Organic Gardening Tips

It’s easy to go organic!  Here at theGardenPages we have been organic for years.  Not because we’re on a crusade to change the world, just because it is easier, safer and often much less expensive.

You do not have to swear off all chemicals immediately to be an organic gardener.  We’d like to help you make the transition smoothly.

Here are a few organic tips that have worked for me in the garden.

Organic Pest Control; Two Top Pests

Aphids; Sometimes the best way to get rid of them is to just spray them off with a hose.  Use a strong spray and blast them off.  Normally that is enough to decimate the population.

Another aphid control option is ladybugs.  They can be found at nurseries and some home centers.  When you first release them, you need to convince them to stick around in your yard.  The trick to keeping them around is to lightly sprinkle the plants (so they have water) and release them in the evening.  Ladybugs will be more likely to settle in for the night on your plants.  The moisture and food supply (aphids) should keep them from moving too far away the next day.

Snails;  Handpicking in the evening is a time tested technique.   Another trick is to put out shallow saucers of beer.  The slugs and snails slither in and don’t slither out.

Eggshells; snails hate eggshells, something about slithering over small bits of shards bothers them.  But your shells must be CLEAN.  If you use shells from fresh eggs be sure to wash them off first!

If you’re using hard boiled eggs, make sure there is no egg left on them.  Otherwise you will be inviting bigger pests into your garden.

And yes, if you have eggshells from Easter eggs made with edible vegetable dye, they should be safe in the garden — and add a colorful dash of fun too!

Appetizers?  Your snails are descendants of snails brought over from France for escargot.  I had a neighbor who collected them, put them in sawdust for two weeks to detox them and then he’d fire up the stove and melt butter!

Make Your Own Organic Insecticidal Soap
Keep Your Garden Chemical Free
Here’s a really simple recipe for insecticidal soap:

1 tablespoon of soap
2 cups water (1 pint)

Mix thoroughly and add to spray bottle. Spray insects on plants.

Use regular dish soap, not detergent or anything anti-bacterial.
You can also use pure castile soap like the kind made by Dr. Bronner (yes, the all-one guy).  His soap is certified under the USDA National Organic Program.  He also makes a peppermint castile soap. I have read that peppermint oil may help repel deer and other large pests but I have not tried it myself. Let me know if you have!

This recipe works best on soft bodied vegetable patch pests like aphids, thrips, white flies and spider mites. Soaps kill insects by entering the pest’s respiratory system and breaking down internal cell membranes. It is only effective when it is wet, so aim well. After it is dry it will not harm your beneficial insects.

Some recipes call for adding 1 tablespoon of some kind of oil, either mineral oil or vegetable oil. This will help the mixture adhere to other hard-bodies pests like fleas. But it will also stick to your ladybug beetles so be careful where you are aiming.

Some plants (especially ferns) are sensitive to soaps.  You should always test your mixture first on one leaf on your plant. If it is fine the next day, you solution should be OK to use.

Spray Tips:  It is better not to spray your plants in the middle of the day.  Full sun (especially on hairy plants) can turn the water droplets into little magnifying glasses which can burn the leaf.  It is better to spray in the early morning or late afternoon.

Pests like to hide underneath the leaves.  For best results aim up and get under that foliage.