Pest Control for Organic Gardeners

Exam Changing our food production habits is indispensable for our health and for the future of our children.

"My mom made bread from scratch, we got the fish straight out of the sea, and food directly from the land, and there were no chemicals!
Now everything in the supermarket is processed. We local people think that it is normal to put chemicals on our land because we have been influenced by Europeans and Americans!  Let's change this! Grow Your Own!"

Valerie Bramble, Chateaubelair, homegarden owner




About this Pest Control Booklet

Changing our food production habits is indispensable for our health and for the future of our children. Organic farming and permaculture is an amazing solution for small farmers who want to change the world!

Richmond Vale Academy is working hand in hand with gardeners from villages around Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to promote organic food production. By building organic gardens and teaching about permaculture, the pass it on model garden allows raising awareness about the dangers of chemical farming and the benefits of growing organic food. To do so, it is important to regulate undesirable pests by using organic pesticides and by collaborating with beneficial insects. This booklet is the result of months of observations, experiments, trials and errors in RVA's organic garden.
It aims to help organic gardeners around Saint Vincent and the Caribbean dealing with the possible pests and grow healthy and thriving plants!


Part 1

About the different pests you can encounter in your garden



Ants are one of the most common and hard-to-get- rid-of garden pests. There are thousands of different species of ants and they usually show up in huge numbers (the nest we see is only the tip of the iceberg) so controlling their populations can be a big challenge. They don’t normally eat the plants directly but cause all sorts of other problems to the plants by disturbing the roots, burying the seedlings or farming insects that eat the plants (mealybugs, aphids, scale insects).



How to get rid of ants?

If the ants are a problem in the garden, there are some ways to encourage their move to a different location. You can attract them outside by planting flowers. You can also pour boiling water in the nests if they are located in uncultivated areas. In garden beds, cold water can also work to relocate the ants since they prefer dry conditions. Controlling the aphid and mealybug infestations is also important to reduce their food sources.

Recommended - Boric acid combined with a sweet treat (boric acid traps) is also worth a try. You can put baits of boric acid around the garden and wait for the worker ants to take it to their queens and kill them along with other ants.

Other ant repellents: 1⁄2 tsp liquid soap, 1 1⁄2 tsp cooking oil + 1l water. Spray on ants and pour in the nests. (Diatomaceous earth is an effective organic ant killer that works by destroying their exoskeleton and dehydrating them. It’s not easy to find in St. Vincent). White vinegar. Pour 1l into the ant nest.

What happens when ants live in your garden?

Ants eat a sweet substance called honeydew that the plant-sucking insects produce and protect these insects to secure the honeydew production. Eating honeydew is beneficial for the infected plants though; if not consumed by ants, honeydew turns into sooty mold that reduces photosynthesis by covering the leaves in black spots.
Ants are not always harmful for the garden; they actually help aerate the soil and distribute nutrients, just like earthworms. They also eat dead insects and turn them into soil and work as seed dispensers. They protect some plants from plant-eating insects by attacking them, causing them to fall off the plants, or by interrupting feeding, egg laying, courtship, or molting.



Aphids are tiny bugs. They are living under the leaves of the plants. They come in a variety of species. Colors vary by species, but popular ones are green, yellow or white.



What happens when aphids are living on my plants?

Aphids suck the juice out of the plants to the point that the plants wilt, dehydrate and possibly die. They also spread viruses that can kill the plants. Small colonies of aphids are not so harmful for the plants, but they reproduce really fast so the colonies are growing in a short of time.


How to get rid of aphids?

Use some mixtures and spray them directly on the aphids and switch every second week. Recommended repellent: chili spray. Other ways: Attract beneficial bugs to your garden, for example ladybugs and lacewings. Nearby plantings of mint, fennel, dill, yarrow, and dandelions will help attract these insects to your garden.
Add repelling plants inside the garden that aphids don’t like (garlic, onions, mint) and plant some aphid attracting plants outside the garden to attract them there instead of in the garden plants. For trap cropping purposes use Chrysanthemum, Cosmos, Dahlia, and Zinnia.
Get rid of the ants: Ants are feeding the aphids.


