Non-Toxic Pest Control – The Best Way To Control Pests

Non-toxic pest control is becoming more popular with the growing interest in organic gardening.

In fact, one of the most common questions asked by new organic gardeners is how to get rid of pests without using chemical pesticides.

As a result, you’ll find many recipes for homemade “organic” pesticides on the Internet and in books.

Baking Soda Might Help With Certain Fungal Diseases

Research has been done to see if baking soda works to prevent and eradicate powdery mildew (Erysiphales), blackspot (Diplocarpon rosae) and a few others.

I’ve tried it myself and it worked well on roses.

A solution of 1-5 tablespoons of baking soda per gallon of water is generally recommended. Start lower though, as 5 tablespoons can hurt the leaves in some cases.

Efficacy is apparently improved by adding an equal amount of natural liquid soap or insecticidal soap, or an equal part of horticultural oil.

In this case, the main benefit seems to be that they help the baking soda solution stick to the leaves. I actually used molasses because it provides other benefits than just stickiness, whereas the soap is not friendly to the beneficial microorganisms on the leaves.

Alternatively, one of my readers wrote me and shared this: “Rather than using baking soda if you use baking powder for early or late blight on tomatoes and potatoes it changes the leaf surface pH sufficiently for the plants to “overcome” and produce until frost for me. The only thing I have to do is make sure it is applied at the first sign of blight on the leaves. We have been successful with 2 tablespoons in a gallon of water and spraying top and bottom sides of leaves. Have to remember to reapply if it rains.”

Vinegar For Non-Toxic Pest Control
Spot-spraying dandelions with vinegar

So using baking soda may help with certain diseases, but the problem with focusing on moving from chemical pesticides to organic pesticides is that we’re not working with the root cause of the pest problem and fixing that instead.

To look at the root cause of the problem, we first need to see why humans eat plants…

Why Do Humans Eat Plants?

We (and other animals) prefer plants that are healthy and full of nutrients.

Sure, most of us seem to have lost a lot of our ability to differentiate between a healthy plant from a not-so-healthy plant, but animals are still very good at it and they choose the healthy stuff.

Even farm animals, who haven’t exactly been bred for intelligence, will choose healthy feed over the pesticide-laced, imbalanced feed that makes up the majority.

But this gets really interesting when we look at why insects and diseases eat plants…

Why Do Diseases and Insects Eat Your Plants?

What kind of food does an aphid (Aphidoidea) like? What does a disease such as powdery mildew prefer to eat?

We tend to think insects and diseases are making our plants unhealthy, but actually, they are there because our plants are unhealthy.

This is one of the biggest shifts we need to make in our thinking when moving to organic gardening practices, and to me it’s absolutely fascinating.

While animals prefer healthy plants, insects and diseases prefer the opposite. They choose plants that have a nutritional imbalance of one or more nutrients. They literally do not possess the enzymes necessary to digest healthy plants.

In fact, they don’t even see healthy plants as a food source at all. Sounds crazy, right?

Well, I’m going to explain it, because this is one of the most important concepts to understand when talking not only about non-toxic pest control, but organic gardening in general.

I won’t go into too much detail, but here’s the gist of it.

Beetle For Non-Toxic Pest Control
Beautiful beetle

How Insects Find Our Plants

Animals (like us) see with our eyes in the visual light spectrum. Insects, on the other hand, sense much of their surroundings with their antennae.

That’s how they find a mate and that’s how they find their food. These antennae interpret electromagnetic frequencies in the infrared spectrum, which is right beside the visual light spectrum that we see.

Plants also emit pheromones that insects interpret as “food.” Not all plants emit these pheromones, though.

It turns out that only sick plants emit them in such a manner as to be seen as food! This finding is one of the most amazing implications for organic gardeners and farmers.

Healthy plants simply do not emit these strong frequencies, so insects do not see healthy plants as a food source. And even if they do land on a healthy plant, for the most part, they do not have the enzymes to digest a healthy plant.

Why do sick plants invite predators to eat them? I don’t think we know for sure. Some people think it’s evolution – the plants don’t want to survive since it would be a detriment to their species (if sick plants were to continually reproduce, the species would not be as strong and would have a much more difficult time surviving, so they “take one for the team,” so to speak).

I don’t know about that, but I figure plants don’t have the same anxiety about death that we do. All I know for sure is that insects eat sick plants.

As you may have noticed, most insects don’t go around eating any plant species in its path. They usually have just a few species or perhaps a family of plants that are their food and they don’t – they can’t – eat anything else.

That’s why plant predator books are often organized by plant, because when you know the plant that’s being eaten, it narrows down the potential predators to just a handful.

It turns out that each insect antennae is shaped in such a way to collect only the frequencies from certain plants.

What’s Wrong With Non-Toxic Pest Control?

Other than the fact that they stop most organic gardeners from shifting their paradigm to see that plant-feeding organisms only eat unhealthy plants, non-toxic pest control products have a couple of other problems.

Many of them harm the plants to some degree, and most healthy plants can handle it, but since we’re spraying plants that are obviously already suffering, the damage will often be worse.

Another problem is if we keep killing the offending organism with these pest control products, the predators of those pests may be killed or at least will never set up shop.

For example, ladybugs (Coccinellidae) won’t lay their eggs, which therefore won’t hatch to eat the aphids.

And many of the beneficial microorganisms that would consume our black spot or mildew will be killed when we use baking soda or something similar.

Killing the pests does not change anything. Pesticides do not give the plant the nutrients it needs.

What is the ultimate goal for organic pest control? Create health in your soil and your plants so that the pests never cause any problems.

That’s what this series of free lessons is all about.

And that’s definitely what my online gardening course is all about.

And it’s also why I use (and sell) a handful of organic products that do a very good job of improving plant health to the point where pests gradually go away.

Please let me know below what you think of this way of looking at non-toxic pest control. I would love to get your thoughts.


  1. Thank you, Phil. Totally eye-opening article. I can’t wait to learn more about “creating health” with your upcoming lessons.

    1. Lakmini E.B. Vaz says:

      Thanks Phil. I love your article. I will try it and awaiting to read your upcoming articles too.

      1. I love the article! thanks so much

    2. Thank you so much for the lessons and for your swift answer. Many thanks once again!

  2. That is fascinating to me that insects and humans look for different characteristics in plants. I guess it makes sense when you think about it, but I never knew.

  3. Pattimair says:

    This is my way of thinking. Gardening =respect for me. Gaia’s wisdom is the ultimate and the best I can do is to work with her. I have influence in the garden, I don’t want control. That’s a fallacy anyway. Your way of thinking is so the way I want go. Just help me to understand how best to work with the power of nature.

    1. Thanks so much for the comments today. Stay tuned and I hope to get into more detail over the next little while on how to work with nature.

    2. It amazes me to observe the predators of a pest. The leaves on my plum tree were looking strange and I thought I had some type of black fungus. In swoops a lot of soldier beetles to devour black aphids.

  4. Georgia Roller says:

    Thanks, Phil. Your article is informative and a great inspiration.Georgia

  5. What an eye opener a totally new way of looking at our plant life and to realize that you must have respect for what we see and care for looking forward to more lessonsMagz

  6. Mister-lennox says:

    thank you sir i just starting and going deep in organice planting herbs to sell onthe market specilizazing in culinary herbs

  7. Thank You Phil. I have a lot to learn from you. Although I,m practicing my organic farm for 8 yrs. and I we’re able to produce an Innoculant (plant & sea raw materials) as a fertilizer.WinsonZamboanga, Philippines

  8. Africanaussie says:

    Thanks for this article – I look forward to learning more over the course.

  9. I took the organic master gardener course and I pass on all the info to everyone I know(and facebook) I encourage and help people to grow their own food and advocate your methods and products. Keep up the good work and thank-you!

  10. Wow, very educational. Looking forward to more of your articles before I start my early spring garden.

  11. very good information. thanks

  12. Thilakabaskaran says:

    Thanks Phil, I never thought of pests in this line till now.Looking forward to more lessons.

  13. Excellent that you mentioned the function of insect antennae. More on that would be elucidating.

  14. Interesting conclusions about how insects are attracted to sickly plants, but I really need to know something about the research that brought you to these conclusions rather than simply accepting them as truth. Any references/studies you can cite? I’m not saying these things are untrue, and they sound great. I just need to know what’s behind the conclusions.

    1. Hi Jane, Nice to hear from you. There’s all kinds of research. One good book is ‘Healthy Crops’ by Francis Chabbousou because he pulls together a bunch of different research. It’s a bit scientific at times, but I really enjoyed it and it’s good if you want proof. Also, Phil Callahan has several good books, with ‘Tuning Into Nature’ being perhaps the best for our subject here.

  15. this is a fantastic program so far!

  16. Hi Phil,I cannot wait for the next lesson :)Why make us wait? Couldn’t we just have a link to an index of your lessons?ThanksFranck

  17. Runnfeldtm says:

    Hi Phil, I also can hardly wait for your next lesson. I live in middle Tennessee, and am facing digging up all the weeds that were left through the winter. I know, I should have been working with them before and after the ground froze, but yesterday was my first day out. I’ve put out 4 cabbage and 4 broccoli plants, just a touch of more to come.I appreciate your sharing what you have learned. Thanks so much. 4bears

  18. Very interesting indeed! Looking forward to the next lessons. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

  19. Hi Phil. Yes…this is all good and true..thank you. Have you ever heard of Prof. Higa of Japan? I heard him speak about this “em’ microbiological soil compliments some years ago when I was a student at Durham, NH I have not followed it but recall being impressed with his original research and results. I’d be interested in your opinion if you have time. Thank you..I look forward to reading more articles, Robert

    1. Hi Robert, yes, I’m a huge fan of EM. I have a whole chapter in the new book dedicated to it. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

      1. Hi Phil..thank you…I am very pleased to hear that. I will have to check more deeply into Higas work to see where it has gone…and yours. Do you automatically send lesson 2…or did I not push a button :)..Rgds, Robert

        1. I send lessons on Tuesdays and Fridays (I don’t send them all at oncebecause most people don’t have time to read them all in one sitting, so whatwould happen is many people would end up skipping all of them). Two eachweek seems to be a good balance.

        2. Hi, delighted to read your articles, they are very interesting and down to earth. Have just followed you in Utube, I don’t have a Facebook account, but am wondering are you on Twitter, hope so, if not you should start an account, I would tweet your articles till the cows come home, they are that good👌👍

          1. Thanks Mary! Alas, Twitter is just not my jam, so I’m not there.

  20. Mary Bryant says:

    I really enjoyed reading the artictle. It is very concise and helpful, but interesting and fun to read. Easily understood.

  21. awesome, very interesting I never understood gardening like this before really looking forward to next articule

  22. I’ve noticed last year that on some plants (flea beetle on Pack Choi or Arugula) the damage only occurred when the plant was young. And once the plant got past a certain stage (if it made it that far) the beetles no longer bothered the plant. I don’t think it’s only seasonal because although it was more prevalent in the spring it happened consistently throughout my succession planting within that season and in very different areas of the field.

    1. Ya, I’ve seen that sometimes. Sometimes not. Perhaps the root system neededto get big enough to reach some calcium further down in the soil (calciumtends to sink), or some other nutrient. Or it could be any number of thingsthat can be difficult to diagnose. That’s when we get into soil and planttesting and start doing some detective work. Spraying a biostimulant/microbemixture such as kelp/EM on the young plants could very well be enough tobeat the bugs.

  23. This is a very good lesson: short, informative, and thought-provoking. Looking forward to other lessons.

  24. Do It Yourself Pest Control says:

    Baking soda is effective and work as a fungicides. I also use it for my gardening purposes.

  25. Stacey D'Amico Turner says:

    This makes complete sense. I am eager to learn more about maintaining soil health.

  26. Alexis Preatori says:

    Thank God that there are natural pesticides that you can easily buy at supermarkets.New York Pest Control

  27. Antoine M Andre says:

    It blew my mind, really a mind shifting lesson. Thank Phil, I’ll spread it around.

  28. unbelievably timely and serendipitous information! i just was given an article about the importance of maintaining a level of Brix in the soil by adding the couple dozen or so nutrients in order to maximize the health, growth, and harvest of fruits and vegetables! i feel like implementing these practices brings us closer to Eden, the way nature was originally designed. thanks for clearing that path for us! looking forward to more!

  29. Ec Gr8ful says:

    Considering the condition of any living entity from the perception “First Cause” or the “Beginning of Life’s Journey, the thought comes to mind that, if the seed/stock is unhealthy likewise, the thing,,,whether it is animal, vegetable, mineral etc. Knowing the proper procedures, products, resources, and tools at ones disposal when attempting to do Organic Gardening, along with credible information such as yours is AWESOME!

  30. Mischa Yahd says:

    Will this help in reducing the white parts of my plants? Aphids and fungus really annoys me because they’re destroying my flowers.Pest Exterminator

  31. Riseaboveyourlimits says:

    Thanks for researching this valuable information.. I like the idea of using molasses with the baking soda!  I’ve done some extensive research on companion planting and have had great results with it, to the point the I need to do very little pest control!

