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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

There are Safe Organic Means to Control Garden Pests

As the spring gardens wind down many gardeners now face the problems unique to the summer garden crops, INSECTS and INFECTIONS! Not that spring gardens aren't susceptible to these tiny predators and infections. They are, but not to the extent that the warmer garden crops often face.

This year all the rain has been welcome for keeping my plants watered, without as much work on my part, and for keeping temperatures more moderate this summer. What I didn't foresee was the fungal infections it would cause in my tomato plants. Early blight caused me to have to trim back a lot of my foliage on my plants to help keep them alive, so I wouldn't lose all of my nice little green tomatoes. But now the tomatoes are very exposed to insects. Before they are even fully red, I have to pick them so they don't rot on the vine because the insects have already eaten half of them. I came home this week to find at least a half dozen of my tomatoes, that should have been nice red globes ready for picking, were instead eaten over and ready for composting. It was a sad a frustrating thing.

In discussing means of controlling these problems with other gardeners at my local farmers market I noticed one key reaction from most when I mentioned the word SPRAY.

The fellow gardeners would draw back in alarm and cut in frantically with, "We don't use sprays. We are all organic."

Now this dramatic response is understandable, especially if you are selling produce to the public under an organic label. The requirements to get an organic growers label for you produce is rigorous and time consuming. An overhead conversation about said growers using sprays or pesticides that aren't organic would be a problem.

However, there are many organic powders and sprays available that you can use in your garden to combat both insects and fungal infections.

Neme oil is an organic spray alternative that can be used to help combat fungal and some insect and mite infestations. There are also insecticidal soaps that are safe to use against insects. Many you can make at home yourself using dishwashing soap and water in combination with herbs and spices to help repel bugs. These homemade remedies are a fun way to experiment in the garden, to see what works best, and are inexpensive to make using common household products. Bionide is a natural pesticide that we have used in our demonstration garden to combat predatory insects, and it was safe to use in close proximity to our honey bee hive. As the name implies it is a biological spray made from sulfur and pyrethrins that targets specific pests and infections. Some bionide sprays also contain neme oil. Other forms of this product are available in powder form.

To combat powdery mildew on summer squash plants you can sprinkle baking soda on the leaves. The infected leaves will die back allowing for healthy leaves to grow in and replace them. Another powder that is organic in nature to help eliminate insect pests is diatomaceous earth. It is a powder made from diatom fossils which are created from hard shelled algae. To help combat plant infections, you can sprinkle a copper sulfate powder around their base. There are also spray dilutions that can be used on plants and trees. Epsom salts are also good for preventing infections in plants while also fertilizing them. It can be sprinkled in the hole during planting and around the base of the plant once signs of infection have been spotted.

I am sure there are a plethora of other products that can be safely used in organic gardens to help control pests and infections in plants. Of course, all this rain makes using sprays and some powders problematic. But next time you hear the word SPRAY keep these in mind and don't lump all sprays and powders together. There are safe organic alternatives that aren't synthetic broad spectrum pesticides. While I agree that overuse of pesticides is a problem for beneficial insects and the environment, not all sprays or powders are evil or harmful for beneficial bugs or the environment. By researching safe, natural, sources for pest and disease control you can prevent the loss of those wonderful veggies you worked so hard to grow.

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