Given the brief history of chemical pesticides in farming and gardening, it is strange how their use has come to be used as traditional, while organic farming and gardening, with its 5000 year history, is thought of as the more radical approach.
Reducing Pesticide Use
Some books make gardening without pesticides seem next to impossible. Reducing pesticide use is not simply a matter of substituting a natural pesticide for a synthetic one. However, there are 2 very sound strategies to achieve an attractive, pesticide free landscape and garden: good design and either organic gardening or Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Landscapes can be designed to eliminate pesticide usage. To accomplish this, choose native plants or ones that are pest resistant. Plants can be added to the garden to attract birds and insects that prey on pest species. Enhancing the diversity of your garden ecosystem will contribute to its health.
Use mulches and groundcovers to prevent weeds. Learn appropriate pruning, watering, fertilization and cultivation practices for the species planted. Decide your uses for a lawn (sunning, kid’s play, and croquet) and plant only as much as you need. There may be some fine-tuning to get the appropriate mix of plants that best suits your needs.
Alternatives to Chemicals
Manage pests without chemicals as much as possible. First, monitor your garden for pests. Information about what is happening in your garden will be your most important tool. Set realistic standards for the presence of insects or weeds. Is some cosmetic damage to food crops acceptable? How manicured does your lawn need to be? Use physical controls such as manual picking, weeding, barriers, and traps. Examples of pest barriers are fabric row covers used to protect vegetable crops from insects and netting over berries to prevent bird damage.
A third strategy is the use of biological controls. Conserve the pest’s natural enemies through proper selection of plant species or the introduction of the natural enemies to the garden. There are also commercially made pathogens of some insect pests available through garden stores and catalogs. The last resort is chemical control. Choose the least toxic or environmentally damaging product available. This may be an insecticidal soap or plant-derived product such as pyrethrum. Try other attractants to lure and/or confuse the pest, juvenile hormones that arrest pest development, and sterilants or contraceptives to reduce breeding of future pest generations. These methods take some time to research and use, but they are well worth the effort.