Wait! Before we grab that industrial size jug of Ortho and blast those ants out of existence, think for a minute. Why should we blast ants out of existence? Are the ants really hurting anything in our garden? What about that full-spectrum weed killer we’ve been spraying onto our gardens lately? Have we thought about how it kills those weeds and what else it might kill ? Have we given any thought to WHY we go to such lengths to keep our gardens so tidy?
That’s why we go to such lengths to keep our gardens and farms pest free. Company’s like Ortho KNOW this about us. Just look at the arsenal of synthetic weed & pest killers available to those of us who want to get our gardens in ship-shape, tout-de-suite. There are pre & post- emergent herbicides, systemic weed killers, non-selective (broad-spectrum) weed killer, selective weed killer, and residual herbicides. Wow. Really? Do we ever ask ourselves why there are so many different categories of weed killers? Keep in mind that the above named are just the categories of commercial weed-killers, not the brand names of all of the weed & pest-killers on the market. To gardeners and farmers, potential enemies could include beneficial weeds,ants, caterpillars or anything else that we THINK might harm our gardens. I don’t know what’s happening in your garden right now, but my garden’s (pardon the pun) being eaten alive!
So if it's us or them, what do we erstwhile caterpillar hugging, bee-loving, highly evolved gardeners, do? We embrace integrated pest management (ipm). That’s short for trying a whole lot of different things to keep our gardens alive. Because I eventually want to earn organic certification of some kind, for me this means completely organic IPM. For the leaf miners and whiteflies I first tried a weak solution of biodegradable dish soap which didn’t really do the trick. Next I used Neem.
Now Neem is interesting because it’s all over the market as natural pesticides and health care products. Buyer beware! Like all things in quantity, naturally derived Neem oil can be dangerous too. It’s also not necessarily approved for organic gardening or farming depending on the “synergists” being used in the products formula (for example, pyrethrin is NOT approved). So, if you plan on using Neem oil, do your research. Eventually, I ended up calling my local agricultural extension agent and the organic certification unit to make certain I could use the Neem oil had purchased. Once you use something that is not on the list of acceptable products, you have to go back and start at square one – so be careful!