Pest Control

With the growing evidence that chemical pesticides are harmful to human health, many gardeners are looking for smart, organic solutions for pest control. Most problem pests can be controlled naturally, eliminating the need for toxic pesticides or harmful chemicals. We provide the information – and experience – to help you maintain a beautiful, chemical-free yard and garden that’s healthy for you, your family and the environment.

Got bugs? Visit our Pest Problem Solver for help! Also, you can share tips and ask questions over at our Pest Control Forum page.

Charlotte’s Web … In Your Garden

Garden SpiderSpiders are beneficial too!

Our Integrated Pest Management program has long included encouraging and buying, when necessary, beneficial insects. Ladybugs, praying mantis, aphid predators and parasites, lacewings, leafminers, thrips, whitefly parasites, and others offer a virtual arsenal against the specific insects the would do our garden harm. Knowing which ones to use against what problem pests is valuable knowledge for gardeners seeking to avoid harmful chemical sprays, dusts, and other poisons.

There’s one beneficial predator not generally considered and, for the most part, not commercially available (except as pets) that can play an important role in keeping your garden clears of pests: the spider. Unfairly thought of as dangerous and a nuisance, especially when discovered inside your home, spiders are actually an effective predator in the garden and, despite our fears, mostly aren’t dangerous (with some exceptions). (more…)

Herbicide Found In Mother’s Milk

Baby Girl SleepingDoes America’s most-used weed killer endanger infants?

A recent study has found that the herbicide glyphosate, sold under the trade name Roundup (and others), is present in alarming levels in breast milk of American females. The study found that samples of mother’s milk from women in the United States contained levels of the weed-killer that were 760 to 1,600 time greater than the amount of pesticides allowed by the European Water Directive. Those levels are still less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided is safe.

The findings are sure to be controversial. The EPA contamination level was decided on the much-challenged assumption that glyphosate was excreted and did not accumulate in the human body. Those non-accumulation findings were based on studies sponsored by, among others, Monsanto, the maker of Roundup. (more…)

Learning To Love (Some) Bugs

Bug BookA new book takes a wholistic approach to the use of beneficial insects in organic gardens.

Regular readers of the Planet Natural Blog know our enthusiasm for including beneficial insects in any Integrated Pest Management program.  Gardening author Jessica Walliser  — she co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” radio program aired on station KDKA in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania — has a new book out that discusses beneficials role in your garden environment and what you can do to create landscapes friendly to them.

Attracting Beneficial Bugs To Your Garden: A Natural Approach To Pest Control (Timber Press) is a detailed, wholistic, and wonderfully illustrated guide to the lifestyles of all the insects that inhabit the organic garden as well as creating the conditions needed to encourage those you want in the fight against those you don’t. (more…)

Better Pest Management

Pest ManagementCompanion planting, interplanting, and healthy soil tricks that keep pests away from your vegetables.

We like the way Edward C. Smith thinks about insect pests. As he states in his fine book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, he treats pests (and that includes disease) as predators on the hunt. “Just as lions select the weakest wildebeest, aphids are drawn to the weakest plants,” he writes. “Anything you can do to improve growing conditions for a plant makes the plant less likely to be attacked by pests and disease. Good pest management means understanding that pests and diseases are not problems in themselves, but symptoms of the problem.”

Smith doesn’t use the term Integrated Pest Management. But of course, that’s what he’s doing: not using chemical pesticides to take care of his problems (which often causes even more garden problems in addition to exposing you and your family to dangerous compounds) but instead using a variety of non-chemical techniques to discourage and control insects that might want to invade his plants. (more…)

Beneficial Insects 101 – A Good Bugs Guide

Good Garden BugsIt’s A Bug Eat Bug World!

Danger lurks in a backyard garden. Aphids, cutworms, mealybugs and other pests are preying on your vegetables and flowers. Who’s an organic gardener going to turn to for help? Forget nasty, expensive chemicals, enlist the aid of “good bugs” that will battle and help control pest outbreaks and won’t even ask for a thank you, let alone a pay check.

Gardeners turn to biological control (PDF) for help and to reduce or eliminate the need for chemical pesticides. These insects are the natural enemies of garden pests. That’s great news for growers because it means there is an effective, non-toxic approach for solving your bug blues. But the benefits don’t stop there! Read on… (more…)

Onion Tool, GMO Labels, & Bats!