  32. Boyd Johnson says:

    Interesting. Personally, I have kept the baking soda in the kitchen ever since I started using it. It does make sense, though, that its ingredients can be very useful in fighting pests and insects.bed bug extermination

  33. I really appreciate your straightforward manner of writing, Mr. Nauta! I look forward to making my way through the rest of your chapters! Do you have a bibliography of references? btw-please be careful of applying sentience to insects and plants; eg. “so they “take one for the team”, so to speak” and “plants don’t want to survive”. Just a friendly suggestion so as not to muddle empirical information with faith and belief. 🙂

    1. Thanks very much for your comment. I do have a bibliography in my book, but not here on the website. I absolutely apply sentience to insects and plants, based on science, experience and the experiences of others. Science has proven to me that they are sentient beings. Even without that, I do not believe science has the answers to everything. For some people, science is an unquestionable religion. For others, faith is. I prefer to look to both to make my decisions. Of course, this can make people of either camp very uncomfortable. I don’t wish to offend, but simply to put my experiences and thoughts out there. Thanks again.

      1. I’m with you Phil. Regardless of one’s faith or secular view of the universe, whether metaphorically or literally speaking, the ideas of unhealthy organisms “not wanting to survive” or “taking one for the team” are straight Darwinian theory. There is an undeniable, though unexplained “desire” for the cycles of life to perpetually endure, whether one chooses to apply sentience to those cycles or not. One point I wanted to make is that the insect that devours diseased plants then turns that disease into nutrition for its prey. The aphid nourishes the ladybug after eating the diseased plant. And the diseased plant is made healthier by being nourished by rotting, bacteria-laced soil and matter. I have no idea who or what designed all this, but anyone who refutes or ignores the magic going on all around us at all times is missing one helluva show. Thanks for translating this magic into human language that makes it easier for at least one Earthling to understand. Om.

  34. essential oils says:

    Essential oils are non-toxic home pest control.

  35. aldrin james says:

    I believe that using an organic pest control isthe best way to exterminate those pests. It is not bad to our environment butit is very effective.Brooklyn Exterminator

  36. Sujatha Merchant says:

    Really like the way you approach the subject of pest control. Very benign. Would love to check out the rest of your material

  37. This is an important first concept, with parallels within the human body as well. It is seeing the garden as one system, inclusive of all the individual organisms; the soil, the myriad of insects, birds, microorganisms, fungi, all the cultivated plants- and “weeds” Using any kind of pesticide/herbicide is much like using chemo-therapy, not an action taken on lightly. If we add ourselves to the system of our garden as well, then it is easy to see the connection between our health and the health of the soil that grows our food. Thank you for creating this series, and presenting it with such warmth and positive intent. Inspiring and energizing!

  38. pest extermination sd says:

    For me yes,this is the best way in controlling pest because this is safe  for the health of your families and to your pets also..

  39. Like a fresh cup of tea and it’s an interesting approach. I give you a nod of approval, because I know bugs are always on a sick animal with an open wound. That tells me that you’re on track with your theory. That’s refreshing to learn, it’s a good learning experience. I’m good to learn more. Appreciate very much.

  40. Yes, I follow and agree.

  41. SoCalgardener says:

    I’ve noticed this in the garden before the “pests” show up after the plant starts getting discolored wilted leaves they are a symptom of the problem not the cause but they do increase the problem

  42. With a little research, there are also several ways that you can avoid bugs, such as planting certain crops at particular times in the year.Well thanks for sharing such nice information.Keep sharing as always.

  43. Hi Phil, This small piece has been an eye  in opener thanks. I live Kenya, and am glad that you have talked about aphids they have been wreaking havoc with the lawn fence now am looking forward to learning more on what i can do to improve the plant which is being attacked by the aphids

    1. If you’re not burning toxic materials, the ash will have some minerals, especially calcium and potassium. You don’t want to go adding too much unless you know you need these two minerals. That’s why soil testing is important. Having too much potassium, for example, is common and detrimental. If you don’t soil test, my advice is to put a small amount into the compost pile instead of directly into the garden (5 gallons per cubic yard of compost).

  44. Robyn Burfurd says:

    Great information.  I sprayed my entire veggie garden and orchard with molasses today.  Can’t wait to see how it all responds.  I’m looking forward to your next email.Cheers from Australia

  45. Plants seem to have a collective consciousness that we often lack. They will opt for perpetuation of their species over their individual survival. May this is why the weaker plants are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good (health) of the species.

  46. let’s go to the next round sir, how to health our plants? by the way thankyou very much for this eye-opening article.

  47. Love your detailed and articulate info. Can’t wait to hear more.I live in Cooooold St. Catharines – have to wait a few more months to try this.I don’t agree w animals not being bred for their intelligence.For one — the pig is more intelligent than the dog (but our species seems to like eating the pig and loving the dog) — animals can be verygentle and intuitive –  brave and loving w their offspring – they have a ‘different’ kind of intelligence.Just as we’ve allowed ourselves to be ‘duped’ into having our food GMO’d — we must stop denigrating the precious creatures (I know that YOU WERENT denigrating – just stating an accepted fact)  by Calling someone ‘a turkey’ – ‘a pig’  – looking like ‘a dog’etc.  Animals deserve respect and we have only just begun to uncover what kind of intelligence THEY possess.Cordelia  

  48. I understand what you are saying but I’ve had completely healthy and vigorous plants get attacked too. I grow competitively and I along with other gardeners go to great lengths to make sure are plants are happy, healthy and well fed and we still have problems with bugs.

    1. Hi Steve, nice to here from you. The thing is, our definition of healthy is often very different from nature’s. Plants can be vibrant green, fast growing, dense and beautiful to our eyes, yet have major nutrient imbalances with excess nitrogen and sugars, improper soil and plant food webs, and so on, making them perfect eating for insects and diseases, who have the final say about what is healthy. Get the brix above 12-ish in all parts of the plant and the pests always go away.

  49. Thanks Phil. You can bet the next section I read will be how to get the Brix above 12.

    1. Maurice Chinyumba says:

      Phil you got me excited i need to start using your products especially “EM” and Liquid sea weed fertilizer i may need a good rate though since will buy in bulk my farm is in Africa thank you in advance

  50. tybrel raymond says:

    Phil, Thank you for this eye opener and tonight made me think of pest control and the use of Non-toxic. Looking forward in reading other articles. As a young convert to organic farming this information is truly helping . 

  51. I’ve learned about the brix factor while pursuing an entirely different path (have a good friend who is the chief engineer for a manufacturer of a water conditioning product that’s been sold for years to farmers in the central valley of Ca) and you are so right about higher brix.  I just found your site today and will be visiting often.  I am thinking about starting a little garden myself this spring… and will be reading all you have to say.

  52. Jklement37 says:

    Thank You so much for the wonderful information, I would have commented earlier but I don’t know how to facebook or twitter. Just now learning the computer. From

  53. Gattogionni says:

    I believe it’s a great thought. I Will put into practice.Thank you.Nicoletta

  54. .been into palay farming more than 10 years as well as poultry (ducks, turkeys and chicken) raising though in small scale. organic farming fascinates me. in fact a local agriculturist taught me how to make EM which i use in our poultry.. I haven’t tried organic in our palay.. thanks for a very informative article

  55. Rocio de blanco says:

    I got my first lesson today and I am very grateful to Phil. Is very generous to share his knowledge. We all know hoy many years of study and thinking are needed to have it. I live in Montevideo, Uruguay, South America so many of the plants named are not easy to found here. But I am really excited about the possibility to have a little organic garden.So, again, thanks to Phil,Rocio, amgd

  56. Hi Phil, thank you for the wonderful lesson. I live in Romania -Eastern Europe and I`m very delighted cause I found your blog and I can learn such great things.I`m new in gardening and I would like to know more about topics in today lesson:How many times can we spray the sodium bicarbonate solution in order to get rid of  pests, but not kill the plant? How much molasses we need to add to the solution? What is Brix? ( in Romania we don`t have this term, or maybe we use a different name for it, and I`dont know it). Maybe you could add also the scientifical names to the plants or insects, birds, fungai, etc species that you are talking about because it would be much easier for the people from other regions (non US) to understand exactly what is about. Thank you in advanceNaomi

    1. Hi Naomi, welcome! Good questions. I don’t know how many times you can spray the baking soda. I’ve done it a couple of times, but it’s not something I’ve looked at in detail. I think a weak solution can be sprayed regularly with no problem. I would add 2 Tablespoons of molasses. Brix is discussed here ( ). Good idea on using the scientific names.

  57. Thelovesusa says:

    Very interesting.  i have been gardening for a while now and have not used any pesticides.  i try to have really good soil with lots of compost and organic matter, well drained.  i have very few insect or disease problems and i do think it has to do with good soil. Looking forward to learning more about this relationship between insects, disease and unhealthy plants.

  58. Jyoti Keswani says:

    Wow, what a valuable piece of information.  This is really starting to learn from the basics. Very interesting!

  59. Mmiller176 says:

    Phil,I’ve never heard that before, but it makes total sense. And it makes getting my soil ready for spring planting that much more urgent. I’m a “beginner” in my third year of vegetable gardening, and my biggest concern right now is how to prepare the soil. We have a 15′ by 85′ plot that we have been tilling and planting; unfortunately, we didn’t do any prep last fall. Do you have any suggestions?Thanks for the valuable info. on healthy/unhealthy plants and the insects they draw. I will continue to avoid using any chemicals for pests. D. Miller

    1. That’s a pretty big topic and it really depends on your soil/climate/etc. There’s lots of info for you on this website, though. Compost is almost always a good idea, and early spring is a good time to apply that.

  60. I am with you 100%. I am a firm believer in giving a plant what it needs to grow healthy. This also leads to a nutrient dense crop, which is what Beyond Organic is about. I have been working on an organic farm for 2 years. We have been having a terrible time getting a consistent crop. Our focus has been nutrient density. We grow in a vertical system and make our own soil. We also pump what are supposed to be nutrient dense fertilizers to the plants on a routine basis. We focus on developing mycorrhizae, and a proper pH. My boss has a degree in horticulture and is not open to my suggestions. We have changed “fertilizer” suppliers because we no longer trusted the original organic supplier. It has been a big challenge, and a frustration. I am a firm believer in listening to the plants, I just need a good translator. Looking forward to the rest of what you have to share. Thanks for caring.

    1. Glad to have you here, Jim. It’s definitely a journey. Seems like you’re doing lots of things right. Hopefully good compost is a part of your soil mix.

  61. Phil, I’m with you and will put into practice almost all of your suggestions to raise Brix levels and make my plants healthy, disease and pest resistant. I used sevin last year to control insects but this year and only if I have to I might try cedar oil. Below is what it states as to it’s effectiveness and why it works. I would like to know your thoughts. The aroma of cedar is lethal to non-beneficial insects and snakes, which are driven by pheromone (odor) and heat stimuli. Cedar Oil interferes with the ability of the insect’s octopamine neuro receptors to detect food, mates and reproduction habitats. When comfort levels are destroyed, insects become overwhelmed and relocate to areas of concentration where sight driven predators such as birds, lizards and beneficial insects will control infestations. Insect displacement interrupts the “egg layer cycle”, eliminating a new generation. Continued use of this product will create a barrier of re-entry, leaving an insect free landscape or structure. The aroma of Cedar Oil to an insect or venomous snake mirrors that of ammonia to a human

    1. My first thought is: how is it lethal to non-beneficial insects without harming beneficial insects? If I were you, I would only use it as a last resort.

      1. OK, here is the answer, It is really easy to understand. Beneficialinsects hunt with their eyes. Non Beneficial insects guide themselvesabout by pheremones and sensations recognized by their octopomine neuro receptors (antennas) Cedar Oil is apheremone interruption agent that interferes and disables the non-beneficial insect in numerous ways. Often that is called repelling.In reality it is called masking of the kairimone which simply meanscovering the natural odor of a substance so that the pheremone abilities fail to recognize the substance. Since the non-beneficial cannot see, he will pass over the treated area.

        1. Nonsense. Many beneficial insects navigate by their antennas. If an insect has an antenna, that’s generally what it’s for.

        2. I am with Phil. most all insects possess antennae.  Although different orders and families within the class Insecta may utilize other methods to communicate with there surroundings, to say that ‘beneficial’ insects only use there eyes is indeed nonsense and there is no scientific basis to back that statement up. Semiochemicals are many times combinations of compounds and are often species specific.  The only thing I know about cedar oil is that it is high in phenols and other fungicidal cmpds.  I doubt that it interrupts insect communication.  If it works for you then that is awesome! 

          1. That’s what great about your site, Phil. After responding back and forth I am not going to use this stuff. I hope I don’t need anything. I’ve always thought myself a good gardener with a green thumb but I have always had my share of insect problems. I’ve let nature take it’s course before and the insects have cut my garden to ribbons.

  62. I don’t plan on using it except like you said, as a last resort. I emailed the comany and asked them your question. I was wondering the same thing. I will post there answer.

  63. Thank you for your service.I am looking forward to more out-of-the-box, green, agricultureinstruction.The planet will benefit, substantially, when many will heed theadvice that will be imparted by your gardening academy. 

  64. ShonitaGarcia says:

    I totally agree. A while back I saw a YouTube video by a man in Alaska. He sells his own products too. And he grows organic big healthy plants. He claimed his compost tea was beneficial to his plants not only in the watering aspect but sprayed on the leaves too. He said the tea created a kind of protecting film residue on the leaves that make pest problems almost to none! But after reading your lessons about pest management, it seems more clearer as to why his plants were virtually indestructible! Super healthy soil and plants. Thank you for connecting the dots for me on that.

