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Natural Pest Control For Gardens

natural pest control for gardens

You’re excited about your newly planted organic garden. You’ve planned perfectly, done the layout and planting and it has been a thrill to watch the seeds peeking through the soil and small plants getting new leaves. Then one day, as you’re admiring your handiwork, you notice a swarm of tiny insects around your plants and slugs near the bottom leaves. The realities of gardening set in, you have a pest problem.

Since you want to keep the garden organic, you can’t just spray them with a commercial product or can you? Several companies make organic pest control sprays that you might investigate. Or, perhaps you can make a product for natural pest control, such as homemade soap sprays.

Natural Pest Control For Gardens

1. Homemade Soap Spray

If you don’t want to run out to the store to search for natural pest control for the garden, look in the kitchen. Dish soap is a comparable ingredient to what is in commercial insecticidal soap.
 
Grab an empty spray bottle and fill with water. Add a tablespoon of the soap for a quart of water, 2.5 tbsp., for a gallon. Ivory, Castile or Dawn are preferable, natural soaps with fatty acids.
 
Don’t use detergent, as it may damage plants. Add a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil and mix. The oil helps your mixture cling to leaves and stems. It’s that simple to make homemade pest control spray.
 
The soap breaks down the hard, outer shells of many insects that damage plants in the garden, such as aphids, mites, thrips, immature leafhoppers, and whiteflies, causing them to dehydrate.
 
The next step is to spray the insects on your plant. Spray the entire plant and especially underneath the leaves and the stem, as this is where some insects like to hide and lay eggs.
 
Don’t spray while the sun is shining on the plants. Get in the habit of never spraying anything, including water, on foliage when the sun is on it. Repeat this process with the soap mixture, spraying twice a day until pests appear gone.
 
Keep your homemade soap spray handy for future uses in your garden. Refresh it with more soap and water, as needed.

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2. Beer Traps

On to deal with the slugs.

The soapy mixture might be all that is needed to kill the ones you see, but what about those slugs that enter the garden while you’re not there.

Use this simple but effective trick.

Take small, plastic containers, such as a small chicken salad or cottage cheese containers and bury them in the ground near where the slugs were spotted.

Fill with beer (or any sweetened beverage). The slugs will try to get a drink, fall in and drown. You’ll have to dispose of them, of course, which is not the most fun part of gardening, but at least they’re off your plants.

If you’re not sure which direction the slugs came from, add buried beer containers on either side of the plants. If you like, put them several inches apart and make a line of cracked egg shells between them. Slugs don’t want to slither across sharp objects.

When slugs are gone, further crush the eggshells into the soil. Most plants benefit from the calcium in them.

3. Chickens and Ducks

If your situation and lifestyle allow, get chickens or ducks for active pest control. Mother Earth News lists them as one of the best ways to get rid of slugs and other insect pests.

Yet, most who use this method agree that careful supervision and containment of the fowl is necessary to stop them from eating the garden plants.

If you’re up to the challenge though, ducks and chickens are said to be trainable and achieve long-term control of the slug population. They also get rid of cutworms, beetles, and other harmful bugs.

4. Crop Rotation

As we’ve mentioned here before, changing your planting spots on a regular basis discourages insects and disease. It's one of the simplest means of natural pest management.

Rotating your planting spots controls many root larvae as well as family-specific insects and disease. Crop rotation can be simple; change ground every year or work out a crop specific schedule, allowing a few years between changing where you plant.

5. Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a valuable tool for controlling pests, especially useful for container planting.

Mix a small amount into your potting soil to keep ants and other creepers away from your containers.

Dust plants with an appropriate type of this product, it works in much the same way as the soap spray mentioned above and dehydrates the exoskeleton of the insect.

Mix it with other soil or use as a thin, top-dressing to control pests. Some gardeners also use cinnamon in this manner, and as a rooting hormone replacement.

Keeping your garden spot free of weeds and plant debris is an essential cultural method to help keep pests and disease way from your garden plot or raised bed.

Seed in flowers and herbs as you go through the garden. Clean up as the season progresses with a thorough clean-up when the gardening season ends for you.

 

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  • What are the 12 best veggies to plant in your new garden
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By Becca Badgett

Becca is a long- time gardener with a passion for growing organically in the vegetable garden and sharing her experience. She believes everyone should grow a herb garden, inground or in containers and use those herbs on a regular basis to improve overall health. Her passion for growing led her to attend a Horticulture Program at a local community college and share what she’s learned with numerous articles on the web. She is certified in Greenhouse Management and Operations, Landscape Design and is licensed as an NC Pest Control professional. Take advantage of her expertise through our gardening articles and get your garden growing. She contributed to the book “How to Grow an Emergency Garden”, available on Amazon. Read it free on Kindle Unlimited

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2 Comments

  • I’m glad I stumbled across your post as I have recently caught the green-finger bug. I’ve started to plant a few plants outside in containers and was worried about pests that would eat them. These are some great handy tips for any newbie.

    I was wondering if the soap spray would also work on indoor plants too. I seem to have attracted a few plant flies and they’re quite annoying!

    • We’re glad you found us. Yes, you may use the soap spray on your indoor plants.  Usually, it’s best to make a weaker version in a smaller bottle and keep it indoors for houseplants. Perhaps one teaspoon soap in a pint-size spray bottle with a few drops of oil. However, it sounds as if you might have fungus gnats on your houseplants, from overwatering. Make sure the soil is not saturated before spraying with more products that contain water. Houseplant soil should be kept moist on most plants, but never soggy. If you find they are too wet, dry them out in a shady spot outside and see if the little pests disappear. If not, spray the soil and the plants. Also, always provide airflow for your indoor plants. Please keep us posted on your progress

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