We all have to live on this earth sharing the same air, soil and water, so doesn’t it make sense to use the most earth-friendly options available to us when working with our plants? By earth-friendly, we mean products with the least negative impact on the world around us, both now (when we use the products) and in the future. The concept of earth-friendly solutions includes organic gardening but goes further to look at some of the gardening products which do not meet the definition of organic, but are considered “safer” than many organic products. While the exact definition of organic changes as we learn more and more about the inter-connectedness of everything in our environment, the essence of the word stays the same: Organic gardening uses natural products and techniques. To be involved in gardening with earth-friendly solutions, the gardener must be open to constantly learning more. New research and product development is always challenging the earth-friendly gardener to stay informed.
A product once thought to be safe to use may now be questionable, or worse, dangerous. What may be a relatively safe chemical used by itself (and, yes, not all chemicals are bad) might be extremely hazardous if used in combination with another chemical or if used on the wrong plant or at the wrong time of year. Another challenge for many earth-friendly gardeners is accepting the limitations (choosing these methods may mean having to accept a few weeds in the lawn and a few blemishes on the fruits) and to be realistic about the fact that some organic chemicals are much ore toxic than some of the non-organic chemicals. The bottom line is earth-friendly gardening can be challenging.
Here is a general overview of earth-friendly products currently on the market. These are the common products and there are thousands more. As you can see, this huge topic has generated hundreds of books and magazines, for further information, check Bachman’s selection of books, your local library or on the web tap into www.organic.com.
Bone/Blood Meal- Blood meal is a good source of nitrogen. The combination bone/blood meal fertilizers are good. Unless you have a source of plain bone meal that has not been steamed, it is not a good fertilizer for our area. Steamed bone meal offers little more than calcium and local soils are very high in calcium naturally.
Fish Emulsion and Seaweed/Kelp Extracts- Good water-soluble source of nitrogen.
Ringer’s Restore and Ringer’s Supreme- Natural fertilizer for lawns and gardens.
Sustane- Excellent local source (from composted turkey litter/manure) for lawns and gardens.
Manure, Earthworm Castings & Compost- Nutritional value and quality vary greatly on packaged products, but all composted products improve the soil structure as well as offering some nutrition.
Miscellaneous- Gypsum, Lime, Iron Sulfate, Green Sand, Rock Phosphate, Sulfur, and Cottonseed Meal.
Insecticidal Soap- Very effective against soft-bodied insects.
Horticultural Oil- Works well on many insects including hard problems such as scale and spider mites.
Bacillus thuringiensus (Bt)- Several strains available that target chewing insects, fungus gnats, mosquitoes and Colorado potato beetles.
Pyrethrin- Broad-spectrum contact insecticide derived from plants. Various forms (natural and synthetic) and sold in combination with other insecticides because it makes both work better.
Neem- Works as a repellent, a contact and residual insecticide and interrupts the life cycle of the insects. Sold as Bio-Neem by Safer’s.
Miscellaneous- Rotenone, Boric Acid, Milky Spore.Fungicides
Horticultural Oil and Neem- Both of these products are fungicides as well as insecticides.
Sulfur and Lime Sulfur- Sulfur is a broad-spectrum fungicide. Available in combination with lime to make it more effective but warning on the label of the lime sulfur products are frightening. Both products can be harmful to soil micro-organisms and beneficial insects as well.
Copper/Bordeaux Mix- A very strong fungicide used very selectively as a last resort. Harmful to plants if not used very carefully. Can actually act as an herbicide. Harmful to soil microorganisms, beneficial insects, all mammals.
Baking Soda- Research is ongoing as to the best way to use baking soda but it appears to be a fairly effective broad-spectrum fungicide, especially when applied with oil as a sticking agent.
Safer’s Herbicides- (check the labels closely- Safer’s has changed ownership and not all Safer’s products are still earth-friendly) Post-emergent; high concentration of fatty acids kills non-woody top growth. Quick acting but often requires additional treatment.
Corn Gluten- Pre-emergent; more effective after repeated applications.
Round Up/Finale- Non-selective, post-emergent; effective but new research indicates it should be used with care; not as innocuous as once thought.
Repellents and Barriers
Scare Tapes, Owls, Snake and Balloons- Work strictly by scaring the pests.
Hot Pepper Wax- Extract from hot peppers keeps most pests from chewing/sucking.
Citrus Oil- Derived from oranges, citrus oil is an effective repellent for ants and some other insects.
Garlic Barrier- Garlic scent is supposed to be light enough not to be noticed by people once it dries but continues to repel
insects (including pollinators) but without adding flavor to the plant.
Deer Guard, Deer Scram, etc.- These repel by taste and by smell. Some are in a sticking agent to keep them from washing off the plants.
Diatomaceous Earth- Most effective as barrier against slug damage; made from fossilized diatoms.
Copper Strips- Galvanic reaction creates a barrier slugs won’t cross.
Animal Urines- Specific predator animal urines can be used to repel rabbits, deer, etc.
Bird Scare Tape- Reflective tapes
Tanglefoot and Sticky Yellow Cards- Sticky substance that traps insects, spread on a lure or used as a barrier.
Slug Traps- Various configurations of shallow containers to trap and drown slugs.
Pheromone Traps- Traps that are baited with pheromone, a species-specific sexual attractant.
Wasp Trap- Baited with something sweet and with meat attracts and traps wasps.
Apple Maggot Traps- Round, red apple-like sphere coated with tanglefoot, some baited with pheromones.
Lady Bugs- Dormant adults sold for release to help with aphid control.
Praying Mantis- Egg cases sold for incubation at home; praying mantis will target beneficial insects too.
Beneficial Nematodes- Specific strains of nematodes that infest grubs and such in the soil.
Bachman’s © 2010