  65. Guilelmus says:

    Reading all these comments helps a lot. I came across Compost Tea about a year ago and Brix about a month ago. I came across your site today 20th Feb 2012. I am in the process of building a number of flower borders and raised vegetable plots in my garden. Fortunately I have an unlimited supply of well-rotted horse manure which has been put deep down in all the borders and beds. The manure, composted with wheat straw, grass clippings, garden waste and oak leaves goes into the top spit. some of the plots now have good soil down to two feet.I have 7 compost “bins” and 4 “wormeries”.I am fortunate in having different types of soil, from pure sand to clay in my garden so it is easy to experiment.My water comes from a well in the garden, which has been tested and found to be uncontaminated.Over this last winter I have been growing green manure in the form of Hungarian Grazing Rye and Fava Beans. I intend to try Austrian Winter Peas as an addition next winter.

    1. Sounds like you’re doing a great job and following lots of best practices.

  66. This first item is of great interest.  I try not to use any pesticide products, but when I have to, I use approved organic materials.  This year I am working on improving my already great organic soil with green manures and compost tea, both of which I have not used in the past.  Looking for a great difference.

  67. Thanks for your website, Phil. I just found it today and just read your first lesson. I’m not real experienced at gardening, but I do apply principles of your “pest control philosophy” to my own health, and I have read enough about organic gardening to sense some missing links or something “off” in the tone and advice of what I’ve been reading, but I could not pinpoint what I was sensing.  I think you are helping to fill in those missing links and turn on some lightbulbs, helping to create more coherency for me. – I said all of that to say – Thanks!  🙂 I haven’t looked around your site enough yet to know if you comment at all about this, but due to various circumstances, so far I’ve pretty much been limited to container gardening, so I would be very interested for you to do a post about any recommendations or thoughts you have about container/potting mixes.  I’ve been trying to learn more about the components in the commercially available potting mixes as well as looking into mixing my own. Clearly some commercially available mixes are better than others, and for homemade mixes, there are so many “recipes” out there, some quite simple and others more elaborate.  I’d be curious as to your thoughts on this, what makes a good potting soil, and if/how your gardening/soil practices translate to container gardening/potting mixes. Thanks for hearing me out. 🙂 I’m looking forward to learning more from your site.

    1. Guilelmus says:

      I have a couple of comments on making your own potting mix.1. I use a microwave oven that I bought from a charity shop for £10. I think that it came from a sandwich shop. It hold something like a 2 gallon bucket full of soil. I heat it up to 70 degrees C. 2. When I come to use the soil I use some compost tea made from my own compost in order to re-inject some bacteria and fungi which will have been killed off by the 70 degrees C. I don’t think that professional composts are re-injected, but I could be proved wrong.Guilelmus

    2. Hi Heather, I haven’t written much about container gardening because I don’t do a whole lot of it. But I do make my own mix following the age old recipe that many growers use, which is 1/3 compost, 1/3 soil, 1/3 sand. If you read around my site, you’ll also see some of the fertilizers I would put in there, such as rock dust. I make sure to use mycorrhizal fungi when I plant, too, and top everything off with a layer of leaf mulch. I try to create a little ecosystem as if it’s a garden.Guilelmus is right that the commercial potting mixes don’t do a good job of this, plus they often include chemical fertilizers. But I don’t go so far as to sterilize my growing medium first. I want it to be alive with organisms. I obviously make sure to use healthy soil and compost as much as possible to accomplish this.

      1. Thanks for your time and response. That’s a help, and I will continue to read around here and learn. I’m glad I found your site fairly early on in my learning.I just thought of another question if you (or your readers) have a minute. If not, no worries.  Do you have any experience with or opinion of the NatureMill Automatic Composters?  -Due to my husband’s employment, I move often, and that seems like the method that would be most conducive to my lifestyle, and I’ve wondered if the expense could be justified by the quality of the compost, or if I’m just as good off buying compost since I’m not in a position to really have any other sort of bin.  Once I get this all figured out, and get a gardening system that works for me, maybe I will need you to help me write a book called The (Mobile) Holistic Container Gardener’s Handbook! haha There does need to be such a book. 🙂  

        1. I don’t have experience with them, so can’t really comment. I tended to move around a fair amount in the last few years and during that time I just bought compost and did some indoor worm composting.

          1. Thanks.

  68. Donny Comer says:

    Hey Phil,Great article!  I really connect with all your philosophies and methods.  I just spent the last year+working on sustainable agriculture projects in SE Asia and really got into Cho Han Kyu’s, Korean Natural Farming.  One of the main premises of NF is if you grow a strong healthy plant it will have the capability of defending itself.  Between strong plants, beneficial organisms, companion planting, and the occasional chili-garlic spray, I am hoping to have a healthy garden this year.  Looking forward to the next installment!

    1. Sounds very interesting Donny. I hope you’ll stick around here for awhile and share your thoughts.

  69. Thanks, I’m just getting started with Organic Gardening and I’m looking forward to learning everything I can in order to produce the best and healthiest vegetables as I can.Thanks again

  70. Hi Phil… I just found your site, and after reading some of your articles, I decided to sign up for your 15 free lesson’s. I have four Fully Organic Garden’s on my Property, and I’m putting in a fifth this week actually, I have been growing them for Four Year’s and amending the soil with my Compost, Healthy Manure from Local Friend’s, and scraps from the kitchen. As you stated, Healthy vegetables do not attract bad bug’s,it fascinated me, when I first began this, where are the Aphid’s, the beetles, the grasshopper’s, the caterpillars munching on my Plant’s, I was shocked.  I am from Southern New Jersey, and lately most of the Local Farmer’s are Growing Monsanto Round-Up Ready crop’s and I refuse to eat them Luckily none of them are within 15 miles of my House, but they have had a Major Impact on the Decline of Honeybee’s, in our state. Three Years ago, while I still did not understand about why there was a decline of Honeybees, I went to a local garden center and what shocked me was, here was a half an acre of potted flowering plant’s and all of the bumblebees, honeybees, butterfly’s and other Pollinating insect’s where all on two Plant’s, Purple Hyssop and Russian Sage I bought as much of it as I could, and planted it around my Koi Pond, and have no more Problem’s with Pollination in my Vegetable garden’s.   Sorry for being so Long Winded, but I am Passionate about my Garden’s, I have right now 190  Sprout’s in my large garden window, and because of our mild winter I’m still picking , Spinach, Carrot’s Lettuce, Garlic, Onion’s and Potatoes,Celery while still enjoying the fruit’s of last season’s Bounty.                                                                                                                                                            Thanks Phil

    1. Thanks so much for your detailed comment! It’s great to meet people who are on the same wavelength. I hope you’ll share your experiences with all of us as you go through the lessons.

    2. Joyjoyjoy Rise says:

      Hope you’re not offended by this, but you do not have to use the apostrophe for words that are plural.  Every time you used the ‘ in your post was unnecessary.  If you’re unsure, it’s best not to use it.  

  71. phil,  thanks for your perspective!  I don’t know if you know this, but insects also communicate via pheromones and other semiochemicals.  To say that insects percieve with there antennae is an injustice.  for example, flies (diptera) actually taste with there feet!  I think that what you are describing is IPM based esstentially the ‘co-evolutionary arms-race’ described by Erlich and Raven. 

    1. Thanks (I edited your comment because the one link was broken). I’ll check these papers out tomorrow. Looks interesting.

  72. Dunganbrookimports says:


  73. Machelbarnhart says:

    I am new with organic gardening and I cant wait.   Thanks for the information and I am looking forward to much more.Machel

    1. I just found your site today and am enjoying the videos and the knowledge.  I’ve grown my garden organically since it began in 2009 and so far, no major disasters, other than too much rain in 2009.  I try to learn what bugs are a bother and pick them off, leaving the others to their livlihood.  I’ve used only organic methods of control and love the idea of going outside and eating a tomato or peas or strawberry right off the plant without worrying about chemicals entering my body.  Now if only someone would tell me how to get rid of Japaneses beetles safely, I’d be a much happier gardnener.  Thanks for a good site.

      1. Hi Sandann, Guilelmus (below) is right. If you create health in the plant, the beetles will go away. It’s not always possible in 1 growing season, and for some plants, it’s not possible at all, if for example they are planted in a poor spot. But many times you can do it through the various methods I cover on this site. Glad to have you here.

        1. Elizabetrh says:

          is top soil bad for gardening? or does it make a difference? thanks

          1. I’m not sure I understand the question. Do you mean is it bad to bring in top soil? Usually, it’s not nearly as helpful as bringing in compost, so unless I have to change the grade, I always go for compost.

  74. Guilelmus says:

    If you apply Phil’s organic methods, fully there is a chance that you can stop Japanese Beetles. Otherwise try proper Compost Tea and spray it on your plants.

  75. Phil thank you so much for the wealth of information you are providing us.As you know i will just embark on organic gardening sometime soon that’s why i applied on your online tutoring about organic gardening.Hope to hear again from you soon. alice

  76. Enjoyed your first article on why insects eat plants, looking forward to the videos. I enjoy gardening and excited about learning  various methods of organic gardening.

  77. Djejenkins says:

    great article!

  78. So Phil, you are saying that if I get my soil to its optimal health, I will no longer have these wretched flea beetles eating my seedlings? I have used beneficial nematodes in the past, but still they destroy my baby plants. I realize that it takes tiime to build up the soil. Is there anything I can do now to help my spring seedlings?

    1. Yes, get your soil and plants healthy and the flea beetles will go away. In the meantime, you can try insecticidal soap (although it’s better for soft-bodied insects) or dusting plants with wood ashes. It’s also helpful to plant more of a polyculture than a monoculture, including nasturtiums, alliums and other plants that often seem to help deter pests.

  79. Osun_toki says:

    Hi Phil, Just signed up and the first lesson was an eye opener. Thanks for the lesson. Looking forward to the next.IA

  80. I have been looking for this advice. I put up a green house and am doing container gardening. I am trying to find out what the right type and amount of various liquid forms of fertilizer I should put on the different plants whether they be fruit, leafy vegetables, or root vegetables. I look foward to this series of lessons. Thanks

  81. Looking forward to the lessons.OH

  82. Thank you very much for this valuable information I found your lesson is answering  many of my questions 🙂 healthy soil means healthy plants and feeding the soil is the basis for plant nutrition

  83. Really an eye opener !! I was just about to make a pest control spray from organic products tomorrow  but now I have to rethink that approach. 

  84. Ronnie And Peter says:

    excellent! i just joined your academy. i always suspected this, about insects attacking unhealthy plants. I am very exited to follow your 15 lessons. Thankyou 1000 times.

  85. Jim Tomczak says:

    Hey Phil, I Just stared gardening and want to learn all I can. Your way of thinking may make a complete difference in the way I treat what I grow. And I do mean from the ground up. I found this section thought prevoking. One thing I want to do is reverse any damage done and hope you can show the way. JIMT.

    1. Thanks Jim and to everyone who has been leaving comments on this post lately. I’m glad this fascinating topic resonates with all of you as much as it does me.

  86. Howdy from Texas, Phil!I just found your videos on YouTube and just signed on to your website. I was diagnosed late last year with a severe case of Type II Diabetes. But before my doctor could put me on any medicines, my best friend and business partner got me started on an all natural product that has eliminated my blood sugar problem. Frankly, I should have been in a coma the sugar was so danged high.Since then, I’ve really changed my eating habits and I’m all about organic gardening. I am reading about aquaponics and I’ve even started to harvest my own earthworms and castings. We are growing much of our own food and it makes a tremendous difference. I have been given a second chance and I am a new man. Btw, I’ve lost 38 pounds since December of last year and it’s still coming off.Young man, you are doing a terrific job with your videos. This first lesson is just wonderful and it is something I have always suspected. The difference between the “old me” and the “new me” is that back in the day I knew I didn’t feel well and that “something” was wrong. But I  just didn’t believe there was a darned thing I could do about it. Now I know better and thanks to folks like you, I becoming a much more informed consumer.Hats off to you my friend. We are truly looking forward to more of your insights and teaching!best regards to you and yours,Ben Gallegos & family

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Ben! I’m very glad to have you here.

  87. Great start.  I’ve been organic gardening for many years.  I’ve never done soil testing, but the soil biology is very interesting, I’m looking forward to learning more.   I have always been rotating my garden crops, planting marigolds, zinnias near my tomatoes and peppers, and nasturtiums around the garden.  I have loads of earthworms and few insect problems.  But I have had low productivity of my peppers, eggplants, some tomatoes in recent years, so I’m wondering what mineral imbalances I have going on.  I just watched a video on using the cheap soil testing kits that are readily available to determine soil needs and appropriate amendments.  I hope this is coming up soon in your articles.    Thank you,

    1. Hi Janet, I’m not a big fan of the cheap kits. I’ve tried many of them and they seem to be wildly inaccurate (research corroborates this). But a test from a lab such as Crop Services International would be much more helpful to you.

  88. Hi Phil,Thanks for that new perspective on gardening.  I am a new container gardener because I live in an apartment and my tomatoes and cucumbers and broccoli are having issues.  Looking forward to your next installment.

