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Organic controls for common garden pests

Organic controls for common garden pests
Chemical pesticides have a tendency to move from the yard or garden into our homes and bodies. Organic pest control is a great alternative that protects the health and safety of your pets, family, neighborhood, and the earth while also controlling voracious insects. Understanding the lifecycle and habits of pests is key to preventing pest damage before it happens.

What's wrong with pesticides?

Exposure to pesticides has been linked to a long list of diseases and health problems. These include Parkinson's, infertility, cancer, birth defects, encephalitis, lymphoma, and more. Many lawn treatments contain "inert ingredients" that have never been tested for possible harm. Pesticides are poisons, and they can harm honeybees, butterflies, ladybugs (which eat lots of other pests), as well as fish, and lawn chemicals seep into the water table. Pesticides also cost a lot of money - money that would be better spent on organic treatments.

Organic pest control starts with restoring life to your soil. Plants thrive in an environment with lots of helpful bacteria, soil fungi, and earthworms. These organisms help plants build up natural defenses to predatory insects, and they also keep insects from swarming out of balance. If your soil has been carpet bombed with fertilizer and pesticides, then the best way to bring microorganisms back is to use compost. Compost can be purchased in bulk bags, or it can be made at home using compost bins and compost piles.

The next step is to eliminate chemical pesticides. There are plenty of earth friendly alternatives to bug spray, and using them means that you'll be exposed to fewer carcinogens. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides lists these alternatives based on the pests that they work with. For example, if you have a Japanese Beetle problem, Milky Spore Bacteria is an effective organic pesticide.

An even better solution is to switch to Integrated Pest Management. There's no reason to do all the work yourself -- instead, let helper plants and beneficial insects control pests and weeds. Start by identifying the insects that commonly attack your plants and weeds that are common to your area. Then, choose plants that regulate these pests naturally. Native plants are usually a good choice, and a mix of different plants offers added protection. For many pests, there are native plants that they find repellent, and other plants that can be used to distract bugs from your preferred crops. There are also many predatory insects that eat harmful insects. These insect guardians are very susceptible to pesticides, and that's another reason not to use chemicals.

To control insects, make sure to maintain healthy, fertile soil by rotating your plants, adding compost, and mulching. Early planting (or cultivation in a green house) will also help, because plants that are firmly established have time to prepare their natural defenses. Also, get hands-on. Getting close to your plants will help you identify problems and remove pests and prune away diseased sections of your plants. If you're still learning your way around the garden, keep a journal of what you do and jot down notes. Look over those notes later to identify what works and what doesn't.