More and more hobby gardeners prefer organic plant protection, because “organic” is also an important topic in the garden. People are consciously avoiding chemicals in everyday life and buying goods of organic production and origin – be it food, textiles, cosmetic products or even plant protection products. Here are ten practical tips that show how easy it is to implement organic plant protection in your garden.
If you prefer to rely on biological plant protection instead of conventional pesticides, you should generally avoid using chemicals in the garden. It is much more environmentally friendly to use biodegradable products, promote beneficial insects and strengthen the plants against diseases and pests from the inside out. If you are having a fruit and vegetable garden it makes even more sense. Who wants to eat the healthy foods with all the chemicals inside?
Biological plant protection using beneficial insects
Anyone who relies on biological plant protection in the garden cannot do without beneficial insects. This is because beneficial insects such as hoverflies, earwigs and their offspring prevent aphids and other insect pests from getting out of hand. Among the most effective hunters is the ladybug. Provide natural hiding places for the beetles to overwinter, such as a pile of leaves. In spring, the beetles attach their yellow egg clutches to the underside of leaves. The black, orange-spotted larvae (“aphid lions”), up to eight millimeters long, consume up to 600 aphids, spider mites and young bugs during their development period.
Dusting instead of spraying
Organic pesticides such as rock flour and algal lime are highly popular with organic gardeners. The flours, which are sprinkled over the soil and lightly raked in, enrich the soil with various minerals and trace elements such as selenium or iron. Regular use of this biological plant protection increases the plants’ uptake of these substances and enhances their resistance. If the fine powder is dusted directly over leaves and shoots, feeding insects, such as Colorado potato beetles or cabbage white butterflies, look for other targets. It can also be used to prevent black spot on roses or celery leaf spot (Septoria). However, too frequent application hinders photosynthesis.
Green power: plants helping plants
Self-prepared plant extracts are often used as fertilizer, but the natural pharmacy also offers a number of herbs that can be used in biological plant protection. When it comes to combating pests and plant diseases, each herb has its own specialty: comfrey prevents fungal infestation, chamomile protects vegetables, strawberries and ornamental plants from root rot. Nettle broth repels aphids, wormwood is used to fight blackberry mites and vegetable flies. Mugwort is used as a watering agent and prevents the settlement of ants.
Preparation of the broths:
Infuse about 1 kilo (2 pounds) of fresh herb in 10 liters (21 US pt) of water for 12 to 36 hours, strain and apply diluted with water by 1:10.
Using fleece and nets in biological plant protection
You can protect sensitive crops or young plants from late frost, heavy rain and drafts with fleece and close-meshed fruit protection or vegetable protection nets. You also deny access to leek moths, carrot, cabbage or onion flies, as well as cabbage moths and other insect pests. However, this only works if the cover is applied immediately after sowing or planting. You also need to make sure that there are no loopholes around the edges. A useful tip for covering small-crowned fruit trees and berry bushes is to always use white netting if possible, as there is a risk of heat build-up under black fabric. And only put the nets on when the blossoms have already been pollinated and the first small fruits are visible.
Trapping pests the biological way
Traps equipped with attractants (pheromones) and adhesive foil catch male moths of codling moths and plum moths, thus preventing the females from fertilizing. Yellow plates prepared with a sticky agent attract cherry fruit flies, and cherry vinegar flies are caught in cups filled with a trapping liquid. These trapping methods can significantly reduce the infestation of fruit by maggots. However, proper pheromone traps should not be hung directly in the endangered plants, but at some distance from them. Attractant traps work best as an indicator to show the beginning of the flight of the moth. In this way, depending on the pest species, the optimal control date of the caterpillars can be determined.
Biological plant protection with homeopathy
What has proven successful for humans and animals is now also being used in the garden. If homeopathic remedies are used for biological plant protection, they can drive away pests and help plants to grow more vigorously. Calendula C 30 (6 globules/30 liters of water) is said to promote root development in young plants. Ready-made preparations such as homeopathic plant elixir is also administered via the irrigation water, rose elixir stimulates the flowering of roses and is also said to help strawberries to produce abundant fruit.
Treat powdery mildew infestation in the orchard biologically
Powdery mildew is one of the most common plant diseases. The fungus mostly attacks cucumbers, zucchini and lettuce, roses and delphiniums. Apple trees are already infected in the spring when budding. Buds and young leaves appear as if powdered over with flour, and in case of heavy infestation the shoot tips die. Anyone who wants to implement biological plant protection in the garden should therefore either choose mildew-resistant varieties or spray preparations with wettable sulphur several times at a 14-day interval at the first signs.
Pay attention to the package instructions
If you value organic plant protection, you should also not use organic sprays without hesitation. Please read the concentration, recommended number of applications and spraying intervals stated on the package carefully and be sure to adhere to them. This is especially important for natural plant toxins, such as extracts of Indian neem or the active ingredient pyrethrum, which is derived from a certain species of chrysanthemum. Both substances also harm beneficial insects, such as butterfly caterpillars, bumblebees and bees, on direct contact.
Spoiling the appetite of slugs
When it comes to combating the powerful slimers, you quickly fall behind. But there is a plant protection trick that is purely biological: laying out boards as a daytime hiding place and regularly collecting the slugs, hiding under them, is effective. Of course, this takes time and is not everyone’s cup of tea. Those who sprinkle slug pellets around endangered plants should choose preparations containing the active ingredient iron III phosphate. The bait granules act as a feeding stop and are harmless to pets, hedgehogs and slug-eating birds.
No fear of the box tree moth
An inconspicuous, gray-brown moth called the boxwood borer and its voracious caterpillars repeatedly cause owners of carefully pruned boxwoods and borders to resort to harsh chemicals out of desperation. Collecting the beetle caterpillars is only feasible for smaller solitary trees. For tits and wasps, the pests are a welcome protein food, but in the case of a real invasion, they can hardly cope with the plague. You can achieve a reliable effect with Bacillus thuringiensis preparations. The soil bacterium, which is harmless to humans, birds and most beneficial insects, causes the caterpillars to die within a few days. Application: Spray from the hatching of the first caterpillars, wetting the leaves and shoots well, even inside the shrubs.