Organic Garden Pest Control – Without Toxins

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Phil: Hey guys it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com. If you haven’t picked up my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on the home page of smilinggardener.com.

Today I am talking about organic garden pest control. Everything I talk about in these lessons I often bows down to three things, increasing organic matter in your soil, balancing out the fertility and improving your soil food web, doing all of that not only grows the nutrient dense food but it really prevents the pests from coming in and the diseases in the insects. So that’s the main thing, even when we are doing a good job of improving all that stuff, we are still going to have the occasional plant that isn’t healthy or group of plants that are healthy and so we are going to get some pests.

We are still going to have some of those and today I am talking a little bit about what you can do when you find you have but even before them it’s still is about prevention, just in terms of some smart practices. So when you are buying plants from the nursery inspect the leaves and even inspect the roots a little bit and see if there are pests problems. You don’t want to buy plants are diseased because that means they are unhealthy and they are going to have disease probably in the future. You don’t want plants with aphids or spider mites or anything like that.

So that’s the number one thing, if you are doing some pruning disinfect your secateurs or your bypass perennials or whatever you are using with some just some hydrogen peroxide, it’s kind like a natural bleach. Another thing you can do is plant aromatic plants that sometimes confuse some insects. So what I do all throughout the garden is I plant garlic, you can see there is not much going on in this garden yet but there are a few garlic that are coming up here and there just because I always tend to plant them around my various plants and I don’t always pick them all.

So that’s prevention, now let’s go on to a couple of short term organic pest control measures you can take. Now what I often do, if I have some plants that are really sick and so they are covered in insects or diseases. I let them die because I know that’s going to encourage the predators of those predators to come in set up shop and start eating them and they will be there for next year and also I just know that food isn’t healthy so I am not that interested in eating it anyway but if you are having a lot of problems, I know you don’t your whole crop to die so you want to do something about it in the short term. Once you know what the predator is then it’s a lot easier to choose what kind of control you are going to do to take care of it, of course you always want to go with at least toxic control and often they are very entirely non-toxic controls but then you know what you are dealing with.

One of the simplest controls for tomato harm worms because it was not that many of them, there is just a handful of them in my plants as I just took them often I squash them. So that’s no big deal. Another one is you can often use of hose to just wash them off so I don’t have my hose here but that works really well for washing a number of things on. One is insecticidal soap, you want to read the label and make sure that it works for the predator that you are dealing with and another one is horticultural oil.

Now these are not entirely benign they are much less toxic than you know a chemical pesticide but when I use something like this. I would like to come through a day later and spray some EM onto my leaves or some compost tea, something to repopulate the leaf surface because if you are using a soap on your leaves it’s going to wash of a lot of the beneficial microorganisms. So I want to repopulate those leaves with something healthy.

The next one is biological controls. Now what some people try to do is order some lady bugs and release them into the garden to take care of their aphids. that’s usually not going to work that well because the lady bugs will probably just go somewhere else, the reason there are not in your garden in the first place is probably because there is nothing really there for them, no reason for them to be there. It can work okay in a greenhouse setting but what I like to do instead is to in my vegetable garden among my vegetables is plant a bunch of different flowers that attract beneficial insects and so right now I don’t really have anything going on because it’s so early in the spring.

Here is a rudbeckia that hopefully attracts and beneficial once it gets growing again this year. Here is echinacea that will attract some beneficial insects. So that can work pretty well too it’s just that’s really what I focus on a lot is planting a bio-diverse garden full of different kinds of plants that are attracting in all these beneficial insects along the same lines you wanna provide water for insects that means a bird bath and not too tidy over bird bath, you want to have it so that parasitic waste and other little insects can get in there and drink, not only bird bath but watering the whole soil and having so then you have little potholes on the soil for them to drink from and providing them other kinds of habitat, water and habitat grasses, rock piles.

I will show you my rock pile. So here is a pile of rock. So it hopefully is a good place for some snakes and other little animals. Here we have just a little pond that has some frogs and toads and things like that. Now I know a lot of people don’t like snakes and spiders but I think we need to encourage them with rocks and other organic piles of debris and even just weedy parts in the corner of the garden. So the goal here is to have a healthy garden with lots of organic matter, minerals fertility with a healthy soil food web. You want to get into prevention by not bringing pets and disease in insects into the garden in the first place. We do have some short term controls.

