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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Control Grasshoppers Naturally

The devastation of grasshoppers has been legend for eons. Grasshoppers are locusts and we all recall the 10 plagues of Egypt in biblical times. The plague of locusts was the eighth plague and ate every living plant in sight.

Ah, grasshoppers! They can be devastating to a garden even in modern times. Grasshoppers can chomp down an entire crop in a day or two. There are several natural ways to help control them besides going on a daily grasshopper hunt.

We keep a bird feeder close to the garden and have minimal problems with grasshoppers. Bluebirds, sparrows and larks love grasshoppers. Other critters that love grasshoppers are snakes, toads, ducks, guinea and chickens. I have noticed several toads in our garden. You can also get some really fun toad houses for the garden!

Grasshoppers also hate the smell and taste of garlic. Make garlic water and spray on plants to repel the grasshoppers from your garden.

Planting deterrent plants like calendula or cilantro around the edge of your garden can help keep them away. Professional gardeners use cilantro around the edge of their gardens. Calendula is pretty and edible.

Another option is trapping them. One approach is a 10-part water to 1-part molasses in a halfway sunken jar buried in the garden that attracts and then drowns them.

If deterrents, natural predators, picking them off, and traps don’t work, you can take a step up the ladder with sprays.

Organic bug sprays like neem spray or a 1-part vinegar to 3-part water with 1 tbsp of soap sprayed on the insect and plant (vinegar can burn plants in really hot temps so try it out in a small area first). These sprays will kill any insect so be careful in using them.

Nosema locustae is a microbe that will kill grasshoppers but also beneficial insects in the same family. It may take a year or two to become fully effective.

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on the plants that the grasshoppers love will kill them, as it will kill any other insect that crawls on the leaves that DE is sprinkled on. It scratches their exoskeleton causing them to get dehydrated and die. DE is safe for humans and is even eaten by some for health benefits.

When I first went organic, I had just a swarm of different insects and bugs attacking the garden. I had read that it takes a year or two for the garden to come into balance. For the good bugs to figure out that you have a feast of bad bugs in your garden, get there, and multiply to get the bad bugs under control.

The first year was definitely the worst. I went out and bought beneficial bugs and placed in my garden to help jump start the process. I also resisted the urge to use sprays to kill the bad bugs on all but the individual plants that were being killed by the bad bugs. By the third year, no sprays were necessary.

If you have the issue on only one crop or plant, DE would be a good way to get them under immediate control while putting deterrents in place and attracting predators for long term control.

For more tips on organic gardening in small spaces, see Melodie's web page, Victory Garden on the Golf Course.

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