It is no secret that harvesting homegrown fruit and vegetables is the best way to escape the rising price of food. But with a bountiful crop there always comes the added risk of pesky pests, says Gaye Boshoff, and organic gardening expert based in the Western Cape.
“If you’ve got a beautiful crop, you have got to check. It’s amazing how those little things [pests] just escape and before you know it, everything is gone. I even tried a flame thrower, but your plants go through such a lot of stress it doesn’t work.”
Keep it clean, and get mean!
Keep your garden clean and get ready for battle, says Limpopo vegetable farmer Mashudu Thobakgale (45).
Thobakgale grows cabbages, peppers, melons, tomatoes and maize and has been battling with rodents since 2019.
Across the globe, millions of people die due to food poisoning that might be contracted during food production or by just not following proper kitchen hygiene.
While there are many ways out of this frustration of pests, Atlantis farmer Anastasia Smith makes use of the companion planting method where all her crops are planted closer to one another. This enhances each plant’s growth and protects it from pests.
“I started farming in 2012 with a small garden growing spinach, spring onions and various herbs. Back then I was using chemicals mostly in my garden for pesticides. After having done my research, I found out organic was the best way out, I then did everything organically, from planting to managing my garden. As a result, I currently have no pest issues because I practice companion planting,” Smith says.
She says some of the benefits of doing everything organically in your garden include little to no book recording of applying of pesticides and fertilizers.
“Some chemicals are too strong for our produce and having to use chemicals means you have to keep up with what you add in your garden and at what amounts. Knowing that your produce is free from chemicals and is safe for the consumer and consumption is the best way through doing things naturally,” she adds.
How to rid your garden of pests
Smith says she would normally plant herbs like wild garlic, spring onion, coriander, basil and rosemary to achieve this.
Thobakgale says he planted “marigolds and lavender flowers which help with pesticides on the soil.”
He adds that it is also good to plant garlic and onions, not for harvest but just to help with pesticides.
According to operations manager at Ecopest, Eugene Vilakazi, pests cause a lot of distraction on the growth of the crops.
“Insects that eat leaves and burrow holes in the stems and roots cause direct injury to plants, some transmit bacteria, viral or fungal infection to a crop, this is why it is important to always fight pests in your garden,” Vilakazi says.
What can I use?
There is a large variety of pesticides to choose from. Some are made from natural sources like neem and some of which contain synthetic chemicals.
Vilakazi says, “Some pesticides are broad-spectrum, meaning they will kill just about any bug, and some are selective and will only kill a certain kind of insect, such as caterpillars.”
He cautions that it is important to always “check the label to make sure the pesticide is for treating the bug you want to control, and pay close attention to any warnings, such as hazards to pollinators, pets, and people.”
You can get rid of squash bugs by protecting plants with a physical barrier like floating row covers, picking the insects off by hand, and planting marigold, calendula, sunflower, daisy, alyssum, or dill to attract beneficial insect predators.
“Finally, remember that most bugs you see in your garden will not do a huge amount of damage, so tolerating them is often the easiest course of action,” he concludes.