We can try such as a few sprays we can make or buy but in the long run we are trying to just create a garden that doesn’t attract these predators in the first place but does attract many beneficial insects to take care of any predators that do setup shop. So below why don’t you let me know about your most important predator problem whether it be insect or disease that you have maybe this year, maybe you are already far enough into the season, you are having an issue or maybe last year you had something. If you want a little more detail read the article down below I always post more detail in the article below that you can sign up for my free online organic gardening course, you can join me over on Facebook at facebook.com/smilinggardener and over there I will get my sister to post some naked photos of…

Phil: Hey guys it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com. If you haven’t picked up my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on the home page of smilinggardener.com.

Today I am talking about organic garden pest control. Everything I talk about in these lessons I often bows down to three things, increasing organic matter in your soil, balancing out the fertility and improving your soil food web, doing all of that not only grows the nutrient dense food but it really prevents the pests from coming in and the diseases in the insects. So that’s the main thing, even when we are doing a good job of improving all that stuff, we are still going to have the occasional plant that isn’t healthy or group of plants that are healthy and so we are going to get some pests.

We are still going to have some of those and today I am talking a little bit about what you can do when you find you have but even before them it’s still is about prevention, just in terms of some smart practices. So when you are buying plants from the nursery inspect the leaves and even inspect the roots a little bit and see if there are pests problems. You don’t want to buy plants are diseased because that means they are unhealthy and they are going to have disease probably in the future. You don’t want plants with aphids or spider mites or anything like that.

So that’s the number one thing, if you are doing some pruning disinfect your secateurs or your bypass perennials or whatever you are using with some just some hydrogen peroxide, it’s kind like a natural bleach. Another thing you can do is plant aromatic plants that sometimes confuse some insects. So what I do all throughout the garden is I plant garlic, you can see there is not much going on in this garden yet but there are a few garlic that are coming up here and there just because I always tend to plant them around my various plants and I don’t always pick them all.

So that’s prevention, now let’s go on to a couple of short term organic pest control measures you can take. Now what I often do, if I have some plants that are really sick and so they are covered in insects or diseases. I let them die because I know that’s going to encourage the predators of those predators to come in set up shop and start eating them and they will be there for next year and also I just know that food isn’t healthy so I am not that interested in eating it anyway but if you are having a lot of problems, I know you don’t your whole crop to die so you want to do something about it in the short term. Once you know what the predator is then it’s a lot easier to choose what kind of control you are going to do to take care of it, of course you always want to go with at least toxic control and often they are very entirely non-toxic controls but then you know what you are dealing with.

One of the simplest controls for tomato harm worms because it was not that many of them, there is just a handful of them in my plants as I just took them often I squash them. So that’s no big deal. Another one is you can often use of hose to just wash them off so I don’t have my hose here but that works really well for washing a number of things on. One is insecticidal soap, you want to read the label and make sure that it works for the predator that you are dealing with and another one is horticultural oil.

Now these are not entirely benign they are much less toxic than you know a chemical pesticide but when I use something like this. I would like to come through a day later and spray some EM onto my leaves or some compost tea, something to repopulate the leaf surface because if you are using a soap on your leaves it’s going to wash of a lot of the beneficial microorganisms. So I want to repopulate those leaves with something healthy.

The next one is biological controls. Now what some people try to do is order some lady bugs and release them into the garden to take care of their aphids. that’s usually not going to work that well because the lady bugs will probably just go somewhere else, the reason there are not in your garden in the first place is probably because there is nothing really there for them, no reason for them to be there. It can work okay in a greenhouse setting but what I like to do instead is to in my vegetable garden among my vegetables is plant a bunch of different flowers that attract beneficial insects and so right now I don’t really have anything going on because it’s so early in the spring.

Here is a rudbeckia that hopefully attracts and beneficial once it gets growing again this year. Here is echinacea that will attract some beneficial insects. So that can work pretty well too it’s just that’s really what I focus on a lot is planting a bio-diverse garden full of different kinds of plants that are attracting in all these beneficial insects along the same lines you wanna provide water for insects that means a bird bath and not too tidy over bird bath, you want to have it so that parasitic waste and other little insects can get in there and drink, not only bird bath but watering the whole soil and having so then you have little potholes on the soil for them to drink from and providing them other kinds of habitat, water and habitat grasses, rock piles.

