A large population of insects or vermin in a beautiful garden can be one of the most unwelcome and frustrating sights a homeowner can behold. While it can be tempting to reach for a bottle of maximum-strength pesticide, these chemical agents can be toxic and may present a host of side effects. Natural pest control measures are the safest and most effective means to take control of a garden overrun by unwanted pests. Try these organic methods to deter bugs and scourges from ruining your lush vegetation. By following these tried-and-true natural pest control practices, you’ll be able to watch your garden grow steadily and healthily from your patio once again.
Maintaining healthy soil is arguably the most important aspect of successfully nurturing any type of vegetation. In order to get the most bountiful yield every season, ensure that you care for your soil along with your plants. Too often, gardeners mistakenly believe that supplying their flowers or crops with a high-grade, artificial fertilizer is all that is necessary to encourage growth. Feed your plants and their accompanying soil with leaf mold and garden compost to ensure adequate nutrition and a natural resistance to pests, vermin, and diseases. This type of natural food source can also keep vegetation tough, strong, and inhospitable to insects or other pests looking for a soft meal. Planting varieties of flowers and crops that are known to be resistant to pests and diseases can also go a long way in keeping plagues of bugs at bay.
Rotating your crops every year can help you keep your soil fertile. It can also stave off the accumulation of pests and diseases associated with particular crops grown in the same patches for months. Ideally, you should divide your gardening land into four or more distinct patches. Each patch of land should host a group of vegetables that belong to the same family and share nourishment needs. Once the season ends and enough time passes to start the next year’s yield, the patches once assigned to a particular set of crops should host another kind of crop so that new vegetation can grow.
One of the best ways to deter a recognized pest population is to implement physical barriers around vegetation. Laying fine mesh across the tops of vegetables can safely protect crops from flying insects, birds, cabbage white butterflies, pea moths, white flies, and carrot root flies. The mesh acts as an umbrella, sheltering the vegetation from threats coming from above. In addition, this fine mesh can safeguard crops from terrestrial pests like flea beetles and leaf weevils. Barriers of polythene sheets strategically placed on trees can even help stop the spread of fungus to fruits.
A simple cabbage collar can cover the base of a vegetable plant and deter cabbage root flies from laying eggs around the area. To create a cabbage collar, gardeners can look inside their homes for materials: regular carpet inlay cut to fit snugly around the base of the cabbage is all that is needed for sufficient protection. Bottle cloches can provide 360-degree protection for especially vulnerable plants. A clean and clear plastic bottle top and bottom can be cut and placed over a plant to deter slugs and other climbing insects from harming the vegetation.
Netting can be the perfect protective umbrella against birds that seek to pilfer crops and other vegetation from land. If you have canes that have been criss-crossed across your vegetables, or maybe a handmade fence, you can wrap humming line around them for an extra layer of protection against these aviary predators. An additional benefit of netting is that it can guard against insect infestation as well: cabbage white butterflies won’t find your plants or vegetables hospitable nesting grounds if netting is present.
For bigger vermin and pests, a higher grade of protection may be needed. Situating small-gauge chicken wire over low-growing vegetables, like peas, can deter mice and even cats from this potentially tasty treat. Twisting the chicken wire around the bulbs of flowers can keep squirrels away from them, too.
Slugs pose a major threat to newly planted gardens. When attempting to rid your garden of slugs, consider using deterrents that contrast with a slug’s soft and squishy body. Sharp, rough, and gritty items in their paths can convince slugs to abandon their goal of eating your crops. Sprinkling bran flakes along the border of your garden can distract slugs and may even help reduce their population. It’s important to remember that any type of deterrent applied to slugs must be regularly checked, maintained and, if applicable, replenished, as slugs are extremely determined pests.
Traps remain one of the most effective ways to address a growing population of insects. Beer traps, sticky traps, and codling moth traps can quickly incapacitate insects headed toward your vegetable garden without the use of harmful pesticides. Codling moth traps use pheromones to lure male moths to glue strips. Similar traps exist for other types of moths as well. Glue traps can also be implemented in glasshouse staging to control the movement of ants; sticky glue can also be placed on yellow cards and hung inside of a glasshouse to trap white flies. For insects attracted to trees, like the female winter moth, grease bands can be painted at the base of a tree to stop moths from climbing a tree, mating, and contributing to the spoiling of fruit.
A highly organic way to combat a pest problem is to introduce a few natural predators to your land. Californian marigolds and poppies in your garden can act as a homing beacon for ladybirds and hoverflies, which will take care of an aphid problem. Planting shrubs, hazel, and geraniums, building a pond, laying out logs, and feeding birds in your garden can invite birds and other wildlife that will gorge on the colonies of insects among your vegetation. Ensure that these things are a safe distance away from your patio to protect your home from unintended infestation. Avoid planting vegetables known for carrying detrimental diseases, like cabbage and onion, if you can’t verify their cleanliness and health. Prudent actions like this can spare your garden of onion white rot and clubroot.
A few easy maintenance procedures continued throughout the year can reduce or even eliminate pest problems. Keep your garden clean and free of debris to minimize a population of insects. Remove diseased or rotting portions of plants and trees as soon as you spot a problem, and disinfect tools in boiling water afterward to avoid cross-contamination. Wash pots and clean your greenhouse annually. Encourage air circulation by staying on top of your plants’ pruning needs. You can also decide to space plants farther apart than usual to encourage the flow of air. A dry environment can fight the conditions needed to grow mold and mildew
Visit the following websites to learn more about organic pest control:
- Insect and Disease Control for Organic Farmers
- Organic Crop Management: Insect Management
- Resource for Organic Insect Management (PDF)
- Organic and Sustainable Pest Control (PDF)
- Controlling Pests With Cultural Methods
- General Approaches to Insect Control
- Organic Pest Control in the Vegetable Garden (PDF)
- Crop Rotations
- A Student’s Guide to Planning Crop Rotation (PDF)
- Non-Chemical Methods to Control Insects
- Organic Pest Control That Works in the Vegetable Garden
- Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Snail and Slugs
- Managing Pests
- Mechanical Pest Controls (PDF)