It’s so very easy to reach for the spray or the powder and just pour it on your plants. It’s so easy until you start reading labels and headlines about just what these various products do to you, to your family, your soil, your water and your neighbors.
Why not use chemicals? Everybody else is.
Here’s the bottom line. Before you unleash the myriad of products that will kill these pests, consider this. While you are killing the bugs, you are also feeding your crops poison. And it’s poison that can’t be washed off.
Root crops like potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes and fruit like apples, strawberries and peaches absorb and retain pesticides. Even spinach isn’t safe in this chemical world. Why?
When you eat these supposedly healthy foods, you are eating all the pesticides that come along for the ride and there are literally dozens of them as well as growth retardants and fungus inhibitors.
How To Stop Using Pesticides
It’s really very simple. Just say, “NO.” to using any herbicide or pesticide at all in your organic garden.
Yep, that’s it. The answer is not to fall under the spell of easy and fast because these products are also deadly. But the question still remains: how do you control bugs without pesticides?
You may not like the answer because this bit of organic gardening will add time and tasks to your life. And you’ll also have to get a bit ruthless. But don’t be seduced by products like Sevin, another “fast, easy” that some gardeners will tell you is okay to use. It kills without discretion.
Sevin works but it also kills beneficials at the same time it kills pests. And it is considered toxic to humans. It is part of the Carbaryl family – N-methyl carbamate – and it can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, sweating and, in serious cases, pulmonary edema. In other words, it just isn’t good for us or for our plants.
So, how does an organic gardener manage the pesky pests that will be in the garden and will do damage? Here’s a hint; the title of this chapter should read how to get up your courage and get revenge.
How To Handle Being Bugged
First of all, know your enemy. This means the good, the bad and the ugly. I learned this after having killed a number of caterpillars eating my dill only to find out they were Monarch butterflies in larval stage.
You really will need a resource to help you figure out just what’s chowing down in your garden and whether or not to crush it, drown it, or boil it. Remember the bug book I said I invested in? It has saved the lives of countless thousands of good bugs and helped me identify and kill the bad ones.
Knowing what could be doing damage to your produce gives you a leg up on handling it. Here’s my list of least favorite and most hated insect enemies. They will probably end up on the top 10 list of anyone who grows anything, anywhere.
Ten Most Wanted Bugs
By the way, my top 10, most wanted (dirty, rotten, chewing, egg laying) bugs, are in order of how much I hate them:
- Colorado potato beetles
- Japanese beetles
- Asian beetles
- Cucumber beetles
- Mexican bean beetles
- Asparagus beetles
- Tomato horn worms (finally something not ending with beetle)
- Stink bugs
- Bag worms
Non-toxic Weapons of Mass Destruction
Handling each of these pests begins with putting healthy plants in the ground. Healthy plants are more able to withstand an attack and less likely to keel over and die.
You can also put in some “sacrificial” plants, ones that will lure the marching army of pests to a spot that is not part of your garden.
Second on the list of non-toxic tactics is learn to use floating row covers to keep insects out but let light and moisture still get to your plants. Most of the row covers on the market today are spun polyester. They are so light that you don’t need to buy hoops to hold them up.
You can get them in different weights but most backyard gardeners don’t need to use heavier stock. And floating row covers can be used over and over again so you only have to invest in them once (or twice if you’re a lifelong gardener).
Next week: A list of weapons (including my kluged recipe for handmade insecticidal soap with a kick) that will help you win the war on bugs without the broad-based killing of the good bugs and without poisoning yourself or your loved ones.