Pesticides There Are Workable Alternatives To The Dusts Sprays And Oils

Article #8: Pesticides—There Are Workable Alternatives To the Dusts, Sprays, and Oils by Joan Jackson

If there is a secret to garden defense, it is common sense. There are no easy answers about what is right—or best—to use in that defense.

While the pesticide-environment battle goes on, the backyard gardener fights his own private war, sometimes in unorthodox ways, to save his crops from insects and diseases.

Is there a happy medium between the shotgun gardener who tries to do too much and bombards his plants with dusts, sprays and oils at the first sign of invasion, and the purist who establishes his garden and then refuses to use any chemical means to protect it?

There are good pesticides—and bad ones. And there are alternatives that work—and ones that fail. A smart gardener weighs them all, experiments with some, and uses what works best.

The beneficial ladybug is probably the best known insect in the garden. This little beetle has done wonders for making poison-free gardening possible.

How do you keep your ladybugs from doing the “flyaway-home” routine? They will only stick around if there is enough to eat. You probably won’t need ladybugs until summer, when the pest problem is at its worse.

Water your garden then in the early evening, carefully place a container of ladybugs about 15 to 20 paces apart at the base of the plant. In the morning, they will begin climbing the plants and sampling the insects (aphids are a favorite—one ladybug will eat 50 aphids for breakfast).

For the average backyard garden, one container of ladybugs should be enough. Where to find them? In the summer, they are sold commercially through garden supply stores.

Invite a creature into your garden. A toad or a frog, for instance, is a good friend to the gardener. Ninety percent of a toad’s food consists of insects, most of which are harmful to the garden.

To encourage a toad to stick around, provide a modest shelter so it can rest out of the sun. Cut a small entrance in a box or chip in an opening in the side of a flower pot, and bury it a few inches into the ground, preferably in the shade. You might even provide a shallow watering hole-pond; if not keep the shrubbery around your Toad Hotel damp.

Some people may feel squeamish about it, but picking off bugs by hand is a perfectly logical solution. If you squash or rub off pests as soon as you notice them, you may not need a pesticide later on.

Remember, many insects come and go with the season, and will come and go with little damage to your garden if you just let them alone.

If aphids are bugging you, give them a bath. A strong squirt of water will wash them off leaves; or you can rub them off by hand. Still got aphids? Then try a soap bath. Make a strong solution of soap—not detergent—(Ivory Flakes, for example) and water using three tablespoons of soap flakes to a gallon of tepid water.

Use your hose and sprayer to cover the infected plant with suds, wait a few hours, and then wash the plant off with plain water.

Lo, the beautiful marigold. It should be freely inter-planted with vegetables because of its pest-repellent properties. The gardeners say the French marigold and the tall odored American marigold seem to discourage many garden pests, especially nematodes and rabbits.

The marigolds exude substances from the roots which will rid the garden of nematodes if planted each year. The ones with the strongest odor are the most effective and have been reported to repel pests ranging from bean beetles to rabbits.

You could write a book about ways to get rid of snails—and you’d still have snails.

One way is to “go looking” for them late at night—about 10 p.m.—with a flashlight. Hand pick them and dispose of them.

Snails also are supposed to be beer lovers. All’you need is a pie pan and some old beer. Make a depression in the ground and set the pan in it, so that the rim of the pan is even with the soil. Fill the pan with stale beer (that’s the secret—the stale beer). The snails will crawl in and drown in the brew. Change the beer every few days.

Why is it that some gardens are plagued by a hungry horde of insects and others remain clean and bug-free? In gardening, an ounce of prevention is worth the time. The rules are simple:

  • Keep your garden healthy without poisons by shaping up the soil with amendments and nutrients.
  • Get rid of plants that are damaged by pests or are sick.
  • Use seeds and plants that are disease or pest resistant varieties.
  • Keep it clean. Rake up leaves and toss out fallen fruit and dead flowers.
  • Water and fertilize regularly. It is part of the “keep ’em healthy” routine.
  • Keep after the weeds. They offer a comfortable home for insects. For the same reason, the ground should be cleared of all crops once harvesting is completed.

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