Beneficials, Another Choice
by Patsy Williams, Master Rosarian
Pesticides in bottles were not the first means of insect control. Until around 1939, insect pests were controlled using insect predators and parasites. That approach is still viable, especially with today’s improved knowledge of this art. While not all chemicals devastate the environment of our gardens, pest control through increasing the population of beneficials, i.e., predatory-and parasitic insects, is preferred by many rosarians.
More and more of us are becoming concerned about the health of our ecosystems. For various reasons the use of chemical pesticides has become less and less acceptable. Some of the reasons are:
1. Increased pest resistance to pesticides.
2. They kill the natural enemy of the pest, allowing the pest insect to resurge to even greater numbers.
3. They can bring about an outbreak of a secondary pest, which can thrive without competition.
4. They are becoming more expensive and less attractive to produce because of an increase in the cost of raw materials and tighter Environmental Protection Agency controls.
5. They have become less socially acceptable because of increased education and the resulting concern for human health.
6. Ground water, river and ocean contamination is heightened.
7. Loss or endangerment of animal and plant species because of pesticide use.
The home gardener can easily follow a chemical-free gardening regime with excellent results. When we commit to pesticide free gardening, we can begin to reduce the pesticide residues in our garden and to create a healthy environment for our family and pets. There are many beneficial insects in nature. Some of them are commercially produced so that their naturally occurring numbers can be artificially increased in the early spring when pest infestations are just beginning.
We, as gardeners, must become somewhat educated as to which pest insects we have in our gardens and monitor our gardens to know when the infestations begin. It is important to release the predator and parasitoid insects at the right time. We should not wait until the pest population is too high.
Beneficial insects are functioning as they should when we are not even aware of their good work. They create a natural balance, keeping the pest insect numbers low enough to prevent unacceptable aesthetic damage or endangerment to the health of the plant. We do not want to kill all the pest insects, for the beneficials need a steady supply of food for their survival.
We can encourage beneficial insects to stay and reproduce in our gardens if we provide the right habitat. Beneficial insects need pollen, nectar and a steady supply of prey. They need a water source (tray of water and gravel, or water garden). They need shelter from wind, rain, and extremes of temperature.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a process for deciding, if, when, and how to control pest problems. It combines strategies and tactics for the organic and natural control of pest problems and uses chemical pesticides only as a last resort. These gardening techniques should create a healthy environment which maintains the populations of beneficial insects.
As a general rule, good organic horticulture practice will accomplish this. Organic mulches and green manures feed the soil, thus creating healthy plants which are less attractive to pest insects. Plants grown with ammonia based fertilizers actually attract pest insects.
Some large insects can be removed by hand. Before introducing beneficials, a strong spray of water can be used to knock down a heavy infestation of pest insects. Remember, however, after introduction of beneficials, there will be eggs and immature, non-flying forms of the beneficials present on your plants. A strong spraying will wash them off and they may never find their way back onto the plants.
Consider discontinuing use of bug zappers, as these also kill the adult, flying forms of beneficials. The few release techniques that are required for the use of beneficial insects are less time consuming than having to mix pesticides, spray entire areas, and then follow the recommended insecticide disposal techniques, which do not prevent environmental contamination in the long run. This natural method is more fun and more in harmony with a gardener’s mentality. With decreased pesticide residues in our garden, the beneficial insects will have a higher survival rate, give us better results and a decrease in cost with each succeeding year, and help preserve the health of MOTHER EARTH.
Organics add life to the soil
Each time you add anything organic to the soil, you are improving the composition and life of the soil. A soil high in organics is a healthier soil, which makes it a better growing medium for your roses. Add organic fertilizers whenever possible. The healthier a soil is, the healthier the plant will be, producing a plant which will be less susceptible to disease and fungus.
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