Organic Pest Control

Written by Sarah Provost
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Even those gardeners who are not committed to organic methods often shudder at the idea of spraying their vegetable garden with a poison to get rid of pests. Fortunately there are many ways you can combat pests without resorting to chemicals. First of all, since prevention is better than reaction, choose pest-resistant hybrids and varieties of the plants you wish to grow. Each year new hybrids are developed to resist that particular plant's more common pests.

Crop rotation is essential for pest and disease control. Divide your vegetables into four groups, grouping by family and/or feeding habits. Put all your cruciferous veggies--cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower--in one group, for instance, and all your heavy feeders such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in another. Each spring, rotate the area that each group is planted in. In addition to curtailing pests and diseases, this practice adds fertility to the soil.

Barriers and Traps

Slugs are probably the most common garden pests, closely followed by cutworms and other crawlies. Simple barriers can keep them from damaging your crops. Put a collar around your tomato seedlings, for instance, or cut the bottom off a clear soda bottle and put it over the young plants. Barriers of anything sharp or gritty make unpleasant creeping for slugs, and you can use traps as well. The old-fashioned trick of putting out a saucer of beer really does work, or you could buy commercial sticky traps.

Finally, make your garden hospitable to the pests' natural enemies. Ladybugs and butterflies love to feast on aphids, for instance. Encourage them to visit your garden by planting a few brightly colored flowers among the vegetables. And don't forget to feed the birds through the winter, in exchange for gobbling up your bugs in the summer.


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