As the weather begins to warm and the sun comes out, so do insects and other creatures. Though some may be helpful to your garden, there are many pests that can be harmful and will eat away at your crops if you aren’t careful.
Most gardeners are aware of the number of sprays and pesticides that are available on the market. But, if you’re like me, and don’t want to contaminate your crops or the air, there are also plenty of ways to keep pests away naturally. So before you reach for the harsh chemicals, try some of these organic methods to keep your plants healthy.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Marigolds have a scent that, though pleasing to us, seems to keep most pests away. Simply plant a row around the perimeter of your garden, and your plants will reap the benefits. Other plants like clover, goldenrod, alfalfa, dandelions, and many types of wildflowers will also keep your garden safe because animals will be attracted to and feed on them instead of your garden. The trick is to plant these in a larger perimeter around your garden than you would need for the marigolds.
This method works best for slugs, snails, and caterpillars. Because of their soft underbellies, crushed egg shells will feel like razorblades to these greens-eaters. After removing the already-contaminated leaves and the insects, sprinkle the shells around the plants that are being fed on so that they don’t come back.
If egg shells don’t seem to be doing the trick, a beer trap is another common way to capture slugs and snails. Place a shallow dish of beer at ground level and the slugs won’t be able to resist.
If your garden has an aphid infestation, there is no better remedy to keep them away than soapy water spray. After cutting off the infected leaves, spraying the leaves with soapy water, which is in no way harmful to the plants, will keep the aphids from returning. This is also effective for caterpillars who hate the bitter soap.
As a bonus, soap sprays are also a good way to treat fungal disease on your plants if you mix the water and soap with cooking oil and baking soda. Spark People has a few recipes for soap sprays, as well as other homemade pesticides.
Mix your plants
This may be the easiest way to keep the pests away. By simply inter-planting, or mixing up your plants and herbs, pests will be confused by where their favorite crops are. Rotating crop locations each year will also confuse pest and prevent re-infestation.
Many insects are sensitive to certain herbs as well. Most commonly, rosemary, chives, sage, mint, and garlic are used to keep pest away because of their potent scents. Rotating crop locations each year will also confuse pest and prevent re-infestation.
There are so many great reasons to mulch your garden. It is a great way to keep your soil cool and also prevents the growth of weeds. The smell can also mask your plants, keeping smaller insects away. Another benefit is mulch’s ability to deter bigger animals, like rabbits and squirrels. Though you may also want to use a fence or barbed wire, as this is the most efficient way to keep them out, mulch, or a combination of straw, dried pine needles, and bark, will discourage them too.
It may seem odd, but sometimes the best way to keep certain insects away is to introduce good ones, or ones that will not harm your plants. Lady bugs are a great choice because they eat a variety of the “bad” bugs that populate gardens.
Featured image courtesy Wikimedia Commons user Greyson Orlando