Posts Tagged ‘Organic Pest Control’

mustards and kales
With more evidence pointing towards illnesses linked to pesticides, I find it important to teach people how to naturally (preferably organically) take care of their gardens. Instead of a hefty shot of “Wonder Grow” ::cough::, I prefer to use fixes and fertilizers that aren’t so caustic – some that will treat the problem instead of forcing my plants to outgrow diseases and illnesses and therefore leaving the problem in my soil.

Our garden was a “Wonder Grow” garden before we moved in, and the soil showed it. It’s taken me three years to see the results of my amendments, and it’s worth the wait! I can finally say with confidence that I will have product of out my garden instead of just hoping for one or two tomatoes. Plus I know that I’m feeding my family anything better than I can buy because it’s picked fresh and served – nothing but fresh organic goodness.

wasp eggs
The best way to help your plants is to keep all tools and areas clean so as not to spread disease. Tidy up dead foliage and keep weeds trimmed back. Allow an area for overgrowth so that beneficials can make a home nearby. Just remember that if a chemical can harm an insect you deem harmful, that chemical can probably hurt your beneficial insects as well. Keep a toad house and welcome swallows to munch on insects.
moth on mum

My favorite quick fixes and alternatives to boxed fertilizers:

Iron deficiency: make soil more acidic by adding pine needles, coffee grounds, or seaweed extracts. Oak leaves may also be good for increasing acidity.

Nitrogen deficiency: composted manure, blood or alfalfa meal, fish emulsion. Weed and manure teas. Add comfrey as a mulch or compost. Underplant or cover crop the bed with clover or other legumes.

Phosphorus deficiency: compost, leaf mold, bonemeal, colloidal or rock phosphate.

Potassium deficiency: kelp meal, greensand, wood ashes (use only a small amount).

Powdery mildew: spray plants with a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda to 1 qt water.

Blossom end rot: add finely powdered eggshells or oyster shells and lime which can help the uptake of your calcium source. Keep soil evenly moist.

Damping off: keep soil evenly damp. Sprinkle with cinnamon, or use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. Be sure seed starting mix and potting supplies are sterile.

Thrips and Aphids: use ladybugs or wipe leaves with a gentle cloth and a combination of 1c alcohol to 1 qt water.

Corn earworms: add a drop of mineral oil to the top of the corn once the silk has wilted.

Slugs and other soft bodied insects: sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants and on leaves.

Simple Recipes

Manure tea: fill a bucket or large container 1/8 with manure (composted 8 or more weeks, chicken manure for a year or more) and fill with water. Let steep for about two days before using. This is a concentrate and must be watered down until it is a light red/brown color prior to use.

Compost tea: mix 1/8 bucket of well composted material and water. Let steep for 5-7 days. Strain and dilute before using. Molasses Spray for Leaf Miners: 1 part molasses to 5 parts water

Rodale’s All-Purpose Spray: (discourages leaf-eating pests) 1 garlic bulb, 1 small onion, 1 tsp powdered cayenne pepper 1 qt water 1 Tbsp liquid dish soap. Chop onion and garlick in blender then add pepper and water. Allow to steep for an hour before straining. Add dish soap before spraying. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week.

Soap spray: 1 tsp pure bar soap shavings 1/8 cup boiling water, 7/8 cup water. Dissolve soap with boiling water then add remainder of water. Spray insects by getting both top and bottoms of leaves. Best applied in the evening.

References: The Frugal Gardener: How to Have More Garden for Less Money, Erler, Catriona T., 1999. The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control, edited by Ellis, Barbara W. and Bradley, Fern Marshall, 1992


You can find Jennifer over at Unearthing This Life blarging about her daily activities in rural Tennessee.

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I have a friend, she has a lovely garden with blooming flower borders, lacy trees for shade, a darling garden house, a huge play-set for her grandchildren, and this…


A vegetable garden that has taken many of her gardening issues and solved them…permanently!

You see as a teenager she broke her neck, she has had serious neck issues ever since.  This precludes her from being able to bend over to tend her garden.  These raised beds have solved that for her.


She also has many deer that call her neighborhood home.  These hoops are affixed permanently to the sides of each bed with bird netting over the top to keep the deer from nibbling on her produce.  They are also used in the early spring and late fall for frost protection.

I am wanting to do something like this to my raised beds.

She has even gone to the extreme of pouring concrete around the beds to keep down the mess which our rainy Washington weather is known to make.  She also has noted that the concrete helps make for a micro climate the warms sooner and retains heat. 


Here is her celery crop all tucked in nicely to their bed, covered and protected.

I am tired of trying to solve the same problems year after year, I really want to make smart decisions that will solve these issues once and for all.  So over the last bit of summer and into the fall I am going to try to implement some solutions that will make gardening easier not just for now but for the long haul.  I will keep you updated on this…

Now here is my question for you, as well as myself

What are you doing in your garden to permanently solve some of your garden challenges?



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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

How do you know when peak canning season has commenced at my house? No, it’s not the 8-quart pressure canner parked permanently on the stove. It’s not the navy blue enamelware water bath canner constantly steaming up the already hot kitchen. Look beyond the stacks of quart, pint and jelly jars; the lids and rings. I don’t mark the time by the pantry shelves’ increasing rows of colorful, filled jars. It’s not even the piles of ripened vegetables and fruits all over the darn place…


However, the growing piles of produce are definitely a clue.


Look close! The biggest sign is the smallest of items. Want a hint?    




Drosophila melanogastor


In previous years I have struggled with herds of these annoying little guys. They seem to swell in numbers as summer ends and fall begins. When you are committed to keeping your life as chemical-free as possible (as we try to be), pest management seems like just a joke to the notorious fruit fly. Of course a randy, active sex life doesn’t hurt population growth either.


Ok, Gina, did you have to illustrate that point???

We got it already!!


Drosophila and I go way back to our college days where I spent many eye-strained days in lab trying to determine whether the batch of newly metamorphized flies I raised were made up of the ultra-cool wildtypes with their sinister red eyes or the more demure mutants with the quiet dark stare. If you were really lucky, you might find the queen of kings, the white-eyed fly! After days and days of counting thousands of fly eyes, at night, you could still see them staring at you when you closed your own eyes. Fancy a bit of biology-nerd trivia? Drosophila happens to be the most studied organism in the life sciences. Or, how about this, 75% of Homo sapiens’ disease genes have a almost exact match found within the genetic code of the ubiquitous fruit fly.


This year I have been determined not to let them get the best of me. I don’t care if we share disease similarity or not. First, I have been canning the vegetables gleaned from garden and market as quickly as I bring them into the house. The canners have been going since about mid-July. Every night, rain or shine, I ready the produce for preservation, determined to keep D. melanogastor from taking up residence here at the new house. It’s also been good for that disease I sometimes suffer from called Laziness. I wonder if that is one of the 25% of disease genes we don’t share with Drosophila


Of course, this has been impossible. The fruit flies are still quietly taking over my life.


A week ago, I placed six nearly ripened tomatoes on the window sill. Yesterday, as I prepared to can my first batch of tomatoes I grabbed one of the Romas off the sill. It disintegrated into mush in my grasp and exploded into hundreds of flies. All around me, this swarm of Drosophila mocked my every move. I checked, but couldn’t see, whether these guys were mutants or the wildtypes. Either way, I realized the 2008 battle with the fruit flies was officially on.


So, how do you combat them if you don’t want to use chemicals (a much worse problem than the basically harmless fruit fly, in my opinion)? Well, you first must realize that these flies will be attracted to almost any type of food they can dance their thorax on. I blamed the tomatoes in the window, but they could have just as easily been attracted to my bucket of food scraps I give the pigs and chickens at the end of the day or even the wet dish towel I leave lying around. Knowing that, by keeping food processed, covered, stored or disposed, I can help eliminate larval breeding grounds. The flies generally do not pose a health issue to humans, other than stress. Around August and on through October, the flies are at peak population. Once colder weather hits, I let our house get cold and this does seem to help decrease the amount of flies about the house.


As a canner, a gardener or just the simple fact I like fresh fruit & veggies in the house, I will never be completely free of this pesky organism, but if I have to I will resort to my Plan B to keep from feeling overran by Drosophila during the canning season. I will not, however, resort to poisons. Here is a simple fruit fly trap I build using one of my extra quart Mason jars (extra? What extra?!) I will share with you my secret fruit fly defense mechanism.

Find a Mason jar and paint the top third black (or cover it with paper). Coat the inside of the jar with honey, syrup or vegetable oil. Invert the jar over bait such as crushed tomatoes on a used canning lid or some other repurposed object. Rest the jar upside down on two blocks of wood to allow flies space enough to feed on the bait. After leaving the bait, they will fly upwards to the lighter portion of the jar. The sticky substance traps and kills them! The trap will lose its stickiness or fill up with flies and must have the honey or oil reapplied every 30 days or so. Also, you’ll want to replace the rotting vegetable or fruit (bait) as needed.

 Illustration from Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-2109-97

If you really want to get sassy with science thing, you can count how many wildtypes (red-eyed) vs. mutants (any other color eyes) you have in the jar and figure out what alleles are dominant in your fruit fly population. However, be forewarned, not only is this tedious chore, but it may also get you labeled as a freaky biology-loving geek! 

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