  89. john jenkins says:

    Louisiana grower. Transplanted to west Texas. It is a new world here ive just about been tested to the Max. I water to much thus follow many other problems. The white fly attack everything. Followed by mildew. I am trying to get a new understanding and like your approach with organic gardening. Looking forward to learning. Maybe next year my grapes will be big and juicy. My squash wilt in my skillet not on the vine.

    1. Hi John, sound like you need to improve your soil and patience will be key. I’m sure it will get better every year as your soil gets better and better. Glad to have you here.

  90. I have been gardening organically for some 44 years and have never heard of anything like this before, sounds quite interesting, hope your right about it, opens many possibilities, thanks for sharing.Frank

  91. Geetacsivam says:

    Hi Phil … I joined just today and this article brought out a completely new perspective. An interesting and radical approach even for organic gardeners. 

  92. Guillermo says:

    Thanks..Phil!!! Looking forward to the next lesson 😉

  93. Diane Keane says:

    I came across your site by (happy) accident and I like what you have to say! I’m having a big problem with bag worms on my evergreens, and last fall I got some Spinosad and sprayed my arbor vitae, a couple of which are quite tall. I know I ingested some spray, trying to work over my head (at the top of a ladder on a sloping lawn.) At the other end of the property I have a row of skyrocket junipers, which I love because they make me think of Italian cypresses. This spring I found a cocoon on one of them and I’m heart-sick, I hate the thoughts of losing a tree but I don’t want to have to work with Spinosad again, even though it is billed as an “environmentally friendly” insecticide. So I’ll be doing research on your site, for sure!

  94. I think you’re absolutely right. But why not take it even further? I’ve had trouble growing an herb garden here every year I tried. Finally stumbled across a vid by a guy named Praxxus on YouTube where he suggested not bothering to weed, and gave several good reasons why (less watering, more shade in hot climates, etc.). I thought, “Why the heck not?” I tried it starting a month and a half ago. My herbs were really puny and the bugs were having themselves a daily feast. The herbs are now tall and strong and the bugs are eating the weeds instead of my plants! I know herbs actually do better with a little bit of stress, so I thought maybe the weeds provided juuuust that right amount? I couldn’t quite figure out why it was working, I just knew it did. Reading your article here really throws some light on this, I think. Maybe we get the weeds we NEED to provide fodder for the little pesties and the exact amount of stress/shade/whatever a plant needs? And maybe we’re actually doing our gardens some harm by being too vigorous with weeding? I basically just pull the stuff just around the base of the plant out and leave the rest alone. So far, it’s working beautifully. I’d be interested in what you think about this, and if you or anyone else decides to try it, I hope they’ll share the results.

    1. You’re absolutely right. Weeds are mostly very beneficial. They improve our soil and our overall ecosystem. They should only be pulled when they are competing too much with your crops for water/nutrients/space/etc. and of course some people don’t want them for aesthetic reasons.What you’ve described there with the insects moving from the herbs to the weeds is a very cool thing, because it may mean that your soil is better suited to your herbs than your weeds, i.e. it’s probably a fairly well-balanced soil.

      1. Cool! All that work has paid off! Thanks for taking time to respond. 🙂

  95. Erik Barstow says:

    I am very excited to start this course! Thanks for taking the initiative and helping us newbies out.  I have put a lot of time and money into my garden this year. This course will be the perfect guide to help me ensure I am on the right track. Thank you! 

  96. Hi Phil…your site is very intriguing to me. I live in the oil sand capital of canada and “organic” is not a term that is well known. I try to live and extremly organic lifestyle (dispite my living area) and due to increasing food allergies I decided this year to grow as much of my own food as I possibly could. I have 2 outdoor beds and a greenhouse and I have to say so far everything is growing amazingly well! The only plant I have trouble with is my basil. I have had none-stop pest issues since the plants have gotten bigger and I’m at a loss as to what to do. I have refused to use any sort if pesticides and I have spent hours researching for solutions and finally stumbled upon your site. I’m really looking forward to what you have to teach and hopefully being able to correct whatever is wrong with my basil.

    1. Hi Liz, it always comes down to a soil and/or plant health issue. It could have been the seed or the plants that you bought. And it could be that your soil just needs improving. The next lessons will give you some tips on how to go about doing that.

  97. I find your imformation extremely useful and interesting – I live in New Zealand and am a first time vegie-gardner…..ever! I was web-surfing for imformation and come across …you!  I am inspired and would like you to teach me.:) Look forward to lesson 2. Thanks Phil

    1. Glad to have you here, mate!

  98. Lisbeth Mcnabb says:

    Appreciate it!! I am glad to received my first lesson.  I would like so much to start my vege organic garden this summer, I am in Houston, Texas, I hope still have time 🙂 I know nothing about organic garden so thanks so much for the information.  Namaste! 

    1. Hi Lisbeth, if I were you I would commit to doing some reading and learning this summer and then plan to plant a fall garden when it cools down. Although, while it would certainly be too late to start a big garden up north where I am at this time of year, I’m not sure about Texas. Perhaps you could, as long as you water well. But it’s always a good idea to do some learning before jumping into it.

  99. Joe Lawrence says:

    Hi Phil, I never knew that insects eat up our unhealthy plants only. Thanks. Joe.

  100. The happy House says:

    Just checking though what you have to offer on your site and through your organic lessons to see if they are ones I would use for online sharing.We teach organic alternative gardening and are always looking for online resources to share with others who have different levels of gardening skills…We will be interested in what your other lessons contain.Thank you, James and Mary  of the Happy House 

    1. Glad to have you here guys!

  101. Hi, Just read the first article, and found it very interesting. I plan to use a different approciate, when dealing with this problem.Look forward to the next article. Thanks

  102. Hello Phil, your first lesson really gave me a different perspective, keep them coming.Sam

  103. Very informative; can’t wait to get my garden started

  104. Rlongoria46 says:

    Great information I just started going organicRichard

  105. Great info.  Only one small quibble:  the very best way to get rid of dandelions with vinegar is to start with one of those weed digging sticks (long metal screw-driver looking thingy with a forked end). Dig out the whole weed, separate out and clean the leaves, toss with a good vinegar and a little oil in a bowl and consume. Very organic. And yummy.

    1. You’ve got that right! Also some purslane and lamb’s quarter while we’re at it.

  106. Astraea Shaw says:

    It is such a wonderful website and great info,     THANK YOU Phil.     

  107. Need time time to “get my head” round this one, but I like the concept – bring on the next lesson!

  108. Lawinda01 says:

    thank you so much. I have been gardening for a few years now and have always tried to understand what I was doing wrong as the bugs keep coming. Now I know. I think this next year I will definitely do a soil sample to save myself some agony watching the bugs eat my plants.

  109. I use baking soda for a lot of things and now I can use it in my garden too! How great!

  110. Molly Darden says:

    It will be easy for me to change my paradigm, as I set up an organic raised bed garden for vegetables and herbs. Before planting, though, I’m wondering whether to add bone meal and lime to the amended soil I purchased from Home Depot.

    1. I don’t recommend bone meal. A tiny amount of calcitic lime would be okay, but only 5 pounds per 1000 square feet without a soil test. I prefer rock dust or sea minerals or another broad spectrum fertilizer. And quality compost always comes first.

  111. I did learn about the bugs eating unhealthy plants last spring.  Amazing.  If only we could get our plants in better shape.

  112. Ebmercure says:

    Really put things into perspective.Looking forward to the next lesson,will pass on the info.Thank you

  113. Thank you great lesson.  I,m an organic grower, mostly for our use.

  114. I was a bit confused by your statement that bugs are directed by infrared light and the next one stating that unhealthy plants emit pheromones.  You then say that healthy plants simply don’t emit these strong frequencies.  This confuses the whole thought process for me. Infrared light is expressed as a ‘frequency’, whereas pheromones are chemcials, not light, and are not associated with frequency.  So that left me a little bewildered about the details you were trying to convey.  Can you direct me to any scientific data about either of these two and studies showing that unhealthy plants send out signals basically saying ‘eat me’?  I would be very interested in seeing the science behind these assertions.  (note: this is not a challenge, just a genuine interest in data as my profession for over 20 years was in the fields of biochemistry and cell biology)I do think it is rather intuitive that healthy individuals of any species are less suseptible to succombing to disease than those of the same species that aren’t as healthy.  I am willing, on the basis of this intuitive and generally observable fact, to entertain the idea that pest management is best addressed by addressing the soil and the growth conditions of plants rather than treating what you have termed as a symptom of ‘less the optimal health’, ie. the infestation.  However I do have first hand experience that this isn’t all there is to the story and that some pest managment is required in some circumstances even when the plants are optimally healthy.  Just a simple example among many is leaf cutter ants we have down here in Costa Rica.  I’m still observing them as I am new to them having only been here for 8 months, but I have seen them go after very healthy plants and leave plants of lesser health from the same species alone.  So, at least from what I have been able to ascertain up to this point, the health of the plant is not the determining factor in their choice of meal.I look forward to hearing the rest of your lessons.  We are all students forever and I for one, really appreciate your efforts to share your knowledge with others.  Thank you very much.kind and respectful regards,Alan

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Alan. In response to your leaf cutter ant issue, I’ll quote the brilliant soil consultant Arden Andersen, who said “the belief that healthy soil grows weeds equally as well as the desired crop is based on the misconception that the soil in question is healthy.” He was talking about weeds in that case, but the same can be said for insect and disease problems on plants. If a plant is under attack, it’s not optimally healthy. It doesn’t mean it’s our fault or nature’s fault – it’s just how nature works.My favorite book on insect communication is Phil Callahan’s “Tuning In To Nature,” subtitled “Solar Energy, Infrared Radiation, & the Insect Communication System.” I highly recommend it. Acres U.S.A. carries it. Another book that aims to show how only imbalanced plants get attacked by insects and diseases is “Healthy Crops: A New Agricultural Revolution.” That’s another good one. Thanks again!

  115. Bobgoss33774 says:

    Maybe a young plant or plants under natural stress as in flowering and producing can also be a target of the insect world. 

    1. For sure there are natural stresses. An optimally healthy plant will be able to handle them and so still won’t have pest problems, but of course, an optimally healthy plant is difficult to attain 100% of the time, so even fairly healthy plants may get nibbled here and there, but it won’t cause problems. So yes, you’re right on the money.

  116. packerlady says:

    I’ve been gardening for many years. Not only do I not use chemicals of any kind in my gardener, yard, lawn etc. I use home remedies that use only no chemical ingredients. Throughout the years I see less and less insects that eat my plants beside the grasshopper. I don’t even have snails anymore. I current have a new compost bin, rain barrel system and now trying a self watering system for my vegetable gardener. This fall I hope to incorporate some fruit trees if at all possible. I just recently am trying to get some fruit tree seeds to germinate. Here’s hoping they do. Just want to thank you for all your terrific and valuable information … keep them coming.

    1. Sounds like your garden is a shining example of how the plant predators decrease over time as garden health improves.

  117. packerlady says:

    Phil, I heard it said, that a yard or garden filled with visiting birds is an indication that your soil is very health. Can you tell me if this is true or not. Every morning I wake up to a garden filled with little birds, hummingbirds, blue birds and sometimes evena hawk …. lol

    1. Hmmm, it may be one indication, since birds would prefer healthy plants, which grow on healthy soil. But I’ve seen birds hanging around poor soil, too, so there are better indicators of soil health, such as plant health and presence of certain weeds. Still, it’s definitely an indication that you’re creating a nice spot for birds, which is part of what creating a healthy, diverse garden is all about.

  118. TotallyGreen says:

    Hi phil i just signed up.  I am a complete beginner.  I have been interested at trying my hand at organic gardening for a long time and i have finally taken the plunge.  I have a big garden with just grass and i want to convert it to an edible garden.  I have planted a few fruit bushes and fruit trees but the leaves are curling over and not looking very happy at all, basically i dont know what i’m doing.  I really need some help.  I look forward to more lessons.  This first lesson was truly an eye opener.I found your site purely by accident so will need sometime to have a look around.    TotallyGreen

    1. Glad to have you here!

  119. Darcia, New Zealand says:

    Hi Phil, thanks for this free course, your first lesson has definitely given me something to think about, and it makes perfect sense – survival of the fittest!  I’m looking forward to gaining more knowledge that gives one reason to pause.  Cheers!

  120. well done my first lesson read, i havent had a chance to look at any of the others that you have sent me yet, but i think i might have a marathon of lessons tonight.  Thankyou for getting out the word that pests are not pests at all, but cleaner- upers, and recyclers of plant material. i hope that your word is able to spread more, it sounds at this stage by looking at the comments that your are reaching all over the globe. well done , and thank you for the added reference books, it comes in very handy, as we know that the books are out there, but the libaries tend to only have the romance novels.  bec

  121. All I know is that when it comes to bugs and pests and especially spiders I hire spiders control South Jordan to take care of them for me.

  122. salgiambruno says:

    If the theory that infrared frequencies emitted by sick plants serve as an attractant for insects:1) How does this attract disease, and2) Why not just build an electronic insect trap which is based on emitting insect-attracting (or insect-confusing, a-la moth pheromone method) infrared frequencies?

