Organic gardening may mean that you can’t reach for a can of powerful chemical pesticide to instantly get rid of pests, but you still have plenty of options that keep you in charge and in control.
Plant Your Defense!
Let some of what you’re planting in your garden help you keep the upper hand. Plant your own defense with herbs and flowers that naturally repel pests.
- Plant basil near your tomatoes to repel rabbits, flies and mosquitoes.
- Plant French marigolds to help deal with non-beneficial nematodes.
- Plant rosemary to ward of mosquitoes and cats.
- Plant lavender to keep fleas, mosquitoes and moths at bay.
- Plant onions, garlic and chrysanthemums as a general insect repellant.
Garlic may not really work to get rid of vampires, but it does an admirable job of repelling whiteflies, beetles and aphids. Compounds in garlic irritate insects…or kill them outright.
Add four cloves of minced garlic to two teaspoons of mineral oil and allow it to sit overnight. Strain the oil to remove the garlic and add it to one pint of water with a teaspoon of liquid dish soap. When it’s time to use it, you’ll want to dilute two tablespoons of the mixture with one pint of water. Spray on infested plants, but avoid doing this in the heat of the day.
If you’re having a problem with garden mites, mix up a slightly different spray. Take a quart of water and add a tablespoon of liquid dish soap, plus two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce. Like garlic, a compound in hot peppers (capsaicin) irritates insects. They won’t stay where it’s sprayed.
If for whatever reason, you don’t want to involve garlic (perhaps you’re a vampire?) or hot peppers, you can dispense with both active ingredients and make a simple soap spray – which is effective at dealing with scale, thrips, mites and aphids. Mix one tablespoon of liquid dish soap with a gallon of water and fill up a spray bottle. It can be applied directly to pests wherever you see them.
It’s a Trap!
Many pests that bug organic gardens share a common hangout. You’ll find them lurking – if slugs and snails actually lurk – in shaded damp places during the hottest part of the day. So, give them a place to lurk! Set pieces of broken crockery in various parts of your garden. Check them regularly. If you catch a pest, put them in a bucket of soapy water to humanely dispatch them.
Aphids are attracted to the color yellow – and their favorite garden dinner is peppers and tomatoes. You can turn this into a fatal attraction by planting yellow nasturtiums at the base of your pepper and tomato plants. When the yellow flowers have attracted the aphids, pull out the nasturtiums to rid your garden of these destructive pests.
Call Out the Air Force!
Winged beneficial insects can be your best defense against pests you don’t want wreaking havoc in the garden. Plant dill, parsley and carrots this year. Next year they will flower, creating landing platforms preferred by small wasps that are particularly effective in dealing with pest caterpillars. Plants such as mint, chamomile and sweet alyssum can be planted this year, and they will attract a host of beneficial insects that prey on the pests you don’t want in your garden.
Any of these options are powerful ways to proactively stay one step ahead of the pests that can be attracted to your organic garden. Remember, though, that healthy plants are mostly capable of taking care of themselves – so start there first.