Tips For The Organic Gardener: Natural Pest Control When Worms ATTACK

Marigolds! They stink.

Marigolds! They stink.

For whatever reason a lot of insects don't like cinnamon. I know, I can't believe it either. Obviously they've never been to Cinnabon

This article first appeared on Ravishly's sister site for health+wellness,

So you want to grow your own food? Organically? Great idea! 

Right up until a hornworm eats your tomatoes... 

Meet Manduca sexta, also known as a Tobacco worm, also know as a hornworm, also known as the One Worm To Rule Them All. Oh it looks cute enough, but don't let its cute little head fool you (the head is the thing on the left side), it will annihilate your tomato plants.


Also that horn? TOTALLY FAKE. It's absolutely useless. 

The organic gardener faces two real issues:

1. How to fertilize plants without Miracle Gro. 

2. How to stop bugs from eating all your food before you can get to it. 

Miracle Gro would have you believe that the only path to a plentiful harvest is a mysterious blue liquid made of... no idea what. But they're TWICE AS BIG you say. Well you might be twice as big too if someone poured that crap on you. 

We'll talk about organic fertilizers another day (Hint: it's poop).

But today let's talk bugs.

Hornworms. Cabbage loopers. Vine borers. Aphids. Blister Beetles. Cabbage worms. Cutworms. Cucumber beetles. Earwigs. Leafhoppers. Grasshoppers. Leafminers. Mexican bean beetles. Pill bugs. Ants. Mosquitos. 

I could keep going but you get the idea. 

I mean, ideally we'd live in Buddhist harmony with all of the Earth's Creatures. I try. And then Earth's Creatures start eating my squash and I am on fire with the rage of a thousand non-Buddhist suns. 


So, now that you know what you're up against. How do you manage the onslaught?


Into the insect-infested dirt. 

But seriously.

You are not defeated!

Once you've made sure you're using good soil and disease-free plants (weak plants = vulnerable plants = attacked plants) you may need to bring out the big bug guns.

Some ways to handle The Bugs:

1. Remove them by hand

I know this sounds gross, but it's a lot easier to just take a hornworm off with your hand than it is to try to kill it. (Also friendlier.) Step one: Remove. Step two: Put in yard of neighbor who plays rap music at full volume at 3 AM. 

2. Spray them.

With a HOSE! Many bugs (aphids, especially) will quickly succumb to the power of a direct hit from a hose nozzle. This isn't a permanent solution but is works, and it's pretty satisfying to see those bugs obliterated. 

3. Invite other bugs to eat them.

Ladybugs and praying mantis like aphids. A lot. You can buy ladybugs at the hardware store (and mantis eggs, too). Seriously, like a plastic tub of ladybugs. It's pretty amazing. And who doesn't like a ladybug? No one, that's who. Make sure and release them when it's cool (like nighttime) or else they will fly away and you will be sad and out $9.

4. Plant strategically. 

The scent of marigolds will drive many pests (and humans) away. No, seriously, they do NOT smell good. I plant them all over the garden. One at the end of each row and the only real pest I have to deal with is aphids (relentless little jerks) and grasshoppers (huge ones, which I am keeping around in case of an apocalypse, because protein)!

Also? Mosquitos don't like herbs. In fact, many herbs will drive bugs away. The smellier the plant the better. For whatever reason a lot of insects don't like cinnamon. I know, I can't believe it either. Obviously they've never been to Cinnabon. 

5. Dust!

No, not your house, who has time for that? The garden! With baby powder! It's not really safe for humans, and, as it turns out, also not safe for ants and fleas. In fact, any bug that has an exoskeleton (a crunchy outside) can't breathe with a dose of powder applied to their ornery little bodies. Sorry for the suffocation guys. A girl's gotta eat. 

6. Homemade potions.

Yeah, get all Hogwarts on those bastards.

For slugs and other soft bodied insects: Diatomaceous earth. Basically it's pokey. That's really all you need to know. The bugs are stabbed. They die. The end. 

For mites, aphids, mealybugs: Mix one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray bugs. Watch them die. The oil kills them, so you can use any kind. Even coconut, for all you hispters in the crowd (me included). 


I know, I know this is literally the most hipster thing ever. The only thing more hipster than having chickens, would be having chickens and infusing the coop with essential oils. But chickens are actually amazing. They eat SO MANY BUGS. And they lay eggs, which is a great bonus, even if you're not gluten-free organic paleo. Here is an excellent book to get you all informed about having chickens in your own backyard!

Also, they are cute.

Exhibit A:

Ok that's the tip of the Insect Murder iceberg. I could do this all day, but these six brilliant tips will get you started down the road to pest death. 

Happy planting!

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