Organic Pest Control Methods are an important component of Integrated Pest Management, the environmentally-conscious approach towards managing pests, and diseases. Increasing awareness of the negative impact of chemical pesticides on soil and in the food chain makes people gravitate towards organic gardening as more people want to grow their own produce.
However, getting the hang of using natural pest control for gardens can be challenging due to a large amount of misinformation that abounds the internet. From using essential oils to onion sprays that don’t deter pests much, these so-called natural methods often fail, leaving people discouraged from continuing organic gardening.
Therefore, we have researched the top 10 organic pest control methods that do work, so that you can see the results in your garden without wasting precious time. Natural pest control requires vigilance and timely application to be most effective.
Although weeding doesn’t directly deal with insects, rodents, and other pests, it is necessary to optimize the performance of the organic pest control agents. Weeding increases the natural fitness of the plants as the weeds compete for light, water, and nutrients.
Without weeds, garden plants can spread out their roots better and get access to water and sunlight that in turn, reduces their proneness to disease. Organic pest control consultants also advise weeding and regular soil plowing between batches of sowing as good ways to discourage pest growth.
There are many plants for DIY pest control that manage to save the plants grown around them; thus making such companion planting techniques quite effective. Refer to this quick list of natural pest deterrents to combat specific insects:
However, you should note that some companion plants aren’t good for leguminous plants like beans. Much of the evidence is anecdotal and hard data for companion planting is not very conclusive so far. It’s better to use other natural pest control methods in conjunction with this one.
You can also choose to plant pest-resistant and wild varieties of the garden plants you desire, especially if you aim to grow your own produce. They tend to be more resistant than the agricultural varieties.
Neem oil has a powerfully pungent smell that can be rather repulsive but the oil is very effective in keeping away Japanese beetles, whitefly, aphids, moth larvae, scale, and spider mites. Neem oil is reported to work in multiple ways- simple suffocation of pests, hormone disruption by its active ingredient, azadirachtin so that the insects can't lay eggs properly or molt fully.
Neem oil can be excellent at preventing pest attacks, so including it in your regular garden care schedule will reap the best results. As a natural insect killer, it can be mixed with dilute soap water to spray onto indoor potted plants, vulnerable to mites.
Not all worms are terrible as we know since earthworms are a farmer’s best friend. There are other nematodes called parasitic nematodes you may like in your garden that will keep insects like fly larvae, borers, billbugs, and gnats away. They infect an insect host, producing bacteria and toxins that eventually kill it, not harming the beneficial soil critters or pets and wildlife.
The beneficial nematodes are sold as infective juvenile dauerlarva that are mixed with water and then applied to the soil near the plants. However, you should be careful to buy only reputed brands as inferior ones may release organisms that will destroy your garden.
A favorite organic insect control method, garden safe diatomaceous earth works by drawing moisture out of the pest, thus ruining its osmotic balance and causing death. The particles are shaped such that they cut up the insects' bodies as well. The results are apparent within a week.
However, the success of diatomaceous earth depends on the insect variety, size of the infestation, atmospheric temperature, and humidity. Being highly absorbent, excessive moisture or rain can limit its effectiveness. You should also avoid using it near flowers and wherever you have encouraged good insects and soil critters to grow.
A rather controversial subject since the parent bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis has also been used to create GM crops, the Bt toxin can be also applied topically to control pests in a highly targeted manner. B. thuringiensis is a naturally occurring soil bacterium and is safe to higher animals so it won't affect pets or small animals that may stray into your garden.
The toxin is produced by many different strains of the same bacterium, each effective against a different pest. You can buy it as baits, spray concentrates, dust, wettable powder, time-release rings, and liquid concentrates. You should be careful with the dosage and variety you purchase and apply the sprays during sundown or whenever there is no strong overhead sun as the toxin is degraded by sunlight.
The bacterium is sold as inactivated spores and the crystallized bt toxin. When eaten by pest larvae it destroys the insect gut thus killing it. Bt toxin is not very effective on fully grown pests and hence may not work when applied to full-blown pest infestation. Second, if you want butterflies in your garden then this is not your option. In such cases, a consultation with an organic pest control company is your best chance.
Pyrethrin is a pesticide derived from Chrysanthemums. A mixture of 6 chemicals, pyrethrins are toxic to many pests like fleas, ants, flies etc. They kill by paralyzing the pests' nervous systems. They are sold as ready insect spray or as concentrates to be diluted.
Rotenone is a naturally occurring insecticide that works against potato beetles, cabbage worms, raspberry beetles, flea beetles, etc. It kills the targets by interfering with metabolism at a cellular level by inhibiting the energy generation pathway and cell division.
Rotenone is an excellent example of not all things natural being harmless, as people commonly believe. It has been implicated in Parkison’s Disease, but is not otherwise lethal to humans. It is however very toxic to aquatic organisms like fish and should ideally not enter water bodies.
A floating row cover is an utterly non-toxic solution to protect plants from insects as well as common weather vagaries. It is a white gauze-like, non-woven fabric made from polyester or polypropylene that is sun bonded; it floats over the row of plants, giving them headroom to push out upwards. The material is secured to the ground with pins or rocks or can be suspended over a frame of lightweight wood or wire.
Floating row covers are a great addition to other organic gardening techniques as they not only prevent pests such as insects, rabbits, mice, birds, and groundhogs from feeding on your plants, but also provide frost protection. They even improve the moisture and humidity levels heping to cut down on water use.
Sticky traps are cardboard or other plastic trays coated with various types of glues that can trap insects like flies, fleas, scorpions, mites, beetles, etc. They can be purchased with no pesticides.
Sticky traps are more effective in determining the type of pest infestation rather than controlling the occurrence of pests. They dn’t really help in organic rodent control. They may be useful in deterring insects from coming to the garden in very early days but once you have more pests, getting pest control professionals in on the scene is recommended.
Pheromone traps use the chemicals that insects themselves secrete to lure them towards the traps. Pheromones are used to signal food availability, find mates, warn of danger etc. They are very helpful when used in early detection of pest attacks and are quite effective in preventing Asian gypsy moths and Japanese beetles.
Pheromones should be used with caution and preferably by pest management experts. They are usually specific to certain insects and won't work for others. They should also be used carefully, with no children nearby, and should be thoroughly washed off later as the smell clinging to the user can attract pests indoors.
The optimum combination of the best organic pest control techniques depends on the following factors:
For a small indoor garden or terrace garden, most of the organic pest management techniques in the list would suffice. If you have a big backyard garden, you may need to not only exercise more caution but use stronger doses for larger infestations. If you want to grow your own produce, you should plan the layout in advance and plant the naturally resistant varieties as well as natural repellent plants.
If you find that you are unable to control the pest infestation with these methods, then you can call organic pest control companies. They use various methods to diagnose and remedy the infestation, many of which are proprietary. Some of the popular organic pest control companies include Bell Environmental Services Pest Control and Ehrlich Pest Control Services.