Does organic pest-free gardening sound like an unattainable dream?
To many gardeners it might, but achieving organic pest control is all about the working ecosystem.
If your garden is not an ecosystem and just lovely rows of weeded monoculture crops, the bad bugs tend to thrive and be more of a nuisance.
I’ve written a long post on ecosystem gardening before (you can read it here) but I wanted to give you a refresher for organic management of pests. Be sure to check out my aphid control post and if your pest problem is really bad be sure to pull up the plants and sow something new.
Tips for Organic Pest Management
Here are some general tips for using an organic approach to managing pests in your garden.
The one thing to note with any organic management is that it takes time, you might not see the effects immediately.
People tend to reach for sprays because it’s fast, and even though can buy or make organic and natural ones (here’s a great DIY one from reformation acres), you should still practice long term strategic methods for organic pest management.
Here are some tips for long-term organic pest management.
- Grow companion planting herbs and flowers to deter pests away from your crops or attract them away from eating them (see the chart at the end of the post).
- Attract the good bugs that eat the pests using flowers and plants they love. We always encourage the wasps to eat cabbage moth caterpillars and found a great reduction in damage. Many flowers attract hoverflies, lacewigs and ladybugs. I absolutely LOVE the wildflower blends from West Coast Seeds on attracting beneficial insects. I’m sowing the beneficial insect blend this season for attracting lacewings, hover flies and ladybird beetles to help control aphids, thrips, and caterpillars.
- Use constant vigilance and hand-picking for the larger pests like squash bugs and slugs (yuck, I know, but it’s one of the best tactics, especially if you can’t keep ducks and chickens).
- Educate yourself. The more you know about bugs in your garden the better understanding you’ll have on which ones are bad and which are good. There’s a great book below (affiliate link) if you wish to learn more.
- Use beneficial helpers like ducks or chickens for bug and slug control (permaculture!). We’re building a chicken run (moat) around most of the garden for bug & rodent control.
- Purchase the good bugs that eat the bad and add them to your garden. A lot of places sell praying mantis or ladybugs for example. You’re still better attracting them than bringing them in (some people say that these bugs aren’t a native species for example and can interfere with wild populations) but if you need a bug fix and have none in your yard at all it can help. Urban Sunshine is one place you can order beneficial bugs from & they have these great images below for guidance.
- Use hoop tunnels. Using tunnels with insect netting (affiliate link) or light weight row cover during the peak infestations (for example when the bad bug lays eggs) has great success at deterring pests short term.
Here’s a handy chart from eReplacementParts gardening and lifestyle blog