Veganic pest control is all about working with the natural order of things. Even when that means sacrificing some of your crops to pests!
Like all of Earth’s creatures, what we call “pests” actually play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature. Without pests, your veganic garden ecosystem will be out of balance!
That said, balance is all about proportion! Pests and diseases do the work of “weeding out” the weakest plants that aren’t thriving in your soil or climate. Or maybe it’s not their favorite time of year.
Give your plants the conditions they need, and you’ll still have minor pest problems. But plagues of aphids, Japanese beetles, locusts, or cucumber beetles will be no more.
How Nature Helps with Veganic Pest Control
For every type of insect pest in your garden, Mother Nature has provided at least one predator. Use chemical pesticides to intervene in the predator-prey relationship, and you may kill the predators along with their prey!
When fewer predators survive to reproduce, the likelihood rises of a larger pest population invading your garden during the next growing season.
The same is true of fungal diseases that continually plague certain plants. Instead of battling the disease, replace the plants with alternatives until you find those naturally suited to your situation.
Collect their seeds at the end of each season, and your next veganic crop will be adapted to tolerate your pests and growing conditions!
Mix Your Plantings
Remember the old nursery-rhyme question, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”
The answer was, “With silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row.”
It’s hard to know from that answer whether or not Mary understood the importance of mixed plantings as a veganic pest control strategy!
We know her garden had a row containing three different kinds of plants. But did she sow their seeds as three clumps, one of silver bells, one of cockleshells, and one of pretty maids?
Or did she scatter them at random all along the row, not knowing which would sprout where?
If Mary went with three clumps of identical flowers, she created microscopic “monocultures.” They’d have made high-impact displays, but that’s precisely what draws pests and fungal disease.
The only thing pests and fungi like more than a favorite plant is that favorite plant in mass plantings. It’s like having a 24-hour buffet restaurant serving nothing but your favorite meal!
But if Mary scattered her seeds at random – or even better – mixed a range of herbs and veggies in with her flowers – the resulting planting pattern would be less likely to appeal to insect pests.
The confusing variations in foliage and scents would make it hard for them to hone in on specific targets. The right combination of companion plants would even repel the pests or shelter the bugs that prey on them.
Some birds also feed on insect pests. Attract them with blooming shrubs native to your area. According to Cornell University’s All About Birds, for instance, many hummingbirds come for an aperitif of carbohydrate-rich nectar and stay for an entree of protein-rich bugs!
Add a birdbath, and they’ll be in bird heaven!
Instead of viewing wasps as pests, the Texas A&M Galveston County Extension suggests seeing them as veganic pest control allies. Many wasp species also feed on nectar as adults but hunt live food for their young.
Paper wasps, for example, deliver chewed-up caterpillars, beetle larvae, and flies to the larvae in their nests. Other species hunt tomato worms, grasshoppers, aphids, and even spiders.
Adult wasps are especially fond of nectar from fennel, carrot, and parsley flowers. They will sting to defend their nest, but they’re effective at pest control!
As to sap-sucking aphids, adult seven-spotted ladybugs are capable of consuming several hundred every day. Some suggestions for attracting them (and a long list of other beneficial pest-munching bugs):
- Queen Anne’s lace
- sweet fennel
- sweet alyssum
- crimson clover
Fighting Fungal Disease
Fungal diseases can devastate a garden as thoroughly as insect invasions. In battling them, the best offense is a good defense:
- Maintain a healthy, biologically active soil food web. Living soil teems with “friendly” fungi and bacteria. They suppress the harmful ones. Healthy soil also grows more vigorous, disease-resistant plants.
- Make sure your garden has good drainage – poor drainage invites below-ground fungal diseases.
- Space your plants for good air circulation and keep the leaves dry when watering.
- Sanitize your pots before planting and your garden tools after using them. Soaking in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water is sufficient.
- Remove and dispose of diseased plants. Don’t compost them.
- Rotate your crops by not planting the same things in the same places from year to year. It discourages soil-borne diseases.
Remember, veganic pest control is part of creating a “… unified living system whose parts function to the benefit of one another and the whole.”
Be willing to forego the chemicals and build an ecosystem that attracts the help you need to keep your pest problem at a tolerable level.
You may lose a few plants along the way, but eventually, you’ll find the flora-and-fauna balance just right for your little slice of Earth!