A garden is a wonderful sanctuary of a diverse selection of plants that you are taking care of and helping grow every day. This is why it is best to keep those unwanted garden pests away. These pests would damage your garden, and hurt the plants that you have been growing for months.
You would be prompted to call pest control should things get really awry, which would immediately tackle the issue. However, should pest control services be unavailable, it is best to look for effective natural and practical solutions that would stop those pests in their tracks. Here are some essential tips that you can use to protect your garden.
The current trend with pest control companies is using more green and eco-friendly methods of managing pests. Although many doubt the efficiency of these methods, experts such as Kevin Espiritu, Ben Probert, Melinda Myers and Michael Perry, stand by it. All of these specialists say that all you need is the right tools and the right mindset.
The Fruits of More Work
The key to using natural pest control is to understand and accept that it will never be as effective as chemical pesticides. In order to help the environment become healthy, we must trade our convenience for it. Ben Probert, a horticultural consultant from Pen and Trowel, who has studied gardening for 15 years, stated the following:
“There are several ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ options for controlling insect pests, but none are quite as ruthlessly efficient as the chemicals. Once gardeners come to terms with this fact it becomes a lot easier to work with other products and methods of insect controls. The key to controlling insect pests is to be vigilant and to act swiftly.
“We’ve lived in a privileged time of being able to reach for a quick and effective response to any pest or disease we see in our gardens, but as the environmental impact of the overuse of chemicals is being understood so many of these chemicals are no longer being made available.”
Find Ben Probert on:
From these statements, it is clear that chemical products were engineered to kill pests. Unfortunately, it is at the expense of the overall health of the environment. Today, the pest control industry has started adapting greener and more eco-friendly products. But as stated by Probert, it is vital that people should prevent pest infestation by predicting it, even before they reach out for chemical products available in the market.
Prevention from the Get Go
The most effective way to keep deadly bugs from entering your garden is to make it unattractive to them. As discussed above, natural gardening requires more work from you. This means practicing the following to avoid making your garden a pest breeding ground:
Regularly remove weak plants
Use natural fertilizers or seaweed fertilizers
Do consistent weeding
Clear the garden of debris
Interplant and rotate crops
Keep the foliage dry
Always clean your tools
Doing these will either stop or slow down pests from calling your garden their home. But if these fail and pests arrive, then it’s time to call in the good guys.
Calling in the Good Guys
The most natural method to be able to combat unwanted pests is to rely on your ecosystem. In other words, encourage the natural predators of these pests to live in your garden. These are the “good guys” of your garden.
These beneficial predators are the ones that can devour pests, even during their larvae form. A number of them can directly eat pests, while others may use them as hosts. Naturally, it might take some time for them to be fully effective. However, you must think of them as a long term investment for the health and wellness of your garden.
For example, the braconid wasp lays their eggs on caterpillars. They do this so that, when the larvae emerge, they can feed on the host. This is needed for the larvae to move forward in their life cycle, which means that the host will surely be eaten. By encouraging the presence of these wasps, you can reduce the damage that caterpillars do to your plant’s leaves. You can attract these good guys by planting carrots, celery, parsley, caraway and Queen Anne’s lace – all of which are members of the Umbelliferae family.
Other good bugs include:
These eat aphids, mites, whiteflies, and scale insects.
They love gardens with daisies, tansies, and yarrows.
Lacewings and hoverflies
Adult and larva lacewings and hoverflies feed on aphids and other pests.
These are similar to ladybugs because of their love for daisies and yarrows.
They also love goldenrods, blackeyed Susans, and asters.
These eat most garden pests, which make them an essential good guy in your garden
Mantis eggs are hatched in the garden and the larvae quickly grow to adults.
These can kill underground cutworms that are responsible for killing sprouts before they grow into seedlings.
Probert states that these are “tiny parasitic worms that will eat the young grubs before they do (any) damage”
They are also effective against beetles and root weevils.
Nematodes can be bought online. If you order one, you will get a single sponge, which contains a million of these good guys.
This is applied by mixing the sponge in water and applying it onto the soil, where they get to hatch and grow. Once they’re old enough, they will kill your pests.
In case they get onto your leaves, then you can simply wash them to fall into the soil.
Probert also said that “Nematodes are fairly easily available online and are posted straight to you – (just) be sure to use them straight away or they will die.”
