Controlling Pests in the Organic Garden

Reader Contribution by Dianne Venetta

When growing plants using organic methods, the job of bug killing becomes a unique proposition. Spritzing chemicals from a spray bottle or tossing toxic powder along your beds is not okay. No way, no how, are you going to add potential hazards to your otherwise healthy garden. But the bugs remain, and if left unchecked, will devour your precious bounty.

How to Eliminate Pests the Organic Way

Organic methods require you to be smarter than the bugs. Quicker than the fiends. You must be vigilant. Determined. And yes, skilled in the art of “dispatch.” Take heart sensitive souls, killing isn’t a requirement. We’re talking pluck and relocate, moving the invaders out and away from your garden. If they’re out of sight, your fruits and leaves will be safe.

For those with squeamish bellies, relax–you’ll get over any ill-feelings quite quickly once you witness the devastation wrought by these garden marauders. Incredibly, all your hard work and plant care can be reduced to stems in a matter of hours. Take the hornworm. This beast will consume an entire tomato plant in one chomping, much like the little fella in the storybook, The Hungry Caterpillar.


Seriously. But the good news is that hornworms and caterpillars are easy to catch–albeit difficult to spot–and easily plucked from the vine. If slugs and snails are a problem, set out a bowl of beer. Seems they have an affinity for the stuff but find it easier to get “in to” than “out of.” Like many things in life, eh? Diatomaceous earth will wreak havoc on the insides of many garden pests and prevent them from consuming your plants while garlic spray works to repel them altogether. Neem oil is another good bet and widely available in most garden centers.

Beneficial Insects Will Handle the Work of Pest Control

However, if the task of grabbing insects makes you recoil, or creating organic concoctions sounds too complicated, why not invite a few of your neighborhood ladybugs to move in? While you’re at it, ask a few frogs over, too.  Hey, let’s say we make it a party and invite a few friendly dragonflies to join the mix, some hoverflies, a pair of lacewings, and heck, give a shout out to some gorgeous cardinals. Why?

Because according to the laws of Mother Nature, everyone needs to eat–insects, birds and amphibians included. Did you know ladybugs absolutely love aphids, while frogs consume crickets and spiders like they’re going out of style?  Dragonflies make a feast of mosquitoes and flies and cardinals?  I hear they feed grasshoppers to their young.

Have you ever heard of anything more glorious?  I mean, grasshoppers can prove to be a horrible nuisance when it comes to plants. And I must confess, anything that keeps them on the run receives an extra star in my garden journal. These bugs are known as “beneficials” because they benefit your garden by chasing the bad bugs out.

Companion Planting Keeps the Pests at Bay

Consider companion planting when it comes to garden pest control. This is the practice of interplanting according to beneficial relationships between plants. For instance, rosemary deters cabbage moths, dill attracts hornworms, marigolds repel whiteflies while lavender nourishes a host of beneficial insects.  Marigolds can also deter the invisible nematodes lurking in your soil.

While I love the scent of garlic, many insects do not and will stay away. Planting garlic in and around your garden will help protect against a host of insects. For those edible landscape enthusiasts, try planting garlic around your roses as it helps ward off aphids.

These are just a few examples, but you can download an entire list from my website, BloominThyme, and take heart in knowing your garden is chemical and poison-free.

Award-winning author and blogger D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new seriesWild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.

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