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    Pip's Blog

    Natural Pest Control

    Posted on Monday, July 18, 2011

    Chemical pesticides are a serious danger to our health and the health of our environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides have been linked to cancer, nerve damage, birth defects and other medical problems. This article offers a few natural methods to keep your gardens very hungry caterpillars in check including some pictures of common garden pests to help you identify who’s eating you broccoli behind your back.

     SLUGS AND SNAILS


    Damage:

    They like to eat plants in the cabbage family (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, caulioflower), lettuce, potatoe, flowers and small fruit. They eat leaves at night, leaving a shiny slimy trail. They also like to feed on roots in winter time. Slugs have four noses. 

    Natural Control:

    • Putting small coarse materials like crushed egg shells, sand, coffee grounds or sawdust around your plants discourages slugs and snails as it irritates their skin.
    •  Chooks, ducks and wild birds like kookaburras and magpies love eating slugs and snails so providing habitat for them or occasional access to your garden is a good way to keep slug and snail populations down. Ø
    •   Manually picking them off in the night and feeding them to your chooks or wild magpies. Ø
    •   Beer (or other sweet liquid) traps amongst your plants. Use an old dip container or tin, ½ fill it with your sweet liquid of choice and bury it in the garden up to the lip. These will need to be emptied and refilled every few days. Feed your marinated slugs to chooks or magpies. 
    • An ‘espresso spray’ made from strong brewed coffee Ø


    EARWIGS

    Are dark brown, thin and long with a pair of "pincers" at rear. It runs more than flies and curves up abdomen and releases foul smell when disturbed. Looks like a beneficial Rove Beetle (which has no pincers). Earwigs are generally beneficial as they eat decaying matter and insect larvae of snails. 

    Damage:

    Occasional infestations may affect flowers such as dahlias, carnations, chrysanthemums and marigolds and edible plants such as lettuce, celery, potato, beetroot, silver beet, beans and strawberries. Young earwigs can also eat seedlings and chew holes in the leaves of vegetables. The adults eat stamens, petal bases and ripening fruit. They feed at night.

    Natural Control:

    •  Earwigs can be trapped by putting tubes of rolled up newspaper or upturned pots stuffed with newspaper in your garden where they will hide during the day. You can then relocate them into your compost pile or feed them to chooks.
    • Providing protection to young seedlings such as a plastic bottle or milk carton cut in half with the bottom cut out and placed over a seedling so pests can’t get in but the sun and rain can.       
    • Beer Trap –see slugs and snails Ø
    •   Vegetable oil with water or vinegar(1:2) in a trap the same as the beer trap. Ø
    •   Free ranging chooks or well trained magpies and kookaburras. Ø


    CABBAGE MOTH- CATERPILLARS

           
    Lays tiny yellow bullet shaped eggs on the underside of leaves, taking around 7 days to hatch. It hatches into a velvety green caterpillar with orange back stripe and broken yellow side stripe. It feeds for about 15 days before going into cocoon and emerging 10 days later as an adult White butterfly with 3 or 4 black spots on each wing.

    Velvety green caterpillar with orange back-stripe, broken yellow side-stripe; feeds for about 15 days, then pupates.

    Damage:

    Likes the Cabbage family (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, Asian greens), lettuce and nasturtiums. They eat large odd shaped holes in leaves and bores into cabbage heads. They also deposit their excrement on the leaves (green/brown pellets) so wash effected plants before eating.

    Natural Control:

    • They are quite easy to see so handpicking off plants is a good option.
    • Sprinkle moist plants with wood ash, flour and salt mixture, sour milk or garlic infusion. Ø
    • Use garlic spray to deter.

     

    SLATER

    Damage:

    They mainly feed on decaying organic matter and therefore help recycle nutrients back into the soil. Sometimes they can decide to have a go at our living veggies too. They feed at night and like to hide under mulch, rocks and logs.

     

    Natural Control:

    • Use hollowed out orange halves or seedling punnets filled with potato peelings to trap slaters and distract them from your seedlings.
    • Protect seedlings with plant collars (old pots or plastic bottles with the bottom chopped out) for the first couple of weeks.
    • Free ranging chooks in the garden after harvest is a good way to clean up excess numbers too. Ø

    APHIDS

    Aphids are little insects that suck sap. They are usually only a few millimetres long and appear when the weather warms. Their numbers can build up very quickly.

    Damage:

    Aphids eat developing shoots and flower buds, piercing the plant's surface and sucking out the plant's juices, which can result in deformed buds, flower loss and even defoliation of the plant.

    Natural Control:

    • Hosing them off the leaves of the plant Ø
    • Encourage ladybugs, hoverflies, lacewings and small birds which eat aphids in large numbers. Do this by planting tansy, yarrow, carrots, asters, Queen Anne’s lace, Cosmos, Fennel, lupins, candytuft, dill, tulips, lilies, geraniums and coriander.

    Some Common Sprays

    • Make a spray out of garlic and/or chili. This involves chopping up a few good cloves of garlic and/or a few hot chilies, simmering in a few cups of water until the aroma is strong, then let cool, dilute and spray on any plants affected by leaf eating pests.
    • Soapy water sprayed onto insect eaten plants will also help to deter them.
    • Equal parts milk and water sprayed on plants affected by powdery mildew 3 times a week.
    • To treat fungal diseases on plants mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a liter of water and spray on affected areas.

     

    Caution: any spray that kills or deters your pest will also kill or deter beneficial insects in your garden.

    Ø = This symbol identifies those control measures that kill the mini beast. It is recommended that you try the other measures before these ones as all mini beasts (even if they are eating some of ‘your’ plants) are performing an important role in the intricately balanced ecosystem of your garden.

     

    RESOURCES

    The Gardeners Network

    Ecological Agriculture Projects 

    Gardening Australia Fact Sheet     

    Suite 101: Natural Garden Pest Control 

    Earth Easy 

     

     

     

     


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