A Guide To How Organic Active Ingredients Work [Cheat Sheet]

organic ingredients orange peelThere are few resources that spell out how organic active ingredients work, so we looked up the most commonly used active ingredients and began hunting them down (primarily through USDA and EPA). Here’s a quick guide to organic active ingredients and how they work to share with your staff.

Insecticides

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt attacks leaf- and needle-eating caterpillars through ingesting the bacterium. Feeding stops within hours, although death may not occur for a few days. There is some controversy due to Bt genes being used in genetically modifying certain crops to make them more pest resistant.

Citrus oils. Citric oil from citrus peels destroys the waxy coating in insects’ respiratory systems and is one of the more effective organic controls. It can harm aquatic invertebrates, however, so it should not be used near streams, ponds, etc.

Diatomaceous earth. DE, an abrasive powder, cuts the exoskeleton of crawling insects. Also, insects that ingest DE die within 48 hours. It may cause lung irritation in humans, so a mask is recommended for applicators.

Hot pepper wax. Hot pepper wax repels aphids, cabbage loopers, beet armyworms, spider mites and whiteflies. It lasts up to 30 days and does not wash off easily. Avoid use on variegated African violets, sweet basil, parsley, Dicentra eximia and fruit trees in bud.

Insecticidal soaps. Insecticidal soaps are salts of fats and oils found in animals and plants. They work by dehydrating soft-bodied insects and require application every seven to 10 days to infested areas.

Horticultural oils and sprays. Horticultural oils coat insects’ airways, as well as their eggs, and suffocate them. Be aware there are both organic- and petroleum-based versions, so double check which is used before promoting as an organic product. These can damage plants in high temperature and low humidity conditions. Do not combine with sulfur. There are two primary types of horticultural oils: summer and dormant.

Other oils. Extracts from plant material, including garlic, clove, cedar, lavender, peppermint and citronella should not be confused with horticultural oils. They work by both repelling and smothering insects.

Pyrethrins/pyrethrum. Pyrethrins, made of the ground up flower head of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium, disrupt insects’ nervous systems. Most pyrethrins are toxic to cold-blooded animals. The similar sounding pyrethoids are synthetic compounds based on pyrethrins.

Spinosad. Spinosad is derived from a bacteria species discovered in 1982. It affects the nervous system and kills insects within a day or two of ingestion. It’s touted as a Bt replacement.

Fungicides

Bordeaux mixes. Bordeaux mixes are a combo of copper sulfate and hydrated lime and should be applied in early spring. Leaf burn can occur when temperatures dip below 50°F and in high humidity. Overuse can create copper build up in the soil.

Copper sulfate. Apply copper, a preventative, when leaves can dry quickly. It’s toxic to aquatic creatures, so do not use near streams and ponds. It will build up in the soil.
Lime sulfur. Lime sulfur controls foliar disease as well as mites, psyllas and some sap-eating insects. Do not overlap with horticultural oils.

Sulfur. Sulfur controls mites and prevents foliar disease. Do not apply to plants treated with horticultural oil within the past four weeks. Sulfur corrodes metal, so a plastic applicator is best.

Herbicides

Systemic. There are currently no proven systemic organic herbicides which enters the plant through its vascular system.

Contact. Contact herbicides like ammonium nonanoate, citric acid, acetic acid (vinegar), clove oil and cinnamon oil need repeat application. Concentration levels are important. Table vinegar, for example, is about 5 percent acetic acid, whereas herbicide levels are at least double that.

Suppressant. Mulch/compost, corn gluten and landscape cloth/mats prevent weeds from reaching sunlight. Corn gluten works by dehydrating tender shoots as they emerge from the soil. It breaks down quickly and may need to be reapplied. For mulch or compost to work as a weed control, it needs to be a thick layer of about 4 inches.

Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers do not emphasize nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N-P-K). While those elements are included, they are much lower percentages than conventional fertilizers. The remaining material is made up of many of the trace ingredients also needed by plants. Organic fertilizers come in three main forms:

Plant derived. Common forms are composts, seaweed/kelp, dry molasses, ash, whey, alfalfa, cornmeal, corn gluten and cottonseed meal.

Animal derived. The most common forms are manure, bone meal, blood meal, hoof and horn, fish meal, fish emulsion, shellfish meal and worm castings.

Minerals. Popular minerals for organic fertilizers are green sand (from ancient sea beds), lava sand, mine rock phosphate, sulfate of potash and limestone.TGC

Data compiled from an assortment of USDA reports.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “A Guide To How Organic Active Ingredients Work [Cheat Sheet]

  1. I wish someone would come up with a non toxic, systemic insecticide for fruit and nut trees that would provide constant protection against the worms that eat what I need to eat and sell. I’ve been unable to spray my trees for awhile now and I’ve taken out some of my trees so I won’t have to
    work so hard. I have designed individual coverings for individual fruits with success, but, very time consuming and labor intensive. If you ever hear of such a product I’d like to hear about it. Why couldn’t BHT be made to do this?

More From Retailing...
Cordyline Candy Cane (Excelsa Gardens, Inc.)

November 14, 2017

Garden-Retailers Pick Their Favorite Products From The Landscape Show

Grower-retailers have once again named their favorite new products, this time as part of the Cool Product Awards at The Landscape Show 2017 in Orlando, FL. Awards were presented to 12 companies, representing 14 products.

