Natural and Harmless Alternatives to Garden Pesticides
Unfortunately, many people choose to use cruel methods that either injure or kill garden visitors. I think the problem is that most people are not aware that there are other ways to protect your garden that don’t require you to harm any living beings.
The best way to keep your garden healthy is to really be a part of your garden. You will be amazed at the big, complex world going on in your backyard (or front yard, or patio or whatever you have the space for). Sit down one day in your garden and just look closely and quietly. Incredible stuff.
You can plant some “sacrifice” plants in various parts of the yard which is often ones that we don’t like so much, but the bugs do. These include plants from the cabbage family and some others that you can let go to seed purposely. These will naturally attract the most destructive bugs. This may entail some experimentation on your behalf, to note where they like to hang out the most.
Consider having an open style compost bin. You can have both an open version and a closed one. The open bin can be made with just a few old car tyres stacked up beside the house, where it is too shady to grow anything. Throw plant clippings and some old cabbage/broccoli leaves/plants in there and deposit the collected bugs there. That way they have some food and a way to get out if they wish.
- Moving on
Another method is to take an empty bucket or container and carefully remove the caterpillars or another bug that you can spot. Take these to your ‘sacrifice’ plants or your open compost bin, depending on how many you have. Use gloves to do this as some hairy caterpillars can give you a nasty rash.
- Trick ‘em
White cabbage moths, which look like white butterflies with black spots, will lay tonnes of eggs on your cabbage family plants (broccoli, bok choy, Brussel sprouts etc) but you can trick them into thinking the plants are in a territory of other moths. Thread some of the white, Styrofoam peanut-shaped packing thingies (or cut out shapes from plastic containers) onto the string and hang them above your plants. These look like other white moths have already taken those plants, and often encourages them to find somewhere else. Worth a try anyway.
- Nice Predators
If you have aphids, you will probably have ladybugs in the vicinity. Most of the time they will migrate to the affected plants, however, if you find a plant covered in aphids and no ladybugs, just take a look around for them elsewhere in your garden and carefully transfer a couple. I don’t know how they do it, but these freshly fed ladybugs will soon send out the appropriate signals and others will come. I notice most aphid problems disappear after a few days.
- Annoy them
Snails and slugs always seem to attack the freshly planted seedlings after a nice raindrop or too. Don’t use snail bait, firstly as they are dangerous to the kids and dogs, and as they are nasty to the snails. Use copper strips and sawdust to stop them from getting into the beds. The copper gives them an annoying electric zap as they crawl across them and saw dust also irritates them. Be sure to use dust from non-treated wood as older-style treated wood can contain nasties like arsenic!
- Distract them
Pill Bugs or slater beetles or roly-poly bugs are the janitors of the garden, cleaning up all rotting fruit and vegetables. Sometimes they get a bit excited and eat stuff that you can use still. They love eating ripe strawberries so make sure to pick them every day. Keep them distracted by leaving a few orange halves around your garden. They will flock to them. If you do find them eating something you don’t want them to, gently brush them off and give the fruit or veg a good wash before eating it.
- Block them
We all have plastic bottles or cartons left over from juice/milk substitutes. Before putting these in your recycle bin, cut them into sections about 10-15 cms high. Simply cut through the middle section of the carton leaving a ring-like section, open both top and bottom. Place these protective guards around your seedlings, pushing them a little way into the ground, until they are established. These will stop most slugs or snails getting to them. Make sure you take them off though as I have forgotten a couple in the past, on the large plants. Tricky to cut them off without damaging the plant stems. They will keep for many seasons as long as you wash well and store them out of the weather.
- Build up
If at all possible, build your garden beds up with raised beds. You can try out some second hand (imperfect) cement blocks. They have a lovely textured finish like bluestones and the slugs/snails don’t like crawling up them. Bonus: they are simple to keep weed free and are easy on your back. They are about 2 ½ feet high and you can overplant them to your heart’s content. Solves any rabbit issues too. Other products you can use are recycled tin, reclaimed wooden train sleepers, old bricks or whatever you can get your hands which are free or, at least, doesn’t cost too much $. Remember: one person’s garbage can be another person’s treasure…
Use netting to stop birds and bats from eating all of your fruit but make sure that they can see it (or hear it in the bat’s case). Add some old, shiny CDs to the netting that act as a further deterrent or warning. They also look pretty, reflecting light around the garden! Make sure you check your nets for any creatures that may have gotten stuck. Alternatively, if you are feeling generous, leave off the nets and share with your bird/bat friends.
A lot of pest control will be a bit of a hit & miss affair and require some experimentation. These are ways which I have found to work in my little patch of earth so I would encourage you to try these, and try out your own ideas. Just like most recipes can be turned vegan, most problems in the garden can be solved cruelty-free. I would be happy to help out with any specific pest issues that you may be experiencing. Just drop me a line. I would love to hear any suggests that you may have too!
- Aphids (plant lice): Plant chives, marigolds, mint, basil, or cilantro or place aluminum foil at the base of your plants. The foil reflects light onto the undersides of the leaves, which scares away aphids.
- Ants: If ants are coming in through the cracks of doors and windows, pour a line of cream of tartar where they enter the house, and they will not cross over it. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings will repel ants. You can also squeeze the juice of a lemon at the entry spot and leave the peel there. Planting mint around the foundation of the house will also keep ants away. Place cloves of garlic around indoor and outdoor ant pathways.
- Cockroaches: Create sachets of catnip and place them throughout the infested area (your cat will love you!). Cockroaches like high places so put a few sachets on top of shelves and other elevated surfaces. Bay leaves, cucumbers, and garlic can also help to keep cockroaches away.
- Codling moths: Use a cheesecloth square full of lavender, chives and garlic, or cedar chips. Try adding cedar oil, rosemary, dried lemon peels, or rose petals.
- Deer: Place some soap shavings or used cat litter along the ground to create a boundary between their grazing area and your garden. Also, try hanging a salt lick in their path to distract them from your plants.
- Grasshoppers: Simply spray garlic oil where you don’t want them, or plant calendula, horehound (a bitter herb), or cilantro.
- Japanese beetles: Try chives, garlic, rue, and catnip.
- Mice: Use mint plants, especially peppermint plants! Mice really dislike peppermint and will avoid any areas where it grows.
- Mites (spider and clover): Try planting alder, coriander, or dill, and use rye mulch and wheat mulch.
- Rabbits: Sprinkle chili pepper around plants (it must be reapplied if it gets wet). Install oven racks around plants. Rabbits tend to dislike their texture and the way that they feel on their feet. Other natural rabbit repellents include bellflowers, astilbes, asters, yarrows, cranesbills, hostas, lavender, sage, and other textured or thorny plants.
- Slugs: Place mint, lemon balm, human hair (remove excess hair from hair brushes and place in gardens), pine needles, cosmos, sage, or parsley in your garden.
- Ticks and fleas: Plant mint, sweet woodruff, rosemary, and lavender. Also, try placing cedar chips in your garden. They smell great to you … but not to fleas and ticks!