The greatest part of this pest control method is that you get a bunch of helping hands in your garden. Melinda Myers, an award-winning TV/radio host and author of over 20 horticultural books, says that this has allowed her to procrastinate:
“I tolerate some damage (sometimes procrastination pays) from aphids while I wait for birds, lady beetles, and other predators to eat them.”
The tricky part of this is that these beneficial bugs arrive in your garden because of the presence of their food source – the harmful pests. Thus, if you kill all of them, then the good guys will also disappear because they need to look for other sources of food. If you haven’t done your proper gardening practices, then you will be open to pest infestation for a period of time. In order to always have a healthy garden, the key to managing your bugs is to have a good balance of harmful and beneficial bugs. You must have enough bad guys to attract the good guys but not too much that your garden will suffer. In order to make sure that you do not reach a dangerous level of harmful pests, you can (finally) reach out for some products to aid you.
Keeping it Natural
There are organic and natural tools, recipes, and methods that you can practice in order to “implement a layered approach” as stated by Kevin Espiritu – founder of Epic Gardening, a website that has and continues to teach millions of people how to do do-it-yourself (DIY) gardening and farming. Espiritu says that he practices this layered approach by doing the following:
This is what the preventive measures and good guys are for. But when the pests still persist, then you must follow the next measures:
Find Kevin Espiritu on:
Facebook: Epic Gardening
Millions of his students have followed this approach and have become well-trained gardeners.
The second step in this layered approach is using organic and home-made products to not only save you a lot of money, but also give you the peace of mind because you know exactly what is entering your soil. One of the top 20 horticulturalists in the UK, Michael Perry (aka Mr Plant Geek) also uses natural methods – a spray of soapy water in particular. He states that:
Clearly, even the experts are big fans of keeping their garden and themselves healthy without resorting to chemicals.
Listed below are common garden pests and what natural remedies you can use to combat them:
Mites and Other Soft Bodied Insects
Mix one tablespoon of canola oil along with a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water.
Place it into a spray bottle and shake it well before using.
Start spraying it onto your plant from above while going down its height and from below going up; doing this will get all mites, aphids, and mealybugs on all side of the leaves.
The mixture smothers the insects; Proberts states that this and similar mixtures “coat the aphids so that they suffocate, rather than killing them by affecting their nervous system.”
Grubs and Beetles
Use milky spores, which are granules that cause disease in grubs; this doesn’t affect beneficial bugs.
Apply this by spreading it on the soil.
These multiply over time and will sit in wait for a grub to infect; it can last for as long as 40 years.
Grubs are actually young beetles, so killing them will also mean less beetles in your garden.
Mix hot pepper sauce, Ivory soap, and water. Let it stand overnight.
Place it in a water spray. Shake well before use.
Most pests cannot handle the intensity of the pepper onto their senses; it kills them.
Earwigs, Snails, and Slugs
Diatomaceous earth has small diatom particles that are sharp.
Sprinkle this on and around plants.
The soft exoskeleton of insects, earwigs, snails, and slugs cannot handle the sharp particles and drive them away from your plants
These are only a few examples of natural pest remedies. You may look here for the complete list. However, there are more straightforward ways to deal with pests. Espiritu states in his second and third steps that he resorts to cutting leaves and picking off the insects by hand. This and other physical interferences are a good last resort to minimize infection damage.
It’s a Trap!
When infection starts to become bad, you will need to use traps and barriers to save some of your plants. These will prevent physical contact between these plants and pests. Using these will lessen the infestation and allow you to have breathing room to be able to think of ways to exterminate them yourself or for a professional to do it.
The good old fashioned fly paper will attract insects to fly into the sticky trap with pheromones.
The critters caught in this trap will die from hunger.
Apple Maggot traps
These are traps hung in apple trees so that apple maggots lay their eggs here instead of in the apples.
Floating row covers
This is basically a material that is draped over plants to prevent physical contact from pests while still allowing water and sunlight to come in.
Myers states that she uses these to “prevent cabbage worm damage.”
This is just like floating row covers, but for seed beds and young plants.
It created a greenhouse effect for the young plants.
These need to be opened for watering.
