Here is a long Permaculture article about pest control.
While companion planting is a good thing and helps insect diversity it is not essential for pest and disease control with the HH -2 System. One of the main purposes of HH -2 is to produce optimum healthy plants which are full of synthesised protein. This protein is in turn transferred to the consumer of such crops. Just having pest free crops does not necessarily mean you are producing optimum healthy crops.
With the HH -2 system producing HH -4 , the finished compost/fertiliser (employing all kinds of wastes), you will build soil that will naturally imbibe pest and disease resistance into your crops in the most reliable way in any of the growing climates. The fully synthesised protein your plants will receive through this process will save time on the need to study pest or disease management in crops separately as described in this lengthy article:
Garden Pests of S Dakota and organic handlings
23 August 2011 at 04:42
Garden Pests of Western S Dakota and some organic handlings
Many people who start gardens get discouraged when swarms of pests arrive and wipe out one or more of their main crops. There seem to be so many types of pests and because of how fast they breed, they can seem to overwhelm a system pretty quickly.
One may believe that the solution to pests is to spray a chemical or organic spray to kill them, but there are more sustainable handlings, that can create a permanent balance in your system so you do not have to continue to handle the “pest problem.”
When you look into a natural system, you may see pests abounding, but yet the system is surviving and even thriving. How does that happen? By working with nature, instead of against her, we can protect our garden from pests without using chemicals or any heavy type of handling.
The key thing is to create a good balance in your garden. Pest problems are symptoms of a natural imbalance. If you strive for an ecosystem balance, you can keep pest and disease problems under control. You won’t eliminate them entirely, but we will explain why you don’t want to do so.
It’s important to understand the role that plant health plays in discouraging pests. Stressed plants put out an odor that attracts pests – really healthy plants put out odors that detract pests. If your garden is healthy, pests can be eating plants all around the garden but will leave your plants alone. So the number one solution to any kind of pest or disease is healthy soils. The secret is in the soil!
Some key ingredients for a pest-free garden:
- Healthy, balanced soils: Your soil should be made up of a rich mixture of organic material which includes healthy microbes and beneficial fungi. You can achieve this by using cover crops, compost, or compost or worm teas (see #10), to enrich your soils (to name a few of the most common methods – there are many). It is well worth the effort to enrich the soil when you first start a garden, as in the long run, you will be doing much less work in your garden. Microbes and fungi help make nutrition available from the soil by converting it to a form that the plant can access, and also help the plant to absorb it better. A simple way to create healthy soil is to sheet mulch (lay down layers of composted manure and hay or straw, etc). It is a bit of work up front, but the payoff is that you create rich, fertile soil that will increase your crop yields and protect crops from pests, making far less work for you in the long run. If you only do one of these steps, focus on this one. You may not need any other step, if this one is done really well. And your veggies, herbs and flowers will grow abundantly and vigorously! We will share more about building soils in future articles.
- Pest predator attractants can help too. A balanced system has a good ratio of predators to pests, maintaining low volumes of pests. Certain plants provide pollen for pest predators such as predatory wasps. These insects like wildflowers, plants in the carrot family (dill, cilantro, carrot, fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, sweet cicely, etc), and certain other flowers. Bordering the garden with wildflowers, zinnias, nasturtiums and marigolds and interspersing carrot family plants amongst your other vegetables is attractive as well as useful. We often focus on pest predator attractant crops, along with fragrant crops (see #4) and trap crops (crops we intend to let pests have) the first year in a garden to establish the balance – allowing pests in the system and providing food and shelter for their predators will establish the balance.
- Toads and lizards are great pest control as they eat many insects per day. Be sure to include some of their habitat – a bowl of water and a little toad “cave” or lizard rock “house” are usually appreciated and it gets used if there are any of these creatures in the area.
