It is July and the garden is in full force now. Although just slowly producing now, sizes have quadrupled since June and the elements are a constant battle. Various insects and fungi have found their way to our delicious yard and we are trying to keep our garden protected, the organic way. Which means everyday, we are fighting the good fight.
There are two major things that can damage gardens – insects and fungi. We are lucky enough to get to deal with both this year (*note the sarcasm). Here is a look at the what we have been battling so far.
Spinach Leaf Miners
Golden Tortoise Beetle
Entomosporium Leaf Spot
Septoria Leaf Spot
So what to do…
Neem Oil – Derived from the seeds of the Neem Tree, Neem Oil has been used as an organic pesticide and fungicide, among other things, for hundreds of years. You can find it for about $10 a bottle at the major home improvement stores (with the garden insecticides). Dilute a 1 ounce of Neem Oil per gallon of water and spray onto your plants. Make sure to coat the tops AND bottoms of the leaves so that pests can’t hide. Repeat every couple of days (or after rain) until the problem is under control, and then repeat every other week to maintain. Use caution and test spray on a small area before spraying all over. Although it doesn’t kill, the Neem acts as a repellent, causing the eating cycle of the pest to be interrupted; therefore eliminating the pests from the plant. Neem Oil also works as a fungicide. It coats the leaf and effectively smothers the fungus and keeps it from spreading. It is a great “all in one” kind of spray for use all over the garden.
Insecticidal Soap – No need to buy it; you can easily make your own! Mix 1 ounce of pure liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) per Quart of water for a basic soap spray; apply with a spray bottle, completely covering every leaf. Repeat every couple of days (or after rain) until the problem is under control and then repeat every other week to maintain. Use caution and test spray on a small area before spraying all over. You can add other ingredients to make the soap spray more appropriate for your needs. Try adding garlic or cayenne for a spicy and pungent spray that repels pest by both taste and smell. For a longer lasting spray, add 1 TBS of vegetable oil (canola, olive, or other cooking oil will do).
Combo Spray – For bigger issues, you can even combine the basic Insecticidal Soap with Neem Oil – 1 Tsp Neem, 1/2 Tsp Soap, 1 Quart Water.
Vinegar – Got weeds? Spray or pour white vinegar directly over the culprit and watch your troubles disappear. Be careful though, vinegar will kill what it touches, so be direct and exact in your use.
Hand Picking – Flip over each leaf and scour the plant for eggs and bugs to pick off by hand. It is a laborious task but a crucial step in the stop of the life cycle. You can also hand pick leaves that are being damaged by leaf spot and other fungi. Fungus spores travel in the air and can spread even off fallen debris. So, it is important to remove all leaves from the garden and throw them away in a sealed bag in the trash.
Plastic Ground Covers – By adding a layer of plastic to the ground, pest cannot bury themselves to pupate or overwinter underground. This helps interrupt the life cycle and the reappearance of a new generation of pests the next year.
Floating Row Covers – Adding a row cover will also help interrupt the life cycle. This keeps flying insects from laying eggs on your plants and thus a new generation cannot be born.
All that being said, organic gardening can obviously be frustrating. There is no one quick fix that using pesticides might be able to provide. BUT in the long run, if you can deal with sometimes ugly fruits and leaf imperfections, the rewards to both yours and the environments health are huge. So relax, garden, eat healthy, and just try to enjoy!