- Growing crops is a kind of therapy in and of itself. It helps pass the time and yields fruit and veggies way tastier than what you’d find in stores. On top of that, the feeling of serenity that you get while looking at your own well-manicured garden is second to none.
However, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows – garden pests can cut your enjoyment off and cause numerous problems. Instead of buying a pesticide first thing in the morning, try to combat those pesky intruders naturally. There are more than a few beneficial habits you can adopt to improve your garden and stop pests from dead in their tracks.
Why opt for natural pest control methods?
The decision to stay away from chemical pesticides should be solid.
- Less potential damage. – Your crops and the valuable yield they provide will thrive better. You wouldn’t want your tomatoes to taste like a three-year-old aspirin pill.
- Smaller carbon footprint. – Chemical pest repellents often negatively affect the environment, including your garden soil.
- Long-term landscape benefit. – Getting into a natural habit of avoiding garden pests will prove better for your plants and soil in the long run.
- No pest resistance. – Pests who survive chemical pesticides will likely develop tolerance and pass it along as they replicate.
- No toxic fumes. – With natural pest control methods, you won’t have to worry about toxic smells coming from those buckets of chemical poison in the backyard shack.
So what should you do to keep away from pest infestations naturally? Let’s take a look.
6 proven ways to protect your garden from pests
Improve soil and plant health
Before you even think about planting anything, test your garden soil with a special kit you can buy at most gardening shops. Use it, and make sure your soil is nutrient-rich and with a proper pH for the crops you want to grow. After all, most pests tend to target weak plants first, so don’t give them the chance to do so. Turn the soil over and supplement with good compost, like well-rotted manure. Remember, the better the soil, the healthier your plants will be, so take good care of it.
Fast-forward a few weeks – your plants are already growing. A stress-free plant is more likely to resist pest attacks. Keep supplementing your garden with compost to promote healthy plant growth and water your crops well in dry weather. Make sure every plant gets as much sun or shade as it needs. Prune damaged parts and look into mulching if your plants struggle to retain moisture.
Encourage natural rivalry
Toads, ladybugs, hoverflies, lacewings are just a few of nature’s experienced pest controllers. Those creatures, along with many more of their kind, are entirely harmless to most of your plants because, luckily for you, they’re carnivores. That means they feed on other insects, especially ones that ruin your crops, like aphids, for example.
You can simply plant a few nectar plants among your crops – most predatory insects, like ladybugs, love them, and you’ll also be helping the bee population.
Popular options include:
An added benefit is that your garden will emit a wonderful flowery aroma!
As for frogs and toads – they need water, so if you can fashion a small pond somewhere in your garden, it’s sure to attract the little jumpers. You can even take it a step further and build a small frog shelter. Place a rock or two to act as stepping stones, and you’re all set.
On the downside, a garden pond might attract a few unwanted visitors – like mosquitos and aphids. Tempted by the still water, these pests could try to lay their eggs in your garden pond, so try to keep it as tidy as the rest of your garden. Your frogs will eat as many insects as they can, but feel free to help them out. Deal with algae regularly and trim nearby grass to minimize mosquito numbers.
Move your crops around
You can choose to plant different types of veggies in various places around your garden space. Most pests that enter a hibernation state during cold periods are used to following a strict path to their food source. If you disrupt that path by rearranging your garden every year, you make it difficult for them to navigate to the food they like.
Bonus points if you mix up the order in your garden. This practice is called interplanting and has you mixing up your veggies with other plants to confuse pests. You could also plant some nectar-producing plants in-between to help attract beneficial insects.
Introduce companion planting
Companion planting is the practice of growing different plants next to each other for benefits like pest control and nutrient distribution. As a bonus, it helps you optimize your garden space. Science has mixed opinions about which plants are actually effective and which are primarily subject to gardening superstitions. However, you can’t deny that garlic, for example, is good at repelling aphids and spider mites when planted among other vegetables.
Another notable mention is basil – it helps keep hornworms away from your tomatoes. Who would’ve thought tomato and basil went well together outside the kitchen?
- Citronella Grass
Keep pests away by hand
According to pest professionals, it’s perfectly fine to remove larger beetles by hand. This pertains to snails, slugs, and caterpillars as well. If you decide to handpick larger pests on your own, a pair of thick gardening gloves will probably help a lot. If you choose to spare the ecosystem and let them go somewhere outside your garden, instead of squashing them in a bucket, take them for a walk for at least fifteen minutes to ensure they don’t find their way back to your garden. Of course, if you feel you’re not up to the task, you can always call an expert to help you.
Use a barrier to deny contact to your plants
You can use any kind of physical barrier to prevent pests from harming your crops. Popular options are insect mesh or floating row covers. Set them on top of your plants, but don’t let them bend their stems. If the barrier is too heavy for the plant, stick a few poles in the soil to support it. Make sure you secure the barrier’s edges and lower points so garden pests won’t be able to make contact with your plants by walking along with the soil. Plant covers do a great job at deterring different types of bugs, flies, and aphids.
Which approach works best?
In conclusion, no single approach will help you avoid pests altogether, but combining a couple of the methods mentioned above is sure to provide you with a positive effect. The best option would be to follow all of the tips you just read.
Get into the habit of maintaining your garden’s health all year-round. In the long run, healthy habits will save you a lot of money, keep your pest issues to a minimum and let you harvest better yields each season. It’s an all-out win, so don’t waste time choosing – go out and take care of your garden in every way possible.