Protecting Your Plants

Today is Zoo Night at the Reds Game, and Sam’s first flight of the season. Sam is one of the Zoo’s bald eagles, and is part of the Great American Wings of Wonder Bird Show. Sam is a great reminder of the success of the bald eagle in the United States. No longer on the endangered species list, the bald eagle has bounced back from the brink of extinction. These majestic birds were becoming extinct because of the use of a pesticide called DDT, which was incredibly beneficial to controlling pests, but extremely toxic to aquatic life and eventually, adult bald eagles. The DDT affected the birds because the pesticide was in their prey. Once the DDT got in the eagle’s system from eating the fish, it affected the bird’s reproduction. The birds became sterile or unable to lay healthy eggs. Eggs that were laid were too brittle to withstand the weight of the adult. DDT has since been banned, and the bald eagle population has begun to rise. There were 215 breeding pairs of bald eagle in Ohio in 2009, and the numbers continue to rise.

To continue with the success story of these majestic birds, try using natural pesticides, rather than something toxic like DDT was, in your garden this summer to ward off those unwanted visitors. Synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers do not discriminate between beneficial insects and pests, and they can be harmful to you and your garden’s wildlife. These pesticides can also contaminate our waterways. The alternative – natural pesticides – have numerous benefits. They are healthier for your garden, and you. They reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which many pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are made with. Lastly, many insects have built up a resistance to synthetic pesticides so that many different kinds need to be used. Before using any type of natural pesticides, however, make sure you are familiar with it. Read the label (if its purchased, not homemade), talk with garden experts, and understand what the product can and can’t be use for before using it. Some plants can be damaged by one thing while another plant may be perfectly fine.

Some natural pesticides for gardens include:

  • Neem Oil – Neem oil is the oil pressed from the seed kernels of the neem tree. It is used in gardens and landscapes against insects that chew on plants such as black vine weevil.
  • Insecticidal Soap – It is used in gardens and landscapes against a variety of small, soft-bodied pests like aphids, spider mites and scale crawlers.
  • Rotenone – An older, broad-spectrum natural insecticide used for a variety of garden and landscape pests. It is available as a powder or liquid.
  • Spinosad – A newer, broad-spectrum insecticide for use in gardens and landscapes.
  • Pyrethrum – An older, broad-spectrum insecticide for use in gardens.
  • Diatomaceous Earth – A dry, powdery material (natural dust) derived from the shells of marine organisms. It is used mainly to deter and kill crawling pests both indoors and outdoors.

At the very least, every gardener should be armed with insecticidal soap plus at least one relatively broad spectrum but low toxicity/biorational pesticide like neem oil, spinosad or pyrethrum. These natural pesticides can take care of most of your garden’s pest control needs in a safe and eco-friendly manner. Consult your local nursery or garden expert for more information and tips. Keep a beautiful garden without releasing harmful pesticides into the environment! Use Sam’s and other bald eagles stories as inspiration, and check Sam out this summer in our Wings of Wonder Bird Show.


Many thanks to Kristopher Stone from the Boone County Arboretum for his knowledge and expertise!

True Green Home, by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin