Organic Pest Control for Garden Bugs

While some of our fellow gardeners are still waiting for the growing season to come around, we here in Zone 7A are full on! Our plants are coming along. We got them out early and nurtured them through some cold snaps and their leaves were so beautifully unblemished–for a time.

Like many in the GardensAll.com audience, we are keen on organic gardening. Recent rains brought on a rash of garden slugs, ranging in size from that of a pencil lead to nearly three inches. Snails too. Wouldn’t it be great if they just stuck to one leaf. But no, they’re either quite picky eaters or entirely random impulse diners.

Getting in the garden early in the morning and picking off leaves seemed helpful but not entirely effective. So we resorted to spreading slug pellets, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)1)http://www.omri.org/ certified kind, in and around the rows. The badly shot-gunned leaves were removed and so we’ll keep checking the lesser damaged leaves for any continued slug feasting.

shutterstock_309475028Worse Than Garden Slugs

Worse than slugs, our tomato plants are showing signs of flea beetles. The lower leaves are riddled with pinprick holes and a few of the little pinheads have been seen and squished, but mostly they scatter and are hard to combat. Aptly named, because they have strong hind legs that help them jump and quickly scatter.

Flea beetle
Flea beetle
Flea beetles - image from PlanetNatural.com
Flea beetles – image from PlanetNatural.com

We really want to keep the garden pest free AND pesticide free, using natural gardening methods. So after doing a broad search on treatments, we decided to declare biological warfare and deploy beneficial nematodes.

Microbes for Biological Teamwork

Beneficial nematodes, steinernema-feltiae. Image from PlanetNatural.com
Beneficial nematodes, steinernema-feltiae. Image from PlanetNatural.com

My mother-in-law, who lived in Hawaii for many years, almost freaked out when told we were actually adding nematodes to the garden. She recalled that they were the bane of any in-ground gardener, and if one were to grow anything, the ground had to be fumigated to KILL the nematodes first. Chances are, that would also do damage to beneficial organisms.

The key word is “beneficial”. Indeed, there are “bad” nematodes that do serious damage to plants, but there are good guy nematodes (wonder if they wear white hats?) who attack bugs, and that includes flea beetles. The killing agent is the bacterial flora they have in their gut that invades the target and kills it off in short order. 2)https://www.mastergardeners.org/publications/nematodes/beneficial_nematodes.html

What do they kill?

Nematodes help to get rid of:

  • Grubs and the larval or grub stage of Japanese Beetles
  • Northern Masked Chafer
  • European Chafer
  • Rose Chafer
  • Fly larvae
  • Oriental Beetles
  • June Beetles
  • Flea beetles
  • Bill-bugs
  • Cut-worms
  • Army worms
  • Black Vine Weevils
  • Strawberry Root Weevils
  • Fungus Gnats, Sciarid larvae
  • Sod Web-worms
  • Girdler
  • Citrus Weevils
  • Maggots and other Dip-tera
  • Mole Crickets
  • Iris Borer
  • Root Maggot
  • Cabbage Root Maggot
  • Carrot Weevils

As you can see, flea beetles are on their hit list.3)http://www.nematodes.com/

So in search of an organic solution in the form of friendly nematodes, we found a well reviewed product on line, enough to treat up to 3000 square feet of surface area. We deployed our nematodes a couple of evenings ago and are very much anticipating a decline in the nefarious insect population. The war is on, and we are adding these biologicals to our arsenal as part of Integrated Pest Management in order to get the most out of our garden in balance with doing the least harm to the ambient environment. 4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_pest_management

We’ll post updates on how the slug bait and the nematodes are doing to curb the invaders and unwelcome consumers of our food resource.  As always, we invite your comments and tips on what and how you’ve kept the intruders at bay. You can send an email or join the conversations on the Gardens All Facebook page.

Wisdom from Gardeners

Speaking of the our Facebook page… here’s a home remedy from within the GardensAll community, (you can click on the blue ‘post’ word to go straight to that original Facebook post and conversation thread):


Here’s another article on natural pest control for organic gardens, you may wish to peruse these articles.5)https://gardensall.com/garden-pest-and-disease-control/

References   [ + ]