I will show you my rock pile. So here is a pile of rock. So it hopefully is a good place for some snakes and other little animals. Here we have just a little pond that has some frogs and toads and things like that. Now I know a lot of people don’t like snakes and spiders but I think we need to encourage them with rocks and other organic piles of debris and even just weedy parts in the corner of the garden. So the goal here is to have a healthy garden with lots of organic matter, minerals fertility with a healthy soil food web. You want to get into prevention by not bringing pets and disease in insects into the garden in the first place. We do have some short term controls.

We can try such as a few sprays we can make or buy but in the long run we are trying to just create a garden that doesn’t attract these predators in the first place but does attract many beneficial insects to take care of any predators that do setup shop. So below why don’t you let me know about your most important predator problem whether it be insect or disease that you have maybe this year, maybe you are already far enough into the season, you are having an issue or maybe last year you had something. If you want a little more detail read the article down below I always post more detail in the article below that you can sign up for my free online organic gardening course, you can join me over on Facebook at facebook.com/smilinggardener and over there I will get my sister to post some naked photos of…

Update: I now recommend neem oil instead of horticultural oil.

As I’ve discussed in other posts, the best organic garden pest control method is a healthy ecosystem.

This means creating the right conditions for thriving, healthy plants by doing things like caring for the soil, watering properly, and having the right plant in the right place.

Then our plants won’t attract diseases or plant-feeding insects.

But it’s a tricky balancing act to keep garden ecosystems in perfect balance while shaping them to meet our own needs.

Even the most meticulous organic gardeners don’t manage to keep all their plants perfectly healthy all the time.

Sooner or later, we all end up running into the occasional plant predator – insects and diseases that want to make lunch out of our precious flowers or organic vegetable garden before we get a chance to enjoy them.

Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to avoid this.

There are also some options for how to deal with plant predators when diplomacy fails and we’re faced with a choice between fighting back and losing our crop…

Preventive Organic Pest Control

Slug Eating Flower

Organic gardening pest control starts with prevention.

One way to keep predators away from your plants is by using intelligent planting practices.

This means being careful not to bring pests and diseases into the garden from nurseries or on your tools or clothes.

Only choose pest-free plants, and disinfect your tools.

You can also use particularly smelly plants to mislead and confuse plant predators. These odorous plants bear the majestic title of “aromatic pest confusers.”

Many herbs fit into this category, as well as alliums like garlic and onions, and even some flowering plants such as marigolds.

By interspersing them throughout your organic garden, or deliberately planting them around other plants that you know are vulnerable to insect attack, you can do a lot to keep the would-be predators chasing their own tails instead of munching your lettuce.

You can also discourage diseases simply by rotating your crops. Use different plants, and if possible different families of plants, in each bed each year.

It’s harder for soil-based diseases such as clubroot in brassicas, or insects like wireworms whose larval phase lives in the soil, to get established if their favorite food source keeps moving around.

As for soil fertility, it’s important to balance out your soil based on a soil test. Pest problems are often partially caused by a deficiency in calcium and phosphorus, as well as different micronutrients depending on the pest.

Short Term Organic Garden Pest Control

Even if you follow these practices, you may still end up with some pest and disease outbreaks.

When that happens, unless you’re willing to let nature re-establish its own balance by sacrificing the affected plants, you may choose to attack the problem directly with these organic garden pest control methods.

There are a lot of different ways to do this, so I’ll just mention a few of my favorites here.

First, it’s essential to know which plant predator you’re dealing with.

Fortunately, most plants are only vulnerable to a few specific predators and diseases, so once you’ve identified the plant, it’s usually not too hard to find a list of its common predators on the internet or in an organic gardening book.

Once you’ve identified the predator, you can look into some possible ways to deter, remove, or kill it.

Keep in mind that even products that are allowed under organic standards may still kill beneficial insects or have detrimental effects on plants, so always choose the least toxic option.

With some insect predators, a simple solution is to hose them off, or even pick them off by hand.

This can be time-consuming, so you may want to use a natural insecticide like isopropyl alcohol, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap instead.

Update: I now recommend neem oil instead of horticultural oil.

In that case, I like to come back through the next day with a microbial inoculant like compost tea to repopulate my plants with the good guys.

