emit or are known for their spicy and bitter scents as opposed to sweet which attracts hungry, plant killing insects.

There are also plants that can act like a trap that you can sacrifice for the greater good. Nasturtium, mustard and Chinese cabbage all attract most insects that will feed on them rather than more important plants.

You may want to also use indicator plants which can alert you to a potential crop disease before it actually hits the crop. This is the case with rose bushes surrounding a garden as they have been known to indicate the onset of mildew disease. Plus, roses deter humans and animals from stopping on your precious creations.

However, there are times when you may need to resort to stronger stuff. If you’ve tried all of the methods above with no success, or if you have a particularly bad infestation, it may be time to call in the big guns. Fortunately, there are a number of natural plant-based products for controlling pests that are suitable for organic gardening.

Some organically-approved natural pesticide ingredients include:

Neem Oil

Neem oil is derived from the pressed fruits and seeds of a tree in the evergreen family native to India and now found throughout various parts of the globe.

It can be mixed with water in a spray bottle or purchased as the main ingredient in a ready-to-use product. Neem is effective in naturally eliminating aphids, mites and all species of fungi and is non-toxic to surrounding flora as well as mammals. (However, it does harm some beneficial insects, including spiders.)

Petroleum or Vegetable Oil (aka Horticulture Oils)

Products with a petroleum or vegetable based oil work to break the feeding cycle of pests along with infiltrating their eggs. These oils have been successful against all species that can create gardening havoc.

One formula to consider is mixing one tablespoon of canola oil and a few drops of liquid Ivory soap into a quart of water. Put in a spray bottle and generously spray plants being sure to cover the underside of leaves as these are common egg attachment locations.

Chrysanthemum

Pyrethrin is a popular pest control ingredient that is derived from the flowering chrysanthemum which many people simply call mums. It is EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved and effective against a wide variety of pests. Plus, it poses no risk to mammals… (However, it is very toxic to bees, and should be used only on non-flowering plants or during times when bees are not active.)

Citrus

The compound d-limonene which is found in orange peel oil is classified as a registered insecticide.

According to University of Florida’s IFAS Extension, it [d-limonene] kills fleas, aphids, mites, fire ants, house crickets, paper wasps and some flies…

Keep in mind that these substances should always still be handled with caution, and used as a last resort. Many of them are also harmful to beneficial insects and pollinators, so do your best to only use them when absolutely necessary, and try to minimize the impact by using them at times when beneficial insects are less likely to be in the vicinity. For example, wait until the evening to use any sprays that may be harmful to bees, which typically head home to the hive after sunset.

Organic gardening doesn’t have to be difficult – you just need to be smart and strategic when it comes to pest control, and always consider options that create the least amount of impact to the environment and your local environment whenever possible.

 

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