Growing a successful and productive garden is a lot of work. It can be rather frustrating to tend to your garden, only to watch a variety of bugs, insects, and other pests destroy it before you can harvest.
Before deciding to use chemical pesticides which may be harmful to the overall ecosystem of your garden, homeowners should consider using a natural approach to getting rid of those annoying plant-eaters and garden disturbers. Any number of homemade sprays and methods can be helpful in deterring garden pests from your yard, all while keeping your plants healthy.
To start, it is helpful to identify the particular pests that have invaded your yard or to discover common pests to your area so you know what you’re up against. Then, consider using a few of these tips to keep your plants thriving and bug-free.
1. Slow Down the Slugs
Slugs can be good at eating other bugs, but unfortunately they also tend to target your garden veggies. Fortunately there are a number of ways you can deter these slimy garden pests.
One way to keep the slugs from destroying your plants is by distracting them with copper flashing. The copper will give the slugs a slight electrical shock when they come in contact with it. This means that the copper will act as a barrier to keep the slugs out of the blocked off area or away from a particularly susceptible plant.
Because slugs have soft bodies, you can utilize certain materials as garden borders that the slugs would avoid coming in contact with. Try applying gravel or lava rock in strips around your plants or garden in order to keep the little slugs from crawling across and into your garden. Wood ashes are another good choice for this sort of slug warfare because not only are the ashes good for deterring these pests, but the potassium in the ashes is good for the soil too.
2. Avoiding Aphids
Aphids come in a variety of colors and are excellent at sucking the sap from new growth in a plant. Often, you can get rid of these garden pests simply by hosing them off, but you will need to be vigilant.
If you are looking for a method that is a little more effective and permanent, you could try creating your own aphid-repelling spray. For this method, you will be creating a blend of cooking oil, water, and dish soap. Mix approximately one cup of fresh cooking oil with a tablespoon of dish soap.
Then, dilute the mixture in a spray bottle by taking four teaspoons of the oil/soap mix and blending it with one pint of water. As you spray this on your vegetables, it can help keep aphids away, and also thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies. You should reapply this mixture to your plants once a week for the best results.
3. Utilize Citrus Peels
Citrus peels from lemons or oranges are a great way to add nitrogen to your compost pile, but they can also be used as garden defense. This method will not only deter garden pests, but it will also improve the health of your soil.
If you dry the peels first, you will be able to grind them up and sift the powder directly into the soil. This will make your entire garden more resistant to a bug invasion.
A whole orange peel is also able to help keep aphids and mosquitoes away. For this method, all you need to do is cut a slit in an orange peel and carefully slide it over an aphid-susceptible plant, or else simply rub the peels on the plants to act as a mosquito repellent. Even cats are supposedly deterred by citrus peel. Sprinkle leftover orange peels in spots where your or neighborhood cats tend to prowl.
4. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a powder made of fossilized bodies of tiny, aquatic organisms, also known as diatoms. The particles in diatomaceous earth are abrasive and excellent for deterring soft-skinned insects, such as slugs.
All you need to do is sprinkle the diatomaceous earth over plants and around the garden’s perimeter to control flea beetles, twig borer, thrips, cockroaches, ants, earwigs and spider mites. The sharp edges of the dirt dry out and kill these undesirable pests. It also works to destroy these pests if they ingest the diatomaceous earth.
5. Use Garlic on Your Garden Pests
Garlic, a seasoning we all have in our kitchen pantries, is surprisingly useful in the garden as well. If you are dealing with apple maggots, caterpillars, sowbugs, grasshoppers, grubs, leafminers, mealybugs or whiteflies, garlic spray is an effective and natural way to battle the bugs.
To make a natural garlic pesticide, you need to blend 12 cloves of garlic with one and a half cups of water. Strain the pulp and then dilute the strained garlic water with a gallon of water. Shake it well, and then use the mixture in a spray bottle once a week on your plants to keep the bugs away.
6. Use Your Chickens
If you keep a coop of chickens, know that you can use them for more than a food source. While you may want to keep your chickens out of your garden beds, you might consider constructing a chicken moat around your gardening area.
A chicken moat is essentially a strip of dry ground fenced in on both sides which surrounds the plants. This space allows for the chickens to go to town eating weeds and grasshoppers and any other bug or beetle attempting to enter your garden plot. This is an effective method for controlling the pest population while giving your chickens plenty to feast upon.
If you are a homeowner interested in more details on how to construct a good chicken moat, check out this blog post. The double fence has the advantage of keeping deer and rabbits away from your plants, as well.
7. Invite Friendly Birds
Hornworms and other bugs are destructive to your tomato plants and can easily gobble up leaf after leaf if left unchecked. To prevent this, try attracting birds to eat these worms by placing bird feeders or a bird bath around your vegetable garden.
Check your plants once or twice a day for hornworms, and if the birds aren’t getting them all, you can always create another homemade spray. Try mixing garlic, soap and cayenne pepper with water to spray over your plants for added protection. This green pesticide helps to keep the moths that lay hornworm eggs out of your garden.
8. The Five-Finger Trap
One of the most common, cheap, and effective ways a homeowner can get rid of squash bugs, slugs, Japanese Beetles and hornworms is handpicking. It is tedious and not for the squeamish, yes, but very effective because you can see exactly what bugs you are removing and from where.
If you happen to have chickens, you can feed the insects and critters to the chickens or hope that some local robins may come scoop up the handpicked pests. Handpicking, along with some of the other remedies in this series, is a great way to be sure you have a pest-free garden.
As you prepare your garden, find out which pests are common to your area, and then arm yourself with these natural remedies for keeping the bugs out of your vegetable beds. By following these tips, you will find that garden care isn’t so challenging after all.