Biological Garden Pest Control

Organic Garden Pest Control Prevention

One of my favorite natural garden pest control methods is to keep my own standing army of other critters to gobble them up.

This approach isn’t actually that out there.

You may have heard, for example, of people buying ladybugs to control aphids.

Now that doesn’t actually work very well, because unless you’ve created pretty great ladybug habitat, they’ll just fly away to find somewhere they’d rather be.

(You need them to stick around and lay eggs, since it’s the juvenile ladybugs who are the really voracious aphid-eaters).

But what does work is making your organic garden a place a ladybug wants to hang out.

This means having a variety of different flowers blooming throughout the season, as well as water sources, complete with pieces of debris for them to sit on while taking a drink – nothing worse than an overly clean bird bath that ends up drowning your parasitic wasps as they try to get a sip.

You can also encourage snakes (yes, snakes!) by having places for them to hide, like grassy slopes or sunny rock piles. You may think snakes are a bit creepy, but they’re a slug’s worst nightmare.

Some people will tell you to clear away the duff layer at the end of the season, to remove habitat for plant predators. The trouble is, this also takes away the habitat their predators need to make it through the winter.

By now, we’re totally over the idea that we can create sterile, perfectly controlled ecosystems.

But we can get amazing results by growing diverse gardens that invite the organisms we want to join our living community, and control plant predators for us!

Let me know about your most important pest problem below, and I will try to give you some good short-term organic garden pest control tips along with my longer-term advice.

80 Comments

  1. mlf on May 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I just completed my 3rd re-read of Building Soils Naturally and I want to thank you for researching and organizing this material.

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it!

  2. J. Spell on May 4, 2013 at 11:47 am

    What about pill bugs or doodle bugs especially as it relates to discouraging them from eating strawberries. In other parts of the garden they don’t seem to eat more than their share but they seem to think every strawberry is theirs.

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      I’ve had success on my strawberries by having a thick straw mulch, the top of which I actually allow to stay fairly dry (I water deeply, infrequently). I throw some coffee grounds in there because I’ve read that can help, but am unsure.

      • Mrs Parker on June 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

        We have a 3 bin composting set up and there are so many pill bugs breeding there and in the growing area that I lose virtually every seedling that comes up. There has to be something that will dramatically reduce their numbers. Nothing seems interested in eating them.

        • Phil on June 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm

          Hmmm, I never knew they were such voracious eaters. I suppose moving the compost bin (or the garden) is the best option. Both bin and garden would benefit from a sunny spot.

  3. Mat on May 4, 2013 at 11:54 am

    We just had a thunderstorm after a long dry spell and I spent a relaxing hour patrolling in the dark snail hunting. Having gathered half a bucket, they took a long salty bath but I was wondering a) is there any advantage to snails/slugs and b) is dumping them in a bucket of salty water the most humane way of dispatching them?

    • Justin Gay on May 4, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      What I’ve been doing with mine is throwing them into the compost and letting them eat all my left over scraps. They get an easy free meal I get my compost broken down that much faster. Plus their shells are mostly made up of calcium carbonate.

      • Mat on May 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm

        Great idea – ours are edible snails too so I could fatten some up as a starter…

        • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm

          Yes, they provide lots of benefits, mainly breaking down organic matter. But of course they have their downside, too. Salty water is okay. Beer may be better as Carol mentioned. Fastest is stepping on them (kinda gross) or feeding them to a pet duck.Cool idea from Justin to put them in the compost, although I’d be concerned that the compost would become a perfect breeding ground for them.

  4. John Voice on May 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Tried to grow some vegetables this past winter in my sun-room. There were so many tiny gnats(?) that fed on the soil and plants that made the experience discouraging. I used insecticidal soap several times but it did not control them at all.

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      It can be tricky keeping indoor plants healthy because it’s such an unnatural environment and the root system is constricted. Be sure to allow the soil to dry out a bit between waterings, and consider spraying weekly with effective microorganisms and biostimulants like molasses, sea minerals and kelp. For short term control, you might buy some beneficial nematodes to apply to the soil to kill the larvae.

      • phyllis on May 6, 2013 at 7:02 pm

        I hang sticky fly paper among my houseplants, and I catch an amazing number of fungus knats. It’s not too pretty, but it is effective!

        • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 8:07 pm

          Cool! Yes, that can be useful indoors, as long as you don’t end up attracting even more!

  5. Ramani on May 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    A very useful and inspiring post, Phil.Aphids are attacking my yellow crossandra but seem to be leaving other plants in the vicinity, like the Bauhiniya Cockiana alone. I tried the garlic bulb method but the garlic didn’t thrive in that spot even though the crossandra seems comfortable there. Since then I have been washing off the aphids with my hose every three days or so. So the apids are challenged, but not enough to allow my plant to produce a lot of blooms.On the other side of the garden, my pentas are drooping, turning yellow and dying off. I think there it is a problem of fungus. I have been putting in compost and spreading leaf mulch assiduously. Any other ideas, Phil? Would be very grateful.Thanks in advance,

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      With aphids, I often find it helpful to spray weekly with effective microorganisms and biostimulants like sea minerals and kelp, and also molasses. As with most insect pests, calcium and phosphorus deficiency are often implicated, and for aphids, often iron and copper, too.You’re on the right track for your pentas. If you spot any disease, you might try 1/2 to 1.5 cups of milk per gallon of water, sprayed on the leaves. Or if you don’t use milk like me, 1-5 Tbsp of baking soda per gallon of water might help.

      • Bear on March 11, 2014 at 4:57 am

        Hey, Phil,Could we spray the BioAg with seaweed liquid and molasses inside our greenhouse or will the mixture stain redwood or cause a sticky mess? Thanks.

        • Phil on March 11, 2014 at 1:19 pm

          Hmmm, I think you’ll be fine because the dilution rate is so high, but worth testing on a small area first.

  6. Justin Gay on May 4, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Hey Phil what you got for pincher bugs or earwigs? I’ve been putting out olive oil traps and killing manually but I’ve hot a lot of them this year. Great vid man

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Are they eating your plants? If not, I’d let them be, as they are good predators of aphids and other pests. Otherwise, planting a bunch of different herbs may attract some predators to help control them. And your oil trick is the short term solution I know about, too.

  7. Donette Cabrera Merkt on May 5, 2013 at 1:42 am

    The past three years, in three different houses/cities, I grow these beautiful squash plants (pattypan, yellow, zuccini) and each year the healthy looking plants produce one huge fruit, then get devoured by little green caterpillars with white stipe down back. I pinch off all the worms I can find and sprayed with BT, Dipel, but still haven’t had a successful crop. I have tons of birds, but since these caterpillars stay on underside of these large dark green leaves, birds apparently don’t see them. Help !!!

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      I had cucumber beetles on my squash last year. Still got an okay harvest, but obviously the plant health wasn’t there, and that’s the important part. For the short term, you might try mulching with aluminum foil. Even just try it on a few plants and it could do the trick for you.

  8. Beat The End on May 5, 2013 at 1:59 am

    This was very interesting. This is the first year my wife and I are starting a garden. If we have these problems I will definitely know where to come and find info on how to fight them. Thanks!

  9. Carol in Hawaii on May 5, 2013 at 6:57 am

    I have a problem with slugs (we don’t have snakes here) and whitefly. I have heard of the beer method for drowning slugs — leave a bowl of beer out and they will come, drink, fall in and drown. Probably more humane than salt water, since they’re already drunk, but entirely disgusting…very slimy. I wouldn’t mind them too much, but the slugs we have here can be carriers of a horrible devastating disease called rat lung disease which attacks human respiratory systems. You can get this disease if you ingest infected residue left on your plants. It’s hard to really scrub leafy greens… must banish the slugs. The whitefly is pernicious and beyond me.

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Whenever I’ve gardened in a shady, moist area, the slugs showed up. As long as I keep my garden in the sun and don’t overwater, they haven’t caused a problem. But a couple of more ‘health-promoting’ practices to try are using EM regularly in the garden, using yucca extract (a product you can by), and mulching your garden with seaweed if you have some on a nearby beach. Actually, all of those things could help with the whitefly, too.

  10. Bill in NC on May 5, 2013 at 10:40 am

    My wife & I are big fans of companion planting and crop rotation. Since we started this practice several years ago, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in pests. Also, we’ve stopped using chemical fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides. Our garden gets healthier every year.

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Beauty!

  11. char on May 6, 2013 at 2:07 am

    thousands of those new huge stink bugs- I kill (by hand) all I see but how to do it easier?

