By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
Pests can come in many different forms and can appear at different times of the season.
Some pests are easy to control or eliminate from that part of the garden while others can be more challenging.
The key to organically controlling a pest is a three-fold process.
The first stage is prevention, which is followed by knowing one’s pest and finally coming up with a management plan.
Prevention is an important stage when it comes to pest control. This can range from planting plants that are not susceptible to certain pest, such as nematodes and removing plant material from the garden space at the end of the season.
The next stage is understanding one’s pest. This includes being able to identify the pest, its lifecycle and its habits. An example of how this works is with the common cat. If you notice your garden soil disturbed and little gifts left in the soil, you can pretty much guess you have a cat problem. This can occur even if you do not have domesticated cats in your neighborhood.
Once you see the evidence, you may also see the cat in the garden, which is just additional evidence. The next stage in this process is to understand the habits of cats. Felines like to bury their waste in loose material. If the material or soil is made less inviting, the cat will move on. In a garden space, soil or mulch can be made less inviting by laying down chicken wire. While the cats may visit a few times, they will no longer dig in the garden.
Another example of how this three stage process works is with the squash vine bore. This insect has been a major problem in the community garden this year. First, being able to identify the insect is a major hurdle that many gardeners have to overcome. There are many sources, including books and the Internet, which can aid any gardener who is not an insect expert.
Next, one will need to understand the lifecycle of the pest. Many pest problems can be avoided if planting is done after they lay their eggs or have reached a certain stage in their lifecycle. In this example, if squash is planted after the moth that is responsible for the squash vine bore has passed its egg laying stage, then this bore will not appear.
If, on the other hand, the moth and its offspring have appeared, then understanding the role of prevention in this insect’s lifecycle is important. In this example, removing all plant material that is infested with bores needs to be removed and destroyed. This will reduce the number of moths next year in the garden space.
As you can see, these stages can occur at different points in the gardening season and should be followed in whatever order works for you. The key is to know your environment and its many creatures and then develop a mutual arrangement that excludes the use of chemical controls.
So until we blog again, Mother Nature has provided checks and balances for all to follow. All that is required is a mutual agreement between the gardener and his/her garden space that includes a no-harm clause whenever possible. This, in turn, is the role of the organic gardener.