Pests & Diseases

Go Pesticide-Free With Plantum

Pesticide use is usually unavoidable when it comes to producing plentiful crop harvests reliably. However, it also presents a grave danger to the environment that is, more often than not, severely under-addressed by manufacturers and governing bodies.

The application of these compounds leads to them leaching into water reservoirs and spreading by wind, resulting in a far greater than intended area of effect. They can harm a slew of other life besides the target pest, like fish, earthworms, birds, amphibians, and pollinators. Humans aren’t safe either, as frequent exposure to pesticides or their deposits can cause carcinogenic and neurodegenerative effects. And last but not least—pest populations eventually develop resistance to pesticides, requiring even harsher modes of control over time. As such, it’s crucial that we rethink our ways of pest management—here are some ideas as to how.

Manual Labor

Let’s begin with the most tried and true method of pesticide-free gardening. Wait for the pests’ peak activity time, get a pair of gloves and a bucket, then go to town handpicking! Sure, this doesn’t sound too appealing at first, but you’ll end up with a nice amount of either animal feed or future compost material. Place upside-down terracotta pots to trap nocturnal animals like slugs and snails, or even let your ducks and chickens out for a productive snack if you have any. For smaller pests, we advise giving your plant a soap treatment. Prepare a weak unscented soap solution and spray the plant with it. Next, dip a soft sponge or cotton pad in the solution and thoroughly scrub as much of the plant’s surface as possible. Wash the soap off with clean water when you’re done. If you’re dealing with attached pests, be prepared to perform a sanitary pruning. Cut off the most infested or severely damaged shoots and incinerate them.

Companion Planting

Obviously, the above methods are meant for ongoing infestations and don’t preclude warding off future pests. Our ancestors have spent thousands of years figuring out how to manage harmful insects without having pesticides, so why not tap into that knowledge? For instance, aromatic crops didn’t develop a strong scent just for kicks, but to repel predators and parasites. By planting, say, onion or garlic next to a more vulnerable plant, you can keep pests at bay and have two additional harvests! This principle also works in the opposite way—some plants can be more attractive to pests over the ones you’re growing, so they can serve as “sacrificial crops” to draw attention away from the main plantation. As an example, plant or encourage alfalfa if you have a Lygus bug problem.

Natural Pest Predators

Another thing companion planting works for is encouraging beneficial wildlife. The help you need to deal with infestations might already exist in your garden; it could, however, also be restricted by pesticide use, limited plant species, and non-native plantations. Foster a diverse habitat by planting native wildflowers, shrubs, trees, and “weeds,” create transitional areas between your yard and the wilderness, and you might just see them—birds, solitary wasps, lacewings, dragonflies, fireflies—checking in for a quick snack. You can also construct shelters like a ladybug hotel or frog house (as long as you properly care for them). If necessary, there are specialized predators available for purchase—for instance, wasps that prey on sawfly larvae or nematodes that parasitize slugs.

Direct Organic Solutions

If direct action is needed, you can still avoid common garden pesticides. Pour diatomaceous earth around the base of your plant to keep away snails and crawling insects, place pheromone traps to attract and catch specific pests, tie band traps around the stems of larger plants to serve as false shelters for caterpillars, etc. Try using nature’s own insecticides in the form of neem oil sprays or B. thuringiensis–based products. Avoid harming birds and pollinating insects by not treating blooming plants with them.

Lastly, it’s worthwhile to plant a garden diverse enough that you’ll harvest something even if the pests do infest some of the plantations. After all, they too are a necessary part of the ecosystem, and we can’t keep on shunning nature as if we’re somehow above it—the only way to pave a liveable future for us and the planet is by adapting to our environment and coexisting with it.

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