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      They are tricky and I know they sometimes go after a lot of different plants. I don’t know of any specific controls for them other than to attract some predators to come and take care of them, by planting herbs and flowers and a generally diverse garden.

  12. Janet R on May 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    My land has laid fallow pretty much for many years. I do have a big problem with fire ants. I have tried the organic solutions I found on the internet like citrus oil spray, grits, etc. without good results. Do you have any suggestions since I would like to put perennial gardens in. My soil is red clay {SC} and there is a possibility of hardpan. I will build up organic matter by growing buckwheat this spring and then other cover crops. Thanks. I enjoy your lessons.

    • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      I don’t have much experience with them. Spinosad is a product that is relatively non-toxic, although it unfortunately affects other beneficial insects, too. If you plan on improving the soil, irrigating and mulching those gardens, perhaps the more biodiverse, moist environment will dissipate the ants.

      • Bear on March 11, 2014 at 4:49 am

        We had fire ants in a new compost pile of all places. Awful little creatures. They won’t hurt the compost but they definitely will hurt people and pets. I found a home-made recipe on line that has worked well for us. Get a small plastic container with a snap-on lid (such as oleo comes in). Punch a few holes around the top of the bucket (with a Philips-head screwdriver to make the right size hole). Inside the container, mix 1 part Borax (20 Mule Team works for us) with 3 parts granulated sugar. Add enough water to make it soupy. Add 1 part peanut butter and stir it all up. Put the lid on the container and place it where you have seen the ants active. Check back in a few days and you should see results. It took three applications (clean out the gunk and dead ants in the old container, wash it and reuse it), but we have no more fire ants in our compost pile.

        • Phil on March 11, 2014 at 1:16 pm

          Beauty! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sherrie on May 7, 2013 at 12:45 am

    I have ugly lady bug looking bugs on my asparagus ,maybe they are asparagus beetles??? Any advice on getting rid of them? Thank you SherrieI

    • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Sounds like asparagus beetles. You could try some insecticidal soap for them as a short term measure.

  14. mel on May 7, 2013 at 2:05 am

    I HAVE BEEN TOLD A FEW DROPS OF DISH SOAP IN A SPRAY BOTTLE OF WATER WILL GET RID OF GARDEN PESTS, AND ADD PHOSPORUS TO PLANT. IS THIS TRUE ?

    • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Yes, dish soap will control many soft-bodied insects by basically “washing” away their waxy layer so their insides leak out. Fun! Soaps made for horticulture are often actually less toxic to plants. Unfortunately, either way, soap harms many beneficial insects and microbes, too, but it can be an okay short term remedy.I guess if you use soap with phosphates (these seem to be available less and less, at least in the health food stores or sections of stores where I usually shop), perhaps it does add some phosphorus, but I wouldn’t use it for that reason.

  15. Michael on May 7, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Phi,Your information has been awesome! You’ve helped me tremendously in my garden. I wanted to ask you though, what is the benefit of attracting snakes?

    • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Snakes eat slugs and snails and other insects – just another organism to keep the system balanced.

  16. WillForestHill on May 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Squash Bugs destroy my squash plants every year and its gets worse each year. I have not found an organic insecticide or organic system that will stop them. I did do a soil test last winter and have applied the recommended minerals per International Ag Labs. I have been using a plasitic gound cover – this year I will use leaves, grass and corn stalks as mulch. do you hve any other recommendations specifically for Squash Bugs?

    • Phil on May 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Diatomaceous earth is something I use very sparingly, but it could be called for in this case. And this is also one of the times when I might clear away the mulch and lay down some aluminum foil instead. It gives them less places to hide and makes it a confusing, uncomfortable place to hang out. Worth a try.

  17. Linda on May 9, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I have problems with flies all over my artichoke plants, also I get infested with squash bugs! I’ve tried neem oil on the squash plants but totally unsure what to do about the flies!

    • Phil on May 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Do you know what kind of flies? There’s a good chance they’re not causing any problems at all.

  18. Kelli G. on May 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Do you have any ideas for companion plants that may scare away cabbage moths?

    • Phil on May 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Interplant lots of different herbs and that should help, especially different kinds of mints (perhaps in pots so they don’t take off in your garden).

