Natural Pest Control
While insects can be beneficial, when out of balance they can also be hazards in the garden. Your best protection against pests is healthy soil and strong hearty plants. Interplanting and companion planting strategies also provide natural pest control. While waiting for your pollinator and beneficial insect beds to mature, there are some other low-level, nontoxic ways of dealing with pests in the garden. Unless the pests are completely decimating your plants, sometimes the best option is just to share. Your greens might have a few holes in them, but that just proves they are organic.
- Hand-picking insects and other pests off plants is an easy, front-line defense. Snails can be handpicked off plants every night for up to two weeks and exported to interrupt their breeding cycle. They can also be fed to the chickens, which snaps them right up.
- All-Purpose Spray (works against many pests, including slugs and Japanese beetles): Ingredients: 1 garlic bulb, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 quart water, 1 small onion and 1 tbsp mild biodegradable liquid dish soap or Dr. Bronner's soap. Instructions: Chop garlic and onion in the blender. Add the cayenne pepper and water, steep for 1 hour and strain. Add dish soap so that spray will stick to the leaves. Mix well. Spray mixture on both sides of leaves. Do not spray greens or plant parts you want to eat. Store mixture in the fridge or it will go bad. This also works with just garlic. You can also make a mixture of hot pepper and powdered garlic and store it until you need it. Mix with water, spray the leaves, and wash the leaves off before you eat them.
- Hot pepper spray, a mixture of 1/4 cup hot peppers and two cups of water, can be blended, strained, and applied to plants every day for 5 to 7 days until pests are gone.
- Watering in the morning or at soil level, instead of overhead watering, can also help with a number of pests and disease issues. It gives leaves time to dry, which helps prevent fungal diseases that thrive in damp conditions. It also gives things a chance to dry out before sundown, thus preventing slugs and snails from travelling (which they like to do at night, in moist conditions).
- A jar lid, saucer, or other shallow container settled into the soil then filled with beer will attract and drown many pests, especially earwigs and slugs.
- A short section of old hose or a rolled up newspaper will attract nighttime marauders like earwigs. These can be collected and moved well away from the garden in the morning.
- A board laid on the soil with a little bit of crawl space is good for collecting slugs and snails. In the morning, they can be gathered and fed to the chickens.
- Birds eat lots of insects. Providing a birdbath may attract them. A birdhouse or two will encourage birds to stay and pick off insects for you. (They will also eat your peas or beans when you plant them , so you'll have to cover those plants with netting until they sprout.)
- Lizards, frogs, and toads are great insect catchers. Make them feel welcome. If they have a favourite place in a pile of pots, on a pile of rocks, or in a water trough, let them claim it as home and don't disturb them.
- Plant a little extra for the bugs so you can share your bounty.