With spring weather finally making an appearance over here, I’m getting anxious to start planting our garden. I’ve been following along Rhythms of Play gardening posts and can’t wait to get our plants in the ground.Last year we dealt with some nasty blight as well as garden pests, ranging from squirrels digging up seeds to pesky slugs. This year I am arming myself ahead of time with some DIY natural pest remedies for the garden to keep the critters and non-beneficial bugs at bay, but being careful to try to avoid things which will harm the beneficial insects. When it comes to bigger critters like squirrels and racoons, your best form of defence is to protect your plants before they can even get to them. Wire cages around the plants or peripheral of the garden, crushed chilli peppers on top of the plants, and critter/insect repellant plants around the veggies can all help deter them. Here is a list of some helpful natural pest remedies for the garden.
Plant Insect Repellant Herbs
Insects, like aphids, are repelled by herbs such as yarrow, thyme, lavender and catnip. Plant these around your vegetable plants to deter them. Also, many insects and animals will steer clear of garlic or onions, so plant these around your other veggies to protect them. GrowVeg.com has a great page on companion planting to help you lay out your garden with these tips in mind.
Get Rid of Diseased Plants
If you have plants that are clearly diseased and weak, get them out of the garden. Insects are attracted to these and will only make the problem worse for you. I know it’s tough to toss away your plants, but you’ll save many more in the end.
Attract Beneficial Insects and Birds
Plant items that will attract the good bugs you want to help pollinate your garden and get rid of the bad bugs. Some ideas are: basic, borage, butterfly weed (great for monarchs too!), calendula, chamomile, dill, mint, parsley and queen anne’s lace. Make sure to keep bird feeders full and your yard attractive for birds as they are also incredibly helpful at naturally keeping insect populations down. Plant bee-friendly plants as well since bees are SO beneficial to the garden and will help keep away other insects.
Crush Up Your Eggshells
Not only are crushed eggshells an excellent source of calcium for your vegetable and tomato plants, but they can also help to protect the plants from slugs and snails as they act as a barrier. We save our shells, dry them out in the sun, then mash them up with either a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin. Sprinkle the shells around the base of the plants that the slugs are most attracted to.
Use Neem Oil
Originating from India, neem oil comes from the neem tree and can help with fungal infections and also makes an excellent insect repellant. You can mix some of this up with water and spray directly on the leaves to attack eggs and larvae or pour it right onto the soil. It will continue working for weeks. Warning: The smell is not pleasant.
Apply Diatomaceous Earth
This powder is made from the fossilized shells of diatoms, tiny creatures. It’s not pleasant sounding, but the powder has microscopic edges which pierce the insect’s cuticle and cause it to die of dehydration. You can use this as a last resort to discourage the really pesky ones like slugs. But be careful as you don’t want to harm the beneficial insects. Also make sure you wear a mask while applying it.
Natural Pest Sprays
When using sprays, make sure not to use them in the middle of a hot day as the sun can burn the plants when wet. Early morning or late afternoon is best.
Herbal Bug Spray
– 1 cup of the above herbs (alone or in combination)
– 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds (used)
– 1-2 squirts of castile soap
– 2 cups of water
**Mix everything together and steep for at least 24 hours. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Spray on infested plants, making sure to get underneath the leaves or wherever the bugs are hiding.
Insecticidal Citrus Spray
This will help with aphids, mites and other bugs, as well as ant colonies.
– 2 tablespoons of liquid soap like castile soap
– 4 cups of water
– chopped peel of citrus fruit (one orange or lemon) OR a few drops of orange or lemon essential oil
*If you’re using peel, ensure the water is boiling and let it steep overnight with the peels before adding the soap. Then staring it through a fine mesh sieve. If you’re using essential oils, you can mix it all up right away. Add everything to a spray bottle and you’re good to go.