From easy barrier methods, to hand-picking and attracting beneficial insects, to bringing out the “big guns” for a severe infestation, you’ll find plenty of tips for maintaining a healthy and balanced garden and keeping pests at bay organically.
1. Barrier Methods
My favorite way to keep pests from harming my crops is to keep them from reaching my plants in the first place. This easy method doesn’t require repeated applications or much maintenance at all.
Cover your plants with garden netting as soon as you plant them, and only uncover when needed – for weeding or harvesting. Garden netting is relatively cheap, can be cut to fit your beds, and will usually last for several years if properly maintained.
This method works better with certain crops than others. We use this method most regularly with brassicas or cole crops, which tend to stay small enough to remain covered for most of their growth period, and you won’t be lifting the netting to harvest every single day.
It’s also a great way to give your squashes and melons a head start without being attacked by pests early in life. However, you’ll need to uncover them once they start blooming in order to allow for pollination and fruit set.
2. Hand Picking
Obviously, you can also pick pests off your plants by hand. This method is best for small infestations that haven’t spread out of control yet. Larger insects can be picked by hand and dropped into a bowl or bucket of soapy water (or fed to your chickens – trust me – they’ll LOVE it!), while smaller ones like aphids may be squished between your fingers or sprayed off with a stiff blast of water.
3. Attracting Beneficial Insects
Many good bugs eat bad bugs, so one of the best ways to reduce pests in your garden is by attracting beneficial insects to come and have a snack! They’ll do all the work for you if you invite them in, so planting certain flowers and herbs that are attractive to ladybugs, hover flies, and other predatory insects may help to bring these hungry bugs into your garden to help maintain the balance.
4. Organic Sprays
If you have a severe infestation, it may be time to bring in the big guns – in the form of natural and organic pesticides. There are plenty of organic-approved pesticides on the market these days, but if you want to save money and know exactly what you’re putting on your garden, you can also make your own easy, homemade pesticides that are safe for humans and animals.
Most likely, you will want to use a combination of these methods to beat garden pests. Just keep in mind that you will only want to use a pesticide for severe infestations, and try to keep your garden in balance using the first 3 methods whenever possible.