Natural Defenses Against Garden Pests

Image from Wikimedia Commons
By Jonathan Parker

With early plants coming up strong and spring in full swing (except for some northern states, sorry folks) it's probably time to start considering protecting your garden from pests. The negative effects and safety issues of pesticides have been frequently addressed.

With even the EU banning the use of certain pesticides. So what are some good natural alternatives that will help keep your garden safe from pests, and not harm good insects? Here are a few alternatives you might want to consider.
The Neem plant is a fantastic organism with literally hundreds of uses. You may have heard of other oil-based pesticides that act by literally smothering the bugs; and while this may be effective, it requires repetitive application and kills ANY bugs it comes in contact with, including the beneficial pollinators. With neem oil you can spray the plants early in the morning, before the pollinating bugs are active, and it will dry on the leaves, thereby only affecting the biting and chewing insects. Neem oil acts differently than other pesticides in that it won't kill the bugs instantly through poisoning. It acts on the insects' hormones causing lack of appetite, breeding instinct and other functions. This might lead to a slightly slower decrease in pests, but will be more terminal to the pests' cycle, disrupting propagation for up to two weeks.

  • Pest-repelling plants
 There are a variety of plants, mostly flowers, that repel many pests. The right combination in your garden might help you avoid the worst of the insects that might damage your crop. Marigolds are one of the most popular. If using marigolds, make sure you purchase the scented variety. Mexican Marigolds offend a significant number of offensive pests, including many insects and even rabbits. Chrysanthemums also control many pests, including ants and Japanese beetles. Other good choices include Petunia and Lavender.
  • Guard toad
Toads eat a huge amount of annoying and destructive insects, and would be good to consider as an addition to your garden, especially if you can create a home for it. A small box, slightly underground and in the shade gives the toad a cool place to hang out. If you have the space you might even consider making a small shaded pond for your helpful critter to cool off in during those warm days.
  • Ladybugs 
Another addition to your anti-pest army could be ladybugs. Ladybugs can eat an average of 50 aphids per meal. If you have plants that attract them, they will hang around longer and continue to cull the aphid population in your garden. Ladybugs can be purchased in local home/garden stores or even purchased online. A few boxes placed strategically around your plot can add a hungry defensive force to defend your food.
  • Beer! 
Not just for celebrating success any more. If your problem tends to be the slimy variety (slugs), a little brew might be the answer. Take a container such as a jar, or even a pie pan, and bury it up to the rim in your garden. Fill nearly to the top with fresh beer. Slugs are attracted to the yeast and other byproducts of the fermentation process and will crawl into the container and drown. Empty slugs and replace beer as often as needed to keep your garden slug free.

Nature is pretty smart, and we always have more to learn from it. There are many other plant/insect combinations used in natural ecosystems that protect against herbivorous insects and nibbling rodents. If we learn from our environment, we can replicate these systems to provide a natural protection for our garden and help decrease the use of potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides. And we can do it keeping our friendly pollinating insects safe as well.

Do you have a natural insect repellent or other DIY garden protection scheme you would like to share? Write it in the comments or email us through our contact form and share your story.

Jonathan Parker is an EMT-Paramedic and Preparedness Instructor with a love for emergency medicine, self-sufficiency and homesteading. His goal is to empower people towards a natural and sustainable lifestyle.


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6 comments:

  1. what works on snails?

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  2. The first sentence of 2nd paragraph is a sentence fragment. Seems like it was meant to be attached to the end of the previous sentence in the previous paragraph. Otherwise, a fine article!

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  3. I have been cultivating orchids and hibiscus for years. And, I have been using Neem oil for years as well. I also cultivate mandavilla plants and for some reason they attract aphids. I use neem, but I would rather use the ladybugs. With regards to snails, I think the beer remedy would work.

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  4. Planting bulbs of garlic around the yard seems to repel japanese beatles. Also, cayenne pepper or pepper flakes sprinkled on new beds prevents cats and squirrel from digging up your freshly planted seeds.

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  5. Hair work against snail slugs

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  6. A bit of a pain (and gross!) to deal with dead, soggy slugs in beer every week. It also gets diluted and overflows in the rain, yuk again! Check out Slug Shields. I do it the spring and re-use them the following year - no chemicals either.

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