The Number 1 Problem With Organic Pest Control

I know people come searching here for organic pest control methods, and I occasionally mention a few specific techniques, but mostly I talk about a far more important concept that pretty much gets rid of pests altogether.

Organic Pest Control Transcript

Today I’m talking about organic pest control.

Let’s say we have a garden here, a beautiful organic garden. And what I want to talk about is, the natural pest control industry for gardens is doing pretty well. People are switching from the old toxic products to more natural products.

And that’s a good thing, we don’t want to be using these toxic products anymore. But there are a few issues still with this and I just want to talk about one today.

So let’s say we have an insect coming in to eat our beautiful vegetable garden, and in the past we might have had something like DDT in agriculture or things like malathion. There are hundreds of insecticides that we would spray onto our plants and then when the insect came and ate that or consumed that, they would die.

So now we’re switching from DDT to something more like maybe Rotenone, which is still not a benign substance, but it’s more natural. It’s allowed under some organic standards, and so we’re switching to that.

So that’s okay, but the main problem I see with this is that we’re still focusing on killing this pest instead of the root cause of the problem (and we do this in many things, not just organic gardening).

But the root cause of the problem, why this insect is coming to eat our plants, is because our plants are unhealthy for some reason. It can be any number of reasons and that’s what my whole website is about. It’s about making healthy soil and healthy plants.

But killing this insect doesn’t make the plants healthy, and so there’s always gonna be more insects that come in. So all I want to say today is that we really need to focus on health management, what we call garden health management instead of garden pest management.

These organic pest control products, maybe they’re a step in the right direction, but they’re really missing the point altogether which is we need to create health in our organic gardens. And that’s all I wanted to say today. I just wanted to make that one point.

If you sign up for my 15 vital lessons for becoming an organic gardener, which many of you have already, but you can do that right on the home page of my website. That’s where I talk about this in the very first lesson.

I talk about this in more detail so that you can actually understand what I’m talking about, but I wanted to keep it quick today.

And that’s all I wanted to say about organic pest control for now. Does this make sense to you?

13 Comments

  1. Peterle on February 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    It makes complete sense!

  2. Jim on February 13, 2012 at 12:41 am

    I like the way you think

  3. abang mat on February 13, 2012 at 1:48 am

    its proven as what happened in my small chili plot, I used compost tea as folliar spray to give some nutrients as well as disease suppression…..all plants are very healthy and blooming, no more aphids or thrips or other sucking insect around. Comparing to the other plots which was not well managed, lots of insect and white flies having their feast on the plants…..I believed healthy plants drive away pests and unhealthy plants give signal to attract insect

  4. Jeff Bruce on February 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    2/13/12Hi Phil,Great pest control article! Thank you. I recently got my garden soil test results back and I have high phosphates and low boron according to the report. How would you suggest that I lower the phosphates and add boron? My neighbor told me that the wash detergent “Borex” has boron in it and that I should just buy a box and lightly spread some on the garden but I am dubious. Help!Jeff B.

    • Phil on February 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Jeff. Where did you get your soil test done? I’ve never seen too high phosphorus. I wouldn’t do anything other than don’t add fresh manure to the garden or fertilizers with phosphate in them. Yes, you can add borax, but be careful – no more than 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet.

  5. Jay Warren on November 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I am not trying to knock your theory but I don’t think insects are able to detect whether your garden is healthy or not. Insects are simply looking for a food source and a healthy garden would make an even tastier meal than an unhealthy garden. Pest control is one aspect of having a healthy garden and an unhealthy garden is not the source of an insect problem.

    • Phil on November 27, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks for your input Jay. I wish I could take credit for this theory, but it’s not a theory at all. It’s science. Insects go for plants that we would consider nutritionally-imbalanced. Admittedly this video/article doesn’t explain it very well, but I discuss this in more detail here: https://www.smilinggardener.com/lessons/non-toxic-pest-control/

  6. jane on August 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Just like humans, most doctors treat the symptom not the cause.

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

      Definitely.

  7. Jack Martin on February 9, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Phil.. I have several questions for you.. but first off thanks for the video’s… I understand the time it takes to do both videos and answer questions. 1st Question: How to deal with grub (Japanese Beatles) in my yard. My neighborhood is in rural area and made up of 2.5 acre lots. Everyone’s yard has these nasty little bugs so keeping them from my yard/garden has been impossible. My garden is in back about 50′ x 50′.. when I dig around my yard/garden typically I can find way more of the grubs than worms. I am sure that I will never be able to rid myself completely of these things what options would you suggest since I don’t want a poison in my yard?2nd Question: I have access to as much free horse manure as I want.. I have been told not to use this in my vegetable garden for multiple (horse doesn’t kill seeds in stomach, worm med given to horses) reasons. What do you believe about using horse manure on a vegetable garden?Thanks again!

    • Phil on February 10, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      1. Beneficial nematodes can help control the next round of grubs in late summer. Both neem oil ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/pure-neem-oil-for-plants/ ) and kaolin clay can help with the beetles this spring. If you know someone who will lend you chickens, they will feed on the grubs, and a longer term solution is to attract a lot of birds to your garden, although of course they can cause problems for you too.

      2. I like horse manure. You just want to compost it first. A well-made, hot compost pile will kill most of the seeds. As for the deworming meds, that’s definitely not ideal, but it’s a compromise that I believe is worth taking. But you don’t need to take all you can get. 1/8″ of compost applied to the soil every year is enough.

      • Jack Martin on February 10, 2015 at 2:36 pm

        Phil.. thanks for the quick response.Where would you recommend getting beneficial nematodes.. I have read about these and like the idea. I used neem oil last year and it worked pretty good… except for Fire Ants.. wow talk about a huge issue. They kept planting bugs on my okra no matter what I did. Far as chickens go.. I have been working on a chicken coop so my wife can get some.. about 10 to 12 depending. We have a huge family so the eggs will be eaten. We have a ton of birds, blue birds.. and they help.. not been much a problem for the garden now squirrels that’s another story. But if fixed them last year with bird netting over my tomatoes.I talked with my dad who has the horses.. he said he hasn’t had to worm them in some time so I figure I will work around that. But we are going to start making a compost pile for next season. I figure between the leafs and horse manure I collect I will have enough fertilizer to last me a long time.Thanks again..Jack

        • Phil on February 12, 2015 at 1:46 pm

          I don’t have a specific supplier to recommend in the U.S., but you can buy them online or maybe from your local garden centre when spraying time comes.

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