Insects Bugging Your Garden? Try Nonpoisonous Pesticides.

May 18, 2000
The West Chicago Press

(NU)-Pesticides without the poison? Sounds almost too good to be true-especially when the garden you’re protecting is as close as your own back yard.

“As many as half of all homeowners in this country have some concerns about the environmental condition of their property,” says Jeff Ball, a garden writer and resident gardening expert on the Today show. “Chemical pesticides, though effective, can be a double-edged sword.”

Environmentally conscious gardeners are rediscovering a pest-control secret that savvy professionals have used for more than 50 years: horticultural oils. The benefits? Excellent pest control without the toxic risk of synthetic chemicals-and at an extremely economical price.

“These light ‘hort’ oils, as they’re called, are now among the most popular tools used by integrated pest-management professionals in places like botanical gardens and community parks,” says Ball. “That’s because when used properly, they’re extremely effective-you can get about a 90 percent kill rate for common garden pests like aphids, mites, whiteflies, mealy bugs and scale.”

Innovative products like SunSpray Ultra-Fine Year-Round Pesticidal Oil now make insecticidal oils easy to use at home. The convenient quart container comes as a concentrate or prepackaged with a hose-end sprayer attachment.

Thanks to a patented refining technique, odor-free Ultra-Fine contains a minimum of phytotoxic compounds that can “burn” a plant-so it can be used year-round to control hungry pests on shrubbery, house plants, gardens and fruit trees. And with its extremely low toxicity rating (Category IV, the EPA’S lowest), Ultra-Fine can be applied on labeled fruits and vegetables right up to the time of harvest.

How do insecticidal oils work? Rather than clobbering garden pests chemically, these light-weight oils simply smother them on contact. Even insect eggs and larvae are not immune. And there’s been no documented case of insect resistance.

For best results when using a horticultural oil product, Ball recommends spraying early in the morning when smaller insects are most active, and choosing cloudy or overcast days if possible. “Don’t forget to treat the underside of the leaves so you won’t give bugs a place to hide,” he says.

Other alternatives available to the environmentally conscientious home gardener include such low-tech methods as hand-picking larger insects, and adding bird houses, feeders and birdbaths to your lawn or garden, Ball suggests. “Some of the very common birds, such as wrens, finches, chickadees, robins and sparrows, consume large quantities of insects every day and feed them to their babies,” he says.

A variety of avian-friendly flowers may increase your backyard bird population and reduce the insect army. Grow your own “bird garden” with a free seed packet from Security Products. While supplies last, Security is offering a free seed packet along with product information on Ultra Fine.

For your free seed sample, send a self-addressed envelope to “Ultra-Fine Free Seed Offer,” P.O. Box 34820, Phoenix, AZ 85013.