5 Organic Ways to Keep Garden Pests in Check
Organic gardening is simply fun and beneficial for your lifestyle but it comes with a small problem. Irrespective of your expertise in gardening, at some point or other pest problem becomes inevitable. To some extent it is natural and the plants can handle by themselves but if left unattended the problem may become major which can result in lost crop or even worse - loss of interest in gardening.
So my goal in this article is to share few easy tips that we follow (and anyone can follow) to keep the pests in check. We live in Florida and the kind of bugs may be different to your area but most of these principles and tips are common across.
With that said, let's dig into the tips that you can follow without a sweat (pun intended).
# 1 - Bug Repellent Sprays
A simple yet very effective way to control pests is a good old DIY bug repellent spray. We have 4-5 varieties of sprays that we keep rotating on our plants. They are: neem oil spray, asafoetida spray, cayenne pepper spray, and essential oil sprays (mint, cinnamon, lavender). One of the benefits of these sprays as opposed to any powerful pesticides: There will not be any impact to the good bugs like bees or the guy in the below picture.
Irrespective of the type of spray, the process of mixing remains same. Mix a bit of oil or powder with water and soap. That's it and it is ready to go. All you need is a sprayer and we found this sprayer works best for a mid sized garden.
# 2 - Egg Shells
No matter what type or how much of bug repellent spray you use, at times some of the caterpillars (as an example - the ones we get on corn) will continue to do their business. The best option for this problem is egg shells. Just crush some egg shells and keep them at the base on the plants. If the bugs are already on top of the plants, use some of the crushed shells on the area where there are caterpillars.
On a side note, if you happen to have some spoiled eggs they work as a very good organic fertilizer.
# 3 - Companion Plants
There are some plants that repels pests automagically. For example: onions and garlic have a strong smell and can be planted throughout the garden, radishes and borage will repel cucumber beetles, tomato hornworms, and cabbage moths etc.
Some plants will attract beneficial bugs to your garden. Plating some flower plants like marigold attracts bees and ladybugs (which eats bugs like aphids). On a similar note, sunflowers can keep the aphids off other plants. So don't think of symmetry in the garden and mix up the plants.
# 4 - Permaculture Principles
A super effective method is to follow some of the base permaculture principles. The full-fledged permaculture was bit too complicated for us so we ended up choosing couple of basic ones.
Mix of crops: It is recommended to mix the types of crops in a same bed to kind of take away the opportunity from pests to attack their favorite. We can personally attest that this method works very well from our experience.
Grow in season: This may sound like a no brainer but some of us try and grow the vegetables out of their season. Plants on their natural lifecycle of growing season are generally healthy (and can repel pests naturally) as opposed to force growing them in a different season.
# 5 - Healthy Soil and Regular Feeding
Soil is more like the heart of a healthy plant. Healthy plants have the tendency to handle the pests naturally. So keep building up the soil by adding compost and/or organic fertilizer on a regular basis. In addition to fertilizers, add some organic matter like blood meal and bone meal. Also, keep rotating the crops so that soil doesn't become like a dead soil.
Some counties (depending on where you live) offer the free compost for the residents. We are not fortunate enough to have that facility so we do the composting at home. An article for the no nonsense composting can be found here.
For organic fertilizer, some options are: fertilizer, fertilizer sticks, blood meal, bone meal, and last but not the least - black cow we can get from Lowes. Adding some composted manure is one of the best options for plants.
That's all from me and hope this was helpful to you. Peace !!!
Let us know what techniques that you use and works best for you in the comments section below so that we all can learn from it.