While many home gardeners rely on the careful use of chemicals
to prevent losses from insects, diseases, weeds, and other pests,
others prefer to deal with such problems organically.
Organic gardening excludes the use of manufactured fertilizers
and pesticides, with emphasis placed on the following measures:
- The use of mulches, composts, and manures to build up the
soil. The return of organic matter to the land is an excellent
practice, provided no disease organisms or weed seeds are
returned in the process.
- Physical and mechanical control measures against pests, such
as destroying insect egg masses by hand, handpicking
potato beetles and tomato hornworms as they appear, and
removing diseased plants as soon as the first symptoms appear.
- Cultural measures involving the use of ordinary farming
practices before insect or disease damage becomes apparent.
Often these may consist merely of variations of routine
operations necessary to produce the crop, including rotation
of land and crops between seasons.
- Biological control measures in which natural enemies of
pests are used. Some insects do not damage plants and are
beneficial to man because they destroy injurious insects.
Important beneficial insects include the ant lion (doodlebug),
aphid lion (lacewing), assassin bugs, damsel bugs, ground
beetles, lady beetles, praying mantids, spiders and certain
predaceous mites, and syrphid flies (wasps). Use resistant
varieties. Check seed catalogs for this information. Many new
varieties are disease and insect resistant.
Use wood ashes around plants where slugs are a problem.
Two natural insecticides commonly used by organic gardeners are
rotenone and pyrethrum.
Both insecticides are plant products and have low toxicity.
They should be used in strict accordance with directions on the
Many State agricultural experiment stations are publishing
information geared specifically to the needs and problems of
organic gardeners and farmers. Your State Extension office or
county Extension agent can advise you about the availability of
such information within your State.
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