Bugs are a part of any gardener’s life. Some are beneficial and welcome additions that help develop a healthy garden ecosystem. Others, well, we curse their very existence. While pesticides and herbicides are a sure-fire way to kill those nasty creepy crawlies that are destroying your plants, they can also kill all of the good insects in your garden. To help keep you and your garden happy this spring, we thought we’d share some tips on how to control bugs naturally.
Keep an eye on your plants. Notice the bugs hanging around your garden. Are they alone? Did they start to invite friends? What do they look like? Are they beneficial or detrimental to your plants? Look up any unfamiliar characters online. The odd pest, depending on who they are, provides food for other living things and can be fended off by a healthy garden. But if they start to multiply, or are just plain unwanted guests, you will need to step in and provide them with eviction notices.
An ounce of prevention
Ensuring your plants are placed in their ideal locations will help to reduce their stress and increase their resistance to disease and opportunistic insects. Plant them in their preferred climatic zones, favoured soil and appropriate exposure to sunlight. If you are having insect trouble with a specific plant, buy them as plants not seeds and they will have a better chance of surviving. Also, keep insect breeding grounds to a minimum by making sure your garden is clear of leaf litter and dying plants.
Just squish ‘em
Sometimes the best way to rid yourself of bad bugs is to just pick them off and squish them. This can be especially satisfying when the bugs you are killing are lily leaf beetles. If you’re dealing with a bunch of these bad boys you may need to trim the plant and dispose of the whole leaf or branch. After removing the infested part immerse it in soapy water or carefully stomp on all the bugs. If you do see a nest or gall of insects, remove and destroy it before they hatch. Gloves are recommended.
Use plants as bouncers
Treat your garden like the VIP location that it is by providing security and plant bouncers to keep unwanted guests out. Plants such as peppermint, spearmint and pennyroyal are incredibly effective in deterring ants and aphids while bringing their own charm to their surroundings. Plant them throughout your garden or in problem areas. Another option is to incorporate actual physical barriers. Covers, collars, tarps and tree banding are just some of the ways to prevent insect damage. They do detract from the look of the garden but they are highly effective.
Good old-fashioned home remedies
Sometimes grandma and grandpa did know best. Old standbys such as pouring cooled water that was previously boiled with cedar twigs over plants to deter cutworms, or placing a line of lime to deter snails, or cayenne pepper, to deter ants around your plants will create natural repellents for insects.
Sprays and showers
While you can control some pests, such as aphids, by blasting them with streams of cool water every couple of days, other insects may require the use of insecticidal soaps or oils. Insecticidal soaps have low toxicity and therefore work only on soft-sided insects. The insects must also be sprayed directly in order for the sprays to kill them. Biological pest control items and natural pesticides made from plants can also be used; these products emit fewer toxins than chemical pesticides and break down more quickly.
Ladybugs, green lacewings and praying mantis are popular predator insects. You can purchase their larva. But it is better to lure them naturally by growing plants such as echinacea purpurea. These plants attract praying mantis, bees, parasitic wasps and birds. Garlic chives attract beneficial insects and repel aphids. Goldenrod is a favourite of assassin bugs, bees, ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, praying mantis and parasitic wasps.
Repel insects with these pretty plants
|Basil – Oils from this plant repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes.
Borage – Great for the vegetable garden it repels tomato hornworms, cabbage worms and attracts beneficial bees and wasps.
Catnip – Keeps away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, ants, weevils and squash bugs, unfortunately it may also start attracting four-legged furballs to roll around in your garden.
|Dahlias – Great for repelling nematodes.
Garlic – Root maggots, snails, Japanese beetles, aphids, and codling moths beware of this wonderful plant.
Marigolds – Besides repelling insects such as whiteflies and nematodes they also deter rabbits and deer don’t like them.
Petunias – Repel aphids and several other garden pests.