Organic Solutions to Combat Pests

Fight On

When March arrives, gardeners’ excitement becomes palpable. Options are pondered, investigated and weighed. Past successes smugly recalled; challenges remembered, processes corrected and vows made.

Digging, planting, watering, watching—waiting patiently for a seedling to emerge, a smidgen of green to push through crumbly soil. It feels almost magical—transforming a simple seed into exquisite blooms, plump fruit, aromatic herbs or vibrant vegetables. Ahhhh...grower’s pride.

But only weeks in, you notice gluttonous garden pests have announced themselves, leaving webs of delicate veins in place of vibrant green leaves. You want the shortest route to a pest-free garden; but you silently repeat—and strongly consider—the counterarguments to using just anything:

  1. What you spray on your plants will end up on your plate.

  2. Stormwater runoff will carry garden pesticides into your pond—disrupting its balance and threatening its ecosystems.

And all-natural is your modus operandi; it makes sense.

And many who have dismissed the impact of chemical contamination as balderdash have learned hard lessons—then joined the movement.

Organic options have been used long before “organic” became a movement—simply because they worked. Gardeners considered it getting creative with what they had—which happened to be natural. We benefit from their wisdom and lessons learned.

Here are some tried and true organic options to deter pests:

Aphids: Play defense by planting garlic and onions—aphids are repelled by their scent. If aphids have already moved in, spray leaves with a garden hose. Release an army of ladybugs—they will thrive on a diet of aphids. As a last resort, mix 2 tablespoons of all-natural dish soap with warm water and apply the mixture to the top and underside of leaves. (This will destroy the pests, but also may kill predatory bugs beneficial to your garden—so try other options first).  

Spider Mites may be invisible without a magnifying glass, but their damage is not. Webbing or yellow and white spots on leaves may indicate they have set up shop. They tend to congregate on the underside of leaves. First, try spraying spider mites off with a low pressure hose or remove by wiping leaves with a sponge. Next, try spraying affected leaves with a concoction of rosemary oil and water, which usually does the trick.

Slugs emerge after rain—a good time to remove them. For those that elude you, create a slug trap. Empty and wash a tuna can, fill with beer, and bury it up to its rim. Slugs will crawl in and drown. Another option is to put crushed egg shells on the soil around plants—slugs won’t like the sharp texture they create.  

Introduce nematodes to your garden to combat grubs and Japanese beetles. They consume Japanese beetles in all stages, as well as many other garden pests. And through the magic of Mother Nature, they leave beneficial insects like ladybugs alone. Apply Milky Spore—a natural bacteria—to soil; grubs and beetles ingest it which controls the infestation in one to three weeks.

When it comes to pests, preventive strategies are key. Weak and dying plants are a welcome mat for garden pests—so consistent removal is a must. Weeds serve as a breeding ground, so consistent weeding will help keep pests at bay.

But when pests appear—remember—organic solutions work. Feel good about it!