Read More
Ian Baldwin

September 26, 2017

Gardening Industry Not Recovering as Much From Recent Recession as in Past

In his latest blog posting, garden retail industry consultant Ian Baldwin says changing consumer demographics mean that, unlike past indicators, the garden business hasn’t surged after a recession — and it’s not going to under the current model.

Read More
Hydrangea mac. Fire Island (Monrovia Nursery)

September 19, 2017

Grower-Retailers Pick Their Favorites From Farwest 2017

Members of The Garden Center Group once again named their top selections in both live and hard goods for the Retailers’ Choice Awards at Farwest 2017.

Read More
Latest Stories
Cordyline Candy Cane (Excelsa Gardens, Inc.)

November 14, 2017

Garden-Retailers Pick Their Favorite Products From The …

Grower-retailers have once again named their favorite new products, this time as part of the Cool Product Awards at The Landscape Show 2017 in Orlando, FL. Awards were presented to 12 companies, representing 14 products.

Read More
Ian Baldwin

September 26, 2017

Gardening Industry Not Recovering as Much From Recent R…

In his latest blog posting, garden retail industry consultant Ian Baldwin says changing consumer demographics mean that, unlike past indicators, the garden business hasn’t surged after a recession — and it’s not going to under the current model.

Read More
Hydrangea mac. Fire Island (Monrovia Nursery)

September 19, 2017

Grower-Retailers Pick Their Favorites From Farwest 2017

Members of The Garden Center Group once again named their top selections in both live and hard goods for the Retailers’ Choice Awards at Farwest 2017.

Read More
Trends Slide - No Logo

September 12, 2017

Garden Media Group’s 2018 Trends Report Highlights Natu…

This year’s Garden Trends report offers seven trends that you can use to inspire mental wellness. Take a look to see how many trends you’re already using to connect with your customers.

Read More
GCA Bathroom Winner Wingards Market 1

September 8, 2017

Garden Centers of America Announces Best Bathroom Award…

If you’re a grower-retailer, your restroom may end up being the most important part of your customers’ experience. Find out the big winners of this year’s Garden Centers of America’s Best Bathroom Awards.

Read More

August 29, 2017

7 Popular Retail Trends from the 2017 IGC Show

Almost every type of retail garden product imaginable filled the booths on the tradeshow floor at the 2017 IGC Show held in August in Chicago, from pots and containers to garden tools, patio furniture, and decorative items. Here are seven gardening and product trends that stood out at the show.

Read More

August 21, 2017

50 Cool Products on Display at the 2017 IGC Show

Check out these cool products vendors showed off at the 2017 IGC Show on the Navy Pier in Chicago, August 15-17.

Read More
griffin-expo

August 15, 2017

Griffin Becomes Newest Distributor for Master Nursery G…

The agreement allows Griffin to join Master Nursery’s network of more than 150 supplier partners, while giving Master Nursery access to new product and service options for member businesses in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, and Pacific Northwest regions.

Read More
Decorative Premium Hanging Baskets (Ainong USA)

July 25, 2017

16 Products That Garden Retailers Loved at Cultivate’17

In what has become an annual tradition at Cultivate, a team of garden retailers presented awards for their picks as the best new products (both live goods and hard goods) from Cultivate’17.

Read More

July 11, 2017

Grower-Retailers Invited to Help Pick Their Favorite Pr…

The Garden Center Group is inviting grower-retailers to join them on their quest to highlight the best new retail products on display at Cultivate’17.

Read More
Hort Couture Farm to Table Display

July 7, 2017

New Marketing and Retail Display Ideas to Boost Your P…

Innovative marketing displays and retail concepts at California Spring Trials 2017, inspired by popular consumer trends and the need to encourage consumer success, overflowed with exciting new ways to promote plants.

Read More

June 19, 2017

IGC Show Features Talks on How to Cash in on the Buy Lo…

This year’s event, which takes place Aug. 15-17 in Chicago, also includes a free workshop on what you might do when starting your business over from scratch.

Read More
Robert O'Neill

May 11, 2017

Former SEAL Team Six Leader to Address Attendees at IGC…

Robert O’Neill is a highly decorated combat veterans and the author of the just-published memoir, “The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.”

Read More

April 24, 2017

Ian Baldwin Offers Examples From Grower-Retailers on Pr…

In March, Baldwin wrote a blog advising grower-retailers to consider raising their prices this spring. The post inspired a number of creative suggestions.

Read More
Ian Baldwin

March 31, 2017

Ian Baldwin: Aim High With Your Pricing This Spring

In his latest blog posting, the garden retail consultant says consumers are spending more today, which means it’s a good time to consider raising your prices.

Read More
GCA Summer Tour 2017 Andersons Newport Beach

March 23, 2017

Garden Centers of America Unveils Stops on Its Summer T…

Registration for the event, which includes visits to several garden centers each with their own unique highlights, is now open.

Read More
MSU Guide To Attracting Pollinators

March 9, 2017

New Guide on Bee-Friendly Plants Available From Horticu…

The guide is designed to help grower-retailers educate and motivate their customers to purchase and plant pollinator-friendly materials.

Read More
Grapevine Balls, Glass House, and Galvanized Dish Gardens (Flori-Design, Inc.)

March 6, 2017

Cool Product Awards from Garden Retailers Announced at …

This year’s Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) once again served as a great spot for the Cool Product Awards, an annual collaboration between TPIE, Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, and The Garden Center Group.

Read More