As gardeners, we are responsible for protecting our plants from attackers including pesky insects, diseases, and the not-so-fun types of fungi. These opponents seem daunting, but we aren’t helpless against them. There are plenty of eco-friendly pesticides and fungicides to keep our gardens healthy– without polluting our air, water, soil, and health.
Eco-friendly pesticides #1: Neem Oil
One of my favorite all-in-one pesticides and fungicides is the humble Neem Oil. It comes from the neem tree, and works serious wonders at eliminating downy mildew, aphids, and other pests, without harming pollinators. In fact, Neem oil is so safe it can be applied to fruit or vegetable plants the day before harvest. Compare that to commercial products, which warn you to wait up to a week after application before eating sprayed plants!
To use, be sure to follow the dilution and application instructions on the package. Though neem oil is not harmful to pollinators once it is dried on the plants, it can be harmful if sprayed directly onto a busy bee or butterfly. So watch out where you’re spraying!
Eco-friendly pesticides #2: Compost Tea
Another All-Time-Classic of eco-friendly pesticides is Compost Tea. The process of making it is delightfully simple. Put a mesh bag in a 5-gallon bucket, and fill it with mature compost (or worm castings!). Tie off the bag and add water! (Bonus points if you add an aerator!) Allow it to steep for 24-72 hours.
Then, remove the bag of compost and allow it to dry before returning it to your compost heap. Finally, fill a spray bottle with your compost tea, generously spray your plants, and watch those aphids disappear!
Note: This method is not recommended for edible plants, or plants experiencing mold issues. Any plant with mold such as rust or downy mildew should not be fertilized! This risks feeding the fungi and increasing the infection.
Garden Waste Disposal
If there is one rule of garden sanitation that shall be obeyed, no matter what, it is this: DO NOT COMPOST DISEASED PLANTS!
This adds disease-causing germs to your compost, which puts the disease right back in your soil where it can attack your garden again next year. The best way to dispose of diseased plant material is to dry it in the sun (away from your garden) and then burn it.
Good planning goes a long way when it comes to preventing pests and diseases– and making sure each plant has enough elbow room plays a crucial role. Spacing out plants allows for air flow that helps plants dry between waterings. When plants are able to dry completely between waterings, there’s fewer resources available for molds and pests.
Plant selection can also play a huge role in cutting back on pest pressure. Creating diverse gardens rather than monocultures, as well planting pest-deterring and beneficial insect-inviting plants can also help save your garden! (For more detail on this topic, check out this post!!)
There are so many ways to prevent diseases and pests from taking over our gardens– and they don’t have to pollute our environment. Now get out there and show those pests who’s boss!