Home gardening accounts for nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides used per year in North America.
Most of these are used to control insects on fruits and vegetables.
From the garden, most of these chemicals find their way into streams and rivers as runoff and, from there, into the oceans.
Organophosphates are the most common type of insecticide and include malathion and parathion.
These chemicals are effectively nerve agents, very similar in composition to weapons like Sarin gas, and were derived from Nazi research into chemical weapons during World War II.
They act by inhibiting neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system, causing paralysis, convulsions, and death. They are dangerous to virtually every animal on the planet.
Their primary benefit over older pesticides, like DDT, is that they are not persistent and break down very quickly in the environment.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives to these potent and dangerous chemicals, most of which are harmless to people and animals.
Natural Solutions for Your Garden
The most common problem gardeners face is insect damage to their plants. With proper cultivation and gardening methods, this problem can be drastically reduced before having to resort to other methods.
This means having well-prepared soil, adjusting the pH balance as needed, good drainage, and air circulation.
1. Proper Separation
As your garden grows and takes shape, remove and dispose of any struggling plants. Be sure to keep your compost area well away from your main gardening area, as the compost heap will be sure to attract pests.
2. Mulch and Compost
3. Clear a Perimeter
Be sure to keep your garden area clear of debris and things that will attract insects. If you have fruit trees near your garden, dispose of any fallen or rotting fruit immediately.
The seaweed sprays contain helpful minerals and trace elements like iron, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium.
Mix up your garden beds with a variety of plant types interspersed throughout. This makes it difficult for plant-specific pests to propagate and spread throughout your garden bed.
Some plants are also effective at warding off insects, including those plants around them. Some of the best pest-repellent plants include:
- Basil: Basil is a strong-scented herb that is said to repel mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. It can be planted near vegetables or flowers to help keep pests away.
- Chives: Chives are another strong-scented herb that can help to repel pests. They can be planted around the perimeter of your garden to create a natural barrier.
- Chrysanthemums: Chrysanthemums are not only beautiful flowers, but they also have insect-repelling properties. They are said to be effective against aphids, whiteflies, and other pests.
- Marigolds: Marigolds are another popular choice for insect-repelling plants. They are said to be effective against a variety of pests, including nematodes, beetles, and ants.
- Peppermint: Peppermint is a powerful insect repellent that can be used to keep pests away from your garden. You can plant peppermint near your vegetables or flowers or make a peppermint spray to use as a natural insecticide.
- Rosemary: Rosemary is a fragrant herb that is said to repel mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. It can be planted near your vegetables or flowers to help keep pests away.
If you’ve used your gardening tools on infected plants, be sure to sterilize them before using them on healthy plants.
Finally, you can call on the power of nature itself to help you in your fight. By attracting or purchasing insects that feast upon the pests that are bothering your plants, you can naturally remove them.
Praying Mantises, Hover Flies, Ladybugs, Chalcids, Brachonids, and even Mud Wasps are all insects that will help you battle common varieties of garden pests.
7. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth can make an effective barrier to most insects and works by carving open the insect’s exoskeleton and drying them out.
Ants will generally not cross a line of diatomaceous earth, nor will most insects. It doesn’t affect earthworms at all, or, unfortunately, slugs.
8. Natural Sprays
Sprays made with natural soaps are also effective against small, soft-bodied insects, like aphids and spider mites, and will destroy the eggs of larger insects as well.
Against larger insects, though, it is unaffected.
There are a few variations on a theme you can concoct to keep those pesky pest devils at bay. Depending on the severity of your garden pests, you can try a mixture of garlic, hot peppers, baking powder, or plain old soap.
You might want to try some of these squirty concoctions.
9. Neem Oil
Neem oil is safe and effective against a wide variety of insects, including some of the most troublesome in the garden, like ants, aphids, locusts, leafminers, caterpillars, and many others.
Solutions for Specific Pests
Whether it’s aphids, slugs, snails, or rabbits, there are a few things you can do to keep nature’s destructive intruders at bay.
And what’s more, there are plenty of ways you can do it naturally.
No chemicals, no harmful substances, no threat to your health or the environment – just the go-to organic method.
Aphids, also known as plant lice, are so common that practically every plant has a species that suffers from them.
Small, soft insects that use their needle-like mouths to suck the sap whilst simultaneously injecting the plant with their own toxic saliva. They are astonishingly BORN pregnant, so they multiply very quickly!
They can, however, be combated in several ways. Try growing plants that attract aphids and predators or plants with a strong scent, such as chives, basil, and mint, as aphids are repelled by these strong odors.
Slugs and snails are two of the prime perpetrators when it comes to inconveniencing (nay, outraging!) the common gardener.
Usually identified by their oozing, slimy trails, and bite marks on your plants where they’ve slithered out for a midnight chomp, they generally hide in the shadows during the day and emerge for a nighttime nosh-up.
Because they have soft bellies, crushed up, scattered eggshells around, the affected plants are like sliding over razor blades to them.
However, one of the best solutions is the beer trap (a shallow dish of beer); they find a splash of real ale irresistible, slide along to have a slurp, fall in, and drown. They die in the throes of intoxication, and the gardener has one less pest to contend with. It’s a win-win.
Slugs can also be controlled with barriers of fine sand and copper wire or tape. Ensure that the wire or tape is not uphill from any plants, or water that contacts the copper could drain into the plants, injuring or killing them.
Additionally, beetles, toads, and lizards are all-natural enemies of these slimy interlopers.
Forget sweetly nostalgic reminiscences of Watership Down or cute tales of Peter Rabbit, those floppy-eared fellas might be cute, but they’re also relentless, persistent, sneaky, and fast!
And, as any gardener knows, they love chomping away on your fruit and veg.
A good defense against these furry and hungry hoppers is to surround the affected patch with fencing similar to chicken wire.
Any potential, pesky Bugs Bunnies also loathe the smell of garlic, so you could concoct your own pesticide spray.
Caterpillars are the split personalities of the gardening world whose double life is both a blessing and curse to the gardener.
As caterpillars, they’re relentless furry worms with a greedy appetite, but one way to get rid of them is simply to pick them up and move them away from the garden.
Like slugs, they have soft bellies, so a liberal scattering of crushed eggshells around plant bases will keep them away.
However, once they’ve metamorphosed into beautiful butterflies or fluttering moths, you can leave them alone as then they’re your horticultural collaborators, deterring pests and helping your perennials bloom.
A Few Other Tips
- Just like the human world, the weak are vulnerable, so try to grow healthy plants free from disease from the beginning.
- Inspect leaves and plants for any discoloration or damage and, if necessary, deadhead, pinch off and remove entire plants that become diseased.
- Water your plants regularly to keep them healthy and replenished. Use organic fertilizers and compost to protect them from malnutrition.
- Once weeds spread, they can get out of control and destructive, so keep a weed-free environment to minimize the risk of attracting pests.
- You don’t always have to lunge angrily at wasps and bees with a rolled-up newspaper. They’re natural predators and love to gorge on any passing pests, so embrace them and encourage them to set up home in your garden as the miraculous winged wonders they are.
So there you have it – a few tried and tested ways of combating those unwanted garden intruders.
Avoiding chemical pesticides using natural substitutes will help your garden grow well and, more importantly, safely for you and the environment as a whole.