Many homeowners and gardeners are interested in controlling plant pests without using chemicals that end up in landscape runoff. Green pest control methods include planting natural insect repellents, applying natural products, and implementing cultural controls.
There is a growing movement of homeowners, lawn care providers, gardeners, and farmers turning to natural methods of controlling landscape pests. Why? Many are scaling back the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in an effort to better care for the environment and people’s health.
The Impact of Runoff
Most of us are aware of the impact of polluted runoff entering our bodies of water. Chemical pesticides contribute to runoff, and the presence of these pollutants in water has significant effects on marine ecosystems.
Chemical pest controls pose a threat to humans, too, with studies showing their contribution to the risk of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s. When used on crops, chemical pesticides decrease the nutritional content of the plants.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to keep insects from damaging landscaping plants. Consider the following suggestions as alternatives to chemical pesticides.
Plant Natural Insect Repellents
Installing plants that naturally repel certain bugs is a great pest control and an excellent excuse to add beauty and color to a landscape! Particular flowers and plants serve as natural insect repellents. Here are a few:
- Chrysanthemums deter ants, Japanese beetles, spider mites, ticks, silverfish, and cockroaches
- Marigolds repel mosquitoes and plant lice (and rabbits, too)
- Lavender keeps gnats and mosquitoes away
- Petunias deter asparagus beetles, aphids, leafhoppers, and tomato worms
- Garlic keeps out Japanese beetles, carrot root flies, root maggots, and aphids
- Citronella grass repels mosquitoes
Apply Natural Products
There are several natural products that you can enlist to fight off lawn and garden insect pests.
- Plant oils can kill smaller, soft-bodied insects and their eggs, reduce colonization, and reduce the chance of plant infection. Try citrus oils (limonene and linalool), neem oil, mineral oils, and horticultural oils.
- Insecticidal soaps target soft-bodied insects. Insecticidal soaps must make direct contact with insects to be effective.
- Plant extracts are available in spray, dust, and aerosol forms and can be used to repel a wide range of pests. One popular choice is pyrethrum (made from the chrysanthemum).
- Mineral insecticides such as diatomaceous earth, kaolin clay, sulfur, and iron phosphate target insects in specific ways that kill them or keep them from feeding and laying eggs.
- Cedar sawdust: application to lawns deters fleas, chiggers, and mites.
Many of these natural products have no residual activity and need to be reapplied regularly. Make sure to read labels carefully; use only the amount directed and avoid using on sensitive plants.
Implement Cultural Controls
Appropriate cultural controls are another critical aspect of keeping pests away. Keep garden beds trimmed to reduce hiding places, and spray plants with a hard stream of water to knock off bugs. Mow lawns on a regular basis, using sharp blades to cut the grass.
Integrated pest management is the most effective way to control landscape pests. Don’t choose just one method; combine appropriate cultural practices, resistant plants, natural products, and perhaps biological controls. Choose methods suitable for the pests on your plants. Read labels carefully and pay attention to what works and what needs adjusting.