    1. Good questions. 1) I don’t know enough about microbial diseases to know how that works. All I know is that it’s the same thing – they ignore healthy plants.2) That’s how some sticky traps work. They’re good for monitoring, but not to get rid of all pests. And they do have some infrared devices like you mentioned. Of course, we don’t want to get rid of all pests because they have important roles to play, and killing them is missing the point anyway, because our plants are still unhealthy.

  123. You have inspired me to catch up with radionics; does Phil Callahan pose radio frequencies over minerals akin to how Dr. Olree overlaid the gene chart?  “…each insect antennae is shaped in such a way to collect only the frequencies from certain plants” –did you mean to say: “… collect only certain frequencies from plants which emit those..?  Stay the course!  –(aka: Cynthia)

    1. I’m not familiar with Dr. Olree’s work. Thanks for pointing it out.What I meant is that certain insects and plants evolved together, so each insect species can only interpret signals from the plants it has evolved to associate with. All plants emit frequencies, but each insect species can only collect and decode some of them. I’m sure that’s a simplification, but that’s the general gist of it.

  124. Really looking forward to the following lessons.  I have tried organic gardening but never could understand all the whys and how.  We have alot of pest, grasshoppers as well as the normal ones.  Can’t wait to learn how to put in a new gasrden as I gave up 2 years ago.  Just can’t rationalize paying for vegetables that I don’t know how they have been raised.  Looking forward to a long and lasting relationship.  Thanks for the info.

  125. awesome article…Thank you , cant wait for the next one!

  126. Thanks for the excerpt from your book, love your ideas on plants and all things green, thanks for sharing!

  127. John Lucas says:

    Thank you for posting! You bring up some interesting points about non-toxic pest control. There are definitely tradeoffs here, and if I were planting an organic garden I would definitely think twice before opting for this particular method of pest control.

  128. RNCSLEWIS says:

    Do you have any suggestions on how to raise ladybugs? I have a friend in California who does this and releases them onto her roses. I live in Australia and haven’t seen any ladybug growing kits. Thanks, Connie

    1. I don’t know anything about raising them, but you may be able to buy them. That being said, there’s a good chance they’ll just fly away. A better approach would be to grow a healthy garden full of diverse plants that attract various beneficial insects, including ladybugs.

  129. John Bowlsbey says:

    I like the concept. It will be my passion to figure out how to grow tomatoes that have healthy plants and good tasting fruit.

  130. I am an organic gardener and would be very interested in seeing your videos, but since I only have a dial-up connection I won’t be able to see them. Is there any way to send a d/load of the video or some other way for people who do not have a broadband connection to receive this information.

    1. A download would take just as long as streaming the video online, so wouldn’t it be best to just press play on the video and then pause it for awhile while it’s loading? There’s also a setting on the bottom of the video player that allows you to select a lower quality in order to decrease the time it takes to be ready. Other than that, I think there are tools out there to allow you to download youtube videos. I’m not sure if it’s allowed or not.

  131. I love this concept. I’m so glad I found you. I can’t wait to learn more. Thank you

  132. The more I garden and observe the more I arrive at the conclusion that this is correct. I have been growing since I was 10 and now at 63 with over 25 years of organic gardening behind me, my approach continues to evolve and always in a direction that is orientated towards watching and waiting rather than reacting. Last year, I planted okra as I have done before but this time, I disregarded the advice to not try to grow indoors and transplant. Give a gardener a rule….The plants that were transplanted were attacked by slugs but those direct sown were not. Those that were stressed certainly gave out some sort of distress signal. Hiding squash among lemon balm and natives did no good – all the usual pests found them but growing a squash next to cukes did produce an interesting result. The cukes share the same pests and the pests apparently prefer them. The zuke grew to over 6′ in diameter despite later predation. All other squash suffered early predation and were lower in production and the plants were much, much smaller in overall size. So I plan extra cukes as bait and protect plants near the zukes. Hanging cukes did nothing to protect them as the three pests also fly. Anything you can contribute to the health of a zucchini or cucumber plant will be appreciated!

    1. Great story Linda. Trap crops can be very useful. Commercial growers certainly use them. If you keep working on improving the health of your soil and plants, the pests will decrease. Make sure you have plenty of humus and calcium in your soil, as cukes love both of them.

  133. Neat. I must be organically minded. I think that if a plant can’t defend itself from disease, it’s fruit won’t defend US from disease either, no matter what. So I look in the seed catalogues for vegetables/grains that say disease free and pest free, because I know if i eat them they will protect me too. And that’s what you are saying too.

    1. I like bugs. I’m happy to hear they aren’t the culprit.

  134. Hi PhilWhat a great site. Please help me I have a lime tree that is about 4 years old that is being eaten alive by aphids under the leaves. I have been spraying with a mild detergent and water (once a month) and they keep returning. I have planted wild garlic around the stem any suggestion will be welcome please

    1. The plant is obviously unhappy for some reason. Ultimately you need to try to create the best possible growing conditions for it – it could be a soil issue or water issue or any number of things. Spraying weekly with effective microorganisms and molasses and optionally kelp and/or sea minerals can help improve plant health enough to deter aphids, but you’ll also want to focus on improving the soil, and for that, there’s no prescription because it depends. Ideally you would get a soil test from a good, organic soil lab and follow the recommendations.

  135. Read your attached Chapter 21. One of your statements needs some expansion. It was the part about not understanting how bacteria find unhealthy plants. Actually the bacteria as they are also spread by spore like structures are usually ubiquitous in the environment. Thus just like humans with respect to diseases like tuberculosis some of whose forms are present in all of us just waiting for the right unhealthy environment to grow, the bacteria are usually there waiting for the unhealthyness to manifest itself and spread.

    1. Thanks Lee, yes I know that bacteria and other microbes are everywhere. I just don’t understand the details of how they decide to consume some plants, i.e. how they sense and interact with their environment. I’m sure it’s simple elementary school biology – I’m just not up on the mechanics of it. I could have stated that more clearly in my writing. Thanks again.

  136. Hi Phil,I’m starting to investigate doing raised beds for organic vegetables. I live in central New Mexico with sandy alkaline soil. Does your book have the information I will need for building good soil, given my conditions of both soil and most likely no more than 5 hours of direct sunlight in the growing season (more light on the bit of southern exposure I can use).

    1. Hi Jim, well it definitely has some of the information you’re looking for. It’s all about building healthy soil. I don’t talk about choosing plants in the book, so you’ll need to look elsewhere for info on which plants will tolerate your lower light – things like greens and herbs, for example. But the book will definitely help you improve your sand and neutralize your alkalinity, if necessary.

  137. Natasha Anderson says:

    Great article. I fully agree with you, I am all for organic only in my garden. Imagine eating herbs or veg that have been harmed or that could harm you?

  138. Joe greenjeans says:

    25 years ago there was a book called “Building a Healthy Lawn: A Safe and Natural Approach”, which I think really helped get the organic lawn care movement going. It stressed the ideas and methods of creating healthier soils and plants as the solution to most lawn problems. Though we know a lot more about the intricacies of what is going on in the soil now, the basic message of organic lawn care remains exactly the same . Keep it going.

  139. This reminds me of an article I read about changing your soil to keep the weeds away. The author said he could tell what kind of soil you had by the weeds that grew there. If you could change the soil you could get rid of the weeds.

  140. Phil: Weeds! I appreciate your info about weed benefits. I am not obsessive about them, as they do soften the look of the landscape and all; however, Oaxalis! Sourgrass. It has taken over my entire nature’s half acre. Every year. Every where.Do you have any bright ideas about attacking? I pull it, but the bulbs remain in the soil. I think I will just need to co-exist. Any solutions???Tom

    1. I haven’t had to deal with it, so I can’t give specific advice. There’s a great book called ‘Weeds – Control Without Poisons’ that will give you some insights (I don’t have my copy with me here).

  141. Yes, I think this is very sound logic for the garden in general! But what about my beautiful hostas, which are annually attached by slugs, does it mean my hostas and the soil they are growing in are lacking in nutrients? Also runner bean seedlings, before they start growing up the canes are vulnerable too!Would you agree that perhaps slugs are an exception to the unhealthy plant idea, and attack anything that is tender and juicy?

    1. Slugs aren’t an exception, even though they aren’t classified as insects. Hostas are often attacked, but I have seen a garden of hostas where some of them get eaten by slugs and some don’t, so there is definitely something not perfect with the soil or the sun or water or something – could be a number of things. It’s not always our fault though, as it’s a lot to expect that we can provide perfect conditions for all plants.

  142. I am approaching my third year of returning to gardening after many, many years away from it. I am attempting to do things organically and have had inconsistent results so far. My garden is in an area that was originally forest and stripped about 6 years ago for house construction. The first year, I used chemical fertilizers but worked a lot of sand and organic matter into the dominant clay soil. I had little or no problems with insect pests. Last year, I was elated to constantly find earthworms in th soil and I relied solely on organic fertilizers and self-made compost. Insects were a big promblem, however, and they worsened in late summer (I live in central Virginia). Everything that was planted in August and September was voraciously attacked. Even turnips were completely stripped of foliage (stems remained so I know that it was not deer or rabbits). I am looking forward to finding an approach that works.

    1. It’s tempting to just substitute organic fertilizers for chemical fertilizers and hope that everything works out, but organic gardening requires a deeper understanding of soils, plants and other things. The pests are telling you something, but it does take some work to figure it out. Hopefully these lessons will give you a few insights.

  143. This is so fascinating. It makes sense. I try to go organic but the slugs and Japanese Beetles drive me crazy.

  144. Grand Island, NE says:

    While I found this ver interesting, and much of it just makes sense, like JW, I also have issues w/this paradigm. What of the eggs that insects lay, on healthy crop plants ~ and I’m thinking specifically of potatoes here ~ that the larvae then eat/infest? I have trouble accepting the thought that the entire field/crop w/b sick/weak. What about other garden veggies: corn, cukes, apples ~ where the insects attack the produce rather than the plant? How does this example explain hatchings/hatchlings? I look forward to other lessons!! Thanks for the info!

    1. Excellent questions. I have some thoughts:-Insects probably lay their eggs on imbalanced plants in the first place.-Most of our fields and crops in North America are sick because of how we’ve been farming for the last century, so it makes sense to me that whole crops are sick. -The fruit is where a lot of the excess sugars and nitrogen accumulate in imbalanced plants that the insects look for.With all of this, we have to remember that it’s not always our fault that crops are imbalanced, and it’s not inherently a negative thing – it’s just nature. My main point is that the more we do to help our plants achieve health, the less “pests” we’ll have. Thanks for your comments.

  145. This is great I love to garden with plants and do it organicly I just moved to a new home and the people who where here before me did not water so the back yard is full of sand burs I was wondering how to get rid of them and what plants to plant in the back yard it gets the full sun and the front yard is in shad please help me.

    1. If you start watering and encourage a lawn or other plants, the sand burrs will eventually go away. I can’t really tell you what to plant, as there are thousands of choices, but I always recommend growing some food, and most of that is happy in full sun.

  146. I’m happy to read this. Hope more and more people will realize… next to it it’s also good to invite predators. This can be done different ways.But surely this will be a lesson too… : )

  147. Wouldn’t foilar spraying with mollasses, attract beasties to your garden??

    1. For some reason, it sometimes repels certain insects, like some kinds of ants. I’ve certainly never had a problem, but I’d never say never.

  148. gardener409 says:

    very interesting concept of pest control .I have never heard this before

  149. JamesPeters1 says:

    A great way to control pests is to get in a professional pest control company as they really know what they are doing and can get rid of pests quickly.

  150. Excellent information. I began avoiding “organic” pesticides when I started making compost tea and became aware of microbes, but I didn’t know the specialization of insects in relation to sick plants and plant species.

  151. Hi Phil;It seems to me we are being brainwashed by the pharmaceutical industry as well as the media when it comes to dealing with the effects of disease and infestation. The conventional wisdom today says we need only treat the symptoms, not the disease. That is where the money is. Got a cold? Take a pill. Got a headache? Take another pill. Pretty soon we are all “pilled out” and we find the pills no longer work. This appears to be where we are in horticulture. Got aphids? Here’s a pesticide. Got weeds? Here’s a herbicide. Not growing as strong? Here’s a dose of anhydrous ammonia. Fix the soil, nah, just try a new chemical.At first I too thought, “Oh, no. Not another crusader with another wild idea.” But, I kept reading on. I honestly believe you have something here, and I, for one, will be looking forward to additional lessons as well as doing additional research on my own. This appears to be a radical old idea. Something the Amish are doing and our fathers and grandfathers have always done-treat the soil well and it will treat you well in return.Thank You.

    1. Thanks Hugh, I agree, and good insights! Hope you enjoy the rest of the lessons.

  152. betty dedman says:

    Agreed. I cannot handle flea treatment for my dogs and cats, or insecticides or herbicides bc I am very allergic to them. I am pretty sure that the dosages have increased over the years bc of sloppy handling. I have heard of people who use a q-tip to paint the leaves of plants they want to kill, but most people spray many times more of the products than is prescribed, and the bugs that survive are resistant.Therefore, I am interested in smart gardening.

  153. If you do get pests in your house then rather than trying to deal with them yourself the best thing to do would be to get a professional pest control company out to deal with the problem. This is definitely something that I would recommend to others.

  154. JamesPeters1 says:

    If you do get pests in your house then rather than trying to deal with them yourself the best thing to do would be to get a professional pest control company out to deal with the problem. This is definitely something that I would recommend to others.

