Gardens are a prime target for pests of all kinds—beetles, caterpillars, ladybugs, maggots, worms and more.

If you prefer more organic methods of pest control, read on.

One of the best ways to keep pests out of plants and let the light and water in is to use floating row covers. Made of porous polyester fabric, the covers can be applied in numerous ways—draped over hoops, attached to frames, wrapped around cages or secured with pins over plants. Floating row covers come in lightweight and heavyweight versions and work best on seedlings and really active pests. They are a temporary fix, as many plants require insect pollination.

Sticky traps are another method for keeping pests in check. You can purchase them or make them yourself. Just make sure the color of trap you use appeals to the pests you are after. Yellow, for example, attracts fruit flies, fungus gnats, male-winged mealy bugs and other pests. White attracts cucumber and flea beetles. Light blue attracts flower thrips, and red, flies that turn into apple maggots. The traps will lure insects through the color and trap them with a sticky coating.

If covers and traps are too much of a hassle, consider using sprays. Insecticidal soap is a popular product that will eliminate any insects it comes into contact with. It can burn some plants, however, so a spot test is recommended prior to use. Oil sprays are also effective. As with insecticidal soaps, a spot test is recommended. Should you have a specific insect problem, bacillus thuringiensis is an option. Make sure the product you select applies to the pests you are targeting. Whatever the spray of choice, you should apply it only in areas where you know there is a problem. Spraying the garden all over could drive away beneficial insects.

Parasitic nematodes are another organic solution to pests. These occur naturally in the soil but can be purchased by the billions and applied with water to eliminate pests.

For small infestations, you can forgo covers, traps and sprays in favor of plain, old-fashioned hand-picking. That’s right. You pluck the pests from the plants by hand and dispose of them properly. Just make sure you wear gloves and can handle the task at hand. Not all gardeners are keen on removing pests by hand.

These are just a few organic options for keeping pests under control. There are others. Consult with the experts at your local garden center or nursery. Ask around, and remember, what works for one gardener may not work for another. Keep trying until you come up with the right combination of methods for you.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: