Thursday, December 31, 2015

Controlling bugs the natural, organic way

Stink bug
Thursday, December 31, 2015

There are good bugs and then there are the bugs that eat up your harvest or give your plants diseases.  You have to be extremely careful in applying any insecticides (bug killers) as they will kill off the beneficial insects (like bees) that pollinate your veggies and increase your harvests.

The best approach is to let nature take its course.  If you have bad bugs, the good bugs will quickly follow and provide equilibrium in the garden.   It took a couple of years after going all natural and organic (no bug sprays) for my garden to come into equilibrium.  First come the bad bugs, these then attract the good bugs who come looking for dinner!

 I purchased beneficial insects to speed up the process.  If you go the route of mail order, be sure that you will be at home when they are delivered so that you can get them released as quickly as possible.  Check your local nurseries for beneficial insects as they will be acclimated to your area.

You can encourage good bugs by planting flowers either around your vegetable patch or actually with your vegetables.  Marigolds are a great bad bug (and deer) deterrent.  I plant these all around my flower garden.

You can also encourage birds to your yard by having trees, shrubs and flowers that attract birds.  Keeping a bird bath with shrubs nearby so the birds can hide in the shrubs is a great way to get birds into your yard.  Adding a bird feeder is helpful as well.  If you do, be sure that you feed all through the winter as the birds have come to depend on you.

Using a garden hose to dose down the insects can be a good strategy; just make sure that you are not watering a plant’s leaves that are susceptible to fungal diseases such as tomatoes, cucumbers or zucchinis.  Cucumber beetles look a lot like lady bugs (the good guys), but are yellow or green versus red.  They also spread fungal diseases.
Cucumber beetle

You can also go insect hunting and pull off the insects and throw them into a bowl with soap and water or simply don gloves and squish them and feed to the birds.

For Japanese beetles, I use an attractor that is quite a distance from the vegetable garden.  They also love roses so I go hunting for them on our roses every day.  We also apply Milky Spore to keep the grub population down around the roses so we have fewer adults in the summer.

For ants, you have to control the aphids.  A recipe for catching the ants and aphids:  2 cups of vinegar, 2 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water in a gallon jug with a lid.  Drill 3 small holes in the lid, large enough for the ants and aphids, but too small for a little bee.  Place in trouble areas.

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on the plants that the grasshoppers or other insects love will kill them, as it will kill any insect that crawls on the leaves that DE is sprinkled on.  It scratches their exoskeleton causing them to get dehydrated and die.  DE is safe for humans and is even eaten by some for health benefits.  Just realize good insects like bees will also be killed.

Here are some make your own insect deterrents.  Make sure you test on a few leaves to insure that it won’t adversely affect the plant you are trying to protect.
All purpose spray.  1 garlic bulb, 1 onion, 1 teas dry cayenne pepper, 1 teas liquid soap, 1 quart of water.  Mix water, garlic, pepper and onion together in a food processer, let steep an hour or so, drain through cheesecloth, add liquid soap and you are ready to spray away!
Hot pepper spray.  Good for repelling insects, squirrels, rabbits, and other curious mammals.  1 cup of hot peppers in a quart of water.  Mix in food processor, strain through a cheesecloth and you are ready to use.  Be careful to not get the liquid on your hands and then touch your eyes or mouth.  It will burn.
Tomato-leaf spray.  This is toxic to soft bodied insects like aphids.  It also attracts beneficial wasps.  Take the leaves off the bottom of your tomato plant, 2 cups.  Put in food processor with 1.5 quarts of water.  Let steep overnight, strain out leaves.  Spray on affected leaves, especially the undersides where they like to hide.

If you are just overrun with the bad bugs, you can look on OMRI web site to see what the organic insecticides are:  I use Safer Insecticidal Soap and Neem Oil for my indoor plants.

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