215: Suzanne Bontempo on Gardening without Pesticides.

Contemplating the best options for:
If, when, and what type of insect control to use in the garden.

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Suzanne BontempoSuzanne has worked in the horticultural industry for over 20 years in a variety of capacities; as a landscape contractor, a fine gardener leading garden maintenance teams, and in retail nursery management.  Currently she is an environmental educator and IPM Advocate, where she mentors & educates people. She does this by providing IPM trainings at hardware stores & garden centers, providing educational programs for garden clubs, businesses & organizations, and presenting lectures for the public through government agencies.
Her message is focused around less-toxic pest problem-solving in the home & garden, pesticide reduction, and how to garden sustainably. She helps people see their home or garden as its own ecosystem, and that the real solution to their problem usually doesn’t require a pesticide at all. She enjoys raising the awareness of beneficial insects and how biological control methods in the garden are easy, effective and fun!
Suzanne was recognized for her excellence in her field winning the 2013 IPM Innovators Award and in 2016 received the San Francisco Green Business award.


In This Podcast: 

Insects and pesticides are challenging topics for gardeners and even more so for organic gardeners, so of course Greg loved hearing from Suzanne about how to make the best choice for controlling pests in the garden.  She breaks down the options in ways that make sense and loves to help others find the most beneficial way to manage their pest controls.

Listen in and learn about:

  • Her work at a large landscaping company and how that gave her a chance to talk to customers about pest management
  • Her disappointment when people wanted the easy and destructive solution
  • The transition to helping people find solutions without any or minimizing the pesticides
  • What IPM stands for and what it really means
  • When insects are beneficial, and how the ecosystem in the garden help the plants and the bugs
  • The three P’s of beneficial insects – pollinators, predators, parasitic
  • Some of the misconceptions that happen when trying to identify insects
  • Her suggestion for how to help distressed plants with a foliar spray and why it helps
  • How and when to apply foliar sprays
  • Compost tea as an amendment and some of the important elements of good tea
  • Some truths about organics and how effective they can be
  • What precautions are necessary when using organic pesticides
  • Neem oil as a three-in-one and what it takes care of in the garden
  • What broad spectrum insecticides target and why it should be used in a limited way
  • Her opinion of Bacillus Thuringites or BT which is a narrow spectrum pesticide
  • Why BT does not always work, and how to make sure it is effective

As well as:

  • Her failure –overextending herself by not saying “no” when she felt that people needed her
  • Her success – The portion of orchard space on the farm she manages that she has developed into food production and had been getting abundant harvests
  • Her drive – Talking to customers about the best options to tackle the insect problems in their yards and seeing them make the connections
  • Her advice – be patient, take a couple more moments to observe what is going on

Suzanne’s Book recommendations:

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World – Peter Wohlleben

Blinded by Science – Matthew Silverstone

Roots Demystified: Change Your Gardening Habits to Help Roots Thrive – Robert Kourik

How to reach Suzanne:        

Website: PlantHarmony.org

Email: suzzanebontempo@gmail.com



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