Whether you’re growing vegetables, flowers or fruit, pests can be a serious challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make your garden pest free without resorting to pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals.
1. Attract Beneficial Bugs (Not All of Them are Bad!)
There are many types of insects that are beneficial to your garden. Some, like ladybugs and lacewings, feed on pests while others help control populations by taking a literal bite out of them. To entice these good bugs into your garden, plant companion plants that also attract them, such as sunflowers, cosmos, yarrow, dill and fennel.
2. Identify What’s the Problem?
When you first notice signs of pests in your garden, figure out what insect is causing damage. Once you know what it is, you can choose to deal with the problem in a variety of ways, including handpicking or spraying.
3. Attract Natural Predators that Eat the Insects You Want Out of Your Garden
Birds and other winged creatures can be a powerful natural pest deterrent, especially for smaller bugs that can’t be easily seen. In addition to a birdhouse, add a bird bath and fresh water daily to draw them to your garden and encourage them to take a bite out of pests.
4. Find the Right Combination of Companion Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects
To entice beneficial insects, you’ll need to provide them with protien-rich food and carbohydrate-rich nectar. A variety of herbs and flowers can serve as these sources, including yarrow, dill, mint, basil, lemongrass, catnip, and garlic.
5. Monitor Pest-Insect Populations
When the balance of pests and beneficial insects shifts in your garden, it’s time to take action. Start by monitoring the number of aphids, flea beetles and other common pest-insects in your garden and mark their peak times of activity. This will help you avoid planting when those insects are at their highest, such as in midsummer for pea moths and in the fall for flea beetles on brassicas.
6. Time Your Crops To Beat the Bugs
If you’re battling aphids, cabbage worms or squash vine borers, try growing them outside of their usual feeding peak times or succession planting them to avoid attracting them to your garden. Fast-growing early peas are a great example of this strategy, as is Asian greens and mustards.
7. Use Non-Toxic Chemicals
If aphids, flea beetles or cabbage worms are still threatening your crop after you’ve done all the above, consider using non-toxic chemicals. Neem oil, for example, is a common and effective natural pesticide that won’t harm your family or pets. Insecticidal soaps are also a great choice for dealing with many pests without harming the environment.
8. Manual Control
Another way to reduce pest problems is to take the time to manually search and destroy the pests that have invaded your garden. This can be a simple task, such as handpicking slugs and snails. Alternatively, you could pay a neighbor or child to scour your garden for them.