Admit it. You want an attractive garden. It’s only natural. But sometimes your garden attracts attention from the wrong sort. Picture fungus, bugs and wayward deer, to mention a few undesirables. How can you repel these nuisances without causing harm to your plants and the local water system? We’ll guide you to nontoxic methods of pest control, including building barriers, concocting your own spray solutions and introducing helpful insects.
You can literally keep animals and insects out of your garden by putting up barriers to entry.
A good fence will stop large animals like deer from sauntering into your yard for a bite. Check it regularly for damage that could provide a way for unwanted visitors to come in.
To prevent smaller animals and insects from munching on your produce and flowers, you’ll need to think smaller — smaller barriers, that is. These include chicken wire cloches (a fancy name for a rounded cage that sits over your individual plants) and floating row crop covers, which shelter more plants at once than the cloches. You’ll have to lift up the covers for a few hours each morning to let in some good bugs (the pollinators).
Plant tents kind of serve the same purpose as camping tents do for us. They give protection against threats and annoyances like insects, animals and the elements. Unlike the cloches and crop covers, tents can accommodate tall plants such as tomatoes and beans.
Natural repellents and insecticides
You might not want to hide your beautiful landscaping under tents and covers, but you still need to keep the pests at bay. Using other methods like spray repellents and strongly scented plants will help you control the pest population in your garden.
Save money and the environment by making your own repellents. Many recipes can be concocted from ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen.
- Combine mild dish soap, baking soda and water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle to kill fungus and make bugs stay away.
- Infuse some water with garlic cloves and spritz it onto your plants. Chili peppers also ward off insects. You’ll need to put a tablespoon of chili powder into a quart of water and several drops of dish soap. You can use it as is on the leaves of the affected plants.
- Cover and shake one cup of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of dish soap. Save it until you’re ready to use it. Then measure two teaspoons of the mix and add it to one quart of water. Shake again and spray it right onto the infested plants.
- Catch and eliminate slugs and snails with small dishes of beer (buy the cheap kind — there’s no need to impress them with craft beer!).
Horticultural oil is commercially made with natural ingredients and leaves no toxic residue. Use it directly on the insects to have the most effect. Don’t apply it in extreme temperatures or when plants are wet. A heavier version of horticultural oil is named for the time of year you spray it. Dormant oil kills insect eggs and disease spores during the winter months. Horticultural oils work best against mites, mealybugs, aphids, caterpillar eggs and the like.
Pungent plants like thyme, chives and garlic can act as natural deterrents against insects. Bonus: You don’t have to pay for those herbs at the store anymore!
While we just told you how to repel the insects and animals who want to destroy your plants, there are also some insects (ladybugs and wasps, to mention two) you’ll want to attract. They’ll actually collaborate with you to help your garden thrive. These beneficial bugs pollinate your plants and prey on the pests you want to detract.
- Incorporate plants that helpful insects love (and you probably will also!). Cilantro and dill, and others in their family, lure parasitic wasps and flies because of the nectar they contain. Coneflowers and sunflowers’ pollen brings lady and soldier beetles who want to feast on it. Veggies like broccoli and mustard greens attract good and bad insects, so be thoughtful about where you put these.
- Set shallow water dishes with pebbles in them around your garden for beetles and other beneficial insects.
- Attract predators by strategically placing plants that draw pests. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you plant things that attract pests, the good insects will show up to feast on them — and they’ll start protecting the rest of your garden. For example, shasta daisies appeal to black aphids, lupines tempt green aphids and nasturtiums entice whiteflies and aphids. It may take a few weeks to allow the good insects to arrive before you try to eliminate the bad bugs.
With these earth-friendly ways of preventing pests, your garden will thrive and you can feel good about your positive impact on your environment.Prevent pests