An orchard at home only makes sense if we develop it in an ecological way. The fundamental objectives of this type of garden should be the implementation of environmental education and the obtaining of healthy and tasty products, therefore it makes no sense to use of pesticides or chemical synthesis fungicides.
Starting from the base that we want an agriculture as ecologically as possible, the first thing we have to be very aware that in our crops are going to appear all kinds of insects and other organisms that will make up the "microecosystem" in which our garden will be converted urban.
The main method of control and fight against pests and diseases that must be carried out by an organic farmer, is to do things well, and perform all those practices that will make our small garden a fertile, resistant, stable, biodiverse space , these practices are: rotations, associations, the use of organic matter as the only fertilizer for our crops, carrying out an adequate irrigation, etc.
Now, although we put all these methods into practice, some of the living beings that settle in our garden can be harmful and even become a pest or cause diseases in our plants. In these cases, we must identify the causes and act through ecological procedures.
We have enough knowledge about most parasites, insects, viruses, fungi and bacteria that can affect our plants, so that their control is a reality and the first step to stop a plague is to know it, know its characteristics and its habits, so then we will make a list of pests and diseases that may hit our garden more frequently, in order to know how to fight against them if they are installed in our cultivated plants.
WE'LL BEGIN TO TALK ABOUT PARASITES:
Possibly the most known parasite. There are many different species, but all are characterized by having a sucker-sucker peak with which they drill the leaves and stems of the plants to feed on the sap. It is common its association with ants, which feed on a sugary substance that segregate the aphids (molasses), so that, observe ants in one of our vegetables, it will be a very clear signal that the vegetable in question is affected by aphid.
Regarding the damage that can cause, we can highlight the deformation or winding of buds and leaves. The most important crops that are usually affected by aphid pests are: the bean, the cabbage, the potato, the pea, the beans and the vine, among others.
As for natural remedies, we can highlight the practice of planting hyssop near the affected crop, as it is a plant whose smell repudiates and drives them away. As far as natural enemies are concerned, we will highlight the seven-spot ladybug insect, which is very easy to collect and which will devour the aphids in a short period of time.
Very easy to recognize because of that whitish color so characteristic. They are usually installed on the underside (back side) of the leaves of crops, leaving many flying when you move the leaves with your hand.
The most frequent damages that usually cause are the yellowing and even the premature fall of the leaves, by direct stings in the same ones. The most important crops that are usually affected by whitefly are, among others, the tomato, the bean, the pepper, the onion, the zucchini, the carrot and the cabbage.
Among the most used ecological control methods we can highlight:
Plant rosemary and / or basil nearby, as they are two aromatic plants whose fragrance scares away the whitefly.
Place chromatic traps, which consist of small colored adhesive sheets through which the white fly will be attracted, and in which it will be trapped.
- Use the classic and ecological method of natural enemies. In nature there are natural predators of the whitefly, such as Macrolophus caliginosus or Encarsia formosa.
Also known by its scientific name Tetranichus urticae, are red spiders of very small size but distinguishable to the naked eye that are installed, mainly, on the underside of the leaves.
Their damages are recognizable because they appear appearing spots or yellowish spots on the leaves. It is more developed stages of the plague, the leaves end up drying and falling. The damage will be more virulent the hotter and drier the climate. This plague is very furtive and affects a large number of crops, fruit trees and garden plants, such as potatoes, beans, squash or almonds.
As far as the control of this pest is concerned, the best we can do is cut the affected areas and remove the weeds surrounding our crop. We also recommend, as always, the ecological and respectful method of control by natural enemies. Specifically, for the control of the red spider, biological preparations based on phytoseiid mites, which are voracious predators of eggs, larvae and adults of the red spider, are usually marketed.
They are tiny insects (1 to 2 mm long) that resemble earwigs and that attack (itch) all parts of the plant. Its damage is easily recognizable, because the fruits, leaves and stems affected take a characteristic grayish-metallic coloration. They can also attack the flowers. In general, it is not a very serious plague. The biggest problem associated with this insect is that it transmits a very serious viral disease, which we will talk about later in this guide: tomato tanning virus. The process of transmission is very simple, the trip bites an infected plant, sucks the virus and, when it bites a new plant, it is transmitted. Thus, the crops most affected by thrips and by the virus that transmits are the tomato, the bean and the aubergine.
Regarding your control, we recommend the placement of blue colored adhesive traps, which you will be attracted to, and when you come into contact with them, they will be trapped there. If you prefer to treat the pest by the method of natural enemies, you should mainly get two mites that feed on the larvae of thrips, Neoseiulus barkerii and Amblyseius cucumeris.
They are microscopic worms that find their perfect habitat in most soils, especially those with high humidity. Because of this, they are very typical parasites in the orchards.
Regarding the damage, we must emphasize that they will attack the roots mainly, to feed on them, so that a very abundant plague can kill the plant. It will not be easy to recognize that our crop is being affected by nematodes, since the symptoms they produce are quite similar to those that could result from lack of water or nutrients. In general, an accentuated chlorosis or very poor development will be a sign that the reices are being attacked by nematodes (provided we can rule out drought or lack of nutrients). Among the affected crops we can find any horticultural plant, such as eggplant, potato or onion.
The best method of control will be the crop rotation, although you can also plant sage near your garden, since it is one of the few plants that makes these parasites go away.
Manual removal of insects. This is a very effective way to control pests in orchards of very small dimensions, such as terrace or balcony orchards and against highly visible pests such as defoliating caterpillars.
Elimination of damaged parts (leaves and stems).
Treatment with ecological products. When we have widespread and difficult to eliminate manually, we can use ecological products, such as:
Potassium soap: contact insecticide that weakens the exoskeleton of insects. It is used mainly for the control of attacks of sucking insects such as aphids, cochineal or whitefly.