- Another great garden pest control is birds, such as chickens, ducks, turkeys and guineas. Chickens, if allowed to scratch and feed in the early spring, can break pest cycles by finding and eating the overwintering adults before they can come out and breed. Chickens will tear up new seedlings and young plants when they scratch, so they need to do their work before you plant (while plants are growing in a greenhouse, for instance). They do less damage in a mature garden, but can still peck at your veggies. Ducks, turkeys and guineas can usually be put in a mature garden without disturbing it, and are great gobblers of pest insects such as grasshoppers, etc. Ducks can sometimes chew on your veggies as well, it all depends on the duck. Guineas and turkeys can eat many grasshoppers a day, and clear out a garden pretty well. Guineas are perhaps the best for that, but they are also very noisy (sounding like a squeaky gate), while turkeys are quite mellow. Be sure to have adequate protection for birds at night as predators will likely eat them if you don’t.
- Pest detractants – fragrant plants such as herbs, onions, nasturtium and marigolds, when intermixed with vulnerable crops, can confuse pests and prevent a large infestation. There are many web sites and books on companion planting. It is not an exact science and you should feel free to experiment. The main idea is to not plant long rows of a single monocrop – break up the crops and plant other plants between them. This would include crops from the same family as well – potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco and peppers are all nightshades and share some of the same pests, and can be separated by carrot family plants, onion family plants, beans, etc.
- Use cover crops and rotate crops to break pest cycles. Planting rye, barley, oats, etc, as a winter crop can disrupt the overwintering pest cycle. Rotating crops – for instance, planting potatoes, tomatoes, corn, etc, a different place every year – can make it harder for pests to find your crops.
- Use “banker” crops to feed pest predators. For instance, grain crops attract a type of aphid that does not harm vegetables, and will feed lady bugs and other aphid predators and help establish them in the system. In our system, we noticed many Asian Beetles (a form of ladybug) living on the lambsquarters (in the quinoa family, and an edible leaf and grain itself), which had a form of aphid. This large swarm of beetles have apparently kept the aphid population on our veggies under control as we have seen none in the area. They may also be eating some of our other small pests.
- If a pest infestation is severe, and you want to use a biological control but don’t want to wait for the system to balance itself, you can buy pest predator wasps or other insects and release them into the system. Find out which predator will handle the particular pest you have via google.
- It’s interesting that plants that survive a pest infestation often come back stronger than ever – perhaps with more defenses against pests. We save the seeds of the strongest, healthiest plants, and each year, the plants adapt and become stronger and stronger.
- We like to use comfrey tea (has many minerals in it that plants need), worm tea (water run off from worm castings, which is rich in beneficial microbes that strengthen plants), or compost tea (also many beneficial microbes). You can soak comfrey in a bucket for 4 weeks and it makes a very rich fertilizer. Worm tea and compost tea is the water runoff from these items, mixed with a couple of cups of molasses or sugar, and oxygenated with a fish tank pump in a five gallon bucket for about 24 hours (the microbes feed on the sugars and oxygen and multiply rapidly). We have seen amazing results using these soil enrichers on our systems in the health and resistance of plants.
- Keeping pests under control the easy way means building healthy soil, allowing some pests in the garden, and keeping a balance with pest predators. If you eliminate all pests, sooner or later they can find and reenter the system and then you will have no predators to control them. Keep your plants strong and healthy with healthy soils, and maintain diversity and balance in your garden and your pest problems will be minimized over the long term. You will need to do much less work to keep pests under control. This is how nature does it, and working with nature instead of against her makes our work easier. This can sound complicated or difficult but once you get in a habit of doing a garden this way, again, it is much less work and also very attractive, with flowers and herbs mixed in with the vegetables.
Some common garden pests in the US and handlings. (these are all pests that we have dealt with in our garden)
Potato bug – These are easy to keep under control if you get them early, before they breed. Check your potato plants a couple of times a week and if you find any of these bugs, hold a bowl of soapy water underneath them on the potato bush, and push them in. They will usually just let go and fall off – a defense mechanism to escape birds and other predators. A female can lay hundreds of eggs, so you want to get to them early. Some other successful steps: use mulch, such as hay, which makes it more difficult for them to find the plant in the first place. Encourage toads in your garden by providing them with shelter and water. Between picking adults off before they could breed, and creating toad habitat, we got these insects under control.
