If you have a garden, you have pests. There is always something looking for a free meal, and your luscious garden produce looks a lot like an all you can eat buffet to many insects. Pest management can be broken down into 2 parts, the first of which is, or at least should be, pest prevention. The second is pest control. Prevention is always better than dealing with the aftermath. Control is what you do when you failed to prevent. We understand this with auto accidents and disease, but often forget when it comes to our homes and gardens.
Pest prevention in organic gardens is really a matter of keeping your plants healthy. Healthy plants ward off fungus, disease, and insects, and healthy plants are a result of having the right plants in the right place with the right conditions. This is accomplished by taking a few steps that most organic gardeners do instinctively. These tips for pest prevention in organic gardens can serve as a reminder for those who have been involved in organic farming for a while, and as a checklist if you are new to the craft.
Choose the right varieties
Choosing a variety of plant that is resistant to your local pests is a great first step in avoiding pest problems down the line. The right plants will favor insects which pollinate, and those that eat other insects. Talk to other gardeners and even your local county extension agent to learn what works and what doesn’t in your area.
Grouping plants according to elemental needs
Group for water and sunlight. Some plants need more sunshine than others, some need wet conditions, some need dry. Grouping your plantings according to their elemental needs will go a long way toward keeping them healthy, and free of pests.
Attention to the plants internal calender
Plant at the proper times If a plant is trying to grow in opposition to what it’s genetics are telling it to do, it will be weak and pest prone. Try to match your plantings with your season.
Improve soil structure Organic gardeners automatically have a head start on pest control, since organic gardening tends to have some aspects of pest prevention built-in to the process, due in large part to the emphasis on good soil structure. Loose, well aerated soil, with plenty of organic matter creates a healthy environment for plant roots
Balance soil fertility Good fertility leads to healthy plants, and healthy plants are less susceptible to pests. Overly lush, over fertilized plants are easy targets for garden predators, and under fertilized plants are weak and susceptible to unwanted insects.
Water properly. Properly balanced watering according to the needs of the plant, will strengthens plants, while under watering weakens plants and makes insect attacks inevitable. Over watering can cause the same problems, and create a few new pest problems in the process.
If these factors are balanced, your garden plants will be healthier, and more disease and pest resistant, thus preventing the majority of pest problems. Failing this, or if other factors have conspired to bring on a pest invasion, or if some pests just managed to get through the prevention barrier, it may be necessary to resort to pest control.
Organic pest management methods are separated into 3 types, biological, and botanical and physical.
Biological pest control is one method suitable to organic gardening. Biological pest controls include lady bugs, spiders, praying mantis, and other bugs that feed on the insects feeding on your garden.
Botanical pest management agents are made from plant oils and naturally occurring pyrethrins. There are products available to target and safely kill unwanted pests, but like most commercial insecticides, they will kill beneficial insects as well, so caution should be exercised.
Physical pest control is the removal of pests by hand. This is often done with a stream of water, a net, or by picking the bugs from the plant using the fingers. This method is often slow and tedious, but can be effective in many situations.