Spring is around the corner, and as the weather begins to warm up, it’s time to start planning your garden. As an avid gardener, you know that to thrive, your garden requires patience and creativity, as well as regular upkeep and preventative maintenance to keep the pests away and your garden growing beautifully.
Like most gardeners, at some point, you’ll face plant-munching pests. Often, they’re just a nuisance, but sometimes their population can explode and cause more than just aesthetic damage. Your first instinct may be to call your local pest control company or reach for synthetic or organic pesticides. However, as we become more aware of the potential dangers exposure to pesticides can pose to our families, pets, and wildlife, with a little planning, it’s possible to skip the sprays and turn to more natural methods for controlling pests.
The best method for controlling garden pests is to prevent them from nibbling on your garden in the first place. With a little planning and effort, controlling pests is easier than you think!
Here are five effective strategies to keep your garden beautiful and pest-free.
1. Attract Beneficial Insects
For every pest, there is a predator. You can keep pests under control by attracting beneficial insects to your garden that feed on pest insects. For example, ladybugs, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, and damsel bugs all naturally keep pests under control by feeding on them or using them to feed (and house) their young.
To attract good bugs, provide them with plenty of prey and carbohydrate-rich nectar. The more beneficial pest-eating insects you have around, the more likely you’ll keep pests under control.
Spiders are wonderful creatures that eat all types of insects. Some use webs to trap their prey, some hunt to eat. There are many varieties of spiders, and they sometimes get out of control, eating good and bad garden bugs. If you’re not sure whether you’re attracting good spiders or bad ones, or you have an infestation, contact your local pest control company.
2. Plant These Herbs To Keep Pests Away
Three delicious and beneficial herbs to plant in your garden are parsley, cilantro, and dill. These three herbs attract beneficial insects that will help to keep unwanted pests under control. Some other herbs that can help keep bad bugs away include citronella, lemongrass, mint, basil, and fennel. As a bonus, all of these herbs (but citronella) are delicious!
3. Plan your Garden Choices Carefully
Some plants and varieties are more susceptible to pests than others. Preventing pests can be as simple as choosing the right varieties of pest-resistant vegetables. For example, if squash bugs consume your winter squash, try planting “Royal Acorn” or “Butternut.” These two varieties are extremely pest-resistant. If potato beetles are defoliating your potato crop, try the “King Harry.” This variety was developed at Cornell University and has very hairy leaves that the beetles won’t eat.
4. When in Doubt, Cover it Up!
Birds, deer, chipmunks, and groundhogs can wreak havoc on your flower and vegetable gardens! For example, if you’re raising berries, birds can be an issue. Instead of losing your crop to the birds, cover your plants with netting.
If cutworms are a problem, cover up the base and roots of your plants with plant collars. Cut circular pieces of cardboard and place them around the base of the plant. The cardboard keeps the cutworms from being able to get to the bottom of the plant to feed.
If you only have a few plants to cover, another option is to use wire hoops covered with cloth to create “cloches” to be placed over the individual plants.
If larger critters like deer or groundhogs are a problem, you may need to construct a fenced enclosure for the vegetable garden. Make sure it is tall enough to make it difficult for deer to hop over the fence.
5. Intercropping and Companion Planting
Intercropping and companion planting deter pests in different ways.
Intercropping – By increasing the diversity of your garden, for example, interspersing vegetables, flowering herbs, and annuals, pests have a hard time finding their targeted host plants. Basically, rather than planting species in organized rows, you mix it up. Current studies are working to determine why this works, but it’s believed that this method “confuses” pests.
Companion Planting – Companion planting works to create a symbiotic relationship between plants. Growing certain plants close to one another may deter pests, promote growth and even improve the flavor! For example, by planting dill and basil with your tomato plants, you’ll keep tomato hornworms at bay.
Employing strategies like these five in your garden will keep your garden healthy and beautiful! Over the long-term, you’ll develop a good balance between good and bad bugs, and as a result, will have fewer pest problems.