Onion SeedlingsUsing a dibble, deception from a GMO front group and $50 billion worth of pest control done by flying mammals.

More on planting onions: A cranky computer kept us from getting in everything we wanted in our previous post on long-day, short-day onions. Starting onions from seed indoors is easy enough. What’s difficult is setting the delicate transplants or sets in the ground (transplants usually just have roots, sets have developed a small onion bulb). Burying sets too deeply means slow growth and small onions. Putting transplants in the ground requires getting the root to hang vertically and not twisted or laying on itself. How to get it right?

Use a dibble. The dibble, or onion tool as it’s sometimes called makes a straight hole as deep as the dibber allows. This allows you to hang the delicate root of the transplant vertically inside the dibble hole. To make sure the root stays straight, lower it to a depth that’s deeper than you want it set, then carefully lift it up as you fill the dibble hole with soil. Onions, depending on their size, should be spaced a good five inches from one another. The dibble is also useful when planting garlic. (more…)

Ladybug or Ladybeetle?

Ladybug Eating AphidsWhy this gardener’s friend is better than pesticides.

Lady beetles aren’t really bugs. Be that as it may you won’t find us correcting any child singing, “Ladybug, ladybug fly away!” These loveable creatures are actually insatiable carnivores, able to consume quantities of aphids, mealybugs, scales, white flys and mites. Often thought of as a sign of good luck, lady beetles or lady bugs (whatever) bring luck to the gardener who has them in her vegetable patch.

When an infestation of juice-sucking aphids strikes any plant, lady beetles will feast, making quick work of the pests. A single lady beetle will eat up to 60 aphids a day, some 5,000 over the course of its life. (more…)

Dangerous Herbicide, Dangerous Business

Water FaucetResearchers looking into atrazine targeted by its maker.

Last week’s blockbuster article in The New Yorker about flamboyant researcher Tyrone Hayes and the crusade to discredit his research on the herbicide atrazine has refocused attention on a controversy that’s been brewing over the last decade. Atrazine, banned in Europe, is the second most frequently used herbicide in the U.S., second only to glysophate, also known as Roundup. It’s commonly used on farm crops, on golf courses, and by professional lawn care services.

Atrazine has been around since 1958. In the last several years, its affects have caused alarm among water managers and the general public, so much so that some 40 water systems from six different states sued Syngenta, the European-based conglomerate that manufactures the compound, in an attempt to get them to remove the herbicide from their water supplies. (more…)

Preventing, Curing Gray Snow Mold

Lawn DiseaseKeeping lawns exposed to wet springs and slowly melting snow from falling to disease.

The vagaries of climate variation across the country this winter suggests that we might be seeing the dreaded gray snow mold surface in lawns where it hasn’t been seen before. Those of us familiar with late snow covers, cold, damp springs, and other conditions favorable to lawn diseases are well familiar with this problem.

Gray snow mold is a common problem in areas where snow cover persists into the spring as temperatures warm. It shows itself in circular or irregularly shaped gray or brown spots in the lawn that can range from an inch or two across to over a foot or more. Fuzzy gray strings, known as mycelia, may stretch across and out from the area, especially as the snow melts away. (more…)

Crop Rotation In the Home Garden

Rotating Garden CropsPlan your spring planting to control disease, weeds, and pests while boosting soil quality.

We’ve all heard of the benefits of crop rotation in large scale agriculture. And we all know that those benefits can transfer to our home gardens. Even the smallest of gardens can benefit from crop rotation, even if crops are only moved a few feet each year. Crop rotation is especially important to the organic grower because it precludes many of the problems that lead to the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Exactly what are the benefits? Rotating crops is especially critical to preventing disease from getting a foot hold on certain vegetables you might plant. The bacteria and spores that attack specific plants can survive winters and infect those plants again the following year. The good news is, once in the soil they can’t travel far. You’ll do more to move them around with your spring cultivation than anything they might do on their own. If you plant the same hosts that those diseases are looking for, you’ll provide them with the ability to re-establish and become even more severe. Plant something from another group of vegetables that don’t normally host the problems, and they’ll eventually disappear. (more…)

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