Organic pest control for vegetable gardens.
While there are a host of different pests and diseases that can attack the home vegetable garden there are some simple ways to prevent your hard work being eaten by garden pests.
Before we look at individual solutions there are some basics that need to be in place which is your first port of call in organic pest control for your vegetable garden.
Basics – sun, air and good soil!
Vegetables grown in full sun always are more resistant to pests and disease. Careful spacing of your vegetables is also important. Planting crops too close together prohibits air movement and causes moulds.
The most important point by far when it comes to organic pest control is to ensure that you have good soil to begin with. Soils that are rich in compost and which are well aerated tend to grow plants which are more pest and disease resistant.
Individual pests in the vegetable garden:
Snails – I can only testify to the terrible feeling that I have had when I have planted out seedlings in the past only to find that some snails have enjoyed them over night!
There are two simple ways to deal with snails. We have 4 chickens now which have permanently erased our snail problem. We never let out chickens into our vegetable garden (they would eat the vegetables AND the snails!) but we hand picked the snails for the chickens. The “girls” free ranged in our flower beds and thus finished off the rest of the snail population.
The second way to deal with snails in your organic vegetable garden is by setting snail trapswith beer or yeast solutions. Collect up small yoghurt cups and sink them just below soil level near to your plants. Half fill the cups with beer or a strong yeast solution. The snails will be attracted to this and once fallen in the container will not be able to get out. These traps will need to be refilled every two days for them to remain effective.
Moulds – Moulds, particularly on squash leaves can devastate a whole crop, leaving the home vegetable gardener to despair. Moulds are harder to get rid of but with diligence can be dealt with quite simply. First, make sure that your plants receive lots of sun and air. If you see the telltale white patches of mould mix up a solution of 5 litres of water, 1 cup of white vinegar and a tablespoon of organic dishwashing liquid. The dishwashing liquid is a binding agent. Spray your plants leaves and stems and the ground around the infected plants twice daily until the mould disappears.
Remember to NEVER put mould infected plants into your compost heap as the spores will simple be transferred to your whole garden.
Other points to remember with moulds are to water your garden in the morning, not evening, and remove and burn any infected plant matter.
Aphids – Aphids are “farmed” by ants. Deal with your ant problem first by laying an organic ant trap at their holes. Plant lots of marigolds as a border around your plants which attract aphids. You can also spray your plants with the vinegar solution mentioned above.
Another remedy to get rid of aphids can be found here: Homemade Aphid Control
You can also buy lady bugs online to release into your garden which will keep the aphid population under control.
Lastly, a lot of birds eat aphids and other pests in the organic vegetable garden. Make sure you create a garden that welcomes birds by putting our seed for them on a table or in a feeder as well as a bird bath in a safe place for them.
Cutworms – these critters are responsible for many a gardener’s tear. Cutworms gnaw your tender seedlings off at ground level. Cutworm collars should be placed around all new seedlings. You can make your own cutworm collars by saving any smallish plastic containers like yoghurt cups, feta cheese containers or toilet rolls. Cut off the bottoms of the containers and place them over your seedlings. You may need to make a vertical slit in your collars so you can fit them over your plant. They must be sunk half way down the stem to work effectively.
Another way to help with organic pest control in your vegetable garden is through companion planting