By Linda Ly
It’s all too easy to solve a garden pest control dilemma in your garden by reaching for one of the many synthetic sprays or pesticide pellets available at your local garden center. One promises to rid the garden of critters, while another claims to kill damaging cutworms and caterpillars, but none fully live up to their promises.
In fact, many of these store-bought garden pest solutions do more harm than good to your pollinators and other beneficial insects. And, if you have an edible garden, what’s the point of growing your own food if it requires repeated application of a potent pesticide?
Luckily, there are a few ways to combat common pest problems without resorting to toxic measures. This year, why not grow natural bug repellant plants – such as bay, basil and marigold – or, try one of these natural garden pest control remedies.
In your garden, chances are you’ll encounter at least one of these garden pests at some point during the growing season:
These tiny, soft-bodied, sap-sucking insects appear in colonies on the undersides of leaves and on distressed plants. They usually show up as a result of overwatering, underwatering or poor growing conditions. If you catch the infestation early, a simple, effective solution is to simply blast them with the strong jet setting on your cleaning nozzle. You may need to do this every day until all signs of these annoying little garden friends have disappeared from the leaves of your plants.
Who knew you could bait destructive slugs and snails with a little beer? Turns out, these slimy little garden-lovers are highly attracted to the yeast in beer. To bait them, set up a beer trap by placing a shallow pan filled with beer near any areas with evidence of slug and snail damage. At night, they’ll stretch for the beer, fall in and drown. Remove the perished slugs and snails each day, and replenish the beer trap every few days.
Leaf-eating caterpillars, including hornworms and cabbage worms, can quickly decimate an entire vegetable garden and must be controlled while they’re young and before they prepare for the pupae stage. If you have new plantings, lay floating row covers over your garden as a preventative measure. Floating row covers allow sunlight and water to reach the plants, but effectively keep caterpillars and other garden pests out. If you spot any caterpillars slinking along your plants, hand-pick them and destroy them immediately.
A grasshopper infestation can seem like an endless barrage of never ending garden pests. And that’s exactly what it is! Grasshoppers are constantly moving from areas with limited food into areas of plenty. This constant movement means that unfortunately, there just isn’t really any “one-time cure.” Consider grasshopper control a repeated exercise. Placing a netting or floating cover over your garden can help reduce infestation in small areas. Larger gardens might require hand removal in the early morning hours, when grasshoppers tend to be less active. Allowing tall grasses to grow around your vegetable gardens can serve as a catch-all for grasshoppers and reduce the number in your actual growing space.
Earwig damage closely resembles the damage caused by slugs, snails, caterpillars and other garden bugs, so to make a definite garden pest identification, inspect your plants at night when earwigs are actively feeding. These little buggers are attracted to light, so they’re easy to spot. During the day, earwigs will hide in dark, cool, moist areas, so you’ll want to remove any garden debris that may accumulate outside your garden and around your home perimeter – this will help eliminate them. Sprinkle a fine layer of garden pest control diatomaceous earth (not the diatomaceous earth sold for swimming pools) along areas where earwigs tend to travel. Reapply the diatomaceous earth after heavy irrigation or rain.
If nocturnal critters are your main garden pest concern, the best defense is a good offense. Take action to prevent four-legged friends from coming in to your garden in the first place. Protect your plants by installing plastic, wire or wooden garden fencing, hardware cloth or mesh around the perimeter of your beds. This barrier method prevents animals like raccoons, possums and skunks from digging up your soil (often searching for grubs), while still allowing you to water, fertilize and harvest your plants.
Nature is a wonderful thing. A wonderful, albeit sometimes annoying, thing. This summer, prevent the little wonders of nature from destroying your garden and yard with natural tactics that leave your garden growing a-plenty, and your mind at ease knowing you’re not using harmful chemicals.
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