In one of my school garden interactions, a student asked a question on pest control, and I genuinely think though this is a specialty area it’s one of the common challenges for gardeners.
Let me expand on the answer I provided to our young school gardener. Every organic garden suffers from pests at one time or another. Usually, this is a minor annoyance with most of the damage being cosmetic. Sometimes, though, you can struggle with a pest incursion. This can be difficult for the novice organic gardener, who may be tempted to go back to conventional methods. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe, practical organic approaches to use.
1: Select plants for pest resistance
Some plants are naturally more resistant to pests. Garlic and onions are highly pest resistant. Some root vegetables like radishes are resistant to insects, although slugs and snails will still eat them.
2: Practice intercropping and companion planting
Companion planting is the practice of putting specific plants alongside each other to promote healthy growth. In the case of pest control, you should consider companion planting with species that can repel pests. Garlic is excellent for this; planting garlic here and there among your other vegetables can reduce the number of pests in your garden.
Intercropping involves planting different crops next to each other. This avoids monocultures, which can encourage pests. If a pest can’t find the right species to settle on, it can’t begin an infestation.
3: Use physical defences
Pest control doesn’t have to be chemical. You can protect your plants from insects, slugs, snails, and birds using physical barriers.
- Nets: These are great if your problem is birds or small animals nibbling on your garden. Choose a mesh that’s small enough to stop birds from sticking their heads through the holes.
- Copper wire and crushed eggshells: If your problem is damage by slugs and snails, you may need a different approach. Placing copper wire or strips along the ground can deter snails and slugs from attacking your plants. Crushed eggshells are also hard for slugs or snails to crawl over.
4: Keep your plants healthy
Plants have a surprising range of defences against pests. They can produce substances that discourage insects from moving in and keep infestations at bay. Adequately watered, well-fertilised plants are better at fending off predators.
5: Encourage beneficial insects
Pollinators are essential, but don’t neglect other beneficial insects in your organic garden. Ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insects help keep down pests, eating greenfly and other bugs that you don’t want. Avoid trying to introduce these artificially. Instead, attract helpful insects by planting flowers they can feed on. These include sunflowers, angelica and other flowers that have a flat shape and plentiful nectar.
If you’re still struggling with pests in your organic garden, you can try a few of the following organic pesticides which can be made at home:
How to make organic pesticides
The best way to make natural pesticides is to use natural products that you have lying around your house. Garden pests are repelled or killed by a surprising number of safe and natural products. Here are a few natural insect repellent recipes I know and personally use:
Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #1
- 1 head of garlic, 1 tablespoon (15 ML.) dish soap (note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
- 2 tablespoons (29.5 ML.) mineral or vegetable oil
- 2 cups (480 ML.) water. Peel the garlic cloves and puree the cloves along with the oil and water.
Allow to sit overnight and then strain the mixture. Add the soap and mix thoroughly. Pour into a spray-bottle and use on pest-infected plants.
Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #2
- 1 tablespoon (15 ML.) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons (29.5 ML.) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (5 ML.) dish soap or Murphy Oil (note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
- 2 quarts (1 L.) of water. Combine ingredients and pour into a spray bottle.
Use this organic bug spray on your affected plants.
Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #3
- 1/2 cup (120 ML.) chopped hot peppers (the hotter the better)
- 2 cups (480 ML.) water, 2 tablespoons (29.5 ML.) dish soap (note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
Puree peppers and water. Let sit overnight. Strain carefully (this will burn your skin) and mix in dish soap. Pour into a spray bottle and spray this organic bug spray on your buggy plants.
Share your experience with your vegetable pest management with us via email: [email protected]