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.
One of the most destructive pests in the home garden, aphids are also one of the most fascinating. Understand them to stop them.
Aphids seem to cause us problems both early and late in the growing season. We’ve found curling, yellowed leaves on chard within weeks of the plants emerging from the ground. Further examination revealed ants coursing up and down the stems. Looking carefully at the undersides of the forming leaves revealed why the ants were there: aphids! Clusters of the green and brown critters could be seen tucked away where the chard leaves created little pockets for them to hide. (more…)
How to identify and control the brown marmorated stink bug.
They landed on our shores in Pennsylvania some 15 years ago and have since spread across the country, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Voracious feeders, they’re not content to destroy our food sources. They’ve come to occupy our homes in ways that have changed the very nature of our lives. In an all-0ut effort to stop the invasion, humans have joined forces to bring an end to their march across America. And while some progress has been reported, the battle is far from over. (more…)
Pesticide use may leave us a world without pollinators.
With good news comes bad. Preliminary reports from the winter of 2013-2014 gathered by the Department of Agriculture and the Bee Informed Partnership have found that loss of honey bee colonies from all causes was 23.2%, down from 30.5% the previous winter. For the full 12 months — April 2013 to April 2014 — the 7,183 beekeepers who responded to the survey reported losing 34.2% of their 670,568 colonies.
The full report can be found here.
How is this good news? The 23.2% figure is well below the 8-year average total loss of 29.6% and much less than the 36% loss suffered in 2007-2008. But hopes that bee colony collapse numbers have turned a corner are premature. (more…)
A crow, a row of seedlings, and repeated frustration spotlight the adaptability and ingenuity of gardeners.
A friend of this blog, someone who’s good at seeing the big picture, writes in to tell us about a problem solved and how it reflects on the art and craft of gardening. It’s a good example of how we develop our gardening techniques over the years by paying attention, considering all the variables, and measuring the results. We’ve added a few follow-up links in his story, as we do in ours:
Our family loves sweet corn and every year I plant a “square” of corn; four or five-foot long rows, two of the rows planted a week or two after the first rows went in, an often in-vain attempt to extend the harvest. Somehow the corn all seems to arrive at the same time no matter how I stagger the planting. (more…)
Spiders 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…)
Does 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. (more…)
A 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…)
Companion 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…)
It’s A Bug Eat Bug World Out There!
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…)
Using 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…)