Pest control is the vein of every organic gardener’s existence. At some point we all recognize that there is a small portion of our garden we must be willing to share with nature. Although I must admit, I am much more willing to share with the birds (please stop taking a bite out of each berry; have a whole one, on me) than I am to insects (gross).
As my poor eggplants can attest to, I have been neglecting pest control in my garden. The heavy spring rains we’ve had lately has been a big deterrent to treating the garden, but it looks like we’re in for a hot, dry week, so no more excuses! Seriously, WHAT IS EATING MY EGGPLANT?
One of the keys to appropriate pest control is treating early… oopps. A few bites out of a well established plant is not a big deal; I would concede to consider that “sharing,” but leaves that appear laced with holes, particularly on young plants need to be dealt with immediately.
The second is to retreat as needed.
But the most important, is to apply treatments judiciously. Like “conventional” chemical pesticides or insecticides, organic pest control is unscrupulous. Any time you apply a product, organic or not, it will affect good insects as well as bad.
Often, the solution to getting rid of a pest depends on what kind of insect is eating your _____ (fill in the blank). The problem is you and I don’t always know who the culprit is. Don’t worry. I still have a couple solutions for you.
Coffee is an excellent all around insect deterrent. It is also extremely cost effective – you can use the used ground from your morning brew, or you can swing by your local coffee shop and ask to take their used grounds. What is better than free?
Coffee grounds deter a wide variety of pests, including deer, cats, slugs and insects. The scent of caffeine can be detected by most insects, even at very low levels, causing them to steer clear of the treated area all together. Simply sprinkle used grounds around the base of the afflicted plant to keep pests from coming back. Avoid getting grounds on the leaves or near the flowers, as that may deter pollinators as well.
Coffee also acts as an excellent fertilizer for nitrogen loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn and berries! That’s a great two-for-one deal! Note that plants can get “burnt” from over fertilization, so do give the plant a health drink of water with this treatment and monitor the color or the leaves. If they start to yellow or brown you may be over doing it.
2. DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE)
This is a naturally occurring siliceous rock that is crushed into a powder and can be found inexpensively at just about any farm store. We get “food grade” DE that can be mixed (in very small amounts) into our chicken’s feed, acting as an organic de-wormer. DE can also be sprinkled safely onto pets’ coats to eliminate lice, ticks, or mites.
Additionally, DE can be used to eliminate ants (indoors or out), aphids and any other insect. It works really well, but it will also harm beneficial insects! So, again, use judiciously and try to spot treat so that you’re not spreading this broad spectrum organic insecticide all over your garden or property.
To treat the afflicted area, sprinkle the powder directly on the insects, on the leaves where they are snacking or on the ground around the plant where they may be walking. DE works by creating microscopic cuts in the insects’ exoskeletons that causes them to dehydrate and die.