  19. Susan on May 15, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Hi Phil, I have a huge problem growing kale. Seems every insect loves it too, as well as the groundhogs I have been hosting for a couple of years. In spring, little holes in the leaves. Later in the season green caterpillars(?) on the undersides of the leaves. Also little black drops, not sure if that is caterpillar poop or some other eggs or something. I’m wondering if I can protect individual plants w some mesh or something. Do you think the holes in the leaves are caused by slugs? Thanks for making yourself available to do this.

    • Phil on May 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      It could be slugs or it could be caterpillars in the spring. You could buy a floating row cover (even online) and put that over the kale to keep out some predators, but caterpillars overwinter right on the leaves, so then you’d actually be trapping them in there! More important is it improve the health of your soil. Perhaps try seeding kale in a different location and see how it does there.

  20. pest management austin on June 24, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Having some pesticides that keeps attacking in our garden is some kind of worst thing that brings huge problems to us specially to our farms. But if used to learn on how to make use of the organic pest control materials then this problem is just easy to solve I guess.

  21. Nicole on July 4, 2013 at 4:49 am

    I’m having problem with ants and aphids. At the beginning of the growing season i have lady beetles with had reduced the aphid population. after the aphids were gone the lady beetles left. i used no pesticides, Then the ants started to farm aphids and both have gotten way out of control. I’m in Florida and we have been having a very wet season so i hadn’t needed to go out to water with meant that i hadn’t gone out to the backyard. when i finally had a dry enough morning i had ants take over most of my potted plants and consequently a terrible amount of aphids. I’m not sure how to get rid of the ant which i believe are the biggest problem. Also i’m not sure what made my plants unhealthy so that this could have happened. Any advice would be extremely helpful. I have seen ants all over my yard before but nothing quite like this. Gardening has been going on for at least five years in this yard but it wasnt till this year that i became involved and decided that i wanted to go for a more organic approach.

    • Phil on July 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      It’s definitely a complicated issue. Short term measures are to try insecticidal soap or horticultural oil or neem oil. Long term is to plant a lot of herbs and other plants to attract beneficials to eat the aphids. I’d also be spraying a combo of EM/molasses/sea minerals every week or month to improve plant health. Those are some starter tips.

  22. Rheinbach on August 5, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I have ants in my soil, we call them sweet ants, they are really, really tiny and they build theirh small. Hills and tunnels right in my agastashe foeticulum roots and kill them, they also settle around my friut tree bases and cultivate aphids. I have tried tobacco jiuce pure, but it does not affect them. Teir underground tunnels kill everything and the cultivated aphids get the leaves.Any suggestions?Renate

    • Phil on August 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      As you know Renate, I always encourage a holistic approach to deterring them rather than spraying something. A healthier soil and healthier plants and a more active, diverse soil food web will keep these ants in check. The means compost, inoculants, fertilizers, companion planting, proper watering, and all of the other things I teach. The reason I rarely have to deal with these kinds of problems in my garden is because I focus on this holistic approach.

  23. Karen on August 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Every year I have a lot of squash bugs that try to kill my zucchini. Any help would be appreciated. I have almost decided to never grow it again and I love zucchini. Thank you.

    • Phil on August 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      They’re pretty common. Once the soil is in tip top shape, they won’t cause problems anymore. My zucchini were chomped on quite a bit last year, but they’ve been great this year.

  24. Susan on August 10, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Would you please suggest what I can do about cabbage moths. They end up ruining my kale and brassicas every year from their worms. I bought summerweight fabric this year and layed it over my plants, but the plants don’t seem to thrive under the fabric and are being eaten by other predators under the fabric. I don’t really want to spray even with organic insecticides.

    • Phil on August 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      Soil health obviously needs improving if the moths are that bad. Maybe the brassicas can be moved to a new bed to see if that helps? And just do everything you can to make them healthy.

  25. LGC on August 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    How do you rid your garden of gophers?

    • Phil on August 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Get a dog?

  26. FVPD on August 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I am new at this, how do I learn about recognizing the weeds do you have pictures videos on them?

    • Phil on August 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      You can find lots of photos of weeds online.

  27. pest management austin on August 18, 2013 at 8:22 am

    There are many important organic pest control that is really helpful and useful for the people to use. This would give them a good result that would kill pests and other unwanted happenings on their plants.

