Organic Pest Control – SlightlySteady
Posted June 25, 2013
If you want to avoid pests in your garden – but also want to avoid pestICIDES if possible, there are dozens of options for organic pest control!
The biggest problem with growing your own food? How many other critters seem to think you’re growing it just for *them.* Last year, my garden was pretty pitiful – partly because of a nationwide-drought, but a healthy amount of my produce was eaten by bugs before I ever got a chance to harvest it. I see little point in working so hard to grow food (thus saving us money and sparing us toxins) only to coat my plants and soil in expensive chemical pesticides. I therefore decided to find natural (and cheap!) ways to discourage the pests! Here’s the list of tips I’ve compiled so far (and some that I’ve had a chance to try have worked very well!)
Slugs: Slugs aren’t much of an issue out here in Ohio, but when I was growing up in Washington, they were horrible! Some of those yucky banana slugs could be six or more inches in length – and absolutely voracious eaters of anything attractive or tasty you happened to be growing in your garden. Blech! Natural ways to control slugs usually involve elimination. Classic slug-control options are dishes of beer around the slug-attracting plants (they will smell the beer, slither inside, and drown themselves) and salt (and oh, the fun we had as sadistic little kids taking a salt shaker out in the yard to “melt” the slugs! This might not be good for your soil, so affix the salt to strips of tape and set the tape out salt-side up around your plants). I also like this idea for controlling slugs using juiced orange halves – great if you happen to be a juicer already! Slugs also make slimy little treats for birds, so attracting birds to your yard would help control the population. Chickens also love them, so if you can let your flock explore your garden (or just give the chickens the rounded-up slugs you’ve obtained through other methods), they’ll be very happy poultry!
Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew looks like a thin coating of white powder on your plants. It’s not always fatal, but it has the potential to be, and it’s also ugly. To avoid this before it starts, keep plants spaced far enough away from each other to ensure good air circulation, and don’t water them after noon (to make sure that your plants are fully dry before dark – wet plants at night encourage mildew spores). Mix 3 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar with 1 gallon of water; use as a spray on affected plants.
Ants: Ants hate mint, cloves, cayenne pepper, and citrus oils – so crush mint leaves and cloves around their holes, or sprinkle the cayenne. Cotton balls can be soaked in citrus oil to get the scent near the holes. My favorite, though, is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth where they congregate.
Rabbits: Rabbits tend to be most active in the early morning and at dusk – the hours that they’re searching for food. This excellent and thorough article about rabbits explains how to identify how severe of a threat you’re dealing with, how to reduce their habitats in your area, and how to naturally deter them; my favorite tip, because it didn’t involve putting up a huge fence, was to use cayenne pepper.
Deer: Deer also tend to be most active in the early morning and at dusk. An awesome (and basically free!) idea for deterring deer without a fence is to cut two pairs of nylons into 12 inch sections, and then fill each section with a softball sized handful of human hair. Knot the nylons up into balls, and hang them around your garden – perhaps in trees or shrubs, or hanging from poles staked in the garden (the smell will ward them off; local hair salons should be happy to donate hair scraps!)
Mice: To deter mice, sprinkle catnip around the perimeter of your garden. They hate catnip (gee, I wonder why?). Other options to control mice involve introducing predators – like getting an outside cat, or putting tall perches (8 feet or more) around your garden. Tall perches will attract larger birds who aren’t interested in eating your tomato plants – but are interested in munching on your mice!
Veggie-eating Birds: Usually, birds are friends in the garden – many times eating the bugs and slugs that otherwise would take over. However, in some cases, birds are seriously destructive. Commercial berry growers tend to use netting to keep birds off their crops – but since that’s a fairly expensive and awkward thing to wrangle with, I like the cheaper methods – putting plastic snakes or owls (the owls can be found in garden supply stores) in plain site, or hanging reflective things like old CD’s and pie plates so that they swing around in the wind. These will all scare the birds off.
Various Destructive Bugs: I pretty much never throw away my vegetable scraps – but my onion and garlic scraps? Those are like gold. Truly valuable. Versatile. Onion and garlic scraps deserve respect, and belong anywhere but in the trash! (They don’t even belong in the compost heap unless I’ve chopped a million onions and have finally run out of uses!) To make a bug-deterring garden spray, I gather up a mason jar’s worth of onion and garlic scraps, then pour them into a gallon pail (old ice cream pails work well for this – or, we get spice buckets from our local bulk food store!), fill to the top with water, and leave it covered in a sunny place for about two weeks. This will make a pungent spray to spritz all over your plants to keep the bugs off them!
That’s all the tips I’ve gathered so far! What do you think? Is there anything I need to add to this list? Please let me know what works in your garden!
Organic Pest Control – SlightlySteady.