Boxelder bugs

Boxelder bugs are black with reddish or orange markings on their back. Adult boxelder bugs have a body shape that is somewhat-flattened and elongated oval and is about half an inch long. They have six legs and two antennae that are typically half of their body length. Nymphs look similar to adults but lack wings and are bright red in color.



What happens when boxelders are living on my plants?

Boxelder bugs are sapsuckers, penetrate plant tissue with their considerable proboscis using secretions to make it consumable. They may suck and damage your tomato plants, leaving the leaves dry and the fruits destroyed.


How to get rid of boxelders?

Recommended – hand picking and killing the bugs. If you notice large numbers of boxelder nymphs, you may try and drown them with water while watering your plants. Nymphs are relatively easy to drown. You may also use soap water for a better effect.

Pyrethrins is a mixture of six chemicals that are toxic to insects. They are found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers. They are commonly used in the home and garden to control bugs which have a hard exoskeleton: stink bugs, boxelders, mosquitoes, fleas, flies, moths, ants, and other pests.


Cutworms are the larvae of a number of moth species. They are caterpillars that eat a lot of vegetables and fresh seedlings (beans, cabbage, corn, lettuce) causing damage in the garden. They normally start feeding in the dark hours of the day. After dark is the best time to spot and catch them.

How to recognize cutworms?

Cutworms differ in color from pink and grey to green and black and can be spotted, solid or striped. They are curled up when they are hiding during daylight hours. The adults are dark-coloured moths, usually brown or grey and about 1,5 inches long.



What to do against cutworms?

To prevent the cutworms from harming the plants you can put the seedlings in toilet paper rolls so that they don’t harm the delicate stems. Spreading eggshells, diatomaceous earth or coffee grounds around the stems might help keep the worms away. Recommended - Manually catching and killing them is also an effective control measure and this is best done in the dark. Bacillius thuringiensis is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that produces spores and a protein lethal to the caterpillars but not harmful to humans. It, however, might harm some of the beneficial insects as well, so it should be used with caution.

Attracting fireflies and birds that are cutworms’ natural predators is also a good way to get rid of them.

What happens when cutworms are living on my plants?

Cutworms cause a lot of damage in the garden by eating the stems, roots and foliage often making the whole plant die. Because they are nocturnal, the damages are often seen in the morning when it is too late to do anything about it.



Mealybugs or wooly aphids suck the sap of the plants and produce honeydew. How to recognize mealybugs? Mealybug infestations can be spotted from the white cotton-like substance on the leaves or stem that might be distorted. Ants protect and breed mealybugs for their honeydew production and might be seen near the growth.


What happens when mealybugs are living on my plants?

Mealybug infestations appear on plants as tiny, soft- bodied insects surrounded by a fuzzy, white mess around the stems and leaf nodes. They cause damage by sucking the juice from their host plants. Like many pests, mealybugs tend to favor new growth. Over time, their damage causes the leaves to yellow and eventually drop from the plant. They can also cause fruits, vegetables, and flower buds to prematurely drop off. In a bad infestation, their waxy excretions (also known as honeydew) encourage the development of sooty mold fungus.



What to do against mealybugs?

It is important to spot the mealybug infestation early, as they may colonize the plant and make it harder to get rid of them. Ladybugs, lacewings, assassin bugs and mealybug destroyers are natural predators. Recommended – alcohol spray or alcohol dab. Other natural repellents: - Garlic spray - Neem spray.



Powdery mildew

This specie can be found at the top of your leaves. In the beginning you see yellow spots, later it turns into a white powdery residue. Powdery mildew occurs mostly during hot and humid weather.

