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Gulf Coast Gardening: Organic Techniques for the Home Garden

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Here are some simple ways to go green in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

lady beetle on plant

By Keri Byrum

As we all work to be more green in our lives, it seems the first place to start is our yards. Let’s look at a few ways to incorporate organic gardening techniques into our gardens.

masses of plants

Right plant, right place. This basic concept is the overarching principle to having a landscape that requires less water and pesticides. Select plants for their environments based on their water requirements, light needs, and mature size, and align these to your landscape. A plant in its ideal environment is less prone to pests and disease.

If you have a plant that repetitively experiences pest issues, go to the true source of the problem. Pests gravitate more to plants that are stressed, so look at your plant and try to correct it. More often than not, stress relates to sun or water. One example I see quite often are gardenias that have sooty mold on the leaves as a result of aphids or mealybugs.

Those plants are weakened because of too much sun and/or not enough water. 

lady beetle feasting on aphids

Know the good guys. Not all insects are bad, and knowing the good ones can help reduce possible pesticide use. This photo shows a ladybug getting ready to make quick lunch of aphids! Once you see one of these beneficial insects, give them a few days to reduce the pest population on your plants.

Beneficial insects we can expect to see in the Gulf Coast include lacewings, lady beetles or ladybugs, assassin bugs, and parasitic wasps. The immature forms can look very different than the adults, so try to identify your insects before applying insecticide.

scale on fronds

Hand-picking. If you don’t see any beneficial insects but only have pests in a few places, the simplest option may be to just remove those branches or leaves. If pests concentrate, like the scale here, remove those infestations with pruners, and dispose of the materials. (It is best to take these to the trash rather than compost to remove the problem completely.) This may be all you need to keep the problem from spreading, especially if caught early.

Select the right products. When problems arise, natural products can keep your garden organic. Look for the “OMRI” (Organic Materials Review Institute) label to ensure the product is organic. Always read the label carefully, and follow instructions.

Horticulture oils are a good option for organic pest control. These are easy to use, and safe around pets and children. But using them at temperatures above 90 degrees could injure plants. In our part of the country this means using the oils during a limited time of year.

Insecticidal soaps are another organic option. They work on soft-body insects but must be sprayed directly on the insects to be effective. These soaps are easy to use any time of the year, and also safe around children and pets.

An organic yard and garden are easy to achieve by selecting the right plants and keeping them at their healthiest.

See all Gulf Coast Gardening Articles.