Garden pests can be a challenge but you don’t have to use chemicals to get rid of pests in your vegetable or herb gardens. These 10 natural garden pest control ideas really do work.
Using non-chemical choices is always better for the environment and better for you, your family, and the good bugs that live in your garden. These methods can be very effective if you are diligent with their application. In fact, in some cases, these solutions are more effective than the more dangerous chemical solutions.
Who are the most offensive garden pests?
Every region has its own worst garden pests and these even change from season to season. The spring rains often bring wet days and your newly planted garden will be plagued by slugs and snails snacking on new growth. This can be disheartening after all the hard work.
The long days of summer bring grasshoppers and crickets that like to hide in tall grasses during the day and do a tremendous amount of damage at night. These pests are large in Texas (as much as three inches in length) and can do a tremendous amount of damage to your garden in just one night.
I had a sturdy Moringa tree chopped right off by a grasshopper in just one night. All that was left were four bare stumps!
Get Rid of Hiding Places
Often the quickest way to get rid of garden pests is to get rid of their hiding places. If they do not feel welcome with a home, they may move on.
Weeds and Tall Grasses
Weeds and tall grasses attract and offer shelter for many garden pests especially grasshoppers and slugs. To cut down on the number of pests hiding in your garden you’ve got to remove those hiding places that are close to the garden area. The best way to get rid of weeds in your yard is simply to pull them up when you see them. The best time to do it is after you’ve watered or after a good rain.
If you have a lot of weeds you can also pour hot boiling water on them. It works best on broadleaf plants rather than established perennials. Boiling water will kill whatever it touches, though, including any beneficial animals you may have growing in the soil, so only use boiling water when you have a large patch of weeds to treat and keep it away from the plants you want to keep.
Look for Slug Homes
Slugs and snails live where it is dark and wet. Get rid of their homes by removing all of the boards, stones, and debris from the area around your garden. If it is not possible to remove those items, then setting up a trap is the best solution.
At dusk, fill a shallow plastic container with stale beer or a mixture of jam and water and bury it in the garden near the plants that slugs have been bothering. Leave half an inch between the ground and the rim of the container so the slugs can crawl in but other beneficial insects will be deterred.
Which kind of beer should you use? It seems that the slugs are attracted to the yeast in the beer, so malt beers may work better than others, you’ll have to experiment. A mixture of sugar, yeast, and water would also be effective.
In the morning you will find some slugs trapped in the container. Dispose of the pests as you best see fit. Feed them to your chickens or throw them in the trash. Do this every night for one week and you will find your slug population reduced.
Encourage Natural Predators
If you’d like more birds in your garden, you can put up nesting boxes on walls and in fences. The key is to find the birds that are naturally in your area and cater to their nesting needs. You can also add nesting boxes to trees as long as they are facing the right way to provide shelter for birds. Use this easy bluebird house pattern made from one 1×6 board. Even if you are not “handy” with tools, you can make this birdhouse.
Explore the idea of creating a raptor perch for local hawks. They will keep your garden free of grasshoppers end rodents. Another option is an owl nesting box for a nighttime hunter. You can get owls to take up residence on your property by giving them a home that is cozy, warm and safe. Many barn owls live in rafters, tree cavities and in barns because they do not build nests.
Frogs and Toads are carnivores and will eat bugs that are bothering your plants. Set up housing for them by creating a spot that is sheltered from the hot sun and can retain some moisture. All they need is a crevice of rocks or a terra cotta pot.
Even small garden snakes are effective at keeping slugs, snails, rabbits, and rodents out of your garden. For some people, the thought of attracting snakes to the garden would seem absurd, but for die-hard gardeners with a slug, snail or small mammal problem, they are the perfect solution. Garter snakes, for instance, can, in fact, be a gardener’s best friend. Read more in the article Providing a Garden Snake Habitat – How to Attract Snakes In a Garden.
Keep a Clean Garden
Get Rid of Weak Plants – When any plant succumbs to bugs, the best thing to do is to remove the weak plants, keeping only the stronger, more resistant plants.
Build Soil Organically – Having healthy soil is one of your best defenses against pests in your garden. Build up your soil for the type of plants you’re growing using natural means such as manure and plant matter.
Keep Foliage Dry – Water the soil of plants in your garden, not the leaves. A good way to do this is to build an irrigation system that allows you to water the garden without getting all the leaves of the plants wet.
Clean Up – Keeping plants clean with a little natural liquid soap and water mixture is also helpful to keep down fungus and pests on plants. Most plants will respond to a spray of 1 teaspoon soap to one gallon of water mixture. This is especially helpful against aphids and other soft-bodied pests.
Use Plants Against Them
Grasshoppers are averse to the smell of onions, chives, and garlic. Rather than planting these helpers all together in one garden bed, intersperse them throughout your garden area. The scent from these plants will often keep them from snacking on the vegetables you are growing.
If you have a problem with chipmunks raiding your garden beds, plant a border of nasturtium, marigolds, or mustard around the perimeter of the area. Squirrels do not like the smell and will stay away.
Believe it or not, while your cat may love it, bugs do not like catnip. What’s great is that catnip will not harm humans or pets but it will repel bugs. This is another perimeter planting. It will become invasive in the garden beds and will also attract your cat, which may become a pest itself.
Trusted Hot Pepper Spray for Deterring Garden Pests
- 2 cups of water
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap (any scent)
- 1 teaspoon of canola oil
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper or 1 large jalapeno pepper
Directions: Puree the mixture in a blender and sprinkle it on pest infected plants up to 4 days before harvesting. It will need to be repeated if it rains. You can strain the mixture and place it in a spray bottle for an easier application. Use gloves while preparing this spray, and make sure you do not spray hot pepper spray against the wind – and on yourself!
Sometimes the best option for natural garden pest control is to get in the garden at night and handpick those buggers. If you have the tenacity to keep it up nightly for a few weeks you can make a significant dent in the population. Handpicking, in addition to traps and sprays, is often the best way to eradicate garden pests before they get to be a serious problem.
The more you learn about natural ways to protect your garden from unwanted pests, the more you’ll realize that you don’t need to add harsh chemicals to your yard. Often all that is needed is a bit of diligence tracking them down and some organic garden solutions to get rid of them.
Don’t garden pests drive you crazy! I got together with a couple of my gardening-knowledgeable friends to answer some of our readers’ most pressing garden pest questions and pain points.
If you would prefer not to watch the whole video, here’s a timeline where we begin to talk about specific garden pests:
1:04 Natural Remedies for Pests
3:25 How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers
6:25 How to Get Rid of Roly Poly Bugs and Slugs
8:27 Sources for Beneficials
11:05 Chipmunk and Squirrels
13:47 Japanese Beetles
16:55 Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden
21:16 Stopping Deer from Eating your Garden
24:29 Flea Beetles
FOR FURTHER READING AND FREEBIES:
PRODUCTS MENTIONED IN THIS VIDEO (affiliate links):
HOW TO CONNECT WITH THE LADIES IN THIS VIDEO:
Shelle Wells, Rockin W Homestead
Kristi Stone, Stone Family Farmstead
Mindy Wood, Our Inspired Roots