  155. Susan McMaster says:

    I have an acre of hayfield in Nova Scotia, never gardened, and neighbours who believe in constant mowing — though without pesticides since the weather is moist and sunny but also very windy. The soil is heavy clay, and where it was dug up around the house, almost without organic matter since it was brought in when we moved the little wooden house across the site, turned it to face the sea, and set it on a foundation. We are only there a couple of months a year so far. I have 3 levels of garden area around the house (designed by my husband in a fit of enthusiasm) — far too much — and impossible to keep weeded or under control. So we’ve planted lots of local and wild bushes and flowers, about 10 baby trees, three of which are still alive: a peach, an ornamental spruce, and a flowering tree whose name I momentarily forget (large, white, fragrant, hanging clusters). Also grape vines, various cutivar northern berries, irises wild and cultivated, and a whole bunch of invasive things, some “weeds” and some cultivars, which are fighting it out. One — a spiky white and green grass — is taking over too much, and I may have to pull it all out (if possible), but the others are balancing out. Grass, however, of all kinds, does best and is by far the most invasive. So I’m trying to defeat it with other things. I’d also like an alternative to the “locally required” lawn and am considering slow-grow grass, but don’t have the money or strength (I’m 62 and never gardened before) to dig over all the ground and plant the seed fresh. So: my main question is — grass? How to control in garden beds? How to deal with on the “lawn”? Oh, and how to make paths that don’t drive us totally crazy. Thanks! Everything I’ve read is convincing and very interesting.

    1. Sounds like maybe some grass roots were left in the gardens before planting? It will definitely do its best to continue living. And there’s no simple answer to get rid of it. I would try a multi-faceted approach. The best would be to get the grass out by the roots. That requires a pitch fork and a heck of a lot of work. Mulching the gardens very well with mostly leaves and straw, and perhaps a small amount of wood chips if necessary, can help a lot. Put 2 inches of mulch on there. Then hand pulling what still comes through. Or you can spray the grass that comes through with some horticultural vinegar or an organic herbicidal soap. You don’t want to be spraying this stuff like crazy, but a little may be okay.I’m not sure what you’re asking about dealing with grass in the lawn, but I assume you mean a certain kind of grass that you don’t like. That is too complicated of a situation to answer here unfortunately.As for paths, what I do is dig 6 inches down and remove the soil, line the bottom of the path with landscaping fabric or at least cardboard or newspaper (this may be overkill) and then use stones or wood chips or bark mulch to make the path 6 inches deep. Even leaves can work. That will keep weeds down for a long time, but we should always remember that plants are very adept at growing. Eventually they will find a way.

  156. In general, I agree; however, whiteflies are on every plant, tree and blade of grass across my half acre organic home garden and even heavier in the healthiest plants. Likewise hundreds of little green worms with white stripes only attack my strongest most productive plants ecery year and chewed them dead in three weeks dispite me picking off as many as u can find.

    1. Respectfully, that means you’re mistaken that your plants are healthy. It may be that they grow really big and fast because they have lots of nitrogen and/or potassium and/or something else, but they probably have too much, especially the nitrogen. When that happens, the plants look great to us, and they taste great to insects. The best looking plants are often the ones that get hit the hardest.

  157. gudinogirl says:

    I’ve known that organic gardening is better than conventional gardening because the pesticides/insecticides used in conventional gardening are harmful to us and our environment. I have been wanting to start a garden for a long while now, but frankly, the idea of entering the “mysterious/unknown” world of organic gardening was frightening to me. After reading this first lesson I feel the encouragement to take on this gardening adventure 🙂 I was intrigued by the part in the lesson about how insects and diseases are not whats making your plant sick, but that it is an imbalance from within… Thanks for sharing this info! Im excited to learn more

  158. Phil, I’m a new, very new, gardener. So new I haven’t started yet, I’m currently in research mode. I am going to re-do my entire back yard this weekend. Tilling up the old lawn and starting new. I also am sectioning off an area for a vegetable garden. My main question is this, What do I need in order to start my entire garden organically? I’m starting from scratch mind you, a blank canvas, so I want the entire process to be done organically. I have the seeds for the grass and vegetables I want, but what should I do about the soil?

    1. That’s a pretty big question Rafael, but my 15 free lessons will give you a bunch of tips.

      1. ya I actually did subscribe to the program before you replied. As I read more and more into this site I found the lessons. IMMENSE amount of information. Looking forward to completing the course.

  159. Alvin Payne says:

    Great article, and I can see your concern with the environment and the effect that maybe toxic chemicals will have. I also know that those bugs can become resistant to those as well. It’s good to have a good mix to provide the best form of pest control in vancouver that can keep your plants healthy, and keep the bugs out of your flower buds. Thanks and keep posting.

  160. Very interesting! I am just starting to learn about this conclusion that pests only eat sick plants. My husband are trying to build up our soil now to improve the garden. It’s good to hear from more than one source, so thank you for this informational book.

  161. Pest Control NYC says:

    Asking advised from the professionals would be the best solution. Toxic pest solution is better than non-toxic but when it comes to human health, using the non-toxic is the best way. So what would be our choice now?

  162. Denise Hoover says:

    Thank you Phil,this information is helpful. I am a first time gardener so I have a lot to learn. But I have a feeling I will learn much from your videos. 🙂

  163. But what about ants. black, fire or red. how do they affect the garden. I see them crawling all over. they are never gone. I haven’t come across a beneficial insect that will help manage them. i’m not certain of their damage to my edible garden but they are definitely a nuisance to me. Specially fire ants that tend to bite. Is there anything you recommend for them.I have found sense and usefulness in the thing you have taught. I thank you for being the type of person that wishes to share your knowledge with others.

    1. Ants mostly don’t cause problems, but fire ants sure are annoying. I don’t have much experience with them. Spinosad bait works and is less toxic than some of the very toxic products on the market. Flooding their mound with a hose can work, but they may just move somewhere else. If you search online you will find lots of natural remedies, but most of them don’t work very well.

  164. Your Ebook looks very helpful with lots of info in it. Unfortunately, while the Table of contents shows me where to find things I cannot do it! Why? Because there are no Page Numbers on the pages. It is a simple thing to add page numbers as one of the final steps in the creation of the book. Sadly many authors overlook this step for some unknown reason. In assembling and organizing all this very helpful information it would seem reasonable that you want us to be able to quickly find helpful info in the book. PLEASE add page numbers to the book (unless there is some reason to not do so. If so please enlighten me.) Thanks anyway for all the good info. RJ

    1. Thanks, but there is a page number on the bottom center of every page.

    2. Neb Selim says:

      Phil is right, there is a number in the center bottom of each page. However you can always print it out using your duplex mode on the printer and it will automatically be in the proper order.

  165. Steven Chavers says:

    Woah! I stumbled on your site via YouTube. So interesting. My wife and I are getting into the all natural/organic lifestyle. We just stared a garden for the first time this year. We are excited to grow and eat the healthiest vegetables that we can. I feel like I have my work cut out for me as my whole yard is made of rocky/clay fill dirt. I just planted a Bing Cherry tree yesterday and needed a pick ax to break up the ground. A shovel was taking forever. I am so excited to learn how to turn the rock pile I call “my yard” into a rich food producing oasis!

    1. Awesome! Be sure to start small and just try to get a small garden doing well, rather than trying to tackle everything at once.

  166. Organic Newbi says:

    Hi Phil – Love the thought that we can go bug-free naturally. Looking forward to trying it out!

  167. Thanks Very interesting I’ve tried to garden for 5 years no success. I don’t like pesticides and commercial fertilizer so i figured that must be why. I’ve tried heirloom and didn’t do well with that either. I live in a very rocky area and have tried numerous ways to improve my soil. I even tried raised beds, no success there either. I don’t have much experience, my flowers do great it’s the food i have trouble with.

  168. Terrorizedbyterriers says:

    Buttercups and Spanish hyacinth are the banes of my gardening existence!

  169. Antoinette Keyser says:

    Hi Phil,Thank you for the article and I am looking forward to doing the course.I started a small garden a year ago. Ever since I started I have been battling aphids, caterpillars, powdery mildew, etc. Even spiders eating my tomatoes. If my plants are unhealthy and therefore cause these diseases and pests, how do I get my plants to be healthy again? The spot that I am using is at the back of the garden cottage I live in, and the landlord allows me to use it. Ever since I started preparing the soil, I noticed that at some point they must have used that particular spot as some kind of a “dumping ground”, since there are all kinds of garbage in there, from plastic bottle caps to small toys to the remains of used baby diapers and baby wipes. I have tried to clean it up as best I could, but the deeper I dig, the more garbage I find, including foil candy wrappers.I have noticed that my Comfrey is turning a pale green (like a lime green). My beetroot and carrots were a complete flop. Do you think it could be because of the garbage in there? And if this is the case, is it worth it to even carry on?

    1. It could be because of the garbage. It’s difficult to say. It’s worth seeking out a soil lab that will analyze your soil for contamination. Other than that, there are many things that can be done to make a garden healthy – compost, fertilizers, watering, mulching, etc., etc. – and it’s difficult to say which ones are most important for you, but it’s just a process of improving garden health every year.

  170. Many thanks for an interesting and informative article. I am an organic gardener and have recently changed to the no dig system which seems to be working. I also advocate companion planting which helps increase productivity. Last year I overlooked some radishes planted next to purple flowering broccoli, the radishes flowered and were covered in cabbage white butterflies but the broccoli went untouched and, uncovered, remained absolutely clean. I am looking forward to part two of your lesson.

  171. I truly enjoyed your informative style of writing and eagerly await more. Being somewhat disabled I am only able to container garden however all I read will still pertain. Maybe you can elude to this style of gardening as well.

  172. Hey Phil, so I sprayed plants with dish soap and h2o mix yesterday, today I reread this article, so now I am afraid I might have harmed the plants per your non toxic pest control info. I guess my Queston is 1. While one is working on getting the soil right, what kind of post control can we use and how often?

    1. that’s suppose to be pest not post

    2. Soap is a pretty decent control, especially if it’s a non-toxic soap like Dr. Bronner’s. What I would suggest is picking up some effective microorganisms and applying that a day or 2 after you apply the soap, as that will repopulate the leaf surface with beneficials.

      1. Im into some first round aquaponics. Some goldfish, hydroton and plants.Would you consider spraying the leafes of plants with circulation water as bringing some effective microorganisms to the the leaves?

        1. Yes, I’d try that. I’d test on a small area first.

  173. Interesting….I learn something new each day. Thanks for a wonderful concept I hope to run with.

  174. roger anino says:

    thank you phil,this will be a big help for me as a beginner.I spent my retiring time on gardening.Thank you again.

  175. Rosalind Simmons says:

    Hi Phil,I am a new user to your site, but a garden lover. I am looking forward to find out more about organic gardening as I think my methods could be improved. Great to have stumbled upon you. I am up to lesson 3.Thanks and best wishes from Australia.

  176. thanks phil cant wait to learn more about organic pest control and becoming a better gardener

  177. local austin pest control says:

    This kind of chemical is really wonderful to use because it cannot harm so much to the people’s health but I don’t even think that this would be effective enough in getting rid of those pests who are always ruining your day.

  178. BetonBrute says:

    Thank you Phil for validating my deep conviction that weeds in my garden are smarter than people. I am excited to learn more from you.

  179. Deby Naker Shipman says:

    Good info…makes good sense. Will have to start working on my soil for the winter crop season 🙂

  180. local austin pest control says:

    In some information, natural or non-toxic pest control is more safe to use but it can only kill small group of pest effectively. It is only applicable for small group of pests that can easily killed by non-toxic chemicals.

  181. Ian McAllister says:

    Some years ago I discovered a way to apply the fact that pests prefer sick plants.What’s the way to make weeds sick? Uproot them, and tear them into little pieces!So each time I transplant seedlings that will suffer transplant shock, I surround them with a ring of torn up weeds.I know it works, because I’ve gone out with a torch, and observed clusters of snails attacking the ring of weeds, and leaving my seedlings completely alone.There were too many snails for me to eat, but not on the seedlings.

    1. Excellent story!

  182. I leave the sicker, unhealthy plants there to attract the insects and keep them away from the healthy plants. Plants that are sprayed with biocidal chemicals use up their nutrients to fight these chemicals. Organic plants are healthier, more nutritious, as they can keep their nutrients intact for their growth and ours. They dont have to use up their nutrients to detox biocides.

    1. Most advice says to remove sick plants, but I like your strategy much better.

  183. john blenkiron says:

    Blown away by the insight. Like looking through a microscope for the first time and realizing the complexity of the microcosmic universe we take for granted.

    1. Nice analogy!

  184. Hi Phil, Your information is really great and you make it sound so easy. I am excited about getting started in planting an organic garden. You must have done an awful lot of research. Thanks for the information.

