Really – you don’t get rid of all bugs in an organic garden. What you do is make sure no one species dominates.
That way, insects don’t become pests. Here are some of my tips:
- Don’t freak out. Insects are part of the natural order of things. They BELONG in your garden. Yes, even the type that eat the leaves off your plants.
- Diversity. A garden with only roses is likely to attract the insects that thrive on roses (aka eat them). A garden with one rose-bush is far less vulnerable. Another plus: if pests do attack that one rose-bush, it is unlikely your other plants will be affected.
- Plan for insects A healthy habitat contains a lot of life, not just the bugs that eat your plants, but also the bugs and birds that EAT the bugs that eat your plants. This means messy corners and perhaps even a bug-home (aka a bug-hotel).I don’t put stock in seeding a garden with ladybugs or similar though. Give it time – let the local insects colonize your garden instead of overwhelming the local (and probably struggling) population with competition. The local insects are a more diverse set, and therefore more interesting for a diverse ecology, than any set of bugs you could import.
- Plan for birds. Birds need shelter, food and water. Find out what kinds of plants the local birds need to feel at home. In my case planting hawthorn was (apparently) a wise decision: when they are bigger, they will provide food as well as shelter.
- Don’t plan for perfection. I understand the love for growing things, and the disappointment when a plant is being eaten. However, this is only to be expected. A city garden is too frivolous a thing to be agonized over. Enjoy what works and accept that sometimes your plants will die.Is the death of local bees and butterflies really a price you are willing to pay for perfect plants? Accept the occasional plant-lice and eaten leaves – and yes, even the occasional snail. If your plants can’t handle them, let them die.However, if you did create a habitat fit for birds, they will eat most snails and the few left over will only do a bit of damage.
- Choose plants that are hardy in your climate Plants that get eaten are usually plants that aren’t healthy. Plants have natural defenses against pests and will usually thrive if they are put in the kind of spot that suits their temperament. So choose desert plants in a desert environment (saves on water too), and marsh plants in a marshy environment.
- Sometimes it isn’t you In fact, it usually isn’t you. I have blueberries in two spots in my garden. From the same cultivator, bought and planted at the same time in very similar soil. One batch is thriving. The other is being eaten (though still very much alive). The difference? I have no idea. If they do die I will simply replace them with something else. No need for pesticides.
- Do NOT spray insecticides Why not? It’s no longer an organic garden if you do. Just plant something else that is a bit more suitable to your soil/climate/spot to replace any dying plants.