One of the reasons why organic gardening can come as a real challenge is the limit on insect (pest) control methods. Green living means saving the ecological habitat from noxious pesticides. While environment and health may be smiling in relief at the non-use of toxic chemicals, our eco-conscious gardener is apparently at a loss here. But not really! A number of safe and environmental-friendly means of pest control can be practiced to obtain a healthy yield in plenty.
Organic gardeners, unless they are just about to begin with the gardening practice, know that selective plantation of certain plant species/families obviates the need of using any insecticides. A large number of herbs and vegetables – including radish, pea, turnip, sweet potato, beet, and onion etc – develop with little threat from insects. However, there are crops that fall a prey to garden bugs. These include potato, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, cucumber, pumpkin, and many other food plants. The first thing to do for an organic gardener, therefore, is to mark the pest-resistant and pest-prone varieties of crops.
Companion planting has been tried by many a gardener for pest prevention. What they do is grow certain varieties of plants – edible, flowering, and/or herbal – next to one another. This contiguity is believed to prevent certain pests from invading the plants due to an aversion of the neighboring vegetation (on account of aromas or other qualities disagreeable to insects). Remarkable as it sounds, companion planting is not backed by scientific studies. In fact, some research studies conducted on the putative benefits of companion planting show that there is more assumption in it than truth.
Realizing the need to use some kind of non-toxic, health-friendly, and pro-environment source of insect control, organic gardeners have often tried natural pest control strategies. Releasing ‘beneficial’ insects, like ladybirds and lacewings etc, is still considered a natural remedy for insect pest. But their effectiveness is quite limited. In many instances, these ‘control insects’ start eating one another or sometimes just leave the garden without doing their job. Though not totally useless, insects are not a very reliable means of controlling pest.
Another method that works against some pests is biological control, i.e. using living organisms to check the invading population of harmful insects. Certain varieties of Bacillus bacteria are available in commercial organic formulas and are useful in growing healthy crops of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes. The organisms used for pest control do not harm useful insects and thus are also cherished for use in growing economically important crops.
A specialized form of organic pest control is the botanical control – extracts of plants that function as natural pesticides while they are effective in short-term and small-scale action against some insects, many of these natural pesticides are not friendly to the environment or ecological health. Using insecticide soaps and rotating crops are also used as complementary methods of pest control. Removing or destroying crop refuse and disposing it safely are considered an important part of organic gardening.
At the movement, no single pest-control method is known to get over the problem of bugs in organic gardening. Pest-control is done effectively on an ‘as needed’ basis – a time to time and persevering job.