Thursday, July 3, 2014

Organic pest control outline for Living Smarties Melville.

­­Organic pest control talk.

How to reduce pest problems without using chemical sprays?

Stop using chemical pesticides and herbicides
Choose appropriate plants
Plant early and/or late varieties
Grow lots of flowers
Crop rotation
Improving the soil
Garden hygiene
Avoid monoculture


Biodiversity increases predators and plant diversity allows some plants to survive when others get diseased or eaten. 
The four main ideas to consider to increase biodiversity in your garden are :


Why not to use chemicals in the garden and how to encourage biodiversity and use cultural practices instead to reduce pests naturally.
Beneficial insects and what they do and how to deal with pests in a non or low toxic manner.

WHAT'S A PEST? (My definition): An insect or other animal becomes a pest when it causes economical damage. This may be due to there not being enough diversity in the surrounding ecosystem to support the predators, which keep the pests in check.

Encouraging diversity in your garden is the best way to control pests.

How to reduce pest problems?


Generally the worst problems will occur in new or neglected gardens or those with a history of chemical abuse.  It can take 3 years for balance to occur as it takes  awhile for predator populations to increase.

Stop using any chemical pesticides and herbicides. They kill far more than the target species; even the 'safer' ones can be dodgy.
Chemicals can kill non-target species of beneficial insects as they are extremely sensitive to any chemical use at all.
Resistance: Insects can become resistant to certain pesticides, making the surviving ones harder to kill may be hereditary resistance to common toxic sprays.
exposed eggs of an insect can show signs of resistance as an adult.
Soil organisms are sometimes affected by biocides.

Choose appropriate plants for your climate, time of year and soil type.  Certain varieties will be more locally adapted than others, if they've been grown there before.  Look around at other gardens to see what does well and isn't being bothered by pests. 
There may be disease resistant strains of the plant you like.

Plant early and/or late varieties: works to avoid pests such as Med fruit fly. You might just miss the time when the pests want to bother that crop.

Grow lots of flowers: Asteraceae family (daisies) and the Apiaceae family (dill, fennel, carrots, Queen Anne's lace, yarrow, angelica, coriander, parsley). Salvias and gone to seed veg and herbs are great too

Crop rotation stops a host plant being in the same place when eggs hatch the next year from adults that fed on the last seasons crop.  There can be problems associated with nematodes or other soil diseases when crop rotation doesn't occur.

Improving the soil and feeding plants well will grow healthier, stronger and more pest resistant plants.  Overuse of nitrogen fertilizers makes sappy new growth. Kelp seems to increase leaf strength.

Garden hygiene: some weeds harbour pests. Chickens can dig over the soil.

Avoid monoculture...Plant similar things or groups of things around the garden not altogether or in rows that a pest can easily follow and decimate or if some get diseased they won't all pass it on to each other.

Which leads to BIODIVERSITY..

Biodiversity increases predators and Plant diversity allows some plants to survive when others get diseased or eaten. 
Balance is easier to attain in a diverse environment.           
wildlife needs food, water and shelter. Providing places for fauna to shelter is a great way to improve diversity in your garden.

Increasing biodiversity is key.
PLANT LOCAL SPECIES: more appropriate for the soil type and climate and will provide food for local birds and insects. Prickly shrubs and grasses are important for birds.
Planting local species can help as this feeds local insects and small fauna such as beneficial insects, skinks, spiders, parasitic wasps.
Structural diversity is important too for birds to be at diff heights. Different levels of vegetation so that small birds can hide. Posts and sticks in the air give birds a place to rest before they hop into a bush or birdbath.

FOOD: Provide food: long flowering shrubs and herbs
It is generally the young of beneficials that do the pest control. It is important to have flowers at all times of year so nectar is always available. 
Herbs, daisies family and parsley family are great, gone to seed veges and salvias, mint etc.
Attracting birds by planting shrubs they can use will control pests then poop, redistributing nutrients around the garden. Never feed birds seed,
Leave some pests as food for the birds in your garden.
Mulch gives invertebrates a place to shelter providing small lizards and frogs with something to eat.

WATER: Provide water: birdbaths - kept clean and full with sticks to escape on; lizard and bee bars  - shallow trays with water and pebbles so they can't drown. 
Ponds. Many birds and insects use ponds in  summer. Birdbaths are also frequented by bees, wasps and other flying things.

SHELTER: Prickly shrubs for birds, piles of wood and or rocks for lizards, spiders etc. Leave wild areas for small fauna, eg gabion walls are great. Ideally these areas should never be disturbed.

Observation is important in all stages of pest control, to make sure you won't kill more than just the pest.  Use a magnifying glass to aid identification and if you can't id it get some help. 

Most pests have a particular time of year when they will be at their worst. Spring is ideal for cabbage white and aphids. Some will overwinter in weeds waiting for conditions to be right. By spending time looking at your plants you can catch pests before they get too bad. This can help decide what needs doing, if anything..