Clearly, there are multiple methods in which a gardener can practice natural pest control. Natural products, beneficial pests, preventive gardening, traps, and barriers are all available to use for one to garden without damaging the environment. It may require more work than using chemical pesticides, but you will be repaid with a beautiful and healthy garden free from annoying and destructive critters.
Gardening cannot be properly done without being able to dispose of harmful bugs in your plants and crops. However, the excessive use of pesticides could have negative effects on the environment. Although pesticides are very efficient at killing bad bugs, is it really worth it for you to use when your overall health is at stake?
Luckily, there are natural ways to control these termites without resorting to chemicals. In Bob Flowerdew’s book titled “Simple Green Pest and Disease Control”, ‘it is possible to keep your garden chemical-, pest-, and disease-free all at once.’ This goes to show that you can remove these pests naturally – from attracting natural predators of pests, handpicking, tilling, to the use of rough surfaces. Opting for these eco-friendly methods will not only aid you to effectively kill pests, hence, will also help you to practice organic gardening that will greatly save Mother Earth.
For you to have a better understanding of why you should avoid using pesticides, you must first understand the negative effects it has on the environment.
Effects of Chemicals on the Environment
Pesticides are the only internationally accepted chemical that is allowed to be legally used. There are different types of pesticides used to kill different kinds of pests, which are the following:
Herbicides to kill weeds
Insecticides to kill insects
Fungicides to kill fungi
Rodenticides to kill mice
The use of the pest killers has become a common practice everywhere. It is used for agricultural land, homes, parks, schools, buildings, forests, and roads. They are spread in a variety of ways – from mediums as small a spray can to an airplane performing crop dusting. Since the prevalence of the pesticides in the world, they are not just found in plants but also in the air, food, and drinks. Though it is meant to kill pests, it also has a harmful effect on humans.
Over the years, shreds of evidence point to pesticides as the chemical that is the main cause of the rising health problems in mankind – both physical and mental sicknesses. In May 2010, a study from the University of Montreal and Harvard University discovered that pesticides in vegetables and fruit cause a 200% higher risk for a child to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Here are the effects of pesticides on different living things:
1. Human Adults
Pesticides have been known as one of the reasons for health problems in men that ranges from nausea and headaches to cancer, endocrine disruption, and reproductive deficiency. Cancer is twice as likely to happen to a human living in an environment with heavy pesticide use as to a human in a clean area.
2. Human Children
The human brain is not fully formed until the age of 12 and pesticides could greatly affect the development of the central nervous system below this age. Proportionally, kids have more skin surface than adults during this time. They also take in more pounds of food and water compared to adults, as well as more air. Because of this high intake and a lack of a fully developed immune systems, they have a higher risk from suffering health problems stemmed from pesticides than adults. It doesn’t help that kids are much more active and are more exposed to different environment where the harmful chemicals may be or have been applied.
Not only can pesticides kill harmful insects, but also beneficial ones as well as soil microorganisms and worms which naturally limit the presence of pests. Given that the agricultural land is damaged, plants’ root and immune systems are weakened, and essential plant nutrients are reduced.
Even though public awareness was already raised by Rachel Carson in 1962 concerning the negative environmental effect of pesticide, the use of it today has only increased since then.
How to Fight Pests Without Pesticides
As mentioned above, there are several ways to fight and ward off pests from your garden without resorting to pesticides. In fact, these natural solutions just involve more effort, intelligence, and ingenuity to practice.
Although these methods are less efficient, they have been shown to be able to take care of keeping some of the most persistent harmful insects away from the garden.
These insects are listed below along with a brief explanation as to why they are harmful to the environment and how you can keep them away:
These are commonly seen on the underside of leaves and feed on garden vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants. While they are harmful in small numbers, an infestation will hinder or even stop plant growth completely.
To fight them off, cut off the leaves with heavy infestation and water your plants with a strong stream of water to kill them. Lacewing and ladybug larvae also naturally feed on aphids so encourage these good bugs to thrive in your garden. Plants of the daisy family attract lady bugs, while yarrow, goldenrod, black-eyed susans, and asters will bring in lacewings. Remember this as lacewings and ladybugs will come up often in this article.
A natural pesticide for aphids is a mixture of one tablespoon of canola oil with a few drops of dish soap in a quart of water. Put the solution in a spray bottle and shake it well. Spray infested leaves on the top and the bottom to kill the aphids and discourage living aphids from feeding on those leaves.
