The first crops of the summer plantings are ready. We are not the only ones who want to enjoy the bounty. Squirrels, possums, moles, weasels, deer and more find their ways into the garden. I find half-eaten produce scattered about my yard. Arggh! I did not go through the cost of time and money to feed the nearby wildlife.
So I started researching what I could do to keep the pests at bay. Fencing in plants, and not just gardens, seems to be preferred for saving tomatoes. I was told by an experienced farmer that he fences in his corn but does not attach the chicken wire all the way up. He described that in this way, squirrels would scale the wire but when they got to the top, their weight would cause the fence to bend back down, causing the squirrel to fall off. Hmm . . . that could be worth a try.
Someone else shared that they used cayenne pepper around their plants. Another buys wolf urine online and liberally spreads it. My fear with that is the possibility of attracting wolves with the smell. The kids and the chickens don’t need that. I did, however, find that non-toxic animal repellent is sold in stores.
If you attended Reggie Reeves’ program “Organic and Sustainable Gardening Techniques” at the Farmers Market class, you will recall that Reggie did present some organic pest control methods for insects. I will share a summary of his suggestions here. First and foremost, many pests and their eggs can be hand-picked. You do want to be sure to discard what you find. Row covers, which are sold as insect netting or found in a fabric store as tulle, can be used until the blooms appear. You do want to attract birds to the garden to eat the insects, but you will probably need to protect the tomatoes from bird pecks.
The RC Farmers Market Education Series video channel on YouTube has Reggie’s presentation on pest control as well as other related resources. Label your pesticide sprayers, no matter how you use them. Both chemical and organic solutions are toxic. Both kill. It is paramount that you follow directions and precautions. Organic pesticides that were reviewed in Reggie’s presentation include horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, iron phosphate, kaolin clay, milky spore, neem oil, pyrethrin and spinosad.
Making Your Own Pest Control Solutions
Some homemade organic pest control solutions can be made at home. Insecticidal soap is effective at controlling soft-bodied insects. Combine two teaspoons of dishwashing soap in one gallon of water and apply with a quart spray bottle. Horticultural oils control soft-bodied pests by dehydrating and suffocating them. A fungicide solution can be made by combining two tablespoons of baking soda or potassium bicarbonate and one teaspoon of vegetable oil per gallon of water. Spray on suspected fungal infestations. Homemade horticultural oil can be made by combining two tablespoons of vegetable oil and one teaspoon of dish soap in a gallon of water. Apply as a spray to dormant fruit trees.
BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) is used to control foliar feeding caterpillars. Iron phosphate is used to control slugs and snails. I have had some success leaving a shallow saucer of beer for those pests. They drown. Kaolin clay makes an unsuitable surface for pests, deterring feeding and egg laying. Milky spore controls grubs. Neem oil and spinosad are effective against a wide range of pests. Neem oil also acts as a fungicide. Pyrethrin should be used as a last resort, as it affects beneficial insects and aquatic life. If pesticides are needed, try using OMRI- or NOP-listed products. (Respectively, abbreviations for the Organic Materials Review Institute and the USDA’s National Organic Program.)
Essential oils, especially the mints and cedar, are being used as both a repellent and as an insecticide. The oil itself is the repellent. Mixed with water, they become insecticides. Citrus oil will also kill, but as a suffocant.
Looking Around for Ideas
Within Murfreesboro there are some gardens which lend inspiration and ideas, and are easily accessed by the public. In the median of Old Fort Parkway, for example, there are beautiful examples of rain gardens.
Oaklands Historic Home and Museum has a garden out front, behind the cedar fence. It is a combination of raised flower beds and vegetable gardening. The flowers will be used for arrangements at the July 22 Summer Picnic Party fundraiser. Within the garden is a wire statue of a farmer and his plow horse.
Across town, at the Lane Agri-Park, the Master Gardeners maintain rain, vegetable, herb and butterfly gardens. They also have a great example of collecting and distributing rain water.
Farmers Market Classes
The Farmers Market classes are held at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays when the market is open. Both are held at the Community Center at the Lane Agri-Park campus, 315 John Rice Boulevard. Classes are open to all and are free. They last approximately one hour.
July 5 – Richard Lee, Certified Master Gardener
July 8 – Linda Stevens, Certified Master Gardener
Deciphering Food Nutritional Labels
July 12 – Tiffany Scmidt, Extension Agent
Cooking with Kids
July 15 – Kim Hall, Extension Agent
July 19 – Susan Welchance, Rutherford County Beekeeper
July 22 – Art Whitaker, Mid-State Brew Crew
July 26 – Mitchell Murphree, Chef, Five Senses Restaurant
July 29 – Edwina Shannon, Certified Master Gardener
Aug 2 – Carol Reese, Certified Master Gardener
Planning a Cutting Garden
Aug 5 – Carol Reese, Certified Master Gardener