Are bugs trashing your garden? Before you reach for the broad spectrum spray, try controlling the pests in more earth friendly way. Striking a balance in the garden between the good insects and those that are trashing the garden can be achieved without spraying.
Identify the Culprit
Before you can set out on a course of action, the identity of the pest has to be determined. Wildlife will eat from your garden as well as insects. Chewed leaves could be insects, rabbit, or deer. If you live anywhere near water, a turtle and tortoise may come after tender plants and strawberries.
Disease can mimic insect infestation. Diseased plants are more susceptible to insect infestation. Before deciding on a course of action, know what you are dealing with.
Keep it Clean
Insects thrive in an untidy garden. Do not allow damaged or diseased fruits and vegetables to remain on the plants. Remove plants with severe insect infestations and either burn them or throw them in the trash. Do not compost them. Remove or treat any plants showing signs of disease as they will attract insects.
This is usually done so one plant benefits another. However, companion planting can include the use of trap plants or the use of plants to confuse pests. For example, planting radishes along the perimeter of a cabbage bed will help keep flea beetle and maggots away. Instead of attacking the cabbage, they will go for the radishes.
Plant a perimeter of tansy around a garden. Tansy is a natural insect repellent. Pests that plague vegetable and fruit crops do not recognize tansy as a potential food source so they leave the garden alone.
Other combinations to try are planting scented geraniums near crops or using herbs to attract beneficial insects and birds.
Try planting more than you need. We always plant two stands of parsley, dill and fennel. Every year our parsley and dill become infested with “parsley worms”. These are brightly colored caterpillars that decimate my flat leaf parsley, fennel and dill. I let them alone to do their thing. They grow up to be the black swallowtail butterfly. The plants return and are no worse for the wear. The kids enjoy watching the caterpillars go through their life cycle. They also enjoy poking at them so that they show their horns. When aggravated the caterpillar displays a set of feathery horns. 10 year old boys find this threat display rather amusing.
Mechanical does not refer to fancy machinery in this case. The term refers to physically removing garden pests. This is done in several ways. The first and easiest is to shake or hand pick all insects off of the plant. It can be time consuming, but it is very effective.
Another mechanical method is to use traps. Slugs can be controlled using beer traps. Earwigs are controlled with cat food in cardboard tubes.
A strong spray of water will blast smaller pests off of sturdy plants. Finally, using row covers will keep insects from gaining access to your garden. Row covers allow in light, air, and water while providing an effective barrier against insects.
Remember that you cannot completely eliminate all garden pests. The key is to strike a balance and understand that there will be some minor damage to some of the plants no matter what methods you choose.