This week the kids learned about organic pesticides. Besides the obvious “plucking and chucking” method, they learned there are other ways to control the pests attacking their plants. First and foremost are the “beneficials.” This a fancy term for good bugs that eat bad bugs. Which bugs are good?
How about the ever popular ladybug? She LOVES to eat aphids, but so do green lacewings. These two also enjoy whiteflies and mites, tomato fruitworms and pinworms, as do trichogramma wasps. But praying mantids also like to eat these critters. Have a problem with mosquitoes? Look no further than your friendly dragonfly–they gobble these stinging beasts by the hundreds! Frogs will delight in a menu of mosquitoes, too, but these fellas also like slugs and snails–very bad bugs in the garden. Besides their cool names, assassin and pirate bugs are all-around general pest-fighters so invite them to stay for sure.
But good bugs are not your only weapon against bad bugs. You can also plant herbs and flowers to repel the pests you don’t want, not to mention beautify your garden! Some bugs are “repelled” by certain scents so you’ll want to be sure to include these in your garden. One of the all around best is French marigold.
Not only does it repel nematodes (microscopic bugs in the soil), it also discourages whiteflies, flea beetles and aphids. Geraniums repel red spider mites and horseradish repels potato bugs. Snails and slugs hate wormwood.
Speaking of “good scents,” you can also use aromatic plants to prevent pests. Ants don’t like peppermint and spearmint. Cabbage moths will steer clear from rosemary. (Hey, this reminds me of companion planting!) And the one plant that repels them all, including some kids? Garlic.
If you don’t want to grow garlic, consider using it to make a spray for your vegetable plants. Ground a few cloves and cayenne pepper together, steep them in hot water (like you do tea bags) and allow the mixture to sit 24-48 hours. Then watch out bugs, this yucky smelling spray is coming to a plant near you! Or how about steeping some wormwood instead of garlic? Caterpillars will run! You can also create a spray by mixing your compost or old coffee with water. Let it sit for a few days and **presto** anti-bug spray. Caution: wear gloves and don’t touch your eyes before washing your hands.
Yuck for you and yuck for bugs. And all your sprays will work a little better if you add a bit of dish soap to the mix—or combine it with water and use it on its own! Soapy water stops pests in their tracks.
I’ve also heard that bugs don’t care for the aroma of onions, so this week the kids planted a bunch. Scallions, sweet onions…and right next to our bed of lettuce. Hmmm… Salad anyone?
And if the bugs like our onions as much as we do well then we’ll just break out one of our other methods! Be sure to check out the Kid Buzz section for a complete list of our garden lessons!