Squash bug – these can also be knocked into a bowl of soapy water (where they quickly die), before they breed too much, and the problem will soon be gone. Water your squash with a sprinkler or shower hose, and the bugs will come to the tops of the leaves to dry off where they are easily knocked off. Toads also help with these bugs quite a lot, feeding on the babies. We noticed that no squash bugs have touched the Lakota squash. They also flock to stressed plants (underwatered, for instance), and leave the healthier ones alone. When we poured worm tea on the stressed plants that had squash bugs, we found none on those plants after a couple of days. The eggs are golden balls that stick hard to the leaves. Again, if you remove these early (by cutting out that section of leaf, or using duct tape to pull the eggs off), you will have much problems than if you let them hatch.
Tomato hornworm – These are huge and hard to miss. One of these can defoliate a tomato plant overnight. Again, a bowl of soapy water handles these guys very fast. In our garden, they start appearing around end of July or early August and once you get them, they’re gone, and usually you do not have huge amounts of them, just a handful or even just one or two. Plants usually will survive the defoliation process, but it cuts back on their production. Birds in the garden can find these quite dramatic caterpillers. We’ve found these on potato as well as tomato plants – all nightshade plants may be vulnerable.
Blister beetle – These guys are dangerous to humans as they release a toxin that creates huge welts and blisters (that look like third degree burns, they are severe) if you handle them and they squirt you. With some of them, the toxin can kill a horse if only a few are ingested, they are quite poison. They are predators for some pests (their young eat grasshopper larvae in particular), but the adults can decimate sunflowers and calendula flowers (two of their favorite, it seems). We do not have a good control for these – we sacrificed the flowers for the predator power and we leave them alone and they leave us alone. Many people have lived with these bugs all their life and had no clue they were harmful, and never had a problem with them, so obviously, it is not a major situation. We believe the blister beetles ate all the potato beetle young – they were on the potato plants while there were young potato beetles and then few off after the young potato beetles had disappeared. So, even if they eat the leaves of the potato plants, I might keep them around for their predator qualities.
Grasshoppers – A ubiquitous sight on the plains, and many other places. Getting birds into your system (turkeys, guineas, etc) early in the year is your best defense as they control them before they can go crazy breeding. One thing we’ve found is that generally, they tend to leave the garden alone and they prefer native plants except when it is very hot and dry and they need the moisture (they’ve come in and defoliated the lettuce in a few hours during a heat spell). Perhaps watering weeds that are remote from the garden is a solution (we have tried this but not observed closely enough to say if it worked). I’ve had grasshoppers sitting all over my potatoes, corn, squash, tomatoes, etc, and not take a bite out of any of them, but instead go to the native sunflowers, etc, to dine. They tend to attack brassicas like kale, cabbage, and broccoli – one solution is to net those plants. Also, when I had ducks in the garden, the grasshoppers started hanging out other places – there was a noticible reduction of them in the space after about a week of ducks chasing them. It wasn’t because the ducks ate them all, they were chased out.
Cucumber bug – This bug can bring a virus to squash plants but otherwise does not seem to do that much harm. We have enough pest predators in the system to keep these under control, it seems, they just aren’t very numerous or active. Same handling as for squash bugs, knock them into soapy water or squish them early.
Aphid – two words: lady bugs. And other pest predators. Many pest predators like aphids. It’s good to be able to identify pest predator insects – lacewing, ladybug and a number of small wasps are common ones.
A word on organic insecticides: We try not to use these because even though they are far less toxic than chemical insecticides, they still affect some plants, like squash, which have sensitive leaves. That said, we’ll give a few simple formulas that work for us for severe infestations. Spraying a plant with soapy water will often discourage many pests. The soap messes up their skin system, and can kill them if sprayed directly. Tobacco water has a similar effect (though less so on nightshade plants like tomato, pepper, potato). Note that you have to keep applying these until the problem is under control, and to get underneath the leaves too, where many of the pests will hang out. Neem oil works very well on pests as well. There are many other organic pesticides that you can read about and try – these are the ones we use – we try to keep it simple.
One last thing: Don’t ever get discouraged from gardening because of pests. It’s ok to have a crop fail because of pests – if you continue to put these elements into your garden, you will prevail! Most of all, have fun – enjoy the magic of growing plants and eating from your garden, and always think of “failures” as opportunities to learn and grow. Your plants will thank you and you will end up with a healthy, abundant garden.