Home | Organic Garden Advice |Horse Keeping

Pest Control in Your Organic Vegetable Garden

Colorado Potato BeetleColorado Potato Beetle
I'm never happy when my organic vegetable garden becomes overrun with insect pests, but there are some pests that leave me breathing a sigh of relief. "Better you than one of those other guys", I say when I see one of my "pet pests" munching contentedly on my crops.

My line of thinking is simple: some pests are much easier to control than others. This isn't to say that they can't devastate your crop if left unchecked. It just means that if you make an effort or, more usually, repeated efforts to stop their progress, you are likely to be successful.

Let me illustrate this concept with an example from my own organic garden. I'm growing eggplants this year, as I have every year for almost a decade. Every year, my eggplant seedlings have struggled, many of them to no avail, against flea beetles. Year after year, I have battled the flea beetles with every weapon in my organic arsenal. I have smushed them, sticky trapped them and sprayed them with neem, pyrethrins, garlic spray and any other organic home remedy that I came across. Nothing seemed to help. Even when I kept the plants covered with floating row cover and used carefully-researched companion planting strategies to deter the flea beetles, I came away a loser. My only harvest was a few small, sick looking eggplants plucked from stunted, weakened plants.

This year, things are looking up. For the first time, I tried growing my eggplants on plastic mulch. I don't want to jinx myself, but I will say "so far so good." My plants have a couple of stray flea beetles on them, but mostly they are almost completely covered with another insect pest: aphids.

Let me point out that I say this with a certain degree of joy. Yes, joy. Sure, aphids are a nasty pest but they are fairly easy to control if you're persistent. They are very smushable and are the favorite food of many insects. I make a daily ritual of visiting my plants and crushing several hundred aphids. Then, I spend a few pleasant minutes watching the ladybugs and lacewings hard at work, devouring more of the slow-moving, soft-bodied pests. My plants are thriving despite the infestation and the plants have fewer and fewer pests on them every day. It looks like I'm a winner this year!

As far as I'm concerned, slow-moving, soft-bodied pests that don't fly or burrow into the soil (at least not in every stage of their life cycle) are the best pests an organic garden can have. When I see a garden insect pest that fits this description, I rejoice. These pests often have a bunch of natural enemies, such as insects and birds, that feed on them. They are also easy to trap and/or remove from your plants by hand.

Next time you notice pests on your garden plants, take a closer look at what they are. You may find that they are a pest that will be easy to beat. Then, get to work on reclaiming your harvest from them. And do a little dance of joy!

My "PET PESTS" --These are pests that you can beat!!

1. Aphids--can be controlled by beneficial insects like ladybugs.

- Very crushable.

2. Cabbage worms and other caterpillars

-Enjoyed by birds and parasitic wasps.
-Can be controlled organically with Bt

3. Colorado potato beetle larvae

-Easy to pick off of plants (either crush or drown them after removing them)
-Can be controlled organically with spinosaid, bacteria that attacks them.

4. Slugs

-Easy to trap (these party animals really do love beer)
-Birds love to eat them

See Also:

What Wrong With My Basil? Why Won't it Grow Anymore?
Organic Cabbage Worm Control - Fight Cabbage Worms the Organic Way!
How to Grow Organic Daikon Radish in Your Vegetable Garden - Grow your own Daikon Radish
A Guide to Using Floating Row Covers in Your Organic Vegetable Garden
Grow Your Own Organic Pumpkins - How to Grow Organic Pumpkins