    1. Thanks Char!

  185. What a refreshing way to look at it! It’s as simple as going back to basics and looking at nature in how it governs herself. Great article! Thanks

  186. That was a kick ass knowledge bomb on soil. Great work Phil. Thank you .

  187. i completely agree with you on the subject about insect eating only the sick plants. it is a basic law of nature. the elimination of the unfit. the insects are just hastening what is the inevitable, the demise of the sick plant. that is there job in nature. just like in the food chain and in the decomposition process/ each creature no matter how small or insignificant has a role to play to balance nature. we should not forget that in order to feed the plant we must feed the soil and the soil shall feed the plant. it is then essential we do not put poison or any chemical that will kill the beneficial microorganisms that dwell in the soil once the plant gets all the nutrients from the soil, it will increase its brix level and this make the leaves of the plant not palatable to insects specially aphids (i have a sneaky feeling that the aphids does not want to feed on the plant with high brix cause it might become a diabetic. sorry for the joke) it is then important for us to provide the necessary nutrients that the plant needs in order to increase its brix level. once we increase the brix level the plant is not susceptible to any disease or insect attack. just like us human beings, if we strengthen our immune system we are not prone to illness.

    1. Exactly.

  188. Wonderful info, Phil! Last year, we had a very anemic garden and I realized that although we thought we purchased ready mixed garden soil from a local farmer, it wasn’t. This year, we mixed good top soil, vermiculite and peat and the crops look wonderful. I want to learn much more about amending soil. Good compost next year will be a must! I talk and sing to the plants – you may think this is way out but I believe they have a consciousness and even seem to respond!

    1. Yes, plants can definitely respond to singing!

  189. I have been working to be as organic as possible and have recently learned of the Brix levels and theories your talking aobut. At this point am ready for action and want to know how and what (more) I need to be doing. Anxious for the info. Thanks!

  190. Hadia Jocelyn says:

    Fabulous information and another thumbs up for the brilliance of our planet!. I have learned most of life’s most generous, profound and sobering lessons from gardening.

  191. local austin pest control says:

    I do agree on the thing that this will be the best pest control especially that there are many people who were being affected by using pesticide which is pure chemicals. It can seriously damage your health especially your skin and lungs. Sometimes, we need to learn on how to use such things because maybe a non-toxic chemical may damage us also.

  192. i am actualy fascinated by the way nature takes its course, and i am so much inspired in building my own organic garden, just cant wait to know how.

  193. Seems it happens with plants the same as with humans and animales: the right balance is the clue for kepping healthy.Thanks a lot for the lessong

  194. Okay I came in late in the ‘Game’ as some would say. But my son and I are growing tomatoes late are having problems with chipmunks who like to eat the tomatoes as soon as they are ripe, if not before they do. We put them up on a table, but where my son put them is in an area that is not getting enough sunlight either. Oh did I mention we put them in very very large pots so it is a very small garden in a 2 plant pots. But they are just about to ripen until the Chip & Dale seem to get at them. Is there someway we can dissuade them from eating our tomatoes? Don’t really want to harm those two cute mischevious little rascals! my grandson’s (4 of them under 4) love watching their antic’s through the patio doors.

    1. For most animals, the only sure-fire way is some kind of physical barrier – fencing, chicken wire, etc.

  195. This is awesome! I have been in this site no more than 10 minutes and I already learned that insects only attack sick plants and that I should not use a tiller. I’m on my way to happy gardening. Thanks Phil, sooo much!

  196. Hey Phil this is great information. I am so glad I bought your book Building Soil Naturally…and checked out your website. I look forward to learning more. One question I have is if my zucchinis have powdery mildew on them is it too late to offer the plants help? And what help are they asking for? What is missing from their diet? Do I not eat the zucchinis?

    1. Zucchinis often get powdery mildew this time of year – it just means they’re winding down for the season. It would be possible to keep them going longer if we knew what they needed, but that takes some work (soil testing, etc.). Sometimes spraying them with liquid sea minerals (for micronutrients) and microbial inoculants can help, but of course only if that’s what they’re lacking. Mostly I just let the leaves be consumed by the mildew as they’re supposed to, and you can definitely still eat them – it’s no problem.

  197. Cristy Rodcliff says:

    thank you for this very informative post. very interesting! looking forward for more post.pest control

  198. Jean Gabrielle Ababa says:

    great post indeed. It gave me a new idea in getting rid of the aphids and ants in my plants.Looking forward to read more about your posts.pest control

  199. 🙂 exactly my way of thinking. As I sell organic seedlings I often get asked what I use for pest control. When I say I don’t I just ditch the seedling because it is not healthy enough people are amazed. From observation in my own garden I have noticed exactly what you have said above. Healthy plants don’t get eaten or diseased. If I do have an insect/disease attack I look for what must be missing nutritional at that time. I also do sacrafice planting deliberately planting things and not looking after them so the insects will go to the plant, my predators do need to be feed 😉

    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  200. SandaraC104 says:

    Thanks for the valuable tips and information.Exterminator

  201. Thanks for all the info !! I love gardening and I have a lot to learn. I’m excited to learn more !! Thanks again 🙂

  202. B.B.PRADEEP ( INDIA) says:

    Thank you Phil. for sending me the gardener book, please send me more free book to improve my knowledge in gardening.Regards

  203. Phil, very interesting information! I had read that insects are attracted to stressed plants, but the stressed plants giving off a pheromone is a new concept that totally makes sense! Very fascinating facts. Thank you. Just curious why all the previous coments are 3 years old?

    1. I originally published this post 3 years ago, but if you scroll down and keep loading more comments, you’ll see that people are still commenting these days too 🙂

  204. Chiara Gibson says:

    I love gardening and I love plants as well but even how hard i tried it still don’t work on me.Pest Control

  205. Matthew Cole says:

    Everytime I bring pepper plants that have been outside (both individually potted and from a garden bed) in for the winter they develop aphid infestations. I have tried spraying the plants with vinegar solutions, insecticidal soap, I tried bana peels in the soil, then tinfoil…even taking the plants into the shower and throttling them around! But always the aphids won. Is it possible the plants are experiencing a nutrient deficiency from being brought indoors? Do you think spraying the plants with a uriney molasses dilution would work? (not that I’m overly keen to have the faint smell of urea about the house)Thanks!

    1. Most plants definitely don’t like to be inside, which is why pest infestations on indoor plants are so common. It could be a nutrient deficiency or biology imbalance or poor environmental conditions or many things. I wouldn’t say urine/molasses is the best way to go. I’d vote more for a biological approach such as my favorite inoculant:

  206. Thanks Phil great info

  207. Thanks Phil. I am a novice flower and vegetable gardener, but enjoy doing it for the beauty, health, and savings. I use my flower berms as joint vegetable and flower berms. I look forward to more advice. I am chopping my leaves and dead grass for compost. Also trying rock dust for the first time. Thanks, again. Dan

  208. Anna Marie Gruber says:

    grateful that I got to read your article cos its very informative and helpful. non-toxic pesticides are more safe than any chemical made and eco friendly as well.

  209. Anna Marie Gruber says:

    Pest Control

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  211. Aaron Carter says:

    Non-toxic pest control is what I am looking for. I have a lot of different animals so I wouldn’t want to risk hurting them. They mean the world to me.Aaron Carter

  212. pestcontrolnj14 says:

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  213. I am having a problem with “rolly pollies” as my grandaughter calls them. Are they sow bugs? they are eating my potatoe plants alive. I us EM,yor sea fertilizer, and ocean water. Still have these bugs. I have tried yourgarlic,oil and soap and food grade diatamaceous earth. Could rock dust help? I am afraid i am loosing all my organic seed potatoes. HELP

    1. Sounds like you’re doing exactly what I would have done. Start with EM/seaweed/etc. and then try a garlic/soap spray if necessary and then diatomaceous earth. It’s worth continuing with all of those. I don’t think rock dust will help much. You could try adding a bit of cayenne pepper to your garlic/soap spray. You could also try placing some plastic containers of beer down into the soil so they’re even with the soil level – that may catch some of them. I wonder why your potatoes are attracting so many of them – they must not be too happy right now for some reason.

  214. Paul Bear says:

    Impressive—hard to find a chemical that will kill bugs without harming humans or garden plants they feed on. I hear that in Florida, they drop millions of dragonflies on mosquito-infested areas as a form of Eco-friendly pest control. If this doesn’t work, it’s back to traditional methods.Paul |

  215. Eva Karea says:

    Now this is in actual fact cooperative. It’s very openhanded of you to share this with us.Pest Control Woodbridge Va

  216. Why is William A Albrecht mentioned on page 20 yet the Bibliography does not mention any of his works?

    1. I guess I should of mentioned page 20 of the condensed Holistic Gardening Handbook.Thank you

      1. I’d read various parts of a couple of volumes of the Albrecht Papers years before writing this book, but haven’t referred to them since then. In hindsight I should’ve referenced them, although I don’t even know which ones I read.

  217. Vladimir Bobrov says:

    Thanks, Phil. Your article is informative and a great inspiration.BRVladimir Bobrov

  218. John Anthony San Nicolas says:

    Thanks Phil!

  219. Thanks, Phil I am new to Organic Gardening and looking forward to learning more.

  220. Phil,Your article has left my head spinning, I am yearning for more revelation. Regards

  221. Gina Bena says:

    That makes sense, never looked at it like that before. We moved into our house 8 years ago and it all ready had good soil already which we have improved and improved via compost and manure from our chickens and guinea pigs. Everything we plant grows brilliantly and we don’t have much pest problem apart from slugs and snails. I always assumed the healthier a plant was the more delicious but this is more interesting. It is all about the soil.

  222. Thanks Phil,Totally makes sense… I am a Herbslist, Holistic Nutritionist and Homeopath so really love this information , and your work. I’d not considered the great Gaia balance, and of course, it’s just perfect, we should trust nature to know, it’s as simple as that. Beautiful, profound and amazing!

  223. Very good Phil, like i write in my book Soil Dead or Alive, if the soil is healthy insects will not attack plants, its all about frequency and nutrients give the soil the right frequency or energy


  225. Thank you so much for the ebook Phil

  226. John Dionne says:

    Phil. I’m in agreement with you on getting plants healthier. I use sugar in the water I use for watering my plants, including my shrub hedge. I have a problem with slugs and fire blight. Sugar is 97 percent carbon so it’s good for the soil if it lands on the soil. I use 3 cups of sugar in 60 gallons of water. The slugs used to shred my Hostas right to the ribs of the leaves. Worked great for 3 years but last summer it rained too often for me to go and water, let alone just spray the plants, so I had a few nibbles. I think that your idea of using a molasses mix might even be a better idea!

    1. Actually, food for thought – for the soil, dextrose (glucose) may be a little better than molasses. I’m not positive about that, but one expert I talked to said that too much fructose added to the soil can promote candida (a yeast). Just thought I’d mention it…

  227. Very helpful article and thank you!

  228. The message is clear: Nature has created everything wisely, so let it be.

  229. Louis Overs says:

    Hi Phil,I have an allottment here in London UK. Been growing for over 50 years with reasonable success. Being evacuated on a farm during the war taught me a lot. (not many Pesticdes then)But reading your articles makes one realise how much there is still to learn,and you’re never too old for that. You have an Original mind Phil. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks so much for the nice note Louis!

  230. Annie Gaddis says:

    Received the eBook. Thanks!

  231. I am very excited to learn how to be an organic gardener. I am most definitely a novice but am determined to be successful and to follow your advice to a T. Thank you so much for your course and help.

  232. i am learning something new

  233. Isn’t it amazing!? I appreciate very much the eye-opening info. Thank you for making us understand in such a simple way the facts and trick-traks of the intimate relationship between soil and plant.

  234. I believe in the natural way over chemical every time and this to be very effective.

  235. I look forward to your lessons. 😀

  236. Goudeau Carol says:

    Thank you Phil your great! Thank you so much for the lesson really needed it! I do believe in your concept . I will keep I in mind . keep up the great work!

  237. dear phil, it is so wonderful of you to give free lessons and take the time to answer questions and just generally be so giving. unfortunately i live in india and so cannot order the fertilizers etc that you keep up the good work and remember that the good you do today will come back to you one day.

  238. Silvia Torres Teixeira says:

    Hi, Phil! I simply love all this! I’m a Brazilian Pharmacist (currently living in Brazil) in the process of becoming an Organic “Family Farmer” and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to start your course. It’s just happening! I need a lot of help once I am certain of what I’m getting into and will not make use of the knowledge of conventional Agronomists. You will be my guide! This is the improtance of your work to me!

  239. Wow this is really been an interesting read.have been thinking its the healthy plants these pests look out for.learning

  240. great info can’t wait to learn more, i will share with all i know, glad to see this movement is growing

  241. robert peter Dunford says:

    Something I have never tried but in my 60 years of Gardening. Always told Never to put any of the Citrus Family on your Compost Heap, One it will take Years to Rot,And is a Waste of Time,But now, I have this from the American Magazine Stating the Grapefruit Rind,Orange Rind and Lemon Rind. If you Cut them up Small then put them through the Coffee Grinder till they are like Dust,They will give your Plants all the Phosphorus and Potassium they will Ever Need.Have anybody Reading this know anything about it.,Because if it is true, We have the Greatest Break Through in Gardening Ever, Please see if any of you can Find out Anything about This,And please Reply.Thank you for reading this,

  242. robert peter Dunford says:

    in the second world war when dig for victory we could not get very much fertilizer and had to use household findings like egg shells, Epsom salts,.Seaweed..water from cooking potatoes,as well as your compost and made your own potash .soot from your chimney. Now I hear peanut shells grinded up make a very lot of nitrogen for your garden .I bet there is a lot more we could use .if we only knew

  243. Anne Studley says:

    I so appreciate all of this great information, Phil – thank you! I am growing Swiss chard and mangel in my garden, and though the leaves haven’t been eaten on, it looks like slugs crawled on them and left slime damage – or the crows flying by pooed on them – or it may be something else. The leaves of the other veggies haven’t been damaged at all. Is it because the Swiss chard and mangel leaves are so delicate, or is this some kind of disease? Whatever the case may be, do you have any remedial suggestions?

