Pesticides are one of the leading concerns over the declining bee populations, and I feel that a good way to do your own little part would be to try out a few of these natural alternatives for protecting your precious plants.
First thing is you need to know your enemy. Most plants have specific pests which commonly plague them, and each pest has a specific strategy. We’ll start out with some general prevention tactics.
1. Pull out those weaker plants they are magnet for any predators, dispose of them well away from your healthy garden folk.
2. Make sure you have some good quality, uninfected soil. From personal experience, any soil you have still left in a bag on your balcony or outside, can quickly devolve into a writhing den of insects or worse. Make sure if you are planting new plants, that the soil is nice and rich, and pest free from the outset.
3. Keep a clean and tidy area, with nothing that might allow insects to hide out and make their homes in. This means if it’s a garden bed; clear out any dense leaf litter and large pieces of wood. In balcony or indoor pots, try to monitor if insects are in the soil. If there are any flying or crawling nearby it might mean you have an infestation and need to deal with it (lost my precious aloe vera plant to this).
4. Some seaweed based liquid fertilisers (i.e. seasol, lets not act like we’re above brand dropping) can double as repellants, while keeping those plants healthy enough to fend off attacks.
Now if the pest in question has swept up while you were unaware, and these preventative measure seem a bit ‘too little, too late’, you’re going to need to address the problem directly.
One option is to encourage a counter-insect that will hunt down and eliminate the one ailing your crops, examples are as follows:
- The common ladybug feasts on aphids, whitefly, and scale
- Praying mantis enjoy an array of insect pests, and do it with dramatic flair
Others such as lacewing are also effective at naturally controlling harmful pests. However all of these counter-insects do require a degree of effort to introduce if they are not already present.
Now we get to the topical remedies, we’ll start with some homebrew efforts that are organic and can include stuff you already have at home, before concluding with some commercially available ones, that are also safe for your plants, yourself and your bee companions.
- For soft bodied insects: a tablespoon of canola oil, a few drops of environmentally safe soap liquid (there are brands of eco soap available), and about a litre of water. Put into a spray bottle and shake well. This smothers the insects and works much the same as commercially available natural soap insecticides.
- Mites: Couple of tablespoons of hot pepper sauce (eg. tobasco) or cayenne pepper, with a squirt of natural soap, and a litre of water. Let stand preferably overnight, and then apply to plants. Many insects dislike strong scents and flavours such as chili or garlic, and using these on your plants is a great, eco way to control pests.
- Fungal diseases: A home remedy of two tablespoons of baking soda with a litre of water, applied every few days can clear up any issues.
- Slugs: A fun one to try is to put out a little bowl of beer nearby. Slugs like beer (can you blame them), and will wallow in it until they drown. Other than that setting up a small fence of thin copper strips is known to deter them, or if available a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth will effectively deter slugs and snails.
That’s the home remedies but if you are looking for a purchasable choice, that won’t be bad for you or the garden, pyrethrum is naturally derived insecticide that you covers a broad range of pests, as well as pre-prepared products of natural soap sprays, chili/garlic based sprays, and organic pesticides like dipel are very effective.
These are just a few strategies for the organic gardener, and effectiveness of the home recipes can sometimes vary, but for your home plants, especially edibles, it is nice to know exactly what’s going onto them, and knowing it won’t kill you.
A lot of the information was sourced from eartheasy, more info here