I try to manage bugs in my vegetable garden by using three levels of defense. Each level is more aggressive as you go from 1 to 3. You need to think of your garden as an ecosystem that you are adding positive and negative things to . Obviously you want to leave it alone as much as possible. Sometimes you can impact with a positive input or you may need to intervene more aggressively to save a crop. I always use organic remedies but even organic sprays and dust can impact beneficial insects negatively. That is the reason I use a holistic approach starting with good plant health and planting nectar producing and host plants that attract beneficial insects to the garden. I also try to anticipate what might like to eat my plants and stay on the lookout for them. Knowing the good bugs from the bad will also help in knowing when you have a problem. As a last resort I use organic sprays and dust starting with the mild and moving to the more harsh.
First Line of Defense for Managing Insects in the Garden.
Knowing that the cabbage worm is attracted to cabbage and other plants in that family gives me a heads up as to what to expect.
*Know which insects to be on the lookout for.
*Research the plants you are growing before you plant.
*Make a plan to deal with bugs before they take over.
*Keep your plants healthy. Grow your plants with the correct light, water and nutrients. Plant in the correct season.
*Scout for insects regularly.
*Yellow sticky traps help to catch bugs in the garden so that you can monitor them.
*Identify insects correctly by looking them up on the web. Here is a good link to help you get started.
*Encourage beneficial insects by planting herbs and flowers that have flowers with lots of nectar to keep beneficials in the garden.
*Exclusion using light weight row cover. Use on plants like leafy greens that don’t need pollination.
*Hand picking and dropping in a pail of soapy water.
*Strong stream of water from the hose to knock off insects.
Using organic sprays and dust
Here are the main ones I use
*Sprays of pepper or garlic that repel insects.
*Diatomaceous Earth to dust on plants.
*Neem oil and other plant oils
* BT Bacillus thuringiensis – naturally occurring bacteria to kill caterpillars
*Spinosad – natural bacteria for a broader selection of insects.
The most aggressive remedy in the third line of defence is
*Organic pyrethrum Pyganic (only spray late in evening when bees are not around)
You can buy all the above remedies online from Safer brand organic gardening products.