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Garden Prep for Pests

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Did you know that the best defense against pests in the lawn and garden is good soil and plant health? Organic gardeners strive for an elusive balance where everything works to the benefit of a healthy crop within the ecosystem.

Renee Fortner, Assistant Supervisor of Landscaping at Warren Wilson College, stressed starting healthy even with turfgrass.  Basics like soil testing, proper watering and correct grass species can minimize the need to worry about pests.  Fortner said that before she uses any chemical on the lawn she considers all of the impacts, and prefers organic methods, so “it means that I can feel good about my kid playing in the lawn.”  She suggested corn gluten meal as an organic pre-emergent herbicide for lawns.

Once the garden is growing, Extension Agent Elizabeth Ayers suggests inspecting plants regularly to hand-pick pests like beetles and caterpillars.  She says insecticidal soap may help control mites, aphids and whiteflies.  Fortner mentions hot pepper or garlic spray for landscape plants.  With a growing number of commercial organic gardening products on the market, it really depends on your individual growing conditions and needs as to what works in your garden.  With the general rule of minimizing inputs in organic gardening, the ideal is to not use pesticides unless necessary, and then to minimize health and environmental impacts.

leaf eaten by pestsAfter a growing season of avoiding commercial products in lieu of minimally invasive methods, and sometimes losing the battle to bugs, I’m resisting the urge to stock up on every possible new organic pest control product.  Thanks to Fortner, Ayers, and the other instructors at the Organic Growers School for helping to educate even amateur gardeners like me.

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