Pests can invade, destroy, and annoy both the garden and the gardener. While bugs are an inevitable (yet sometimes rewarding) presence in your garden, you don’t need harmful chemicals to ward off these little visitors. Many tried and true organic solutions can zap away pests without the toxic residues of chemical pesticides, which can leak into the ground and contaminate the groundwater that eventually flows from our taps. Try these organic methods to keep common garden pests out of your garden safely and naturally.
All-Natural Recipes for Sprays and Soaps
Sometimes a gardener needs to take it up a notch with pest control, but resist the temptation to buy chemical pesticides from the nursery or home improvement store. Try the following recipes as go-to formulas for knocking out all kinds of unwanted visitors.
- All-Natural Insecticide Soap
The soap in this recipe gets into the skin of the insect, causing dehydration and then extermination. It is particularly helpful for soft-bodied insects. Mix no more than 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid soap (use a biodegradable, plant-based liquid soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap) and 1 quart water. Pour mixture into a spray bottle and spray pests as needed. Add this recipe to others (below) to boost its effectiveness.
- All-Purpose Pesticide Spray
Gather some strong scented roots and spices such as cayenne, horseradish, ginger, garlic, onions, mint, rhubarb and anything else you can think of. Boil these in enough water to cover them and let the mixture sit overnight to soak. Strain solids from the liquid and discard solids. Pour liquid in a spray bottle with some All Natural Insecticide Soap (see above). This will keep for several weeks unless frozen. Garlic Variation:Instead of using all of the other herbs listed above, simply use 1-2 heads of garlic. Deer and rabbits in particular shy away from the strong scent of garlic.
- Caffeine Spray
While humans tend to enjoy the burst of energy that comes from caffeine, insects, particularly aphids, do not. Gather any or all of the following herbs: yarrow, tansy, pennyroyal, thyme, lavender, rue, catnip and artemisia. Mix at least a cup of this herbal mixture with 2 tablespoons used coffee grounds and 2 cups of water. Allow this to marinate for at least 24 hours before straining and placing into a spray bottle. This can keep for several weeks.
Other Methods of Pest Control
One of the best ways to protect your garden from infestation is to grow healthy plants that are free from disease to begin with. Sickly plants make for easy targets, and while healthy plants are not defenseless, damage inflicted on them by pests will be less intrusive. So be diligent about inspecting leaves for discoloration or damage and deal with the problems as soon as possible by deadheading, pinching off, or removing entire plants that become diseased. Water your plants to their liking; protect them from malnutrition by replenishing their nutrients through organic fertilizers and compost. Keep a weed-free environment to reduce the probability of attracting pests to live among the foliage. Encourage pest-consuming predators, such as bees, wasps, lacewings, praying mantids, ladybugs, and spiders to make homes in your garden. Bees in particular are important because they destroy unwanted critters as well as pollinate your garden. Growing pollen-heavy plants will attract them to your plot.