Sunday, August 9, 2009

Garden Pest Warfare-The Organic Way

My vegetable garden is in full swing and usually about this time each year I am faced with a few unwanted guests. I am talking about insects and creatures of the night who seek out my prized, perfectly ripe heirloom vegetables and devour them. It is warfare alright, but it does not have to be toxic (to humans).

There are some really good products out there which are organic and/or safe to use on your edibles. Below is a list of typical garden pests or diseases with some organic or safe solutions. Click on each unwanted guests name (below) to identify and follow the links to the organic solution.

Ants- Boric acid potion mix 2 Tb boric acid (drug stores carry it) mixed with a sweet liquid/jelly (think they used apple or mint jelly) to make a paste. Put the paste in 8 oz. margarine tubs with holes in the sides (to keep pets out).
Aphids-ladybugs are a great and organic solution to aphid control. you can also use Neem it is a oil and soap concentrate that when added to water can be sprayed on pest to kill by suffocation. This product can also be used for controlling fungus (i.e. powdery mildew).
Powdery Mildew- Use Organacide which is a concentrate you can mix with water and spray on leaves. I have used this product a few times this year on my summer squash and it works overnight.
Blossom-End Rot- Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant and can be corrected with quick action. First, pick all fruit that has been damaged (see image for identification). Second, mulch the soil around plants to provide more consistent moisture after temperatures rise. One of the causes of BER is uneven moisture, so mulching helps retain moisture. Third, there is a product called Blossom-end rot spray by Green Light (found at most big box stores) that can be sprayed on the foliage for quick results. I have used this in the past and it has worked!
Caterpillars- Mockingbirds. Hand pick off plant. Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) targets and eliminates bad bugs while not harming beneficial bugs. The way b.t. works is actually quite interesting. B.t. is a natural occurring soil bacteria that acts sorta like a stomach virus to the caterpillar. So which essentially it is a "bug" for the bugs. B.t. comes in liquid and powder form and is quite economical. The product is not just for killing caterpillars it will also destroy tent caterpillars, cabbage loopers, cutworms, gypsy moth larvae, budworms, corn borers, tomato hornworms, leafrollers, peach tree borers, webworms, codling moths, and other caterpillars. B.t. is also available for controlling the larvae of black flies, mosquitoes, and fungus gnats, in addition to potato beetles and certain leaf beetles.
Tomato Horn Worm
-Hand pick off plant. Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.)
Mice/Rats- Mouse traps and rat traps
White Fly-Use Neem it is a oil and soap concentrate that when added to water can be sprayed on pest to kill by suffocation. This product can also be used for controlling fungus (i.e. powdery mildew).
Grasshopper-Neem (nymph stage), Diatomaceous Spray-Mix one cup (240 ml) of diatomaceous earth with one gallon (3.8 l) of water along with two tablespoons (30 ml) of blackstrap molasses. Spray this onto the plants. Grasshopper Pathogen (Nosema locustae)- it is a spore that causes blood poisoning which brings on death. When other grasshoppers feed on the dead infected grasshopper the disease is spread. it is important to start this treatment early in the nymph stage because it takes awhile to see results.
Earwig-Diatomaceous earth (see above). Damp newspaper rolls-roll up damp sheets of newspaper and place in the garden over night. At sunrise the earwigs crawl into the wet newspaper to take refuge. Collect the bundles before they dry out and throw them out in a secure plastic bag.
Grubs-Milky Spore Powder
Birds-Birds can be extremely beneficial to the garden so I only use bird netting over my tomatoes. Make sure there are no holes for birds to get in and get trapped.
Raccoons, Rabbits and Squirrels- I would recommend trapping the little critters and moving them to another location. We have tried repellents and they have not worked for us.
Slug and Snail- Tuna can and beer-Fill a empty tuna can with beer and bury it with soil. The slugs love the taste of beer and will crawl in and drown, Diatomaceous earth and Sluggo.

Beneficial bugs in the garden is the least toxic and a great way to fight bad bugs in the garden. ATTRA has created a list of beneficial bugs and a way to attract them into your garden. Good luck!