If you’re an organic gardener, you’ve probably discovered that you have fewer insect problems then other gardeners. Organic gardeners add rich natural material to the soil. They constantly improve their soil by adding compost, manure, leaves, and grass clippings. This method does not guarantee that your garden will remain 100% pest free. What you can depend on is chemical free food and plants.
Look for Pests
If you know what the adult pests like to eat and where they lay their eggs, you can start to eradicate them from the garden. Pests, like beetles and worms, are easily picked off by hand.
Usually the best way to tell what type of insect you have is to look at the leaves. If you see round perforations, it is probably the flea beetle. If there is a typical angular opening, then weevils is the likely cause. If the leaves are skeletal, leaving only the veins showing, then beetle larvae.
Sucking insects will leave the foliage looking yellow, or stippled with white or grey patches.
Leaves that are yellow with webbing on the bottom side indicated red spiders. If you notice whitish streaks, look for thrips.
Curdled leaves indicate aphids. Cyclamen mites often cause deformed leaves. Blotches or tunnels usually mean your plant has leaf miners. Round protrusions on the leaves can be aphids, midges, or gall wasps.
Four Types of Control
Here are four ways you can keep enemy pests out of your garden, and away from your plants. They don’t control every bad bug, but it will help you have better success gardening.
When buying plants, make sure they are disease resistant. Healthy plants rarely have problems with insects and they are stronger to fight off disease.
Plants should be quarantined when they have are diseased or infested with bugs. It is easier to quarantine the plants when they are houseplants, but growing plants outdoors is different. If the plant is heavily infested with bugs, remove it from the soil and dispose it in a black plastic bag. Tie the bag tightly closed and leave it out in the sun to kill the insects. If you don’t see any bugs or if you can’t determine the reason why the plant is looking sick, take a sample in to the local county extension office. They can tell you what the problem is and if there is a way to cure the plant. If there is no cure, or if you just want to get rid of the plant and problem, dig or pull the infected plant or plants from the soil. Place them in a black plastic bag. Pick up dropped leaves or stems and place them in the bag. Tie the bag shut and leave out in the sun. Let the trash collector take the black bag away. Do not put the diseased plants or insect infested plants in your compost pile.
This is a safe non-chemical way to remove pests. Pick off beetles, worms, or caterpillars. Drop them in a bucket of soapy water or kerosene. Do this once or several times a day for four or five days.
Introduce beneficial bugs in the garden. Ladybugs feed on many bad pests. Lydella stabulans grisescens is a parasitic fly that eats corn borers.
Prevent the insects from being in your garden. When the garden season is over, til or dig up the garden soil to destroy insect eggs. This helps kill grasshopper eggs. Grasshoppers lay eggs in the late summer. They deposit the eggs in shallow burrows and the eggs are in the top 3 inches of soil. Tilling will bring them to the surface to eliminate them.
Before spring planting, til or work up the soil again to stop the cocoons of the grape berry moth from hatching. It is important to keep the garden area free from vegetation until it is time to plant again. Some bugs still hatch in the ground. By removing their food source, they will starve.
If you notice cabbage moths flying in your garden, protect the plants by draping cheesecloth over the top. Cabbage moths lay eggs on radishes, cabbages, turnips, cauliflowers, kohlrabi, and Brussel sprouts. If you don’t have cheesecloth, go out early in the morning when the ground is wet with dew. Sprinkle rye flour over the plant and around the plants. The larvae will become stuck in the flour and the sun will dehydrate them.