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Simple Non-Chemical Methods for Pest and Weed Control in the Home Garden and Understanding What We are Buying

Updated on May 26, 2014

Using Tilling to Control Weeds & Pests

Tilling can reduce weed growth.  In small beds, hand pulling weeds can help prevent pest damage.
Tilling can reduce weed growth. In small beds, hand pulling weeds can help prevent pest damage. | Source

What if the grocery or farmer's market sign says "certified organic" or "pesticide free"?

Most individuals purchase vegetables from a local grocery or the local farmer's market. It is important to know what certain terms mean if one is seeking to eat foods that are free of chemical pesticides. Certified organic and pesticide free vegetable gardening is becoming more common among small farmers in the United States. Certified organic farms must go through an inspection and application process through the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) whereas a pesticide free production requires no certification or application process. Pesticide free farming generally includes use of naturally occurring pesticides or control methods such as companion planting, hand pulling weeds, use of beneficial insects and products such as diatomaceous earth. Understanding the differences between pesticide-free versus certified organic may influence consumer buying choices.

Using alternative methods to control pests and weeds

Growing pesticide free foods can be a difficult task but not impossible. Special concoctions that do not penetrate the plant may be used to discourage pests. Pest controls can include companion planting such as planting marigolds to deter thrips, squash bugs and several others. More information on these insects that invade gardens may be accessed by clicking on the links.

Companion planting can take many forms depending on what you plant and can prevent various pests and even some disease problems. An additional natural method to deter garden pests is the use of homemade pesticides. One such mixture includes a water and red pepper, a water, garlic or a water, dish soap and red pepper mixture. Keep in mind that using too much red pepper can burn plants so try to use the following: 1 tablespoon of dish liquid and ground red pepper in one gallon of water. The same amount should be used when using only water and red pepper or water and garlic. Any of the mixtures can assist in pest controls. If you are unable to identify the particular pest, I recommend using the garlic, red pepper and water with dish soap as a possible addition. The addition of garlic can repel a wider variety of garden pests.

To control weeds and some plant diseases, mulching with newspaper that uses soy based ink (most newspapers use this) or cardboard can be a great help. This method can deter some of the pests and diseases that are soil born such as some fungi. As a point of interest if newspaper and/or cardboard is used to assist in pest (or disease control), either can be tilled into the soil and left until the next season.

Growing Certified Organic

Books on Amazon

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener
Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener

This is a wealth of information from beneficial insects to safe use of pesticides.

 

Organic Certification & Pesticides

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the organic certification process and for ensuring that farmers who are certified follow all rules and guidelines associated with certified status including the types of pesticides that are allowed to be used by organically certified farmers. A common misunderstanding by the general public is the belief that certified organic means pesticide free. Although limitations on synthetic pesticide use are placed, this type of organic is not equal to pesticide free. Organically certified farmers can use a wide variety of pesticides having synthetic (not natural) properties. Refer to the USDA website for further information of certified-organic produce and what pesticides are allowed.

Useful tool to identify pests for better control in the garden

I highly recommend using insect reference books to identify pests in your garden should you become devoted to home gardening. Not only can identification help you know what's there but also can help you identify how to deal with them. For example, if you find a bunching of eggs on the underside of a leaf, you may be able to simply remove the leaf rather than use a pesticide on all of the plants. If you find a caterpillar on a plant that has holes, a simple removal of the caterpillar and keeping an eye on things might suffice. An additional reference that I use as an identification tool is a field guide for insects and spiders. I have used it many times to identify pests even when I am unable to find an actual specimen. The reference guide tells where various insects tend to be found, their behavior, what they feed on and much more. I have listed my favorite field guide in this article.

Insect Identification

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders: North America (National Audubon Society Field Guides (Paperback))
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders: North America (National Audubon Society Field Guides (Paperback))

This book is a great reference for identifying all types of insects and spiders that may be found inside and outside the home.

 

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