Organic insect control in the garden is possible through a mixture of both natural ecosystems and preventive methods. However, complete annihilation is not the way to go. Any healthy ecosystem including gardens requires a fair share of insects for it to thrive. Insects act as a source of food for lizards, birds, and other forms of life, assist plants in pollination, help in breaking down nutrients in the soil, and also form compost when they die.
The Benefits of Using Organic Insect Control
To realize the benefits of using organic pest control in gardens, we must consider the demerits of using pesticides. First, pesticides do not provide crops with some nutrients that are only produced when insects nib on the plants. They also kill certain microbes that create help crops with biological means of fighting and protecting themselves against diseases. Second, pesticides have been associated with childhood cancers, fertility issues, Alzheimer’s, among other conditions. There is no 100% safe way of using pesticides, so in one or the other, they still have effects on the human body years later. Third, pesticides kill beneficial insects that help in fighting other harmful insects. Typically, such beneficial insects are slower in reproducing as compared to the harmful ones which means that the harmful insects will replenish their numbers faster, leading to additional problems in the garden.
Prevention Should Be the First Solution
Before you let insects invade your garden, there are a number of ways that can be used to prevent such infestations.
- Maintaining A Healthy Soil Profile – crops that are sick are the most susceptible to invasion by insects. Your garden’s soil should have the right mulch and compost combination, and you should apply organic fertilizers only. The plants should be planted with the right spacing so that they get proper shade and sunlight. You can use compost tea to help maintain the soil and introduce some beneficial bacteria. You should also do regular soil testing to determine the soil composition and nutrients that may be lacking.
- Companion Planting – This refers to planting other plants alongside your main crop to help drive away pests. Using this technique, crops are squeezed together and interspaced with their companions to form a permaculture-like setting. An example is interspacing roses with garlic to ward off aphids.
- Silver Reflective Mulching – This is a fairly new technique that involves laying down a silver sheet over the soil surrounding your plants. The shininess keeps off insects and birds, including those that hide under the leaves.
- Neem Oil – Neem oil is used all over the world as an insect repellant. In order to acquire the right concentration for pest control, you should purchase the oil commercially.
- Garlic Oil Spray – Garlic oil is a proven strong repellant against insects. You can make it at home by soaking freshly crushed garlic bulbs in vegetable oil and leaving the liquid for several weeks. You can then mix one portion oil with 4 portions water in a spray bottle and spray the mixture on your plants. You can also repel insects by inter-spacing your crops with garlic as explained in companion planting.
Techniques of Organic Pest Control
Prevention does not always work 100%. There are several organic methods for controlling insects if they invade your garden.
- Use Of Beneficial Insects And Other Creatures – Beneficial insects play a vital role in a garden. They include lacewings, praying mantis, wasps, spiders, and ladybugs. You can use certain plants or flowers to attract these insects. You can also purchase them from insect nurseries in your area. However, do not purchase too many of them that they lack food (the harmful insects) because they will then flee your garden.
Additionally, some reptiles, backyard birds, and amphibians can solve your pest problems. All you need is a healthy and safe environment in which these animals can survive.
- Handpicking – Although it may seem tiresome and time-consuming, handpicking is a very efficient and cost-effective method of insect control, especially if they are in small populations. You can inspect the undersides of your crops’ leaves and remove unwanted bugs. Handpicking every day is a sure way of preventing most infestations.
- Bacillus Thuringiensis – This is a bacteria that occurs naturally in the caterpillar bodies and is incidentally used to eliminate caterpillars. The bacteria is harvested and mixed with water, then sprayed on the underside of plant leaves.
- Diatomaceous Earth – This is a naturally occurring sedimentary rock that is soft and chalk-like. Diatomaceous earth acts as a bug killer as well as a repellant. It looks sparkly and shiny to insects, a characteristic that scares off the bugs. When it comes into contact with the insects, it dehydrates them by absorbing body fluids. It is not suitable in climates that are humid or rainy since it will require reapplying after being washed away.
Note: If you have recently applied pesticides on your garden, you should give your plants some time for them to balance out before applying some of the organic techniques.