    1. It could be a disease, not because those leaves are especially delicate, but because their health is suboptimal for some reason – often because the soil isn’t a great match for the plant, but it can also be poor seed quality, improper watering, etc. My solution when I encounter plants that aren’t at their healthiest is to water properly and spray them regularly with organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants. If many types of plants in a garden are suffering, I get into soil testing and amending in order to bring the soil closer to balance.

      1. Anne Studley says:

        Thank you Phil. While waiting for your response, the chard and mangel have grown healthy leaves. The only other plants in the garden with this problem are the lamb’s quarters, which I let grow because I consider them a no-tend vegetable that is delicious and nutritious. Not all of the leaves or lamb’s quarters plants are affected – just some leaves on various ones. But I never do anything remedial to them, as I let them stay wild, and as I don’t feed wild animals, I don’t feed wild plants – and they come back in full force each year. So are they really unhealthy? The baking soda-water-molasses mix has definitely helped the plants I’ve sprayed it on, so thanks a lot for that tip. Would you say this is better than colloidal silver?

        1. I’ve never used colloidal silver Anne, so can’t comment on that. Glad your plants have rejuvenated though!

  244. Trevor Larisa Steigenberger says:

    I’m new to gardening and have gotten into it because I don’t want to eat chemicaled veggies anymore. This is a real mind blowing way of looking at plants. Makes me excited to read and watch all you have to offer.

  245. Bigrob504 says:

    Thanks for all of your tips, emails, and videos….lots of motivation and encouragement

  246. Charlene Dryman says:

    Nothing kills my mildew. Outside of that my worse problem is the leaf-footed bug that damages my tomatoes and pomegranates. I try to capture the little critters, but they just fly away. I spray them with soapy water and can catch a few, which isn’t many, and drown them in a cup of soapy water. But, most of them get away and come back when they see me walk away. Any suggestions?

  247. Dear Phil.thank you for sending this article about pest control and healthy soil,and healthy plants.I was looking forwardto meet some one like you.It is very interesting. Looking forward to know further more.with thanking once again Leela.

  248. lowelkasey says:

    It’s good to see the information about non-toxic pest control. This is very beneficial to learn how the insects sense much of their surroundings with their antennae. Non-toxic pest control helps us to not kill pests unnecessarily and these pesticides doesn’t give the plant the nutrients it needs.antitermite(dot)net

  249. lowelkasey says:

    It’s good to see the information about non-toxic pest control. This is very beneficial to learn how the insects sense much of their surroundings with their antennae. Non-toxic pest control helps us to not kill pests unnecessarily and these pesticides doesn’t give the plant the nutrients it needs.antitermite(dot)net

  250. lowelkasey says:

    It’s good to see the information about non-toxic pest control. This is very beneficial to learn how the insects sense much of their surroundings with their antennae. Non-toxic pest control helps us to not kill pests unnecessarily and these pesticides doesn’t give the plant the nutrients it needs.antitermite(dot)net

  251. Brian Humprhey says:

    WOW!! I’ve never understood why some plants succumb to disease while others a few feet away thrive! Love the explanation on pheromes and how we humans and insects interpret healthy and unhealthy plants!! Thanks Phil!

  252. This philosophy actually opens your eyes to human health as well. Cancer cells and other such detrimental diseases cannot attack a healthy, well-balanced system. If our bodies were as healthy and balanced as we thought they were, a lot of the diseases we fight would cease to exist.

  253. A real roundabout ways to get me here, was expecting a direct download.

  254. I am completely fascinated by this also. I never n ew that but it makes sense. I am excited to learn more about making the soil very healthy in order to make my plants healthier! I think it will be hard to not try to use anything at first but can definitely to it!

  255. Love your blog and videos!! Thanks for sharing your gardening knowledge with us!

  256. Marcy Price says:

    I love this concept. Each year my tomato plants struggle and each year they are attacked by insects. Last year it was blister beetles. I ask myself where are these bugs coming from? Now I know. My sick plants are calling to the insects, “look an all you can eat tomato plant buffet”.

  257. Alexis Dix says:

    Have you ever grown heirloom varieties of vegetables before? If so, do you have any advice that might be helpful?

  258. To me this is a revelation. It’s mind blowing. Though I must admit it doesn’t make me feel good to know that my plants I worked so hard to get growing are unhealthy. Well at least the ones that are being eaten. I am eagered to find out how to make them all healthy.

  259. ANGELA CHILDS says:

    This is so exciting! This shift from the traditional way of thinking about pests and protction of your garden investment is so thought provoking on quite a few levels. Thanks for sharing the wealth Phil!

  260. Very interesting! I want healthier plants-Yea!

  261. I live in Sunny Southern California. It would seem my citrus ould do well. But that’s not the case. On one side f my trees the oranges are splitting. I am constantly fighting scale and black spots and leaf curl or deformed leafs. I have used diluted dish soap, and an organic oil for citrus . I fertilize once a month during growing season? Help Please.

    1. It sounds like soil health and plant health need some major improving. If you’re subscribed to my 15 lessons, stay tuned for a whole bunch of tips on how to do that.

  262. Deborah Porter says:

    I have been activating EM from Mother Culture for several years with great success. I am wondering if it is possible to make your own Mother Culture. Someone told me you would be the person to ask.

    1. No, you can’t make EM without a mother culture. EM is a group of 10-20 specific microbes in specific proportions. A lot of research was done back in the 70s and 80s to determine which microbes to use and how much of each microbe was optimal. You can make your own beneficial inoculants ( ), just not as beneficial as EM.

  263. Hubert Young says:

    Hi Phil. You know it. I am not an evolutionist , it makes no sense to me, I believe in creation. A few years ago I started doing the “Back To Eden Gardening” Technique with great results. Thanks for these lessons, I love to learn truth. We compost every thing, and a few years ago I took a omposting course (Master Coposter). I look forward to the lessons. Keep up the great work. Blessings.

  264. Hubert Young says:

    Composting course* (Master Composter)*

  265. It is likely that the insects are attuned to finding the weak plants because they lack some natural defense of the strong ones, or in some way make better food for the insects. You mentioned one factor, that healthy plants are more difficult for the insects to digest. There are other examples of this in nature. For instance, in the human gut if the person has good oxygen homeostasis and a good diet, exercise and regular movement of the bowel, the negative gut flora will not grow as well, because the ecological conditions do not favor them. Ditto that people who are healthy do not get bacterial and viral infections as easily not just because of the immune defense system but also because the ecology of their bodies do not favor the requirements of the infectious organisms. For instance, cancers thrive in low oxygen environments as oxygen is toxic to them and they cannot use antioxidants to defend against the toxicity of oxygen like normal cells do. Cancers cannot live as well in a well-oxygenated body. I suspect that there is a reason why weak plants are superior food for insects causing them to prefer them as food, and that this is part of a larger ecology within the plant and insect systems. In the end it serves the general ecological balance of natural selection and clean up of degenerating matter in the larger ecosystem. There may be many types of factors involved–different ones for different sorts of pests–such as fertilizer applied to roses at the wrong moment will cause too much soft new growth in the spring when the aphids appear, and allow for a serious aphid attack.

    I used to grow roses in one of the worst climates for fungal diseases. I discovered that while one can make the most of the genetics of the rose by providing good soil, the right amount of sunlight and circulation of air, some classes of roses, such as the Bourbons were “rust buckets”, while others, such as the Albas, were extremely resistant to rose rust. It also appeared that by not growing the roses that rusted easily, thus limiting the exposure of the genetically resistant roses to rust, it was possible to grow roses in that climate without having to spray. There were some roses which were borderline in terms of genetics such as some moss roses susceptibility to mildew, which the same rose bought from the same nursery would mildew if grown in less optimal conditions in the garden–too much shade, less air circulation, or poor soil, but the same rose would not mildew if grown in the best soil with full sun, and plenty of air circulation. With the roses, all of these factors counted–genetics, soil, sun, water, air circulation and amount of exposure to diseases and pests.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Patricia – that’s all very interesting, and nice to read about your observations regarding roses.

  266. Stephanie Newman says:

    Love it! Love it! Love it! I’m determined to learn and apply all I can from the free lessons to my patio garden to get the healthiest environment for my plants that I can!

    Love the website!!

  267. very interesting, we have learnt a lot about crop protection but never about the type of crop the pests love to eat. Now i know and instead jumping to spraying i will adres the plant health

  268. Adrienne Linch says:

    I read this here a while back, and while I was somewhat familiar (as in heard it somewhere but not in this detail), I was going through your site again and it was a great reminder. Sometimes I need those.
    I recently had something in the garden (Cicadas maybe) that was eating the tops right off of my new seedlings, as well as champing it’s way through some other plants, though not to the point of devastation. But I got inpatient, and sprayed the plants with a homemade mixture I used earlier in the year on grasshoppers. Once they get inside the hoop house, they seem to stay for a while, because I generally keep it closed up.
    Unfortunately, this concoction burned my plants. So in the end, I had a worse situation than the one I started with and all because I didn’t think it through. I could have added some minerals to the beds; I should have used physical barriers on the seedlings, but all I wanted was to make my plants less tasty to whatever it was. OOPS
    Now I have to re-seed , prune back the damaged plants and I put the spray away. When I used it earlier in the year (directly on the grasshoppers) it was because there were SO many I needed to control them once they got inside. It was never intended to be used directly on the plants (though they got a little on them as I chased the grasshoppers). Now I need to make sure whatever is left of those plants gets some extra love and nutrition so they can fight their own battles.
    But to have set myself back from “reacting”instead of reasoning it all out is what hurts the most!

  269. Latesa Smith says:

    HI Phil thank you for this. I am excited to learn how garden organically.

  270. Samuel Limawan says:

    Thanks for this lesson, Phil.
    However, I still can’t understand how fungal disease recognize which plants are healthy and which ones are not? As long as I know fungi does not have antenna to interpret pheromones as food. It thrives because of temperature and humidity.
    So, how healthy plant can survive from fungal disease?

    1. Ya, I don’t know how they recognize it either, but they do. For example, I’ve seen a squash plant absolutely covered in powdery mildew while another squash plant 1 foot away was untouched.

  271. I seem to recall an old timer home antidote for mildew on watermelon leaves was to put a bit of milk in water and spray the leaves. I never got around to actually trying it but thought maybe the lactose increases the diversity of lactobacillus types competing with mildew or maybe its the whey.

  272. Hello phil, I am a reader from China, I am very glad to see this article, because he gave me new plant nursing thinking.

  273. Gabby Parker says:

    Hi Phil. I am a new reader and convert to the organic way of growing plants. I find the article very enlightening and I am eager to find out how to make them all healthy.

  274. Hi Phil I’m your newest subscriber from Southern Ontario . Due to complications I missed spraying my fruit trees apple pear and cherry with dormant spray containing Horticulture oil and lime sulphur.
    My trees just started sprouting their leaves and the flowers are coming very shortly .Can I use your spray baking soda,soap and Hort. Oil without the Lime sulphur and not do any damage to leaves and blooms or should I leave the spray out and let trees fend for their any suggestions for Japanese Beetle I was over run last year Thanks for any help

    1. It may depend on the hort. oil – you can check the label – but many of them can be sprayed during the growing season. I would just wait until the flowers are done. Side note: I’m a fan of neem oil over hort. oil just because it seems to actually benefit plants in addition to just combatting pests (that said, it’s not registered as a pesticide in Canada, so you need to search around a bit to find it).

      Japanese Beetle is too big of a discussion for here. Perhaps I’ll write an article one day. The long-term goal is to improve plant health to the point where the beetles are less of a problem.

  275. Hubert Young says:

    Hi. Phil. Thank you for what you’re doing. Really. I have 80acres here in Manitoba, Canada, just north of Winnipeg. One more year and I’ll be retiring and concentrating on organic gardening. Currently, I am using the no-till method of gardening. It makes so much sense and I’m having loads of fun. So keep up the great work, and we’ll be chatting soon. My zone is zone 3-2. Best Regards, Hubert.

  276. Vanaja Ramprasad says:

    Dear Phil
    I enjoyed reading your text on non toxic pest control I hope many people will see it and adopt it in India . I have worked with farners on seed saving and the rest of the techniques leading to holistic gardening
    thank you

    vanaja Ramprasad

  277. Hi Phil,
    Just found your website a week or so ago. Really interesting ideas in this lesson. I am curious to try and see how it works. I have been working on my garden over the last few years. I feel like it improves every year as I learn. So I am always looking for new ways to make it better!

  278. I have a lot of pests so must have sick plants. Thank you for the information.

  279. David Vick says:

    I am new to gardening and am excited by your approach. I have read some books by Eliot Coleman concerning soil health and it’s relationship to healthy plants and pests and I see that you two are in agreement. I very much look forward to your next email. Thanks for the opportunity to learn!!

Comments are closed.