Downy mildew

When downy mildew occurs there are gray, fuzzy spots on the underside of the leaves. This fungus thrives in cold temperatures. The leaves will eventually wither and the fruit of the plant become damaged or even die. Plants in good condition are less likely susceptible to downy mildew as they are more resistant.

How to identify mildew?

Mildew usually covers the upper part of the leaves, but may grow on the underside as well. It looks like the plant is covered with flour. Some leaves may turn yellow or brown and break off.



What happens when a plant is infected by mildew?

Mildew takes away a plant’s nutrients. This causes the plant to bloom less and become weaker. In some cases, if the infection is severe, powdery mildew can kill your plants. Many spores form the mildew. These can be transported by the wind to other plants.


What to do against mildew?

Use some mixtures and spray them directly on the mildew. Switch between the mixtures so the mildew can’t get used to them.
Organic soap mixture: 14 g baking soda, 15g vegetable oil, 4.9 g soap, 3.8l water.
White/apple vinegar mixture: 30-42 ml vinegar, 3.8l water.
Neem oil mixture: 4.9 ml neem oil, 2.5 ml dish soap, 950 ml water.
Milk mixture: 350 ml milk, 830 ml water.
Garlic mixture: 2 bulbs of garlic with 950 ml water in a blender (5-10min).


Mole crickets


It is easier to kill mole cricket nymphs than mole cricket adults when getting rid of your mole cricket population. Even though the mole cricket nymphs are wingless, they look like adults.

What to do against mole crickets?

Mole crickets are hard to get rid of once they have grown to their full size, which is why it is better to identify them once they are nymphs. You can try handpicking them or using organic soap water to flush them out. Add 2 tbsp of organic soap to a gallon of water and pour this where you have spotted young nymphs. Braconic wasps, nematodes and tachinid flies are natural predators of mole crickets.
You may try to make a fire in your garden when it’s dark and where it‘s possible. Crickets will be attracted to the light and will jump into the fire. The downside is that beneficial bugs may do the same.
Also, you may use sticky traps – take a piece of yellow paper and cover it with some sticky material and leave it in your garden. Bugs will be attracted to the light spot and crawl on the traps. Downside – beneficial bugs will get trapped as well.

What happens when your garden is infested with mole crickets? 

Mole crickets tunnel through the soil, often close to the soil surface, severing grass roots and causing the earth to bulge upwards. They also eat the roots and shoots of plants where they are tunneling, most commonly grass. Mole cricket tunneling and feeding damage looks like ugly brown patches of dying or dead grass, which are typically replaced by weeds. Predators such as raccoons, armadillos, and birds may further dig up the turf to snack on the crickets, which creates even more of a mess. 



Pod borers


Pod borers are caterpillars of different kinds of moths that bore into the pods of legumes and eat the beans.


What happens when pod borers are living on my plants?

Pod borers are considered a major pest. The caterpillars do the damage.
They bore into the pods and eat the seeds. There is also damage to the buds, flowers and leaves - they may
be eaten and bound together by webs made by the caterpillars; however, damage to these
parts is not large in comparison to that done to the pods.

What to do against pod borers? 

Hand picking eggs and larvae and crushing them when they appear is the best way to prevent damage to the pods. It is also good to remove leaves with white silk thread where the larvae hide as well as some of the older leaves to expose the larvae to natural predators and sunlight. Encouraging natural predators like ladybugs, spiders, ants, parasitic wasps, pirate bugs and praying mantis to come to the garden will help get rid of them naturally. Bird perches placed just above the crop canopy are also reported to reduce the numbers of pod borers. Organic pesticides that show results against pod borers are neem based products, Bt, tephrosia as well as chili and garlic. It is good to treat the pods before they are infected, because getting rid of existing infestations is considerably more difficult. Recommended – hand picking and killing pod borers.



