If you garden then you are sure to have come up against an insect issue at one time or another. Thankfully, safe garden pest controls are more available than ever. Having many options that won’t harm you or the environment while getting rid of your garden pests is a great thing. Naturally, some methods and products will work better than others. Let’s review the HOW, WHEN and WHAT types of safe garden pest controls are available today that have been proven in real world situations in getting rid of bugs in the garden – safely!
Above: A spider mite infestation in strawberry plants
Sprays can be a good Go To as effective and safe garden pest control. In commercial agriculture this is the most common way of dealing with a variety of garden issues. Even if it is organic, when you buy produce at your local grocery store it is impossible to know what has come into contact with the food your are going to eat, or worse – feed your family, while still the safer choice. When growing your own food crops you can decide what comes into contact with your food plants, and to educate yourself on what is and what is not safe.
Insect Pest Identification
Understanding the life cycle of your target pest is important to effectively control or eliminating them in your garden. If you know the pest’s life cycle, i.e. How Long it Take For Them to Reproduce, then you can use that to know how often to spray, and other ways to make better decisions in how and when you treat your food crops for garden pests. Good News about most of the safe garden pest controls we recommend here is that they are broad spectrum. This means that they are effective in combating most types of garden insects and are not terribly species specific.
Note: If you have beneficial insects, or want to, it’s usually best to avoid spraying anything at all, even organic controls.
Timing of Application & Frequency
Always follow the label to the letter when it comes to spraying anything on your food crops. Even the safest garden pest controls can leave unwanted residues if not given enough time, based on the type of product, before harvest. While these left over compounds may not be harmful to you they can still affect things like taste and aroma. Neem Oil is one such example. While effective, raw neem oil based sprays will leave aromatic oils on the harvest if not given enough time to breakdown from exposure to light, air and moisture.
For most products used as safe garden pest controls, more than one application may be required. This may not have to do with how well the product works, instead, it’s more to do with the likelihood that you are fighting several generations of pests at once. Most pests will have multiple stages: eggs, juveniles, and adults. The eggs may not be affected on initial contact, or they may be well hidden out of reach from your sprays, so that’s why you usually need to reapply at least three times. This highlights the importance of knowing how many days between each stage to find a more exacting measure of when to spray.
Types of Products
Some types of safe garden pest controls, like neem oils, will have a residue that lasts a little while, ie “persistence”. Others, like natural Pyrethrums (chrysanthemum flower extracts) may break down in a matter of hours. Systemic means that Active Ingredients (AI) get into the plant tissue, and can last a very long time. Read labels carefully. However, no need to sweat anything, we have you safely covered in our list of proven safe garden pest control recommendations shared here.
Safer’s Insecticidal Soap + Einstein Oil (sprayer mix)
Safer’s Insecticidal Soap is a long standing favorite with many gardeners for basic insect controls. It basically burns soft bodied insects via “soap” while is gentle on most plant types. Very low persistence levels, typically. Einstein Oil can be added to a spray mix when you purchase Safer’s Insecticidal Soap Concentrate (diluted by you, better value and control) versus Ready To Use formula. Einstein Oil is a neem based oil with other natural components. It will add more persistence to the safe garden pest control spray mix, and uses a different mode of action to combat insects. This makes it tougher for pests to develop resistance to the treatment(s) too, ie mixed sprays. Neem based products mess with your pests reproductive cycle and hormonal balances, naturally. It also helps to smother them, as most soft bodies insects breather through their skin.
GreenCleaner, Multi-Treatment, All-in-One
This is an example of Botanical Oils that can be effectively used as safe garden pest controls, including crop diseases like powdery mildew. Active Ingredients are listed on the label below. Feedback and product claims also suggest that there is a good level of persistence, with minimal residuals in the harvest–reported to be totally safe and non toxic to humans, pets and the environment. You just don’t want to be a soft bodied insect, insect egg or spore and get hit with the spray! It’s available as a Ready To Use formula as well as a Concentrate, depending on how much crop you will need to spray.
Certified Organic Safe Garden Pest Controls
For some growers and gardeners, it just has to be Certified Organic, ie OMRI. This doesn’t necessarily make a product more effective or even safer to use. It does mean, however, that it may be incorporated into a Certified Organic Cropping Program when used as directed, in most instances. Here’s the official version, on what has been heralded as a great option because it may be safe to use with many types of beneficial insects used to help control pests:
Safer Brand Insecticidal Soap and Pyrethrin Conectrate is OMRI Listed and labeled for professional use so it can be used in your organic farm without sacrificing certification. One bottle makes 25 gallons (treats up to 14,000 sq. ft.) of solution to eliminate hard and soft bodied insects on contact! Targets and kills a variety of hard and soft bodied insects and does not kill beneficial insects.