In this podcast episode, I discuss a few methods for controlling destructive insects in your organic garden and give the best chance for having a great harvest.
- High winds did a little damage to the greenhouse.
- Snow, no snow, snow, no snow, rain, rain, rain… hard to keep up with the weather right now.
- Trying to not get started too early on some of my garden duties.
- Applying compost
- The Kombucha bug is spreading!
Hangin’ Out on the Homestead Front Porch:
These last few days there have been a lot of conversations around garden preparation and chickens as folks get those seeds started and start buying their baby chicks.
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Main Topic Of Discussion:
Destructive Insect Control For Organic Gardening
Now is the time to start planning your garden, what you’re going to grow, how much you’re going to grow, where you’re going to grow it and etc. One thing you should be considering is how do I plant a garden that is most resistant to destructive garden insects. These enemies of the garden can make your dream garden a nightmare. There are many ways of dealing with these pests when you have them but like many things in life the best defense is a good offense, if you think about and plan this out ahead of time you can save yourself a lot of misery later.
What Things Can You Do?
Know Your Enemy!
It’s important to know what you need to defend against. There are many insects that are harmful for your garden but there are also many that are your friends. Study what insects are common to your area, get to know what attracts them, what they like, and what they don’t like. Having this information is extremely helpful in planning your garden.
Attract or Bring In The Right Insects.
If there are good ones that eat the bad ones then it makes sense to attract the good ones so they can eat the bad ones. groundbreaking stuff right there isn’t it, that is a very simple concept but it’s amazing how many people don’t think like this. In the minds of many, “all bugs are bad” but that isn’t the case. This wrong thinking is what leads people to use an abundance of pesticides that kill all the bugs.
Unfortunately what is usually going to attract the good bugs is the presence of the bad bugs but not always, some of these beneficial insects are also drawn by plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees. Sometimes it’s the color that attracts them, sometimes it’s the smell, maybe they eat the plants also. Figure out the destructive insects that are common to your area and then find the insect that is their enemy and do your homework on what it takes to bring them in. This may mean you need to plant a certain flower or herb sporadically throughout your vegetable garden or maybe build some sort of water feature to create a different environment.
Don’t Make It Easy For Them Through Garden Design.
When you find that there is a certain insect in your area that wreaks havoc on a certain plant don’t make it easy for them to go from plant to plant. Planting your identical crops in rows or all together in raised beds makes it very easy for the insect to go from one plant to the next eating its way to your destruction. Find good companion plants for each plant in your garden and alternate your plants. This is also a good practice that helps prevent the disease from spreading through your garden.
This depends on the insect of course so I’ll talk about a few of the more common ones that will cause you problems.
Aphids are a common garden pest but one of the easiest to get rid of. These delicate little bugs are quick to destroy crops if not dealt with quickly. To remove aphids from plants use a spray bottle with a little soap and they will die off easily. You can use an organic, environmentally friendly dish soap or purchase special garden soaps for this purpose. You can also use neem oil or a spray made from hot peppers to discourage them.
Aphids are also a favorite food of ladybugs so inviting these insects to your garden can go a long way in controlling them.
Cabbage worms are another big garden pest. In early Spring you will see these beautiful white butterflies flying around your garden but don’t be fooled they are there to cause you problems. They are laying eggs on your cabbage and broccoli which turn into these hard-to-find green maggots that will destroy your plant.
The best way to deal with these culprits is good ol manual labor. Look under leaves for the eggs and wipe them off with a damp cloth. Once you start seeing damage be diligent to find the worm, it’s there somewhere you just have to look hard to find it. By the way, chickens love em.
Cutworms and Slugs
I’m talking about these together because the damage and organic defense is the same for the most part.
Cut Worms are the larvae of moths which the eggs overwinter then in early spring they come out to destroy your garden by cutting off your seedlings at the stem.
Some common organic practices for protecting your seedlings from cutworms is to surround the plant with coffee grounds or crushed eggshells. This works as a deterrent for pests. Diatomaceous earth can also be put around the plant to protect it.
For Slugs, you can submerge a bowl in the garden where the rim is at ground level then fill the bowl with beer. Slugs will crawl in and drown in the beer.
A predator to the cutworm as well as slugs, snails, and aphids are the lightning bug, so doing things to attract these bugs to your garden will help.
This is one that requires diligent inspection of your plants for the eggs and bugs to control them.
Laying a board on the ground around your squash plants provides a place for them to congregate underneath during the night making it easy to find and squash them early in the morning.
Companion planting can be useful in repelling squash bugs. Try planting nasturtium
Squash Vine Borer
These attack squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and gourds. They prefer Hubbard squash and are not as fond of butternut squash.
Squash borers are the larvae of clearwing moths that look a little like a black and orange wasp which lay dormant in cocoons in the soil until mid-summer then emerge and lay eggs at the base of stems. The larvae will then bore into stems to feed for about 2 to 4 weeks; sometimes they may also bore into the fruit.
Picking the eggs before they hatch is the best way to prevent vine borer damage. After they hatch it’s very difficult to control them organically.
One method I’ve heard of is trapping the adult orange moths with yellow sticky traps and yellow-colored bowls of soapy water. I’ll be trying this one.
Crop rotation could help with controlling these pests also since they overwinter in cocoons in the soil near the plants.
- The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way https://amzn.to/2GXAKp6
The Homestead Life:
A new segment where each week I will share something that’s better in my life because of homesteading.
Yesterday I enjoyed a whole rabbit marinated in a garlic/rosemary mix then cooked in the smoker. All the food in that meal came from my backyard and it was better than anything I could have bought in a restaurant in my opinion.
Rabbit Recipe – Cut the rabbit into 8 pieces; the legs, 2 pieces from the loin, and 2 from the ribs. Place them in a bowl or Ziploc bag, and add oil. Mince the garlic and chop the rosemary; add the rabbit, mix to coat well. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hrs, or overnight. I tossed them in my smoker with hickory for about 2.5 hours at 220 degrees and made sure the meat was at 160 degrees in the center. It was fantastic! If you don’t have a smoker this is an excellent way to go for the grill as well. Because I know someone will ask here is a link to the smoker I have, it’s a Masterbuilt 30″ Digital Electric Smoker – https://amzn.to/2J9jBth