The Good Bug, Bad Pest, and Ugly Diseases In Our Backyard Gardens

If anyone is still undecided as to whether insecticides are dangerous to humans then they should read the news today about 20 school children who died in India over the past 24 hours after eating a school prepared meal, which allegedly had not been washed correctly before cooking.

Apparently, insecticide was still on and in the produce and this poisoned over 60 young children with the symptoms of toxic chemical ingestion appearing quickly after consumption. Is this incident itself NOT a reason to STOP using chemicals on our food?!   

olive pest lace bug beign attacked by a spider

My attitude towards pesticides has changed

I’ll admit it again (I’ve said it before) yes, sigh… I’ve used household pesticides in the past (a long time ago) and even though I didn’t use the “hard stuff” anymore myself, I could still justify others using pesticides in extreme cases… but not any more.

I now DO NOT believe in the use of toxic chemicals to control pest and disease in the home garden under any circumstances (not even commercially OBVIOUSLY but we’re not talking about that too much in this article because I want to focus on our home garden).   

In the right sidbar here on this website, for the past 18 months we've been running a voting board which asked the question Are pesticides ok to use in the home garden? The results are interesting and at the time of writing 64% of respondents don't beleive in the use of pesticides at all. Personally, I don't think this percentage is as high as it should be and it shows me many in our community are pretty comfortable eating poison… he he, sorry that's a bit mean. You do get my point though? You can still vote by the way.

You are always learning and evolving as a backyard food gardener and those of us who are in the garden a lot tend to develop a natural feel for the conditions, seasons, and the often unnoticed partnership between plants and plants, animals and plants, and animals and animals.  Often these symbiotic forces are at work all around and right under our noses.

And these relationships between plants, animals, and other organisms have been developed over millions of years – tested by the balance of nature to ensure everything works out fairly in the end for the survival of all not just the dominance of one.

Then we come along, with our power to enforce our will on anything and our total disregard to the welfare of other species as we artificially dominate the land with chemicals and technology. We do this not over millennia but more like in the blink of an eye upsetting the natural balance for our own goals and short term gains.     

All the time, we’re thinking “so smug” by our conquests of nature like the gloating boxer prancing around the ring not watching his opponent slowly getting back to his feet and then… POW! Out of nowhere lands a punch so hard we’re not just knocked down – we’re knocked right out of the arena.

Nature is like that, she’s a force not tamed by man and this doesn’t just mean cyclones and oceans. We may think we are controlling pests and diseases in the garden by chemical warfare but the truth is we’re controlling SQUAT and it’s more likely killing us through our own ingestion either directly as we’ve seen in the news or quietly via cancers and other mysterious illnesses.  

Chemical control is not just bad it's also a waste

My observations in the garden and my own experience in using pesticides has proven to me that using these chemicals are not just “bad” for the environment but they are actually a complete waste of time, effort, and money to apply.

I’ve stopped pests in food crops with potent pesticides only to inconvenience myself by adhering to withholding periods etc just to find the same pest returning soon after. Worse still, I've found by applying chemicals I inadvertently exterminated good bugs, which in turn led to other bad bugs being allowed to thrive and attack my plants with gusto.    

You don’t often see an over abundance of good bugs in our gardens but the baddies can grow in numbers rather quickly. It’s a bit like the African Savanna where you don’t tend to see a lot of lions but the impala are usually plentiful. Predator insects are similar and the backyard vegetable garden is a jungle ecosystem with prey and predators all needing to survive.

If we intervene too much, we run a serious risk of upsetting this fragile balance and essentially breaking the system. Then, we begin using more and more chemicals with increasing potency until we end up poisoning ourselves!  

Common gardening techniques are easy, safe, and they work

Disease in plants is unfortunate and sometimes totally unlucky. However, most disease prevention or mitigation is possible by using simple gardening practices, which us humans have been implementing for thousands of years. Measures like:

  • Crop rotation – rotate vulnerable crops (like tomatoes) to a different part of your garden each season.

  • Adequate feeding for plants (fertilisers) – ensure your plants are getting enough nourishment otherwise their immune system will weaken and make them susceptible to sickness.

  • Correct watering – don’t over or under water. Watering systems can help ensure the garden is getting the right amount of water on a regular basis. Try to water the base of the plant so the foliage isn’t always wet.  

  • Tool hygiene – disinfecting garden shears, for example, and not using tools from an infected plant to a healthy one.

  • Timing – Growing plants at the correct time of year for your region.

  • Supplements – Adding micronutrients for plants if your soil doesn’t naturally hold them (trace elements).

  • Mulching – keep the soil around your plants mulched to help retain water and protect roots from heat and cold. Also, helps create a microclimate/environment for good microorganisms and worms to thrive in the soil.  

  • Positioning – not too hot or cold for the particular plant and protected from strong winds etc.

  • Weeding – regular weeding around crops will help reduce pests (weeds encourage pests and disease) and weeds also compete with crops for nutrients and water.

  • Pot growing – with fresh sterile potting mix is always a great fallback plan if soil problems are prevalent in your area.  

  • Soil Improvement – use plenty of compost, manure, and organic matter in your soil. Ensure the soil is not too heavy and not too sandy by building your growing medium over time.

  • Disposal – of diseased plants in bin, burnt, or hot composted to limit reinfestation.

  • Biosecurity – don’t introduce diseased or sick plants from other gardens or nurseries.

  • Varieties – grow plant varieties which have a natural tolerance to certain diseases.  

  • Inspections – be out in the garden regularly and look closely at your plants. Prune diseased leaves and branches ASAP.

  • Grow companion plants – like marigolds, basil, etc to draw predatory insects to the garden and repel disease and pests.    

  • Organic products – make your own low toxic targeted products like chilli and garlic sprays or buy and use organic certified commercial products. Netting or bagging of fruit and vegetables is a really good example of organically controlling pests and disease spread. 

  • Letting nature take its course – sometimes it’s best to leave the aphids or caterpillars have a munch on a plant or two and if you have grown enough food this it won’t be a problem sharing some produce with these insects anyway. Let the good bugs zero in and grow stronger in numbers by feasting on these pest colonies you have left alone on purpose.

The above measures to help organically control diseases (and pests) in the home garden are just some ways to do the job safely – there are many more! We need to be more inventive and careful about what we use in our home gardens rather than lazy and destructive.  

Know your good bug, bad bug, and ugly diseases

Use our tags or search feature to find good and bad bugs and also common diseases on plants in the home garden.

At the end of the day, If a plant is not doing well due to an overwhelming pest infestation or disease then try love not war. Instead of insecticides, try feeding the plant with some trace elements, fertiliser, compost, or giving it a good mulching, shelter it from cold or heat, or simply grow it in a better location and at a time of year more suitable.

Poison is just a way to force nature into compiling and we all know what happens when anyone or anything is forced to do something – they rebel and fight back. Worse still, think about those poor school children and their families in India who died and are suffering all because of pesticides being sprayed on food they innocently consumed.

Say no to the spraying of toxic pesticides in your backyard NOW… And, let nature balance your garden instead through good backyard organic gardening management.

You can make a comment about this article below or we can talk more about this and other aspects of self-sufficiency on our forum.

Mark Valencia Editor SSM

Look, and see the Earth through her eyes…



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