Sustainable Gardening – Pest Prevention and Management
By Ewa Bekiesch – Permaculture Designer and Sustainable Living Consultant
I recently wrote this article for our local magazine “The Beacon” 🙂 – Ewa
There is no pest in a permaculture garden. Insects are very important as primary or secondary decomposers. Without insects, dead animals and plants would accumulate in our environment and it would get very messy. Some insects aerate the soil, the others pollinate blossoms, control other insects and plants or leave pests. Insects are helping us in creating the topsoil which we need to grow plants.
When you spray chemical pesticides in the garden, you are not only putting your health at risk. You are killing the beneficial little creatures which are part of Nature. They are food for other insects, birds, reptiles and some mammals, so you are also risking their health or even life. Just as an example. Some people use Carbaryl Spray for the grasshoppers. Carbaryl is a cholinesterase inhibitor and is toxic to humans. It is classified as a likely human carcinogen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This is just one of many easily accessible pesticides and herbicides which are toxic and should be banned.
Let’s make friends with insects!
I don’t mind when some leaves are eaten away when we still have enough food for ourselves and our animals. Everyone gets the belly full so why shouldn’t we share with them. Insects are so important in our life and in the ecosystem that we can easily have some spare plants in the garden for them 🙂 Of course, if you have only one little veggie patch you cannot share the crop with everyone but maybe you can throw a few additional seeds in a corner somewhere? Sharing is caring.
Help Nature to help herself!
Crop rotation and diversity helps maintain healthy soil. The healthier the soil, the stronger the plants. The stronger the plants, the better their own self-defence.
Growing shallots in all garden beds helps. Lots of insects don’t like the onion smell and will avoid the garden bed. Simple! The same with garlic chives, green onions or garlic.
Growing herbs in the same bed as your veggie is also a great way to confuse the little creatures
Using nets, especially on a new growth and young plants where the insects can eat it away. When buying the netting, buy once – buy right. Make sure that you buy an UV-resistant and food safe netting.
Planting in two different spots. It is working very well for me. I always try to plant the same edibles in two different spots which are farther away from each other. Sometimes, it makes a huge difference. One spot has no insect damage at all while the other shows how the insects enjoyed it!
I could observe over the years that in a healthy garden, nature is helping itself with maybe a few exceptions where we need to help. The homemade remedies are easy to make and safe to use on your edibles.
Most common issues and remedies.
*White Powdery Mildew – mainly caused by the fungus Podosphaera xanthii. Usually it infects all cucurbits including cucumbers, pumpkin, squash, gourds, watermelons, zucchini and so on. The best natural remedies are:
Baking soda + water solution – It helps to control the White Powdery Mildew and may help with other pests too! Baking soda is NAHCO3 or Sodium Bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is found very commonly by hot springs, geysers, and many sulfur rich places so it is a natural product and you definitely can use it on your edibles. Mix 3 tablespoons of baking soda per 4L of water. You have to stir for a while and always give it a good shake before you spray on leaves and stems. I usually only spray once when I see the first signs of the mildew and that is enough for the plants to recover and grow healthy
Milk + water solution – One part milk : two parts water. Mix well, use preventive or once a week when you see the first signs of the mildew on the plant.
*Aphids and caterpillars – It is important to know that there are a number of beneficial natural enemies that attack aphids, including host-specialised parasitic wasps, as well as generalist predators such as hoverfly larvae, and adults and larvae of ladybird beetles and lacewings. You can also help when you don’t have enough of the natural friends in the garden.
Garlic + chili + water solution. It is effective for small sucking insects such as aphids as well as caterpillars. Simply cook some chilies, cut into small pieces, and some crushed garlic for a few minutes and let it sit overnight. Strain and keep in a jar. Dilute with water it if the mixture is very strong and spray as required.
*Snails may get very annoying but are easy to contain. Avoid watering your garden before dark when you have a snail or slugs problem.
Beer traps may help repel slugs. Any cup or container, placed in the garden bed and dug in so it is level with the top of the soil and topped up with beer is irresistible to snails as they love it.
Going by night with a torch and collecting them by hand may also help to minimise the damage
*Nematodes are parasites which usually affect the roots of plants by feeding on the plant root system. It reduces the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients.
1/4 cup of molasses diluted in 4 liters of water can be used as a liquid fertiliser in the garden. This solution will improve the soil by feeding the microbes in the soil, it will fertilise and strengthen the plants and it can be used to deter nematodes.
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