As is the case in nature, your garden is healthiest when it has a diversity of things growing and living in it. It is important, therefore, to distinguish between those pests which are truly detrimental to your garden, and those little creatures which are actually beneficial. Lady bird beetles, fly larvae, lace-wing larvae (aphid lions), praying mantis, dragon flies, predacious mites, thrips, spiders, toads, garter snakes and birds are all creatures you should be happy to have in your garden.
Natural Ways to Rid Pests
- Companion planting is the practice of placing plants which pests dislike around those plants which pests relish. For instance, aphides hate chives, so chives are a great companion plant for roses.
- Hand Picking is time-consuming but unbeatable. Use gloves and remove all visible offending pests.
- Put a cone of birdseed in your garden. Birds are much more efficient than people at killing bugs. Flickers, warblers, finches, jays, robins, grackles, sparrows, cedar waxwings, starlings and many other birds will consume thousands of insects every day.
- You can also plant flowers that attract birds: pincherry, white flowering dogwood, honeysuckle, holly, white pine, Russian olive, sunflowers, marigolds, or ask your local nursery for other examples. The birds will come for the berries and seeds, but they'll stay for the bugs.
Tobacco water: Place a large handful of tobacco into 4 quarts/litres of warm water. Let stand for 24 hours. Apply with a spray bottle. This tobacco water is also poisonous to humans, so use caution when handling it.
Hot Peppers: Blend 2 or 3 very hot peppers, 1/2 onion and 1 clove garlic in 4 quarts/litres of water, boil, steep for two days and strain. Can be frozen for future use.
Garlic: Mix 4 quarts/liters of water, 2 Tbsp (30 ml) garlic juice (do not use garlic powder as it will burn the plants), 1 and 1/5 ounces (30 grams) of diatomaceous earth (see below), and 1 tsp (5 ml) rubbing alcohol. Can be frozen for future use.
Soap: Use only pure soap, as detergents will damage your plants. Liquid soaps: 2 Tbsp (30 ml) per quart/litre of water. Dry soaps: 1/5 oz (5 grams) per quart/litre of water. If it has not rained after a few days, remember to rinse plants.
Collars: To stop hatching larvae from burrowing into the soil surrounding your plants, use "collars" made of stiff paper, heavy plastic or tar paper. Cut a piece a foot square and fit it snugly around the base of the plant on top of the soil. Use a paper clip to hold it in place.
Netting: Fine netting such as cheese clothes, placed over the bed, will protect seedlings from chewing insects, keep cats and birds away and prevent flying insects from laying eggs.
Pyrethrum Dust: Very effective against soft bodied insects such as caterpillars, with a low toxicity to mammals. Avoid inhaling.
Diatomaceous Earth: made from the skeletons of tiny organisms, this dust controls pests by causing dehydration and death. Can be used indoors and out. Please follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
*Note* Diatomaceous earth can be processed in a variety of ways. Please be sure that the diatomaceous earth that you are using in your home is not the crystalline or chemically produced variety (which is manufactured for use in swimming pools). Avoid inhaling.
Insecticidal soap: This soap is available in gardening, hardware and drug stores.