Scale insects are small, oval and flat bugs that have a shell-like covering. They normally appear on the underside of the leaves or leaf joints. Scale bugs suck on plant sap thus causing them to wilt and potentially die. Infested plants look sick and their growth begins to stunt, their leaves may turn yellow and fall off. Scales can’t fly so their spread is dependent on the movement of the crawlers. Types of scales: Armored scale - Soft scale- Mealybug.


What happens when scale bugs are living on my plants?

Soft scale bugs produce honeydew that the ants eat and ants are known to farm these bugs for food production. Armored and soft scales are the hardest to control, but can be managed if spotted early. One way to get rid of them is scraping them off of the plants or dabbing them with alcohol-infused cotton pads.


What to do against scale bugs?

Recommended – alcohol spray or alcohol dab. Other sprays: Oil spray: 1 gallon of water, 2 tbsp oil, 2 tbsp baby shampoo, (1 cup alcohol), (2 tbsp baking soda if there is fungus). Spray every 5-7 days, not on a sunny, hot day to avoid burning of the plants.

Stink bugs

Brown and green stinkbugs feed on tomatoes and other solanacea family plants (eggplant, pepper) as well as on leaf crops (cabbage, lettuce). Crops that have white or yellow spots on them have been sucked by stinkbugs.



What happens when stink bugs are living on my plants?

Damage on cabbage and other leafy crops can be seen in gray and beige blotches. Corn attacked by the pests will have dark spots on stalks and, more likely, deformed ears with missing kernels. Fruit skins will show browning where the bugs have fed and tomatoes show a darkened bruise around the spot where the pest has inserted its proboscis.


What to do against stink bugs?

Recommended – manually picking and killing the bugs. As with many other larger bugs, it is easier to control their population by closely watching over your garden plants. Stink bugs like cabbage family plants hide between the leaves of the plants, so if you spot a sick-looking plant, check between the leaves and you may find stinkbugs hiding there.

Other repellents: Garlic spray, soapy water, neem oil. Pyrethrins is a mixture of six chemicals that are toxic to insects. They are found naturally in some chrysanthemum flowers. They are commonly used in the home and garden to control bugs which have a hard exoskeleton: stink bugs, boxelders, mosquitoes, fleas, flies, moths, ants, and other pest.


White flies 

White flies are tiny moth-like insects related to aphids and mealybugs. They have white powdery wings and short antenna. They can be found in clusters on the underside of the leaves.


What happens to plants affected by whiteflies?

Whiteflies like to suck on plants like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, okra, sweet potatoes and Brassica family plants. While sucking on plant juices they produce honeydew that attract more pests and spread diseases. The larvae also suck on the plants so it is good to get rid of them at an early stage.


What to do against white flies?

Recommended - mixture of water and soap (best – organic neem soap). Yellow sticky traps and neem oil work as pesticides. Ladybugs, spiders, lacewing larvae, dragonflies and hummingbirds are natural predators of white flies. Neem leaves tea and neem oil mixture is also recommended against white flies.



Part 2

About the Natural Insect Repellent



Natural Insect Repellent Recipes

Neem oil – universal insecticide

For 1 liter or 1 quart of a 0.5 % dilution of neem plant spray you need:
5 ml (1 tsp) neem oil (use pure, cold pressed oil), 1-2 ml (1/3 tsp) insecticidal soap or other detergent, 1 liter (1 quart) warm water.
If you want to make a more concentrated batch multiply both the amount of neem oil and the amount of soap.
For 4 gallons (15 l) of a 1% solution of neem spray you need:
6.5 oz (200 ml) neem oil, 5 tsps (25 ml) insecticidal soap, 4 gallons (15 l) of water. If you have trouble dissolving the oil, use more detergent.

Process: Use high quality, organic, cold pressed oil. Use warm water if possible. If making a large batch first start a premix in a small amount of warm water, then add that to the rest of the water into the big container. Mix the warm water with the soap first! Then slowly add the oil while stirring vigorously. Fill the mix into your sprayer.(Or fill the premix into your sprayer, which should already contain the rest of the water. Mix well).Keep shaking or otherwise stirring the mix while spraying.

