Since the dawn of time, we’ve been trying to grow plants, flowers and vegetables without pests getting to them first.
Over time, we’ve sadly moved away from organic pest control to chemicals. While they provide a quick win, most are harmful to the ecosystem we’re trying to nurture.
However, there’s a number of chemical-free ways to keep your garden blooming and keep insects and rodents at bay.
As our mother would say, prevention is the best cure! So, before we talk organic pest control methods, let’s start with some basic preventive measures.
The best prevention is checking your vegetables for pests on a regular basis. A small number of pests is fine as a natural predator will deal with it.
However, an infestation deserves attention. You can usually remove pests by rubbing or spraying with a hose. It’s worth leaving small amounts of pests on the soil to attract predators, who will deal with the problem.
Remove weak plants
Pests love to feed on and infect weak plants. If they spot an opportunity, they’ll return.
So pull out any plants that look weak or infected and dispose of them.
Insects love weeds as they’re the perfect breeding ground. Getting and staying on top of weeds will take time and effort but it’s well worth it.
Adding fresh mulch will ensure that your plants are well nourished and will deter insects. If you can spend a little extra and buy Seaweed mulch as it also repels slugs.
Build healthy, organic soil
The best way to develop strong plants is to regularly top-dress your soil with compost or natural fertilizer.
Mix and rotate crops
By mixing plants together in the same bed, pests are less likely to spread throughout a crop.
Also, rotating crops each year is a common method to avoid re-infestation of pests.
Water early so foliage will be dry for most of the day. Wet foliage encourages insect and fungal damage to your plants.
Natural pest deterrents
If chemicals are damaging, how can we protect our garden?
Start by shifting your perspective to organic pest control methods. Most of the bugs, insects and pests you’ll encounter are not harmful. Irritating, yes, but won’t do any harm. Plus there are numerous way to work with your garden to protect it.
The RSBP has some fantastic ideas on how to control pests organically.
No matter what the pest, there’s a natural predator. For example:
- Birds eat slugs, snails, grubs, wireworms, caterpillars and insects
- Hedgehogs eat slugs and snails, beetles and insects
- Frogs and Toads eat slugs, snails and various insects
- Ladybirds and lacewings eat aphids such as blackfly and whitefly
By encouraging these into your garden, you can get your pest problem, under control and do so as nature intends.
While removing areas of infestation by hand is time-consuming and intensive, it can be beneficial to the rest of the plot.
Encarsia, a parasitic wasp is useful for removing Whitefly. They work by attacking and paralysing the nymph of the Whitefly. With less of them around, your vulnerable plants are far better protected.
This is one of our favourite organic pest control methods. By planting close together with species that attract predatory insects or disguise vulnerable plants, you reduce the impact pests can have. They’ll be full by the time they reach your veg or flowers!
Deterrents and Barriers
You can easily stop many pests by adding household objects. For example, slugs hate the sharp edges of eggshells. So surrounding plants with broken eggshells should keep them away.
Placing plastic bottles and straw around the base of plants can also deter most pests.
Keeping pest numbers down is fairly easy, when you compare it to animal control. However, there are some steps you can take to protect your garden from animals.
You would be surprised at how many deer we have in the UK. They eat about five pounds of greenery each day. As creatures of habit, they revisit the same forage areas often.
You can repeal deer with a bar of fragrant soap, spraying plants with a solution of raw eggs and water, and scarecrows.
If you have an open compost bin, then before long you’ll be visited by rodents! So get a lid on that.
Rodents are allergic to peppermint and so will avoid it. The best way to protect crops is to soak old rags or cotton balls in peppermint. Place these around your crops. This also works on rabbits!
These furry creatures thrive in damp, dark soil. And while you can use organic mole repellent, improving soil drainage and using less water is just as effective.
Also, consider how you can increase the number of natural predators such as snakes, hawks, and owls. If you still have a mole problem, chicken wire works wonders.
Before you turn your kitchen into a lab and start creating your own homemade pesticides, there are a few things you should consider.
First, even through the following are natural or homemade, doesn’t mean that they are not harmful to your soil or plants.
Nor does it mean that they will have no impact on the ecosystem. So before using anything on your garden, make sure you research it fully and see if it’s suitable for you, your pets and garden.
As with paint, you don’t colour the whole room and hope for the best. Instead, you paint a small square to test. The same is true for any pesticides, try it on a small area and ensure it doesn’t harm the plants.
When you’re confident that your homemade remedy has the desired effect, then you can spread it over all the plants.
If you have plants infested with spider mites, mix two tablespoons of Himalayan Crystal Salt into 4 litres of warm water. Then spray the solution on infected areas.
Mix 30 ml of baby oil with a litre of water. Stir and spray over your plants. This solution works well for dehydrating insects and their eggs.
Citrus Oil and Cayenne Pepper
If you have an infestation of ants, then try this. Mix ten drops of citrus essential oil with one teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 cup of warm water. Shake well and spray on the affected areas.
This is a fantastic natural pesticide for flies, bees, and wasps. Sprinkle a few drops of eucalyptus oil where you see insects. Before you know it, they will all be gone!
Chrysanthemum Flower Tea
Chrysanthemum flowers hold a powerful chemical component called pyrethrum. This substance invades the nervous system of insects, rendering them immobile.
You can make your own spray by boiling 100 grams of dried flowers and 1 litre of water. Boil for twenty minutes. Strain, cool, and pour into a spray bottle.
Hazardous to both humans and insects, Tobacco spray was once a commonly used pesticide for killing pests, caterpillars, and aphids.
Mix 4 tablespoons of organic tobacco with 4 litres of water. Allow the mixture to set overnight. The mix should have a light brown colour. If darker add water.
You can use this mix can be used on most plants, except those in the solanaceous family (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc.)
Ancient Indians highly revered neem oil as a powerful, all-natural plant for warding off pests. Neem is one of the most powerful natural pesticides on the planet as it holds over 50 natural insecticides.
To make neem oil spray, add a tablespoon of organic neem oil and half a teaspoon of organic liquid soap with a litre of warm water. Stir the mixture slowly. Add to a spray bottle and use immediately.
When it comes to organic pest control, prevention is better than cure. Plus, there are many ways to work with nature to combat pests and keep your plants healthy.
By developing and maintaining a natural ecosystem, you encourage natural predators to keep pests at bay and use fewer chemicals.
Chemicals are generally a bad thing in a wildlife garden. They impact the whole food chain. So be cautious before using any chemical.
It’s worth regularly checking your crops ensures that you avoid any nasty surprises!