Organic gardening designed to sustain, nourish ecosystem

Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 12:37 PM.

Natural pest control

Organic gardeners have realistic expectations when it comes to insects and diseases. They don’t try to eliminate all pests from their yard or garden. Instead they seek to keep pests below damaging levels. One of the main methods for keeping pest populations below damaging levels is to encourage thriving populations of beneficial insects and pest predators, including spiders, bats, birds, lizards, and toads. The two most important things you can do in your yard to support these helpful species is to plant a wide variety of plants and flowers and avoid using synthetic pesticides, which more toxic to pollinators and beneficial insects than to pests.

Practicing good sanitation is another method of organic pest control. Removing disease infected leaves or plants, rotating crops so you are not growing the same type in the same spot year after year, and handpicking insect pests and eggs help to suppress pest populations.

In addition to cultural control methods, organic gardeners also use sprays to manage plant pests. Several natural pesticides that control insects and diseases are available from local garden centers. Natural products for pest control include neem oil, insecticidal soaps and oils, and minerals like copper and sulfur. Which product to use will depend on your problem so be sure to have any plant problem properly diagnosed before treating.

There are some diseases and insects that just cannot be controlled organically, making some plants much more challenging to grow organically. While most herbs and landscape plants can easily be cared for organically, some fruits and vegetables cannot. Tomatoes, squash and peaches are the most difficult crops to grow without synthetic pesticides in our region, while figs, blueberries, watermelons, peppers, and eggplant are among the easiest.

Learn more!

To learn more about soil testing, pest identification and natural fertilizers and pesticides, visit where you can submit questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Cooperative Extension center: In Pender County, call 910-259-1238; in New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660; in Brunswick County call 910-253-2610.

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