Garden Slug

How to Get Rid of Garden Pests

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.


Beaucarnea recurvata

How to Grow a Ponytail Palm

As one of the most popular houseplants found in homes all around the world, the Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is one of the easiest to grow and require very little maintenance by their owners. If you’re looking to add a splash of charm into your home, but don’t want to put much time or thought into it, then this tropical houseplant may just be the perfect choice for you.

Originating from the arid landscapes of Mexico, the name Ponytail “palm” is a bit of a misnomer. While the bulbous trunk indeed had some similarities to the trunks of other palm trees, the Beaucarnea recurvata is actually a drought-resistant succulent. And that bulbous trunk is where the plant stores its water.

Ponytail Palm

How to Care for Ponytail Palm

Ponytail palms are one of the easiest houseplants to care for.

They require little water, love lots of light, you don’t have to fertilize often, and they have the ability to adapt to the comfortable temperatures often found in homes. The downside of growing a ponytail palm inside your home is the incredible slow pace in which they grow.

As long as you don’t over-water it, you probably won’t kill it. It’s pretty much that simple.

However, if you want your plant to grow tall, thrive and be healthy, there are some easy guidelines you can follow to help you provide the best care for your ponytail palm.

Botanical Info

Latin Name Beaucarnea recurvata
Plant Family Asparagaceae
Genus Beaucarnea
Common Names Ponytail Palm, Elephant Foot Palm, Bottle Palm, Nolina Palm
Origin Mexico, South America
USDA Zone 10 – 11

Growing Conditions

Water Once every ~10 days.
Light Bright & full exposure to sun.
Soil Cactus potting soil.
Fertilize Once a month. Diluted liquid fertilizer.
Temperature Warm. Keep above 55°F.  
Humidity Adaptable. Not too low.  
Maintenance Easy to care for.  
Grow Inside? Yes
Grow Outside? Yes. Best in USDA Zone 10 – 11
Safe for Pets? Yes. But, care should be taken.
Container Size Depends on how large you want it to grow.  

7 Common Questions About Ponytail Palms

To help ensure that you’re providing to proper care for your ponytail palm, we have listed out the most frequently asked questions down below. If you have a question that you don’t see listed or would like to add additional feedback for others to learn from, please leave it down in the comment section below.

1. How often do you water a ponytail palm?

Not often, but the frequency depends largely on the environment you’re growing it in. Below, we have some general guidelines to watering a ponytail palm, but the best advice is to give it a drink of water when you see the soil start to dry.

  • During Hotter Months — You’ll want to water your ponytail palm plant once every 7-10 days.
  • During Cooler Months — You’ll want to slow down the watering schedule to once every 20-30 days.

If you don’t abide to that precise schedule, don’t fret. This plant is great at surviving long periods without water. But, if you want a healthy plant that grows to its fullest, you should try to follow the watering guidelines listed above.

Remember: The easiest way to kill a ponytail palm is by over-watering. Less is more.




2. How much light does it need?

Ponytail palms love lots of light. Remember, this plant is native to arid deserts, so full exposure to the sun will be appreciated by this plant. However, while full exposure is recommended, ponytail palms are adaptable to little or moderate amounts of light.

The downside of less light exposure is that you’ll see a noticeable slow down in its growth. And for an already slow-growing houseplant, this may just completely stunt it.

So, if you want your ponytail palm to grow tall, give it lots of light.

3. How often should I fertilize a ponytail palm?

Depends on the season and environment you’re growing your ponytail plant in. A general guideline is to fertilize your plant once every 3 or 4 weeks. If you see the tips of the leaves start to turn brown, then you’re using too much fertilizer.

  • Spring & Summer — Add fertilizer once every 2 or 3 weeks.
  • Fall & Winter — Add fertilizer once every 4 to 6 weeks.

Adding fertilizer is essential to the overall health of houseplants, and Beaucarnea recurvata is no different. Liquid fertilizers are recommended for ponytail palms, but granular fertilizers will also suffice. An all-purpose fertilizer will work fine here, but you can also consider using one formulated for cactus and other succulents.

4. What kind of soil should I use?

The best type of soil for this plant is one that drains quickly. Unlike many popular tropical houseplants, the last thing the ponytail palm wants is to sit around in moist soil for an extended period of time.

When you repot or transplant, it is recommended that you use a soil designed for cactus or succulents. If you want to make your own soil mixture, keep it light on the amount of peat you use within.

Remember: Keep the soil dry, and water sparingly.

5. Is repotting possible with a ponytail palm?

Yes, repotting a ponytail palm is possible and easy to do, but precautions should be made before you undertake this effort.

  • Size Matters — First, consider how large the tree is, and where you’re going to be moving it to. Larger plants will likely require more help from others, as well as a few other tools or equipment to assist in the transplant. On the flip side, if you’re repotting a small bonsai ponytail palm, then you likely won’t need any help or special tools.
  • Do In Spring — It is recommended that repot your ponytail palm early in the growing season, as this gives it plenty of time to adjust to the larger pot and form strong roots.
  • Examine the Roots — Once you have it out of the original container, take a close look at the roots of your plant. Look for any signs of bugs, rotted areas, or anything that looks injured or contaminated. Cut these off before you repot in new container.

Keep in mind: Transplanting it to a larger pot will encourage the plant to grow larger. This may be a deal-breaker for anyone growing a bonsai palm.

6. Is this plant safe for pets?

According to the ASPCA, the ponytail palm does not pose any toxicity threats to dogs or cats.

However, every homeowner with pets should know, and possibly take precautions if deemed necessary, that the leaves of the Beaucarnea recurvata contain saponin which may cause discomfort in some animals if ingested. So, while it’s unlikely that any harm will come to your dog or cat, it may be wise to keep an eye on them and ensure that they are not eating or chewing on the leaves.

It’s also worth noting that saponins are found in many popular houseplants, not just the ponytail palm. They also pose no danger to humans. In fact, saponin is found in many dietary supplements and are suggested to have some nutritional benefits.

7. Can you grow a ponytail palm outside?

Yes, but it’s recommended that you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 10 or 11 if you want your plant to thrive. The sandy soil and hotter temperatures create an ideal environment for growing the ponytail palm outside.