Pest and disease problems are a “reflection of the design and management of a particular agricultural ecosystem,” states the National Sustainable Agriculture Service in its report on biointensive integrated pest management. Organic gardening pest control practices provide a holistic way to deal with common garden problems. There are a number of alternatives to the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on plants and animals.
Weed Control Alternatives
The National Gardening Association recommends the use of clove oil (eugenol) mixtures for young broadleaf weeds, such as dandelion and thistle. Products containing acetic acid are also effective. Soap-based herbicides dehydrate leaves by creating a soap film. Herbicides made from corn gluten keep crabgrass from germinating on established lawns. Corn gluten is also useful in a perennial flower bed to prevent weed growth. This type of product also provides nitrogen to the soil as it degrades. There are many types of organic herbicides available at garden centers or they can be made at home.
Biological Pest Control
Biological control is the use of living organisms in the garden to keep the insect pest population under control. Ladybugs and praying mantis are the most common example of this method of pest control. They are called “beneficials” and can be purchased in many garden centers and by mail-order. Other beneficial insects and animals are bats, ground beetles and spiders. “Farmscaping” is the term that describes the creation of habitats specifically for insects and animals that keep pests under control. In the home garden this can be done as easily as planting flowers in the vegetable garden to attract pollen-seeking insects. Diverse eco-systems create natural checks and balances within the pest population.
Jonathan Edleson, Entomology Specialist at Oklahoma State University gives examples of natural pesticides, such as vegetable and mineral oil, sulphur dust and insecticidal soap. Some home gardeners use crushed garlic and pepper sprays to help control aphids and spider mites. Insecticidal soaps are effective on soft-bodied insects such as aphids. They can be made by combining a tablespoon of dish washing soap with water.