Organic pest control is the future. Our long history of blitzing property with chemical pesticides has resulted in races of super-bugs immune to most chemical controls. These same chemicals used incorrectly show up in our drinking water and in our food chain. South Florida is extremely vulnerable to this contamination as our drinking water source, the Biscayne Aquifer, runs only 5 -20 feet below ground depending on elevation. Fertilizer dumped on plants, chemical controls over-applied or sprayed when the temperature is over 85 degrees, and herbicides applied during hot weather or excessively lead to dead trees, shrubs, lawns, etc. In some cases with herbicides, the soil is made sterile and nothing can be planted in that location again. Professionals should apply these products, particularly herbicides, to avoid permanent environmental damage and plant loss. 

Another factor entering the chemical pest control arena is the Federal Government. Some of the more hazardous chemicals are removed by government regulation. Proper pesticide storage and disposal are also major concerns. 

Fortunately, research is being conducted on more organic controls for these problems. Predatory insects and beneficial bacteria can offer excellent control for certain problems. Encouraging birds to the garden is another organic approach. Plant diversity is very helpful. Planting large masses of the same plant encourages pests. Avoid known pest-prone plants in the landscape. 

I have a large variety of plants in my yard and have had minimal problems. I sprayed for thornbugs in 1983 and 1984. These pointy pests attack plants in the pea family. Members in my yard that have been troubled include powder puff, tamarinds and some cassias. I did not spray the trees after that and they have been growing fine despite the thornbugs. They may slow the growth somewhat but do not affect the tree severely. I had an outbreak of mealybugs, which aggressively attacked my chenille plant, Turk's cap, and brunfelsia. Wasps and other predators eliminated these pests over a month's time. It is important to realize that most damage is temporary and will not affect plant health in the long run. We must not expect perfect foliage and flowers in outdoor plantings. Nature will usually balance out problems if given enough time. 

Plants grown in conditions they like are seldom troubled with pests. Replicate their natural habitat and healthy plants are the result. Do research on the plant before buying it. It is also important to know how big the plant will grow. Give it enough room to develop properly and allow for its mature size. If a mistake is made it will show up quickly on your doorstep. Some south Florida plants can grow 8-10 feet a year because of our long growing season. 

Pest-prone plants to avoid or use at the back of the garden include oleander, roses, hibiscus, night blooming jasmine, `Maui' ixora, canna lilies, red powder puff, angel's trumpet, gardenia and queen palm among others. You can enjoy the flowers from a distance and not see the chewed leaves or other damage. Some of these plants are acid lovers and cannot be used near cement foundations, sidewalks, or patios. They will quickly get chlorotic and die back. Acid lovers include ixora, gardenia, hibiscus, powder puff, orange jessamine, ligustrum, pinwheel jasmine, etc. An acid fertilizer for ixora/gardenia applied in March, June and October will keep them going. 

One good overall organic concoction that works well with vegetables and ornamentals is a soap, garlic powder and cayenne pepper mixture that can be prepared at home. Add 2 teaspoons of liquid Ivory soap to a gallon jar.( * NOTE  Ivory SOAP is hard to find - it is now Ivory detergent and you do not want to use a detergent.  We now recommend Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap which is pure Castile soap made with some organic oils.  It is available in most grocery stores.)Cover the mouth of the jar with a cheesecloth or coffee filter. On top of the filter add 1 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and garlic powder. Add water to the container through the filter. The essence of the garlic powder and cayenne pepper will go into the jar. This prevents clogging of the sprayer. Remove the filter from the jar's mouth. Shake up the mixture and attach to your sprayer and you are ready to go. The soap smothers sucking insects and the garlic-cayenne mix repels chewing pests. This mixture is also good for whitefly and because it is safe you can also use it on your edible herbs.

The only disadvantage is that the mix will wash off in rainy weather and will need reapplication. 
Local garden supply stores and nurseries may be a little slow to stock organic products. Many products are unknown locally and others have a specific shelf life. Some may need to be mail-ordered. The more progressive stores will carry products once a demand has been indicated. In the meantime specialty sources will mail order appropriate products to you. One catalog I was very impressed with is The Bug Store. They cover many unfamiliar products. One of the best controls available for lawn and soil pests is the beneficial nematodes. These good microscopic worms have as expiration date, like milk. They are sprayed to control army and sod webworms, chinch bugs, lawn grubs, bad nematodes, and best of all, fleas. Most people spray for fleas and usually do not worry about the other lawn pests. The University of Texas reports 98% flea control with the nematodes. Each treatment lasts about six to eight weeks. The one caution is that the beneficial nematodes are living, so chemical controls should no longer be used, or you kill the good nematodes and defeat the whole principal of organic pest control. This is a life style change as well as bug control. 

To treat Roses for blackspot:

Spray with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of baking soda plus a tablespoon of dish soap to a gallon of water, will prevent new outbreaks of blackspot. Safer sulfur based fungicides can be used on a regular 10 day schedule to prevent new outbreaks. Sulfur spray or powder can be applied when the temperature is below 85 degrees. Cover undersides and tops of the foliage. All of the above are organic treatments.