Going green: Switch to Organic Pesticides
Switch to organic pesticides is the first article of a new series on going green. The series is intended to help people make little changes in their lives that not only help save the planet, but also, actually improve their own lives. And I can’t think of a better example of this than switching to organic pesticides in the garden and home.
What’s wrong with non-organic pesticides?
The trouble with pesticides is that once you start using them, you end up getting your garden hooked on them. Nature always operates in balance. It is composed of complex and often self-regulating systems. And that is as true in your garden as it is in the rain forest. In the wild, if there is a proliferation of antelope because of good rains, then the lions have a great year and multiply with more young cubs surviving their arduous first year. The following year they join the hunt and help bring the antelope back into balance. If the antelope have a bad year, or there are too many lions, then the hunting gets tougher and fewer lions survive, again restoring the balance.
Now imagine this was your garden instead of the African savannah and we were talking about lady bugs and aphids. If the garden was left in its natural state it would eventually find a balance between the predators and prey. But what we do when we apply pesticides indiscriminately is we kill not just the aphids but also the lady bugs. Now aphids breed really quickly. When they are in balance one lady bug will eat thousands over just a few weeks. But if you kill the lady bug then it just takes a few aphids to survive and breed to create an infestation. So you end up having to apply even more pesticide the next time, and so on.
Instead of getting involved in chemical warfare in your yard, shouldn’t your first option be to attract natural predators to your garden? Let them do all the hard work of keeping the bugs down.
The first thing you should do is immediately put away all non-organic pesticides right away. Then look at your garden and try to see how you can attract natural predators of insects to your garden. A few things you can do to encourage them are:
Leave some old bits of wood and tree trunk on the borders of your garden. This will provide a safe haven for spiders and other bug-predators to breed.
Try to get some lady bugs to your garden. You can often buy them from specialist suppliers. Get a bug house to encourage them to stay and breed. Or you could make your own from a few bits of bamboo or other hollow reeds tied in a bundle and stuck in a sheltered place.
Encourage birds by allowing a small corner of your garden to grow wild. Scatter some bird seed and other flowering grasses. When these sprout you should have plenty of birds coming to investigate. Provide them with water and nesting materials.
Get a water feature. Frogs make great pest-controllers. And they are fun for the kids too. My fondest memories as a child were of trying to catch tadpoles in the neighbour’s pond.
Using organic pesticide as an adjunct to natural pest control
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to use natural methods of pest control, you can still find that a favourite plant is overrun by aphids or a strawberry plant is chewed up by slugs. In that case you sometimes have no choice but to get a bit more aggressive and roll out some organic pesticides. You can buy some online easily enough or make your own. If you move onto more serious store-bought organic pesticides then just remember the principles of natural pest control. Remember you only want to kill the bad bugs. So use it sparingly and only on affected plants where you can see the bugs you are targeting. Use it too liberally and you will do more harm than good.
Some recipes on how to make organic pesticide
Store bought stuff is usually a bit stronger than home made pesticide but it is often worth trying your own first. The easiest and first method to try on bugs such as aphids is diluted dishwashing liquid. This actually works very well and doesn’t do any real harm to the environment when used in moderation. In fact it helps fertilize plants.
Another option is to soak some tobacco in water overnight until it comes out looking like weak tea. Garlic that is crushed and soaked in water can also be tried.
Whatever method you try, be sure to follow sensible safety precautions, especially if they are used near or on fruit and vegetables for the family table. Wisely used natural pest control supplemented by organic pesticide can help make your garden an oasis of biodiversity and life.