Controlling Plant Pests In the Organic Garden
Controlling plant pests in the organic garden has always been a
struggle because there is no suitable organic chemical to treat
them. I find that hoeing between plants regularly reduces soil
pests by bringing them to the surface, where birds can find them
Don’t give up hope! There are some very effective controls to rid
your garden of these destructive monsters. Not the least of these
methods is to encourage natural predators.
By maintaining an organic garden, you are providing a far more
conducive environment to all forms of wildlife than a chemically
controlled one. This natural balance ensures your garden will
contain, and attract, predators which will feed on garden pests.
Here is a list of some ‘garden friends’ and some things you can
do to encourage their help:
Sometimes regarded as a pest, placing productive and nesting
boxes near your garden will encourage birds into the garden where
they feast on grubs, caterpillars, slugs and aphids.
Frogs and Toads
A garden pond is perhaps the ideal compliment to attract frogs
and toads, however, they really only need water for breeding.
Frogs and toads are excellent for controlling slugs, woodlice and
other small insects.
Lady Beetles (lady bugs)
These aphid devouring predators are easily identifiable by most
gardeners. The less familiar, slate-gray larvae are not as
recognizable, but eat as much, if not more, than their adult
counterparts. They have the ability to be lured into the garden by cultivating a
varied selection of plants.
These black garden beetles prey on cutworms, leatherjackets,
slugs, snails and many other pests that have a larvae or egg
stage. Some species will even pursue prey that live on plants or
trees such as gypsy moths and tent caterpillars. Providing
permanent plantings, stones, or loose leaf cover will encourage
these voracious hunters and give them a place to hide during the
day. They will come out at night and feed on the pests. Adults
can live 2-3 years.
Planting pollen and nectar flowers and providing a water source
will encourage lacewings into your garden where they will lay
their eggs on the underneath of leaves. These eggs will hatch in
4-7 days and the larvae will feed on aphids and other soft bodied
insect pests for about 3 weeks, and then pupate in the soil for
5-7 days. Generally, 3-4 generations per year. Surviving adults
will then overwinter and emerge in the Spring to start the
Hover Flies/Flower Flies
The larvae, which resemble thin wasps, feed on aphids. Adult
flies lay their eggs directly in the aphid colonies. Eggs hatch
in 2-3 days and the larvae feed on aphids for 3-4 weeks. Two to
four generations per year. Hover flies can be attracted to the
garden by planting marigolds and nasturtiums close by.
It’s pretty simple to see that there are lots of ways nature provides
its own checks and balances. What we, as organic gardeners, need
to remember is – when we are trying to eliminate pests, it’s
important not to eliminate our beneficial ‘friends’.