by Aaron Dykes
Simple strategies to fight garden pests the organic way!
The bane of every garden is its pests – unwanted insects ravaging your growing crops, as well as four-legged creatures ready to treat your hard work as a free meal.
But for those raising an organic garden – without potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides – it can be an even greater challenge to keep out invasive and nosy creatures without killing the life around you and introducing detrimental compounds into your body and the surrounding ecosystem. But some of the strategies are often simpler than you expect.
Organic pest control – Natural bug and insect repellents
This video from Howdini.com covers some basic approaches to control pests in an organic garden – where avoiding the use of any synthetic pesticides and chemicals is one of the first priorities.
Some of these relatively simple tips include:
– Observe your garden: According to Scott Meyer [Author, The City Homesteader & former editor of Organic Gardening], about 80% of insects commonly found near gardens are actually beneficial. The most well known and celebrated of these beneficial insects is the Ladybug, but others include the Preying Mantis (which prey upon other insects, not you or your garden, despite its menacing appearance).
– Not all pest activity harms your garden: Using a well-chewed broccoli leaf, Meyer also explains how not all invasive foraging interferes with your production. While this broccoli leaf has been nearly destroyed, it in no way compromises the healthy head of broccoli (which is the coveted vegetable treat most intended to grow).
Thus, if insects are only munching on parts of plant that are not critical to your harvest, it may not be harmful and could even have a side benefit of drawing pests away from other leaves that are edible crops (such as Kale leaves, etc.). This is sometimes done intentionally with radishes, which are quick growing, less valuable and can be planted between other more desirable crops.
For the insects and other pests you do want to target, there are several worthwhile alternatives to using chemicals that could harm you, your crops and the surrounding environment:
Repel Unwanted Pests With Harmless, Safe and Cheaply Homemade Soaps & Oils
– Peppermint Oil & Soap: One of several insecticidal soaps that works as an organic pesticide is a peppermint oil-based soap. Recipes vary, but basically these ingredients are mixed in a gallon of water and sprayed directly on plant leaves weekly for pest control.
Scott Meyer discusses a product called “Rose Pharm,” a certified Organic brand of peppermint oil insect soap used to keep bugs off leaves and disable them without causing harm to anything else in or near your garden and home. The product description reads in part:
100% PURE Amazingly, pure peppermint oil scrambles the senses of insects, leaving them disoriented, unable to breed, feed or breathe. We have actually seen aphids land on treated rose buds, scramble around for 15 minutes and fly away!
According to the product’s website, it can deal with “Mealybugs, Ants, Thrips, Aphids, Spider Mites, Whiteflies, Scales, Leafhoppers, Earwigs and more.”
– Garlic Oil: Another recommendation is for the same purpose is garlic oil, which is also commercially available, but can be cheaply made at home by stewing a minced clove of garlic in a cup of vegetable oil (refrigerated) for a couple of days (the oil extracts the natural oil from the garlic, as well as other materials). Afterwards, strain out the garlic and use 2 tbsp. of the garlic oil with a quart of water and a few drops of soap (real soap is most recommended, but responsible dish soap can work in a pinch).
The resulting mixture is sprayed on plants and many types of bugs are repelled. Apply weekly or as needed.
The Sierra Club (Canada) provides the following recipe:
Garlic Oil Spray:
• 3 Ounces of minced garlic; 2 teaspoons of mineral oil
• Soak the garlic in the mineral oil for a least 24 hours…
• Mix in a glass jar
• 1 Ounce of dishwashing liquid
• 1 Pint of water garlic and mineral oil mix
Step 2: You can use the glass jar to store the excess solution.
Plant Application Use Only:
• 1-2 Tablespoons of concentrated garlic mix
• 1 Pint of water
• 1 Spray bottle
– Insect Killing Soap: A variant of the other organic pest control measures is insect soap, which ‘washes away’ the protection provided by the exoskeleton when sprayed directly on many insects.
This, too, is commercially available but can be cheaply made at home with existing ingredients.
Here is the Sierra Club (Canada) recipe:
Basic Soap Spray
• 2 Tablespoons biodegradable dishwashing liquid
• 1 Gallon of warm water
• Mix and use as a spray.
• Repeat as necessary
– Cayenne Pepper / Hot Pepper Spray: It isn’t discussed in the above video, but many gardening aficionados also recommend using cayenne pepper to repel not just insect pests, but other neighborhood pests (such as cats, raccoons, etc.) as well.
There are several variants, and it would seem most types of hot peppers or powder can be substituted (non-irradiated sources are recommended). With each, a 24-hour soaking period is recommended to draw out the essence of the source plants.
Sierra Club (Canada) has two recommended variants:
Hot Pepper Spray
• 3-4 Hot peppers chopped or 2-4 Tsp. Tabasco sauce or hot pepper powder (cayenne, etc)
• 1 Quart of boiling water
• 1 Quart of cold water
• 2 Drops of biodegradable dishwashing liquid (optional)
Drop hot peppers into a pot of boiling water. Remove the pot form the stove a let steep for 24 Hours (same as garlic spray) Remove the peppers after steeping and add cold water to dilute the pepper solution. Add the soap to help the spray stick to the plant. Remember check a small spot first, before spray the whole plant.
or a combination or cayenne/hot pepper AND garlic:
All-purpose Garlic Spray
• 6 Cloves of garlic
• 1 onion
• 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 Tablespoon biodegradable dishwashing liquid
• 1 Quart of water
Put the first 4 ingredients into a blender, add some of the water, and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a jar and add the rest of the water. Let steep for 24 hours (or a couple of hours if you need to it just will not be a strong.) Strain, and then pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Treat plants. Keep extra spray in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Treat again if necessary
Many bloggers also recommend mixtures with lemon or citrus oil extract, as well as endless variants of insect soaps and/or oil blends to keep pests to a minimum without killing off other life.
– Mammalian Pests: Howdini.com also discusses strategies to keep out unwanted pests – not of the insect world, but those on four legs. Everything from cats, to rodents, raccoons and deer could invade your garden and treat it as an open salad bar.
• Sufficiently-high fences are the first strategy – do what you can to keep these four-legged creatures out of your garden in the first place with a well-placed fence. Cayenne and hot pepper mixtures reportedly help as well.
• Shiny, distracting, moving objects – Various types of glistening and moving objects that make noise or create distractions can help keep mammalian munchers – particularly deer – at unease when invading your garden. Throw them off-guard with these trimmings and it may keep them clear of your produce.
Check them out and find a solution that works for you: