Since giving the tip yesterday on the organic means of dealing with caterpillars and tomato horn worms in your gardens I have had two people ask me about how to organically deal with other common garden insect pests, so let's go ahead and tackle that one now.
I have a few solutions that I can recommend, but first before I would go straight to a pesticide application, even an organic one, I would want to try a couple other methods first that do not cost you anything and may take care of the problem. If you have a fly bothering you, wouldn't just immediately jump to grabbing a shotgun to take care of the problem with when a simple flyswatter would do the trick would you?
1. The first insect control method that I would employ is making sure that I have the very best quality soil for my plants and that I am using a good quality compost along with high quality worm castings.
Worm castings are an effective way to repel white flies, aphids and spider mites and any pest that feeds on plant juices. According to recent studies, applying worm castings to the soil around your plants increases the production of a certain enzyme called chitinase which is a natural insect defense for the plants. I would also be doing routine foliar sprayings of the plants with a good quality combination compost and worm casting tea which also helps to build up the plants natural insect defenses.
2. The next step that I would employ is manual eradication. If you do not have a really bad infestation or you have a small garden you can simply pick the insects off by hand to get rid of them.
3. If that did not work, or your garden is too large or you have a larger infestation I would next try using the garden hose to spray the insects off the plants. You will want to make sure that you have a good quality inline chlorine filter to remove any chlorine and chloride from the water so that you do not harm the beneficial bacteria and fungi that you are trying to buildup in the soil as well as on the plants themselves. A good strong stream of water will knock most insects off of the plants, but don't go grabbing the pressure washer out of the garage, we do not want enough water pressure that we will damage the plant leaves.
4. Depending on where you live and if you are growing in a greenhouse or not, you may also be able to utilize insect predators like ladybugs or praying mantises which will devour aphids from your plants. Unfortunately here in Hawaii we have either severe restrictions limiting the importation or complete bans on the importation of almost everything to the islands.
5. The next step that I would move up to is using food grade diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth––also called diatomite or simply DE––is a naturally occurring substance mined from certain lakebed or ocean floor deposits. It is made up of fossilized diatoms, a type of single-celled planktonic algae that lived in the oceans and freshwater lakes of old. The silica rich skeletal remains of these microscopic organisms give this chalk-like substance exceptional porosity and an abrasive property. Diatomite has many industrial uses as filters and polishing agents because of this. And, you can find several uses for this natural material in your garden, including an effective insecticide for crawling insects.
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic way to control pests in the garden. It is effective against all insect pests that crawl on plants because contact with the powder is extremely dehydrating. After watering the plants, dust them with an applicator. This will help the powder stick to plant surfaces. Since dehydration is the main mechanism of action, wetness renders the powder temporarily ineffective, but it starts working once the water dries up. Although diatomaceous earth is a non-selective insecticide, flying insects like bees are less affected as they don’t come in contact with substance. Avoid spraying flowers, however, and make sure that you use a dust mask or respirator so that you do not breath in the very fine silica powder.
For DE application in the garden I prefer either the Dustin-mizer Model 1212 dust applicator or the Gilmour 810044-1001 Rose Duster. Simply apply a fine dusting over the leaves and stems of the plant, but avoid the flowers.
6. If nothing else has worked we still have another couple of options that we can try. The first one is a product called "The Amazing Doctor Zymes Eliminator".
Dr Zymes "Eliminates ALL Mites, Thrips, Aphids, Whiteflies as well as their Larvae and Eggs". It is an organic pesticide as well as an organic fungicide.
Kills Soft Bodied Insects
Removes Molds and Mildews
Food Grade Ingredients
Use up to and on Day of Harvest
No Oils, Won't Clog Stomata
100% Environmentally Friendly
Dr Zymes uses natural enzymes to kill the harmful insects by disrupting their ability to breathe. It is only affective while it is wet, so it is not persistent like other organic methods which may cause unintended problems because they last too long. Once it dries, it is done.
Mix 4 ounces of Eliminator concentrate to a gallon of warm water. Avoid spraying beneficial insects. Spray top and underneath leaves, stems, stalks and base of plant. This is a contact product so ensure you spray generously to ensure full contact with pests, molds or mildews. Increase dosage if necessary. See instructions on bottle.
For certain insects like mites, thrips, aphids, and fungus gnats which are hard to get rid of it is recommended to apply Eliminator three days in a row and then follow up spraying once a week until you see no signs of the pests remaining. Can also be applied weekly as a preventative.
7. If all of the above didn't work, I would then step up to another organic method that I use to recommend all the time, but I only recommend it as a last-resort method now because it may cause unintended consequences because it is longer-lasting than the Doctor Zymes is and it has the possibility of burning plant leaves if you are not careful in the dilution and application. That is the combination of a Cold Pressed Neem Oil and a surfactant, which I recommend Dr. Bronner's - Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner. These products are also available in smaller sizes for small gardens.
As I said, I used to always recommend using Neem Oil as an organic pesticide for my garden for years, until I found out about the Doctor Zymes Eliminator product alternative option which is not quite as effective as the Neem Oil, but it is less harmful for the plants and environment because it has less unintended consequences including the possibility of clogging the stoma (or stomata) of the leaves, which are the pores in the leaves and stems of the plants which respiration occur through. If these get clogged up, you basically suffocate the plant.
If the Eliminator will take care of the insect problem there in no reason to use a stronger product which has the potential of doing more harm than good. Keep the Neem Oil solution as a last-resort, but have some on hand just in case nothing else in your organic insect arsenal works.
For a Neem Oil treatment, for each gallon of mixture that you want to create, add 2 tablespoons of both the Neem Oil and the Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds to a cup of warm water and mix together thoroughly creating a white foamy concentrate. Add this concentrate to the prep measured water already in your sprayer to lessen suds. If you add the mixture to the sprayer and then try to fill it up with water you will create too much foam.
Avoid spraying beneficial insects. Spray top and underneath leaves, stems, stalks and base of plant. This is a contact product so ensure you spray generously to ensure full contact with pests, molds or mildews. Increase dosage if necessary. See instructions on bottle. Be sure to use equal parts Neem Oil and Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds.
As for application of either the Doctor Zymes Eliminator or the Neem Oil solution, I would recommend either a backpack pump sprayer or if you have a larger garden, or just like "toys", then you can use a Hudson FOG Portable Electric Atomizer like I do. The Hudson atomizer sprays a very fine mist like a fog over the plants which makes it very easy to cover the entire plant with offering better, and more uniform coverage of the product.
With all of those insect control weapons in your arsenal, you should have no trouble controlling any insect issues in your garden without having to resort to using dangerous, nasty, toxic, cancer causing chemical pesticides which are extremely dangerous for the environment as well as the health of you and your family.