Neem oil: it is a natural insecticide that is extracted from the fruit of this tree, which acts against a wide range of pests such as: whitefly, leafminer, red spider, thrips, aphids, louse, potato beetle, bed bugs ... The combined action of potassium soap and neem makes treatment even more effective.
THE DISEASES CAUSED BY FUNGI:
It is both the name of the disease and the fungus that produces it, and is characterized by creating a powdery or cottony layer of whitish and star-shaped colors especially in the leaves, although it can also attack the stems. The main horticultural crops susceptible to be attacked by this fungus are: cucumber, zucchini, melon and grapevine.
Regarding the ecological control of this disease, we must highlight the addition of horsetail infusion in the affected areas. Horsetail is an excellent fungicide.
Well known by its scientific name, Phytophthora infestans. The symptoms are easily recognizable, because it provokes some characteristic spots of colors that turn from green to yellow in leaves, stems and fruits. The crops that are usually affected by this fungus are, among others: potato, tomato and pepper.
In relation to its control, we can highlight, as in the previous case, the treatment with infusion of horsetail. But in addition to this treatment, we recommend the addition to the soil of an antagonistic fungus of many pathogenic fungi, among which is the causative agent of the milidu. Its name is Trichoderma harzianum, and it is a fungus that is currently very commercialized.
It is a fungus associated with molasses, that sugary substance that, as mentioned above, segregate both the aphids and the whitefly. It is easily recognizable by the appearance of a blackish powdery layer that covers both leaves and stem and fruits. The damages are directly related to this layer because, since the leaves are covered, the photosynthetic function of the plant will decrease considerably, which will result in a loss of general vigor and, consequently, in a loss of production. Some of the crops susceptible to suffer the bold are: potato, pea, cabbage, onion, zucchini or pepper.
The most effective method of control against this fungus is to apply the methods mentioned in the previous section against aphid and whitefly.
Fungus of simple identification, because it is characterized by the appearance of a series of reddish pustules on the side of the leaves. The most affected leaves will end up falling. Some of the crops susceptible to be infected by this fungus would be the bean, the pea or the bean.
As for control, we repeat the treatment with infusion of horsetail, which, as we have pointed out before, is an antifungal of extraordinary strength.
DISEASES PRODUCED BY BACTERIA
WET OR BLAND ROD: (Erwinia sp.).
It manifests initially as an opaque and wet spot on the surface of the fruit. In more advanced stages of the infection, the stain spreads, crumpling the fruit and rotting completely, becoming a soft and watery mass and giving off very unpleasant odors. In plants that produce tubers (eg potato) the fruit acquires a pasty consistency. It affects a multitude of horticultural crops, among which we can mention the potato or the pepper.
Regarding the methods of control, we can mention crop rotation and the practice of avoiding sprinkler irrigation, irrigation technique that considerably increases the probability of developing any type of disease, especially bacterial and fungal diseases.
Disease caused by bacteria of the genus Clavibacter which is characterized by producing elongated spots on stems and buds and circular spots, similar to eyes, in fruits. The most identifying symptom of this disease would be the appearance of those "eyes" that we mentioned in the fruits. Many crops are susceptible to being infected by this bacterium, but we will highlight two that can be very important in our garden: peppers and tomatoes.
In relation to control, as in the previous case, and that in the rest of the bacterial diseases, the most effective will be prevention. Some method of prevention, apart from those cited in wet rot, can be to avoid wounds and deep cuts in the plants during cutting or pruning, it is because of these wounds that bacteria enter.
ANGULAR STAIN OF THE CUCURBITÁCEAS:
Caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, it is characterized by causing, initially, small lesions of watery consistency on the edges of the leaves, later manifesting themselves as true spots that dry the leaf through its ribs and that, finally, will tear the leaves. As the name suggests, it efacts mainly Cucurbitaceae, that is, crops such as cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini or melon.
It can be controlled or, better said, prevented, avoiding an excess of humidity (without affecting the vegetable in question) or eliminating the affected plants as soon as we realize the first symptoms, so that we will avoid transmission.
THE DISEASES CAUSED BY VIRUSES
Disease caused by a Tospovirus whose main symptoms in the plants that it infects are the appearance of annular spots in leaves and fruits, being in the latter of colors, giving the impression that the fruit is discoloring. The most susceptible crops to be infected are cucumber and tomato.
Its method of control would consist of controlling its vector, that is, the insect that transmits it (trips).
TOMATO MOSAIC VIRUS:
Very simple identification, because it produces very characteristic spots on the leaves of the tomato that resemble a mosaic of shades of green (hence its name). The affected crops are tomato and pepper.
In relation to its control, we highlight crop rotation as the main prevention method, as well as thorough washing with soap and water when we go to work in our garden, since the main cause of transmission of this virus is contact with our hands.
VIRUSES AND POTATOES:
Its main symptom is the appearance of a blackish color in the nerves of the leaves, which indirectly affects the growth of the tubercle due to difficulties in the process of photosynthesis. In addition to the potato, it also affects tomato and cucumber.
As a method of control we must aim for the elimination of weeds and aphids, as well as the direct elimination of the affected plants.
After having certain knowledge about the different pests and diseases that may reduce our garden, I would like to leave a final note as a joint reflection: a plague should only be eradicated if it affects our production. We must bear in mind that, in an ecological garden, the most natural thing in the world will be the appearance of insects and all kinds of fauna. This will not mean that we have a plague. Normally you will notice if it is a plague or it is not, because when it occurs you will find a good agglomeration of the parasite in question and you will notice that the plant growth is not normal. After all, nature is wise, and in an ecological garden everything is self-regulating (to some extent, of course)
I hope that my article has pleased you, and I thank you for taking a few minutes to read it.