By Guest Author Ken Marshall.
Insects are all at once the friend and the foe of the gardener. Beneficial bugs help with pollination and can help to keep the population of other insect species under control. But pest insects can quickly decimate your entire season’s crop, and leave you wondering if it’s time to reach for the heavy-duty chemicals to combat them.
Before you introduce harsh chemical insecticides into your soil and into your food chain, consider effective organic methods to keep insects away from your crops and keep your soil and plants healthy.
Keep in mind that the goal is not to kill off every insect on your property. A healthy growing ecosystem needs beneficial insects and microbes, both on the plants and in the soil. The introduction of additional predatory insects could prove to be an effective and natural option for pest management. Praying mantis, ladybugs, ground beetles and spiders are just some of the beneficial insects that will be attracted to a healthy garden habitat.
Another consideration is that organic does not necessarily mean that the pest control solution is going to be safe to use around beneficial insects. Some solutions are just as dangerous to the helpful bugs as they are to the harmful bugs. But the key point is that you will be protecting the health of your soil and plants from chemical toxins that may take years to cycle out of your ecosystem.
1 Diatomaceous Earth
Made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, single-celled algae, diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural material that offers a number of uses in and around the home. A natural insecticide, DE does not poison insects, but it will kill them. The abrasive qualities of the diatomaceous earth are what causes injury to the insects. When they come in contact with it, the DE irritates their exoskeletons and effectively absorbs away the lipids in the exoskeleton. This causes the insects to dehydrate and die.
- DE should be dusted where it is needed most, on the soil around the base of your plants, or on the foliage if you have pests prevalent there. It can be sprinkled on slugs and snails directly. But keep in mind that DE will act on all insects – beneficial and otherwise.
- DE is highly effective in reducing fleas and ticks on your pets. Simply sprinkle it onto their coats and work it in with your fingers.
- DE is washed away with water and should be reapplied after every a rainstorm if the pests are not under control.
2. Neem Oil
Neem oil is extracted from the seeds that are produced by the neem tree and offers antifungal properties, as well as being a natural insecticide. For insects, it works as a hormone disrupter and interrupts the life cycle of insects at any stage. It can be applied prior to infestations, and at any point during the lifecycle of the attacking pests. It can also be sprayed on plants that are prone to powdery mildew or black spot to protect against these fungal infections.
- Neem oil is categorized as an antifeedant, which is a term used to describe plant-produced organic compounds that prevent attacks on the plant from insects or animals that would make a meal out of it. Many plants naturally produce these compounds to protect themselves.
- Neem oil is harmless to use around pets and wildlife that may be around your crops, and it’s biodegradable.
- You can spray neem oil on your plants directly, even on healthy leaves to prevent insects from moving in. Many who grow fruit trees have found that a good annual spraying with neem oil can help to eradicate pests that otherwise stick around year-after-year and destroy entire harvests.
3. Pyrethrin Extracts
Many gardeners will tout the benefits of planting chrysanthemums among their fruits and vegetables as a deterrent for insects. It’s believed this is effective because chrysanthemums contain pyrethrin, an organic compound known for its proven insecticidal properties.
- Pyrethrin is biodegradable and generally considered to be non-toxic to mammals
- Pyrethrin works by quickly penetrating and destroying the nervous systems of the insects that it comes into contact with.
- Many commercially available pyrethrin-based pest control products combine with neem oil, for the best possible results.
These three organic methods for pest control are readily available at most garden or farming supply centers. While they are considered non-toxic to humans and household pets, it’s recommended that a face mask and gloves are worn to avoid direct contact and the risk of inadvertently inhaling them during application.
Ken Marshall is a huge fan of living his life to the fullest. His health is extremely important to him and he currently enjoys helping Norcal Ag Service get the word out about their organic farming supplies. When he’s not working, he enjoys blogging, hiking, and plenty of steak and grilled veggies.