May 2011

Organic pest control

Arnold Brouwer explains some environmentally friendly ways to control pests and protect your plants in an urban vegetable garden

Arnold Brouwer
Director Huertos

The best pest control is constant care for the garden. A well fed and strong crop is less likely to be attacked by pests. A strict watering regime that allows plenty of moisture and avoids drying out is the most important rule. The plants also need to be on a healthy diet by applying organic fertilizer (preferably your own compost). These gardening techniques are called natural control.

The next step is biological control. Make sure the garden is a haven for so-called beneficial insects. The ladybug will help you to keep populations of aphids and mites down. Some kinds of wasps parasitize the eggs of agricultural pest insects and help to control the population. Toads and spiders eat all kinds of flies and the honey bee will help to pollinate the flowers of your garden, including the flowers of the crops you have left over to produce seed for next year.

Another important principle is biodiversity. The closer you get to a natural system, with all kinds of plants and insects, the healthier your garden will be. Plant colorful flowers and smelly herbs in-between good mixtures of vegetable crops. Colorful flowers attract beneficial insects, whilst herbs with a strong smell deter pests. A very well known (and also tasty) combination is tomato with strong smelling basil.

If the above natural methods have not worked, there are other measures that do not involve chemical pesticides. You can pick up the bigger insects in your hands, or use traps in order to catch the smaller insects. Hang a brightly colored plastic bag with used cooking oil on it in the garden; small insects will be attracted and stick to the plastic. You can also use natural pesticides, which are easy to make and which are not as dangerous for your health as chemical ones.

One of the easiest natural pesticides which you can use to control aphids and insects is an onion/garlic spray. Cut up 8 cloves of garlic and 6 onions, leave it overnight in water and then filter it into a plastic 2 liter bottle which contains 3 teaspoons of dishwashing liquid. Top it up with water afterwards. Dilute this natural pesticide in water with a ratio of 1 to 20. Apply it to your garden every 10 days in order to avoid pest attacks.

As you can see, the last two options use the same principals as nature: bright colors to attract insects and smelly natural pesticide to discourage the pest insects from visiting your vegetable garden.

Humintas– The Bolivians’ favorite snack

The little package being placed in front of me at a small café well hidden from the cars and the noises in the streets looks delicious and appetizing. A smell of sweetness with a touch of spices invites me to open the little present and enjoy the tasty filling which brings me closer to an exciting culture very different from my own.

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