Organic summer pest control: 'Hugs, not bugs'
Last updated 8/16/2007 at Noon
Before we get into pest control, go ahead and plant another corn crop, summer squash crop or cucumbers. One more corn two weeks from now could put fresh organic corn on the table for Thanksgiving.
Soil fertility is the best pest control. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; a healthy plant grown in strong soil will have more ability to resist attacks from pests and diseases. Never let plants go without water and fertilizer in the warm growing season. This is the time of the year of the highest insect populations and plant damage. It is also the time of the year when the organic resources are limited. Most organic pest control products are oil-based and will burn the leaves of the plants if the temperature goes over 90 degrees.
Luckily, there are a couple of options available. They will work fine but could require repeat treatments. Pyrethrum, from a chrysanthemum plant, will kill most insects, ants and caterpillars. It should be sprayed early evening. BT (Bacillus Theringensis) will kill worms and caterpillars rapidly. It does not stay on the plant long but does a great job while it’s there. This will not hurt your plant due to warm weather. Spray in the early evening. With these two we can control earwigs, ants, flea beetles, aphids, scab, mealy bugs and more. There are other biological pest controls but they need cooler weather to be safe, so we will get into them about October.
Natural predators will consume a percentage of these insects and do a lot of the work for you. Provide things to attract birds. They love plants and feeders. They all eat gobs of insects. Plant some wildflowers to attract predator insects, like lacewings and ladybugs. They love the flowers and this keeps them near the garden to munch on the bad guys when the plant eaters get too high in numbers and out of hand.
Farm supply stores and nurseries have organic fungus controls; ask them about them. The plant horsetail (equisetum), made into a fermented herb tea (one week fermentation) and sprayed in the early evening, will also suffocate the fungus. Horsetail can be bought anywhere herb teas are sold. The formula is three tablespoons of dry tea in a liter of water. Leave the tea in while fermenting, then strain before spraying.
Rabbits have to be fenced out, as they are not allowed to be killed in San Diego County. Squirrels cannot be fenced out but can be baited with organic Quintox (vitamin D3), which will not harm the environment. Trapping them and releasing them in a far away wilderness is another way. We use single door Have-a-Heart traps. Bait with black sunflower seeds or avocados.
Trapping gophers with the black round traps works great; it seems that this and/or having a lot of ferrets around will keep them totally under control. Barn owls do great on all these guys also.
Do not approach insects or varmints with disdain; they have their place. Do your control in the spirit of understanding that it is them or you and these gardens have great value to you. Go in good health.