Organic Pest Control in the Garden


by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener



I have come into contact with gardeners who are seeking information on organic pest control for their gardens.  Their reasons range from wanting healthier options for their own consumption to environmental concerns.

Slug damage to a Hosta can be controlled by sprinkling diamotaceous earth around the base of the plant or burying a container level with the soil and filling it with beer will attract slugs and drown them.

There are chemical free control methods that can be used to keep chemical use as a last resort. Perfect vegetables are not realistic.  You may have to tolerate a bit of insect damage on your produce come harvest time.

Learning about a pests life cycle and when it is most susceptible to whatever control method you choose to use is of much help.  For example, a squash bug can be controlled better with a chemical in its younger stages than it can in its adult stage.

Know the difference between good and bad bugs. Plants such as marigolds, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, cilantro and dill can attract beneficial insects that will help control pests.  Attracting insect eating toads and birds to the garden is also beneficial.

Crop rotation…it is one of the oldest and most effective control methods known to gardeners.  This involves planting a crop in an area where it or a relative crop has not been grown for one year.  Insects and disease organisms can become established in the soil when a crop is planted there year after year.

The use of floating row covers screens out the pest until bloom time for certain crops.  However, if crop rotation

Always read and understand the label directions of pesticides if you need to use them.

is not practiced, a row cover will trap emerging insects from the soil.

Choose insect resistant varieties.  Hand- pick larger pests.  Yes, it is labor intensive, but it works very well.

Keep your garden clean.  Eliminate weeds and clean up crop residues as soon as you are finished with a harvest.  Don’t leave anything lying around that can be a hiding place for pests.  Remove over-ripe produce.  This will prevent the appearance of scavenger-type insects such as picnic beetles and yellowjackets.

There are a number of naturally derived organic pesticides that can be used.  Some may need to be applied frequently.   Refer to the product label for that kind of information.  Organic insecticides include Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensus), pyrethrums, rotenone, insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth, neem and horticultural oils.

Purdue University has a publication online that caught my eye concerning insect management, Purdue University  .

I suggest you give this a read for more information.


As always, Happy Gardening!


More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at Purdue Horticulture & Landscape Architect. The Purdue Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.