Organic Alternatives to Fertilizers and Pesticides

Florida Friendly LandscapingWe’ve talked about Florida friendly landscaping a lot here on the Rain Control Aluminum blog. This form of landscaping helps to protect the natural beauty of our Central Florida homes.

One of the principles of Florida-friendly landscaping is avoiding synthetic chemicals as much as possible, whether those chemicals are acting as fertilizers or pesticides. These chemicals tend to strip the nutrition from the soil because they only replace nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous while ignoring all of the other minerals that are required to keep soil healthy.

Chemical fertilizers can also poison the ground water supply. Florida has enough water problems, so we thought we’d take a moment to talk about some natural alternatives.

Composting – Fertilizer the Easy Way

Turning away from synthetic fertilizers takes some time and preparation, but the rewards are well worth it. One of the easiest, cheapest and best ways to fertilize your garden is to start a compost pile.

Composting works so well because it’s a process that occurs naturally. It’s Mother Nature’s way of fertilizing the soil, relying on bacteria, fungi, and other helpful microorganisms that break organic matter down into rich, dark earth.

You can compost just about anything as long as it was a plant. Grass clippings, black and white newspapers, leftover vegetable scraps from the kitchen, wood chips, and some certain kinds of manure work great in a compost pile.

Safe kinds of manure to use are those that came from vegetarian animals, such as horses, cows, rabbits, hamsters, mice and gerbils. So yes, you could take your kids’ hamster litter and droppings, toss it on the pile, and recycle it naturally instead of dumping it in the trash!

But beware of other types of organic matter. Meat, dairy, bones, and the manure from meat-eating animals require hotter temperatures to safely decompose than most compost piles can provide. While you could compost these types of materials at home, it’s best to do some more research into the matter before trying to start. Improperly decomposed materials of this type can lead to the spread of pathogens and illness.

If you’re interested in composting, check out Florida University’s tutorials for more details.

Oils, Extracts, and Insect Allies – Natural Pesticides

It’s important to realize not insects are your enemy. A healthy garden needs insect allies for proper pollination.

These allies include bees and butterflies. However, most chemical pesticides can’t really distinguish between a butterfly and an aphid.

Alternatives include:

Plant Oil Sprays: You can spray citrus oils, neem oils, and other plant oils onto your plants to help kill off unfriendly insects. These oils clog up the insect’s spiracles, suffocating them. They also prevent gas exchange through the membranes of larvae and eggs.

Plant Extract Sprays: Some plants, like chrysanthemums and hot peppers, can be broken down and used in sprays to kill harmful insects.

Mineral Insecticides: Diatomaceous earth, sulfur, and iron phosphates are all useful here. Sulfur has been in use since Ancient Rome, but is incompatible with other forms of insecticides.

Microbial Insecticides: There are many forms of these. They rely on various viruses, bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms to produce toxins which target a specific species of insects.

The University of Florida has a wealth of information about natural pesticides, too.

Florida-friendly landscaping does require a different way of thinking about landscaping and a different approach to tasks you may have been doing the same ways for years. But ultimately it’s worth it–we all love the beauty of our natural state, and these are very easy ways to preserve it.

We’re not landscapers–we’re professional gutter contractors who happen to have an interest in keeping Florida beautiful. We serve Ocala, Land o’ Lakes, New Port Richey and the rest of the Tampa Bay metro area. Ask us how seamless aluminum gutters can also help you keep Florida beautiful!

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