An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and maintaining healthy plants is no exception. Using organic methods to keep insects away from plants facilitates a greater diversity and stability for the system as a whole.
Using physical barriers and traps to catch insects before they can make contact with plants is a great way to reduce insect pressure.
Place sticky fly paper in the garden in order to catch pesky white flies before they make their landing. Some traps also come with insect pheromones, to lure pests away from plants, and into the trap. These pheromones are not harmful to people or pets, and are a cheap way to handle a flying insect problem in a small garden.
Physical barriers can also protect young plants from being ravaged by insects. Seedlings and young trees with paper or cardboard guards will fare better against hungry bugs. Spiral tree guards are available for sale, or DIY by fashioning a border around seedlings with carton or cardboard, as soon as the leaves poke out of the soil.
Neem and other horticultural oils are often used to organically control pests and insects after an infestation. However, natural horticultural oils such as neem oil have also been found to deter insects from plants in the garden.
Herbs contain natural oils that can keep insects away. Planting chives, fennel and oregano in the garden around other plants may discourage insects from settling in. Horticultural oils may contain essential oils from herbs, and can be easily applied with a handheld sprayer.
Using a non-toxic and biodegradable organic insect repellent is a great way to keep plants healthy. Concentrates such as neem oil are harvested from trees and mixed with water for easy spray applications. Neem oil is effective against insects because the oils can coat the body of an insect, to block respiration, causing it to die. Its bitter taste after application is also a repellant for leaf-eating insects.
The best time to spray is early in the morning, before bees and other beneficial visitors are too active, and when daily temperatures are at their coolest. Test small areas of the plant by spraying on the top and underside of the leaves, where most insects can find refuge. Also, be sure to reapply regularly, as biodegradable oils will break down and wash away with sunlight and rainfall.
Many night-active insects do their best work in the cloak of the darkness, only to reveal their destruction in the morning sun, after it is too late. Some night insects, however, are sensitive to the light, and will either be attracted to, or deterred by lighting at night.
Gardening at night can be a fun adventure, as plants may change form, and night-dwelling critters make their presence known. Going on a quick walk around the garden at nighttime, with a flashlight, might reveal the secret visitor that has been plaguing the garden.
For insects that are attracted to lights at nighttime, consider removing any porch, or other outdoor lighting that could be potentially attracting these insects. Alternatively, use the light to strategically as a lure into an insect trap.
Beetles in particular are sensitive to night-lights, and are can cause a lot of destruction overnight. Employing solar night-lights in the garden might make it easier to see the perpetrators of destruction at night. However, keep in mind that using lights at nighttime will attract or repel a variety of insects, which may impact the ecosystem of the garden.
Lacewings, wasps and laybirds are all beneficial insects that eat aphids and other pests in the garden. Throughout different stages of their life cycles, these helpful friends offer organic, pest-eating services to the benefit of the garden.
Nematodes are tiny, soil borne worm-like creatures that are very small, and difficult to see without a microscope. Like insects, there are many nematodes that can be destructive to plants, but there are also nematodes that are beneficial in healthy garden systems. Beneficial nematodes are available for sale at some garden centers, and will attack grubs, cutworms, weevils, and other insects that live in the soil.
Live ladybirds are available for purchase at many garden centers, but it is always better to try to attract them naturally to the garden first. This ensures that their residence is a sustainable and long-term relationship with the garden.
Attracting beneficial insects is also possible by planting insect-friendly plants such as fennel, dill, or dandelion. These plants offer sources of food and shelter for beneficial insects, which they may need in order to complete their life cycle in the garden.
To minimize future pest problems, organic methods are a great way to keep insects at bay, and ensure a long, healthy life for the garden.
Ken 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 soil amendments and other agricultural products. When he’s not working, he enjoys blogging, hiking, and plenty of steak and grilled veggies.