Gardens come with the good, the bad and the ugly. One of the less attractive qualities of gardening is dealing with pests and diseases. Even if your garden consists of pots and window boxes - you too can fall victim to pests and diseases.
Lets me begin by saying that chemicals and pesticides aren't good for anyone, including your plants. Our ground water supply suffers, the " good bugs " suffer, and generally you mess with nature's inherent plan. There are many ways to deal with problems in the garden naturally.
Master gardeners spend a lot of time learning about integrated pest management or IPM. IPM is an approach that emphasizes prevention of pest problems and the use of least - toxic controls in the garden. It is a decision making process that uses a combination of techniques to suppress pests a) identification, b) monitoring, c) action decisions, d) treatments, and e) evaluation.
Before running out to the store and plunking down you hard earned cash for pesticides and chemicals, it is essential to identify your problem correctly. In a home garden, damage to plants is just as likely to be caused by environmental conditions like drought, nutrient deficiency, sunscald, frost, salt or wind burn, dog urine, or mechanical damage, than it is from pests.
If it is a pest population that is causing a problem - the key to planning a control program that works is knowing the life cycle of the perpetrator you are dealing with, and the conditions that favour its development.
Monitoring is simple and good for the soul. Take a minute out of your day to do some regular inspections of your problem - and decide if the problem is getting better or worse. You often notice plant damage existing, after the pests that caused it are gone.
A home garden generally uses two treatments - preventive measures and control measures. Prevention is as simple as planting pest resistant plants, using barriers to keep pests out, cleaning up to remove food for pests, cultural practices that ensure healthy plants, and making changes to the environment so it is less hospitable for pests to live in.
Using living organisms that are natural enemies of pests to control their population is known as a biological control and it is very effective. We often speak of good bugs (ladybugs, mites, nematodes, parasitic wasps, and some insects). These are easy to attract to the home garden by growing native plants that provide them with pollen and nectar. The female beneficial insects are attracted by the nectar or pollen of these plants and will likely stick around and lay eggs if they find the right environment. When the eggs hatch, the larvae that emerge prey on the pests.
Plants with small flowers like dill, parsley, catnip, lemon balm, thyme and other herbs provide food for parasitic wasps. Daisies, coneflowers, and yarrow are good pollen sources for ladybugs and other predators. Alyssum, candytuft, marigolds, and salvias are also good insect plants and - gasp - even some weeds like dandelions, goldenrod, lamb's quarters and wild mustard.
Think twice before you start your chemical warfare in the garden.