  28. TSC on August 28, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Hi, I am staying in a place where we have a hot and humid throughout the year. I am success in the first crop by following suggestions from your website. But for this second time, I found a lot of pests include the most problematic is the grasshopper. They ate almost everything, and my bean crop was left without leaves. Any suggestion in controlling grasshopper in an organic way? Thanks.

    • Phil on August 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      It all comes back to improving your soil and plant health with soil testing and fertility balancing, increasing biological diversity, etc. – all things I discuss on this website in various articles.

  29. Jan brown on August 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    I recently bought and erected a greenhouse. My peppers are COVERED in some sort of tiny eggs that I assume are catapillar eggs as I am finding a lot of them munching on ALL my plants, even the onions and scallions. IAlso tons of aphids. I am beginning to think the greenhouse was a bad idea. HELP. What should I do?

    • Phil on August 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      No worries, it doesn’t mean the greenhouse was a bad idea – it just means the environment isn’t very healthy right now. You need to improve soil health and plant health and also invite beneficial insects into the greenhouse. All of these will eventually get rid of the pests.

  30. local austin pest control on September 1, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Using some organic materials in controlling a pests is really a very good idea and a very common yet easy. Many people always wanted to have a healthy garden that would able them to see healthy plants which surely satisfies them to the fullest.

  31. japanese garden plants list on December 9, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Really very nice post thanks for share…………..

  32. japanese garden plants list on December 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Quite informative post thanks………..

  33. Bear on March 11, 2014 at 4:29 am

    Would you put a weed-block material beneath a raised planting bed or just leave it open to the ground below? I’ve got a grassy area (St. Augustine) where I want to put a couple of 4×10 raised beds. Just wondering what to do about the grass if I don’t use weed-block. Thanks.

    • Phil on March 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      I would use newspaper or cardboard over the grass. It will help kill the grass, but then eventually break down to allow plant roots to grow down through it.

  34. audrey on May 15, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I have little black worm looking things that live in and on the ground eating the seed potatoes i planted and the ripening strawberries. I am using your em and sea fertilizers and i think the plants are healthy, but there are alot of these things in the soil.

    • Phil on May 15, 2014 at 11:17 am

      Unfortunately, if they’re getting attacked, that means they’re not optimally healthy right now. Nature doesn’t lie about that. I’ve seen black worms in strawberries before, never in potatoes. The EM and sea minerals might help after a few applications.You might also try this. Crush 1 medium clove of garlic and marinate it in 1 tsp of vegetable oil for at least 24 hours. Then add 1/2 tsp of dish soap and mix well in at least 1 quart of water. Optionally add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (makes it more effective, but also harder on beneficial organisms). Then spray on the plants and soil in the morning.

  35. Gini Payne on June 10, 2014 at 5:05 am

    what do you suggest for Colorado potato bug.

  36. alena mauer on June 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    This has great information in it. I think it would a lot harder to keep pests away with an organic garden, but not impossible. These guidelines seem easy enough to follow. I will have to give it a try.Alena

  37. Gary Puntman on July 16, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    I want to plant a garden in my backyard. I want it to be organic and make sure my vegetables aren’t tainted with pesticides. I have been wondering how to get rid of the bugs though. Thanks for posting this.Gary Puntman

  38. williamwalker91 on July 25, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    What is the worst pest to you? I have been developing a hate for termites. I am still not sure if I hate bedbugs more. I feel like they are worse because they actually hurt you.

  39. Danielle Stoor on January 11, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Hello! I am so glad to have found your site :). I am learning and hopefully doing well. But I have two issues one is rust, not metal rust plant rust fungus, and little tubes that formed in clusters that have a silver middle when they open. So weird! I think it is fungus also. We had a super wet summer last year also. So do you know what the tubes are and how to rid myself of them and the rust without chemicals or burning my yard :). Thank you for the help.

  40. Bruce Turner on October 21, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    I have been using your starter amount of natural and beneficial garden additives for 2 years and have had great results. The only problem I had this year is my carrot crop was decimated with worms. This years planting was the same place as last years great crop so, I will move next years sowing. Is there an organic way, other than a yearly crop rotation to control these worms?

    • Phil on October 25, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      My only other advise would be companion planting – intercrop your carrots with something else that improves the soil and attracts beneficial insects, like red clover and perhaps a non-carrot-family herb like chives.

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