As people are turning away from chemical ingredients in everything from cleaning products to beauty products, they are also turning to chemical-free foods by growing food in their own backyards.
In order to keep your homegrown produce as free from harmful chemicals as possible while keeping crop-destroying pests to a minimum use natural pest control methods. If prevention doesn’t get the job done, try some home remedies first. As a last resort, you can turn to organic pesticide–just make sure all the ingredients are listed and they are all things you are not afraid to put on your food.
Preventing pest problems before they start is the best way get ahead of the problem (http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_…). You can do this by following some commonsense guidelines, such as pulling out any weak or already infected plants, building healthy soil to nurture strong plant growth, disinfecting tools after working on infected plants and minimizing breeding grounds for pests by getting rid of non-essential areas of the garden that might serve as a habitat. It is also useful to interplant and rotate crops because it will stop spreading or reinfestation of the many pests that are specific to one type of plant.
Fight nature with nature
Naturally attracting beneficial insects to your garden is one way to fight pests. These insects will prey on plant-damaging pests or their larvae and promote a healthier environment for your crops. Different predator species have different prey, so the type of predator insect you want to promote in your garden will depend on the type of pest problem you are dealing with.
Two commonly used predator insects include ladybugs and lacewings. (http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_…). Ladybugs eat whiteflies scale, mites and aphids and are attracted to tansy, members of the daisy family and yarrow (http://eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_…). Lacewings are also attracted yarrow as well as goldenrod, asters and black-eyed susan. They eat aphids and their larvae eat aphids as well as other varieties of insects.
University of Rhode Island Horticulture Program recommends dedicating five to ten percent of your garden space to growing flowers for beneficial insects like lady bugs and lacewings (http://www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sh…).
URI suggestion for annual flowers to encourage beneficial insects:
Spring: alyssum and buckwheat
Early summer: coriander, dill, yarrow and buckwheat
Mid-summer: coriander, fennel, dill, caraway, black-eyed susan, yarrow and dwarf sunflowers
Late summer: coriander, dill, black-eyed susan and dwarf sunflowers
Fall: alyssum, buckwheat and dwarf sunflowers
Homemade pest deterrents
If pests are still problematic homemade pesticides may provide the solution (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Orga…). Ants, for example, are deterred by vinegar and coffee grounds, aphids by garlic and cayenne pepper, and slugs by eggshells.
There are as many different home pest concoctions as there are pests. Using garlic and onions, according to Mother Earth News, is just one way to kill aphids and apple borers, for instance. All you have to do is grind up raw onions or garlic into a puree, soak it warm water overnight and strain. The liquid can then be sprayed on roses, fruit trees, and flowers (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Orga…).
Organic pesticides will often use ingredients similar to those in the homemade kind and have the added benefit of convenience. But consumers beware, just because a pesticide is labeled organic or natural does not mean that it is harmless to the environment.
A 2010 study from the University of Guelph revealed that some organic pesticides can have a higher environmental impact than conventional pesticides because the organic product may require larger doses.
“We found the mineral oil organic pesticide had the most impact on the environment because it works by smothering the aphids and therefore requires large amounts to be applied to the plants,” said Rebecca Hallett, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Guelph in Canada (http://bit.ly/d5S6fx).
Organic pesticides on the market often also only list active ingredients. But the active ingredients only comprise 1-2 percent of the solution, leaving 98-99 percent unknown. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients–including several hundred that are considered hazardous under other federal rules–are used in agricultural and residential pesticides, according to Environmental Health News (http://www.environmentalhealthnews….).
“In terms of making pest management decisions and trying to do what is best for the environment, it’s important to look at every compound and make a selection based on the environmental impact quotient rather than if it’s simply natural or synthetic,” said Hallett.
For those who do want to use organic pesticides, one that is effective against a number of pesticide-resistant insects and does not harm beneficial insects is neem oil. Also, being that it is biodegradable, it does not leave a residue on the final produce. Nature Neem offers a 100 percent cold pressed neem oil http://www.natureneem.com/index_fic…), so there are no other ingredients. Because it is oil it requires an emulsifier in order to mix with water, but it is possible to use household hand washing or dishwashing soaps.
Pharm Solutions Inc. is a company that also sidesteps the unknown ingredients pitfall by listing all ingredients on the label. Its Veggie Pharm insecticide and fungicide (http://pharmsolutionsinc.com/veggie…) is made with the pure oils of cottonseed, garlic, peppermint and rosemary. The inactive ingredients include non-GMO canola oil, food grade oleic acid, and USP grade glycerin and carbonic acid monopotassium salt and carrot juice, and the remaining 83.3 percent is water. It has the added benefit that an emulsifier is already added, so it is ready to use.
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