Organic Pest Control

Edible Gardening Pest Prevention

Row cover (or floating row cover)
is a white garden fabric that is a good addition to any gardener’s tool shed because it can be used in so many ways. Protect plants from cold and wind is in early spring at fall. Block insects from laying eggs on your plants and prevent spread of disease. Keep soil and plants from overheating. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t up for building a mini
hoop house. In many cases garden fabric can be draped directly on top of plants and secured around the perimeter. So the effort involved is often minimal. BUT remember to take the fabric off as soon as flowers form so the pollinators can do their job. OR, if you want a great crop leave the cover on and pollinate the flow yourself.

The best defense against pests is to grow resilient and healthy plants.
Weak plants attract pests and healthy plants repel them. Boost your plants’ health and your soil microbes’ health by using a powerful organic fertilizer with a wide range of nutrients and other ingredients. Our favorite is called Soil Alive! because it contains important ingredients often missing in other fertilizers. Adding compost tea to your beds 3 times a year also boosts the health of micro-organisms in your soil.

Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale & Cauliflower: How to prevent cabbage worms
The amazing benefits of using row covers to grow cabbage family crops include bug protection and weather protection for stronger, more productive plants. It prevents the cabbage butterfly from laying eggs on the plants’ leaves. The eggs hatch into the very destructive cabbage worms. It works better if you keep the row cover edges completely sealed. The plants grown under the cover are healthier, grow faster, and produce sooner.

Spinach, beets, Swiss chard: How to prevent leaf miner fly eggs
The cover prevents the adult leaf miner fly from laying eggs on the plants’ leaves. Use the row cover for the entire season because none of these veggies need to be pollinated.

Zucchini: How to prevent Squash Vine Borer
Never plant zucchini in the same spot it was in last year since the vine borer eggs are in the soil. The best defense is to cover the seedlings with row cover so the squash vine moth can’t lay its eggs on your seedlings. Support the fabric so it doesn’t touch the seedling, and give it some space to grow. Cover the edges of the row cover with soil and stones to prevent the insects from crawling under it. You can use row cover early in the season over plants that will eventually need to be pollinated like zucchini. Once the plants begin blooming, remove the covers so the pollinators can get to the flowers. Then wrap the vines where they enter the ground with some row cover material to continue your physical protection of the plant at the actual point of attack – the stems close to the ground. (NOTE: Tomboncino squash has a hard solid stem and is resistant to Squash Vine Borer.) VIDEO

Zucchini: How to prevent powdery mildew & blossom end rot
Prune Zucchini to increase sunlight and air flow. Powdery mildew needs dampness to survive. It produces more zucchini and to harvest until fall. VIDEO

Confuse pests by not planting the same veggie in one spot
Bugs find a particular plant that they love by scent. The scent is stronger and easier to find when many of the same plants grow in one spot. Enjoy a completely organic pest free garden by simply planting lots of plants all mixed up. But make sure that they are “plant companions” and like to grow together. Video by

Naturally Preventing Garden Pests

Dealing with pests and disease is a natural part of gardening. Even expert gardeners and farmers experience crop failure from time to time.

PREVENTING garden pests is far easier (and more fun!) than dealing with pest outbreaks AFTER they show up.

You might be surprised to learn that I don’t use pesticide sprays in the garden, even organic or homemade products. That’s because some natural solutions can be as toxic as chemical products to soil life.

Pesticides of any kind (even organic and homemade products) can kill beneficial insects. Killing insects is their purpose, after all! They can alter the pH balance of the soil, leave a toxic residue on the crop, destroy beneficial soil microbes, or a combination of these consequences.

Soap-and-water spray, for example, is commonly used for natural pest control. But it might also kill beneficial soil microbes and change the soil pH, depending on the brand and dilution.

I don’t want to damage my garden ecosystem or poison crops I eat, so I don’t fight pests. If I fail at preventing them, then I learn from them, but I don’t spray.

One of the keys to natural pest management is patience. For example, when we replaced our front lawn with an edible landscape, we had quite a few pest problems. I was really disappointed—we had put so much time, money, and effort into creating the garden. I wanted to save it from being devoured by pests!

Instead of making a rash action, however, I waited, and continued to practice all of the following techniques. While we were doing our part, the beneficial soil microbes were getting acquainted with this new environment. These soil organisms duked it out and eventually came into a balance.

We saw progressively more improvement each year as the soil ecosystem matured.

What do soil microbes have to do with pests?

The beneficial soil microbes help feed plants, keeping them healthy and well-protected against pests. If we had sprayed anything, it would have disrupted their establishment period and delayed the balance we desired.

It could have become a never-ending dependence on pesticides. Instead, patience was the answer.