Pest Control

Author: Meera, November 20, 2012


Kishu seedless mandarin orange tree


A rain storm threatens to blow in over the Northern California coastline but here in the shadow of Mount Diablo, the wind is warm, the sky is blue, and the birds and bullfrogs are singing. I have to grout the kitchen counter backsplash and otherwise prepare the farmette for Thanksgiving, a goal I set at the beginning of the year. But this morning, I feel inspired to stroll through the garden to inspect my still-blooming roses, pluck and devour a strawberry or a ripe fig, or sample the mandarin oranges from the heavily laden tree. What could possibly ruin the start of such a beautiful day?



Aphid infestation on the leaves of a young apricot tree


Pests, that’s what! I found colonies of aphids on the underside of the leaves still hanging onto the young apricot trees. Scrutinizing the underside of the leaves on the orange tree, I found ants inching up the trunk. That suggests to me there is a food source in the tree for those ants. So now I have deal with pests before starting the kitchen grout work.


Aphids colonizing on the underside of a  leaf


Pests and gardens go together. I might not be able to eliminate the pests, but at least I can control them. I like an integrated control approach to dealing with pests. For example, I try not to plant all of one type of plant or tree in one area–that’s just inviting trouble in the form of pests that attack that type of plant. Also, I’ve included different varieties of the same type of plant like an apricot and a apricot/plum hybrid called an aprium tree. When I see leaves on my roses or trees with aphids, I pick the leaves off and put them in a bag (not the compost pile) to dispose of them.


A praying mantis hides in plain sight
in the navel orange tree


My heart feels lighter when I spot a praying mantis in the garden for these amazing little creatures love to eat moths, flies, grasshoppers, crickets, and other annoying little pests. In fact, I like to introduce populations of helpful insects to compete with pest population. Green lacewings or “aphid lions” devour aphids, lots of them, but they’ll also dine on spider mites and mealybugs. Ladybugs (more correctly, “Ladybird Beetles”) are also a favorite of mine since they eat aphids, mites, and scale insects.


Spiders trap mites and pesky insects in their webs and I feel fortunate to have many in my garden.  Occasionally I see those shiny black beetles known as Ground Beetles but don’t handle them because they stink. However, they can serve as a veritable hungry army against cutworms and the larvae of other pests in the garden.


I don’t like poisons or insecticides, but I will mix soap with water to spray some plants. Companion planting, or the growing of plants in close proximity for both plants’ mutual benefit, such as enhancing soil nutrients and discouraging harmful pests, is another way I control pests. So while I would love to enjoy my early morning, I think I’d better get to work on the pest problem now. The grouting can wait. There are still two days before Thanksgiving.

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