Organic Pest Management and Organic Fertilizer Options Simplfied!

More from my part-time job answering folks questions about gardening…

What can you use for organic pest management?
Organic gardeners have several options for pest management. The most important methods work with natural systems to provide long term protection:

Beneficial - Dogbane Beetle

Beneficial – Dogbane Beetle

Beneficial Insects: Plant hedgerows and flowering insectary plants to attract beneficial insects that help control crop pests. See our flower section for the best varieties to use.

Companion Planting: The age-old practice of companion planting is another method used to repel and deter pests. Certain flowers and herbs grown in near other crops are known to deter pests, improve vigor, and increase yields.

Here is a general list of some of the most common solutions:

Insecticidal Soaps: Some come pre-mixed while others are just mixed with water and sprayed on plants. These are effective for controlling aphids.

Diatomaceaous earth: A fossilized shell which when ground-up, breaks the outer layer of an insect and dessicates them externally on contact or internally by digestion. Useful to control slugs and snails, among other pests.

Pyerethrum Daisy grown in South Africa used to create the insecticide pyrethrin dust

Pyerethrum Daisy grown in South Africa used to create the insecticide pyrethrin dust

Bt – Bacillus thuringiensis: This is a naturally occurring bacteria with many powerful insect-specific strains that effectively kill caterpillars and insect larvae, minimizing the harm to beneficial insects. This is usually applied to plants and then ingested by pests.

Pyrethrins: A natural insecticide derived from a specific species of chrysanthemum, these are often combined with soap to provide broad spectrum control of pests. Use only as a last resort since this will kill the beneficial insects as well as the pests.

Organic fertilizers?

There are many organic fertilizers on the market today, and sustainable agricultural methods, such as cover cropping, composting, and rotating crops will provide most of a plant’s nutritional needs. Below is a general list of some of the most common materials:

Compost: Well decomposed compost is the best thing you can add to your soil to improve its structure, fertility, and water holding capacity. Make your own or buy from a reputable certified organic source.

Manure: Well decomposed animal manures provide nitrogen, but care must be taken to ensure they are fully composted to prevent potential health issues. The National Organic Program does not allow the use of fresh, raw manures in organic agriculture.

Fish and Kelp: Liquid fish emulsions supply nitrogen, while liquid kelp extracts supply micro-nutrients and help support strong roots and stems. These are especially useful for fertilizing seedlings until they are ready to plant outside.

Ground Rock Powders: These can be mixed with soil to provide Phosphorus, essential minerals and trace elements. Phosphorous supports lush flowering and fruiting.

Natural Fertilizers: Dry powders derived from vegetable and animal sources can provide nutrition and modify the pH of your soil. These include alfalfa meal, cotton seed meal, bone meal, blood meal, and greensand, among others.
Happy Living!
Messy Shepherdess


Beneficial – Lacewing


Seeds of Change FAQ –


Seeds… Really, what is the difference?

Hi Folks,

I am really enjoying a part-time job answering peoples questions about gardening and thought it would be good to share some of the questions and my answers here. Plus I have found some interesting articles written by others, that deserve to be spread around so have included links to those articles below.

“Heirloom” Seeds?
Heirloom seed varieties have been preserved and kept viable for multiple generations of gardeners and sometimes passed down for hundreds of years. They typically have unique attributes that are considered to provide some value, such as exceptional flavour or disease resistance.stock-photo-cereal-grains-and-seeds-rye-wheat-barley-oat-sunflower-corn-flax-poppy

Not all Heirloom Seeds are automatically considered to be Organic seeds.
Just because a seed is heirloom does not make it organic. Organic refers to the way the seed is grown, without use of chemicals, while heirloom refers to the seed’s heritage. Both “Organic” and/or “Heirloom” seeds are Non-GMO.

What are “Open-Pollinated” seeds?
When seeds are pollinated naturally by insects, birds, wind or other natural mechanisms, they are considered Open Pollinated and the seeds of open-pollinated plants will produce new generations of those plants.

What is a “Hybrid” seed?
Hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants. For example, often planting two different varieties of the same family of plants close together in the same garden, will result in the flowers of both varieties cross pollinating. Then the seed produced could have attributes from both varieties appearing in the next generation. Hybrid seed production is predominant in agriculture and home gardening.

F1 Hybrid refers to the first generation of offspring plants produced by a cross of two genetically different parent varieties, usually of the same species. Hybrids can have advantages, including robust growth known as “hybrid vigor,” uniformity, and the fact that they are often bred to be disease resistant. Since the 1920’s, many hybrid varieties have been bred using traditional breeding methods. Seed saved from F1 Hybrids will not grow ‘true-to-type’.

What makes “GMOs” so different?
“Genetically Modified Organisms,” or GMO type of plants or animals are created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology, also called genetic engineering, or GE. This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

You may have heard the term GMO and that many groups around the world are fighting to have foods containing GMOs be labeled or in some cases banned; many countries already require mandatory GMO labels.  GMOs are usually only planted by large-scale mono-crop farmers and cross contamination is a big concern for open-pollinated corn and other crops in the same area as GMO fields.

For how long are seeds “good” and “plant-able?”
Each species is different, but most will last at least 3-4 years under proper storage conditions. The exception is alliums, such as onions or chives, which might only keep for 1-2 years. If you are unsure the seeds are still good then start just a few of the seeds to test their viability.

To keep seeds “fresh,” store them in a cool, dry, dark place. One technique is to put the seed packets in an airtight container with some dry rice grains in the bottom to moderate the humidity, (like mixing dry rice with salt in the salt shaker to keep it flowing). If space allows, you can also store seeds in the refrigerator or freezer, in a zip lock bag or airtight container. Allow seeds to return to room temperature overnight before opening the container to prevent condensation that may spoil the seeds.


Happy Living!
Messy Shepherdess


Organic seed expert: Phil Winteregg –

Seeds of Change FAQ –