Pests of the West: Sustainable Solutions to Pests in Northern Colorado

PHOTO BY KATHLEEN MILLER.

Gaia Grows: Sustainable Living, Gardening and Farming

Kathleen Miller
Gaia’s Farm & Gardens

Gardens, farms and ranches in Northern Colorado are threatened by three enemies: disease, insects, and animals.  In the past the solutions have be very unsustainable and the go to defense against most of these pests has been massive doses of man-made poisons.  Now a days there are many sustainable solutions that can give you an many non-chemical and sustainable methods from which to choose.

PHOTO BY KATHLEEN MILLER.

Some sustainable pest control methods can be as simple as picking pest off plants by hand or creating preventive measures to keep pests from breeding.  The best solutions enlist the help of Gaia (Mother Nature) herself to fight pests by encouraging natural predators or growing pest repellent plants near you crops.  Fences prevent the larger animals such as deer, while traps and barriers defend against a variety of insects and small animals. As a last resort there are organic sprays and dusts that are naturally occurring insecticides derived from plants.

Sustainable pest control is the recognition that a farm, garden or ranch is part of an ecological whole and the entire system must be in balance in order for it to be healthy.  Sustainable pest control strives not to eliminate pests completely, since in doing so will eliminate the food supply of many beneficial organisms. With sustainable pest control the goal is to keep the number of pest low enough so that they do not do serious damage to your crops, while maintaining the predator population that feeds on the pests.  Sustainable pest control takes more time and labor than non-sustainable ways, and you must be prepared to lose some of your crops to pests. An increasing number of farmers, gardeners and ranchers are finding out it is a price worth paying for Gaia (Mother Earth).

PHOTO BY KATHLEEN MILLER.

One of the easiest ways to combat pests is to protect and encourage such natural allies as birds, toads, spiders, nonpoisonous snakes, and insects.  In many cases this simply involves no more than tolerating the predator such as a snake or spider instead of killing it or destroying its habitat. With a little more effort you can provide suitable habitats for insect destroyers; for example an inverted flower pot for toads or a special birdhouse for certain species of birds. Another sustainable solution is to fill your garden, farm or ranch with beneficial insects.  Ladybugs and praying mantis eggs are sold by many garden centers.

Companion planting takes advantage of the food preferences of various pests by luring them away from other crops and repelling them from crops.  Nasturtiums lure aphids away from nearby vegetables, while Japanese beetles are attracted to white geraniums, white or pastel zinnias, and marigolds.  Marigolds also deter rabbits from eating your crops. Radishes lure root maggots away from cabbage crops, eggplant draw flea beetles away from potato plantings, and dill attracts tomato hornworms.  Proper fencing and netting will protect crops from most of the larger animals, including deer, rabbits, raccoons, dogs and birds.

PHOTO BY KATHLEEN MILLER.

Raccoons can be a pain because of their ability to climb, but extra-high chicken wire or an electric fence line across the top will discourage them. Fencing, barriers, and traps prevent pests from reaching crops. Many traps can be made at home from scrap materials. Blood meal is also a great sustainable way to protect your crops from rabbits and deer.   Try and avoid the use of harmful chemicals and become more contentious and creative using sustainable solutions for your farms, gardens and ranches.

 

GAIA GROWS TIPS

CHOOSE THE PROPER PLANTS.

Choose native plants that already fit your climate and will thrive with less care and stress. They’ll support the health of your entire yard, attracting pollinators and beneficial bugs.

  • WELCOME POLLINATORS AND THE GOOD BUGS THAT EAT PESTS
    Pollinators, from bees to butterflies are crucial to our ecosystems. Reducing pesticides is a sustainable solution to encourage pollinators. Other insects such as wasps, flies, ladybugs, and beetles are beneficial to plants for pest elimination.
  • ENCOURAGE BIRDS
    A healthy ecosystem invites a wide variety of wildlife into it. Birds snatch up slugs, snails, grubs, caterpillars and other pests that destroy plants.
  • BE WATER-WISE
    Using water wisely is a very important part of sustainable management of your garden, farm or ranch.
  • PLANT COMPANIONS
    With companion planting, certain plants are grown near each other to improve each other’s health and yield and help ward off pests.
  • AVOID HARMFUL CHEMICALS
    Sustainable gardens, farms and ranches have some pests, but deter them in sustainable ways that won’t harm the ecosystem or food you are growing.

 

Sustainable living, gardening and farming is based on an understanding of ecosystems, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment. It has been defined as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices that will last over time. Having a harmonious relationship with Gaia (Mother Earth) provides food for people enhances the natural environment upon which the community depends, makes efficient use of resources and integrates natural cycles that sustain economic viability as well as enhances the quality of life for the community as a whole.

 

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