by BRIAN MINTER
June 1, 2004
It's awfully nice of you to share your garden with the ever increasing numbers of insects that seem to be appearing from nowhere these days, but if you're just a little amazed at the competition, there are many effective ways of dealing with them - organically. There have always been organic ways of controlling insects in our gardens, but somehow most of us have never taken the time or made the effort to use them. With so many chemical insect controls coming off the market recently, now may be a good time to start.
Organic insect control does not have to mean extra work, nor does it mean having to use organic controls on a daily basis to achieve effective results. Organic pest control starts with smart thinking. First and foremost, your garden should be clean. That means no weeds at any time of the year to act as host plants for many insects during any one of their life cycles. If you just don't have the time for all that weeding, remember that today there is inexpensive and effective weed barrier cloth available to solve that problem. It's so easy to use and very effective, especially if you use the heavier grades that really stop weeds.
Step two is getting your soil in shape. I sound like a stuck record talking about light sandy soils, but they are far less inviting to many insects which prefer heavy, wet soils. Sand and bark mulch or sawdust (fir or hemlock), added to lighten and open up your heavy soils, really makes a huge difference. Also using raised beds that are higher and drier will help minimize soil insects.
Step three is smart garden planning. If you have been having trouble with cabbages, radishes and turnips for years, why grow them? Grow plants you enjoy, but that have fewer problems. Pole beans, broad beans, parsnips and cucumbers are usually pretty good. Be more selective in the flowers you plant too. When is the last time you saw insects or slugs attack fibrous begonias or impatiens?
Step four is companion planting. In the book 'Carrots Love Tomatoes' by Louise Riotte, you'll find all sorts of plant combinations that successfully keep insects at bay. When in doubt, plant garlic with everything!
After years of reading 'Organic Gardening' magazine, the obvious and most effective way of controlling virtually all insects is the use of row covers. They are cheap, easy and effective. The light Remay coverings simply draped over young seedlings and held down with soil, can stay there until the plants mature. The plants are warmer, grow faster and insects can't get at them. It works well for leaf miner on beets and Swiss chard and is also great for carrot rust fly.