Use the mixture within eight hours.

Additional Instructions: Spray the neem insecticide solution on all the leaves, especially the undersides, where insects like to hide. If you have plenty drench the soil around the roots as well. It does not hurt; neem oil is actually good for the soil.

Use your neem insect spray as quickly as possible, definitely within eight hours. Once mixed with water the neem oil starts breaking down. Always make a fresh batch for spraying, and only prepare the amount you need.

How often should you use neem garden spray? The suggestions below are general guidelines. Keep a close eye on things and fine tune as needed. If you are worried about sensitive plants, spray just a little bit in a small area, wait for a day or two, and see what happens. If you use insecticidal soap you should not have any problems.

Neem plant spray as a preventative measure: Spray once a fortnight using a 0.5 % solution. This should prevent any insect problems in the first place.
Neem insect spray to fight an infestation: When spraying the first time, thoroughly drench all leaves and the soil around the plant. Then spray once a week until the problem disappears. If it rains you may need to spray again sooner. If you are dealing with a less sensitive insect species you may need to increase the concentration of the neem spray. See how you go.


Tomato leaves – universal insecticide

2 pounds (1 kg) tomato leaves,Water

Process 1: Rip and mash the tomato leaves. Cook tomato leaves with 1 gallon (4 litres) of water till it boils. Then leave it to rest for 4 hours. Then cook it for 3 more hours. Then separate the leaves from the broth and mix with water (tomato broth 1:2 water).

Process 2: Rip and mash the tomato leaves. Cook tomato leaves with 1 gallon (4 litres) of water for 30 min on slow fire. Before use, mix with water (tomato broth 1:3 water). Add 1.5 oz (40 g) of soap (green potassium soap) for 2.5-gallon (10 l) mixture.

Usage: 3 times every 8 days.


Onion shells – universal insecticide

NOTE: this mixture goes bad so you can't keep it too long.
0.5 pound (200 g) dry onion shells, water.
Process: Pour 2.5 gallon (10 l) of warm water and leave it for 4-5 days Usage: 3 times, each 5 days.


Tobacco leaves – universal insecticide

1-pound (500 g) dry tobacco leaves. Organic neem soap Water.
Process: Boil with 0.5 gallon (2 l) of water for 2 hours. Then separate leaves and add 1.5 oz (40 g) of soap, mix it.


Manure – universal insecticide

1 quart (1 l) of fresh manure, 2.5 gallon (10 l) of water.
NOTE: For tomatoes.
Process: Mix the manure with water and use it around the roots of sick plants, not on the leaves.

Dill – universal insecticide
2 pounds (1 kg) of fresh dill, 1 oz (30 g) of soap, 3⁄4 gallon (3 l) of water.
Process: Chop the dill and mix with water. Let it stay for 5 days. Separate water. Then mix water with soap.


Garlic – universal insecticide

0.5 pound (200 g) of garlic
1⁄4 quart (200 ml) of water, 3⁄4 oz (20 g) of iodine, 1 oz (30 g) of organic neem soap.
Process: Mash the garlic, pour 1⁄4 quart (200 ml) of water and let it stay for 3 days. Separate water from the mixture, then add 2.5 gallon (10 l) of water. Add iodine and soap.

Usage: use instantly.


Ashes – universal insecticide

Note: Makes the soil more alkaline.
1 pound (0.5 kg) of wood ashes, 3⁄4 gallon (3 l) of water, 1 oz (30 g) of organic neem soap.

Process: Cook ashes with 3⁄4 gallon (3 l) water for 30 min. Let it cool. Mix with 2.5 gallon (10 l) of water, add soap.


By Jonas, Mervi and the Pest Control Team.

Read the whole book here:



From Ridge to Reef — the Circle of Our Island Life
My experiences were nice but also challenging!