You can control these 5 common garden pests with just a few simple methods…
Pests, pests, pests! I love fall gardening, but many common garden pests definitely seem to be at their worst this time of year. As with all the other insects around right now (crickets, I hear you!), I suppose they are all trying to feverishly multiply before the cold weather arrives.
While pests are a real pain in the garden, there are also numerous ways to protect your hard-earned harvest. Sustainable gardeners know that the best way to get rid of garden pests is simply to not allow them the opportunity to establish themselves in your garden in the first place. Healthy soil and healthy plants are your first line of defense, followed by beneficial predator insects, garden diversity/companion planting, and other sustainable gardening methods that allow nature to do most of the work at keeping your garden in balance.
If you do end up with heavy infestation despite your best efforts, there are natural pesticide options which can help knock down your pest population without causing too much harm to the surrounding environment.
What you definitely want to avoid is using chemical pesticides in your garden. Not only do these chemicals often harm beneficial insects (creating a vicious cycle of pests), but they also may impact soil health, and may even have long-term negative consequences for human health as well.
Below are 5 types of common garden pests, as well as some simple tips for controlling them naturally:
- Aphids and other sucking bugs puncture the skin of your plants and suck on the juices. The first line of defense against this type of bug is spraying it off the plant with a strong burst of water. If it continues to appear, try a natural DIY aphid spray like this one. Warning: Don’t use antibacterial soaps, as agents in these soaps can kill the life in your soil.
- Caterpillars can also cause me fits in my garden. The simplest control method is to watch for the telltale signs of leaves being eaten, then look under the damaged leaf and pluck the caterpillars off. I then send them sailing to the coop, where the chickens get a morsel to fight over. If the caterpillars get really out of control, most nurseries sell a natural nontoxic bacteria called BT (short for bacillus thuringiensis), which can be sprayed or dusted onto the plants and is very effective against caterpillar pests.
- Roaches and ants also pose a pesky problem both indoors and out in some areas. The most effective natural cockroach deterrent is boric acid, found at drug and hardware stores in the form of a powder (commonly known as Borax). Mixing the boric acid with something the bugs like, such as honey or sugar, will attract them. They then consume the bait, take it back to their nests and the problem just seems to handle itself. I use bottle caps to mix this concoction in and then set them in corners of the yard and house and wait for them to work. Mixing garden-grade diatomaceous earth (which is unpolished) with boric acid and spreading it around your problem areas is also very effective. Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder with very sharp edges, which essentially cuts the bugs. Then the boric acid helps finish the job. Both of these substances are naturally occurring and, in the quantities you will use, are nontoxic to humans and animals.
- Birds are always an interesting pest to deal with in our gardens. They can be very helpful in the garden with caterpillars and other insect control, but occasionally, they like to dig up the sprouting seeds of corn, beans, and other large-seeded plants. The solution is to bury the seed farther down. I use my index finger to poke a hole (about three inches) into the ground and drop the seed in. The big seeds of corn and beans have no trouble getting through the soil and are hardier for their travels. Additionally, I save old bedsheets and use them as a top mulch for the newly seeded garden beds. Plant your seeds spread the sheet with rocks on each corner. Then for the first 3 to 5 weeks water the sheet. The plants will let you know when it is time to remove it. This handles two issues – mulch and bird protection – in permaculture we call this “stacking functions.”
- Mosquitoes aren’t necessarily a problem for your plants, but I count them as a garden pest as they sure make working in the garden unpleasant! These can pose a pesky problem with few options for controlling them. The first thing to do is to peruse hidden areas in the yard for abandoned cups, buckets, or toys that might accumulate water. Also, change out your pet water dishes frequently and dump those planter bottoms if you have potted plants. All these areas collect enough water for mosquitoes to breed in. If you are barbequing, you can try throwing some sage and rosemary on the coals to repel mosquitoes. There is also a great mosquito repellant from All-Terrain called Herbal Armor. It is free of DEET and other chemicals, uses only natural ingredients, and works quite well in my experience.
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