As the summer progresses, and the bugs get more established in your garden we are starting to see some more persistent pest problems. This week I’ll give you some more details on organic pest control for your garden.
We still want to develop and preserve a healthy ecosystem in the garden, and invite and keep as many beneficial insects into the garden as much as possible. Sometimes however, you can get infestations of some of the more persistent pests. Aphids, slugs, cucumber beetles and caterpillars are our biggest challenges at this time of year.
The best way you can protect your garden is to spend some time poking around, and getting familiar with your plants and keeping an eye out for potential problems before they become an issue.
Signs of trouble can be ragged holes in leaves, curled leaves, or burned looking trails or leaf tips.
Aphids can be light green, red, black, or white. They are small and soft bodied. Take a closer look if you see lots of ants crawling over your plants: ants farm aphids for their sweet secretions. They will actually carry the aphids into your garden. If you find a small amount of aphids in the garden, simply knock them off with a strong jet of water.
If you have a more serious infestation try this all purpose home-made organic insecticide. It is good to use on infected plants but please don’t spray it too widely as it will kill beneficial insects as well, and you want those good insects around to eat any future pests that show up.
Try straight 70% or 90% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Spray the affected plant, being sure to thoroughly wet all surfaces. Repeat every 3 days for about 2 weeks.
Garlic Pepper Pest Control Spray works wonders as a target insecticide
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 large red chili peppers, finely chopped (A whole bunch of hot sauce works well as well)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap
- 1 L of tap water
Place the chopped garlic cloves, chopped chili peppers and water into a large container and let sit for at least a couple of hours. Pour mixture through a strainer and place into a large glass container. Pour in the vegetable oil and liquid dishwashing soap. Stir until everything is combined. Use an old funnel and pour mixture into a clearly indicated spray bottle.
Compost tea works wonders as well. Take a handful of worm castings and tie it up in a piece of cloth and put it in a bucket of water. Stir vigorously every 3 or 4 hours to aerate for at least one day. Compost tea is a wonderful fertilizer and can be used as a soil drench to feed the roots, a foliar spray to feed the plants, and as a preventative insect repellent.
If you get cucumber beetles in your garden it is very important to deal with them as soon as possible. They breed very quickly and can destroy your cucumbers, melons, zucchini or squash. The best thing to do is hang a folded sticky trap tucked in beside your affected plant. Make sure that it is not hanging to far out in the open as passing wildlife can get caught up in the trap. To make it extra effective add a cotton ball soaked in oil of clove, cinnamon, cassia, allspice or bay leaf, all of which act as a powerful floral attractant.
The only way to deal with slugs in an organic garden is to remove and destroy. Keep an eye on the underside of leaves especially of lettuce, swiss chard, and other leafy greens around dusk, which is when they come out of hiding for a snack.
Other tactics include leaving the rinds of citrus, or melon in the garden at night and dispose of it in the morning once the slugs hide inside. I have reports of animals being attracted to the rinds as well, so if you have problems with critters best to use another method.
Beer traps work well as well. Dig a small plastic container into your garden, leaving a lip of at least 1/2″ above the the ground and fill it 2/3 full of beer. Empty the container of dead slugs and refresh with beer regularly
Watering in the morning instead of at night can help a lot too. It is much more difficult for slugs to travel over dry soil than wet soil.
It is a safe bet that any caterpillar in your garden is munching on your leaves. Keep an eye out on the underside of leaves especially of any plants with chunks missing. Pick off caterpillars by hand and destroy.