This is a huge pest that feeds on cabbage and related plants such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and turnip. They are considered extremely destructive because they are capable of leaving huge holes in these plants and even reaching the center where they can completely contaminate them with fecal matter.
Spiders, yellow jackets, lacewings, and parasitic wasps are the natural predators of these pests. However, even with the presence of these beneficial bugs in your garden, you will need to give more attention and effort to get rid of cabbageworms.
When you notice big holes in the leaves of your plants, that means that the cabbageworms are still thriving. Begin searching and handpicking these pests and throwing them into a bucket of soapy water. This will kill them. Remember this method as well.
After picking and harvesting your crops, till under the soil where the vegetables are used to be placed to kill the cabbageworm pupae.
These pests look like caterpillars. The difference is they have shiny heads and they live underground. They do most of their damage during the night by cutting off seedling stems. Young plants are also in their kill list as well and they particularly target ones that are in still within the soil or just emerging. A wide variety of plants are prey to this pest such as beets, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.
To prepare for these pests, remove weeds and plant debris when planting a new garden. This will stop the larvae from developing because they don’t have anything to eat. When you transfer your plants from one place to another, add a cardboard collar around its new area to keep it safe from cutworms. You can use toilet paper tubes for this.
Cutworms also cannot tolerate rough surfaces, so adding coffee grounds, eggshells, or diatomaceous earth around your plants can prevent these pests from coming close.
Just like for cabbageworms, you can kill the larvae after harvesting. For cutworms, you must pick up the soil debris and turn it over.
Earwigs are both harmful and beneficial. They eat dead leaves and be helpful near a compost pile. However, they also feed on young plants such as carrots and dill.
To keep this from happening, grow these plants earlier in the season so they will be hard for earwigs to eat when the pests mature. You can also bait earwigs with molasses, soy sauce with water, or peanut butter. Use these to lead them into a trap. Collect them and drown them in soapy water.
5. Bean Beetle
Both adult and larvae bean beetles are harmful to your garden because both are capable in attacking young pods, leaves, and stems. All bean plants such asbushes, poles, limas, pintos, navies, kindeys, and soybeans are susceptible to damage from these pests.
Bean beetles are most active during the summer. One of the most effective ways to prevent them from infesting your plants and home is to grow your bean plants early so that they mature by the time the season arrives. When the bean beetles come, they will be disappointed that they will have nothing to eat. However, if they still thrive, they can also be handpicked and placed in buckets of soapy water in order to kill them. Be sure to also check the underside of leaves for bright yellow eggs. If you find any of them on these places, kill these as soon as possible.
Lacewings and ladybugs treat these pests like aphids and feed on the larvae and eggs of bean beetles. Diatomaceous earth can also help kill the larvae. You can also use a floating row cover to act as a physical barrier from the pests.
These pests are a huge danger because they eat all kinds of crops faster than they can grow. Even plants in the soil are at risk because the pests can eat their leaves, leaving the plant unable to photosynthesize. They are most active during rainy seasons so be wary of their presence during these periods.
The soft undersides of these pests make them discouraged from traveling through any rough surfaces. Surround your plants with crushed eggshells, diatomaceous earth, and coffee grounds to prevent them from damaging your garden.
7. Tomato Hornworm
While these worms also consume leaves, stems, and fruits, they are particularly harmful to tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
Tomato Hornworms have a huge size, which means they are easily handpicked to be dumped into a soapy water. After harvest, use a rototiller to break up and till the soil. Doing this will also kill overwintering pupae.
Lacewings and ladybugs save the day again because they also feed on hornworms.
Gardening is possible without the excessive use of pesticides. As per the book “Weeding Without Chemicals”, ‘Weed control can be much more simple, inexpensive, and eco-friendly without chemical intervention. Because every weed is best removed with a different method.’ All you need to do is practice a few ingenious methods of keeping pests at bay. Encouraging good bugs, properly tilling the soil, adding rough surfaces, planting early, creating natural pesticides, and even simple handpicking are good practices to make sure that you effectively prevent and control termites and other pests in infesting your plants and your home.
However, if these pests still continue to prosper your home, it is best that you contact a professional pest control service provider and ask for their assistance on this matter. Remember that it is still best that you turn to a professional when your pest issue is already severe.