The summer months conjure up lush images of verdant foliage and brightly colored flowers in continuous bloom. Unfortunately, pests are attracted to the mild temperatures as well, and are especially prolific during this time of the year. When looking for ways to get rid of bothersome pests, stay away from those that require chemical applications. To minimize disturbances to wildlife and the occurrence of dangerous chemicals in your garden, you should look for eco-friendly pest control methods. Chemical pesticides can result in a number of detrimental side effects, including soil contamination, run-off and leaching. Below is a list of eco-friendly pest-control solutions that will keep your crops healthy and not have a negative impact on the environment.
- Grow beneficial companion plants
Many herbs such as basil, mint, chives, and lavender make excellent companion plants to your vegetables by keeping pests away from the garden. In addition to pest deterrence, many herbs have beneficial medicinal properties. Plants such as mint, rosemary, thyme, and marigold can attract beneficial insects that prey on pests. For a more detailed list, check out natural pest repellents for the garden. If you’re looking for an easy way to plant herbs, Vego Garden has a collection of herb raised garden beds made from galvanized steel that is well suited for growing all kinds of herbs.
- Neem oil spray
Neem oil, derived from the neem tree, is often applied as a spray, soil drench, repellent or natural pesticide. Designed to target a broad spectrum of pests, it contains toxins that sterilizes certain insects and slows or halts the growth cycle of others. Neem oil is effective against many common pests including loopers, aphids, whiteflies, and mealy bugs. Since plants will absorb the substance through their roots or foliage, neem oil can also be used to kill leaf miners.
Make your own organic remedy by mixing 3 teaspoons of neem oil and 1 teaspoon of unscented castile soap with water and spray the mixture directly on plant leaves. To minimize damage to beneficial insects, minimize the application only to infected areas. Though Neem oil is minimally harmful to birds, fish, bees, and wildlife, as it only works when ingested, make sure to avoid contact with the eye area.
- Cover your plants with a pest guard cover
Make pests a thing of the past with Vego Garden’s modular cover system. Made from durable, lightweight material and designed to match the configuration of any Vego Garden raised metal bed, this cover system can be conveniently attached to the garden bed’s exterior through the existing bolt holes for a secure, custom fit. The durable mesh cover provides a solid protective barrier against birds, rabbits, deer, and other troublesome animals. In addition, you can also use the frame alone as a trellis as support for vining plants.
- Use orange peels
Whenever you peel oranges, the pleasant citrusy scent that wafts through the air often brings a calming sensation. An unconventional use for orange peels is as organic pest control – either as a spray or chopped up and placed directly in the soil alongside your plants. Next time you are eating oranges, set aside the peels for later to use in the garden. Since orange peels and other citrus fruits are high in nitrogen, they can also be used as natural fertilizers to help enrich the soil structure.
Orange peel sprays, can repel bothersome pests such as aphids, slugs, mosquitoes, and biting flies. A simple recipe consists of boiling water for several minutes with orange peels for minutes and then straining the liquid into a spray bottle to cool. Likewise, you can cut up your orange peels into small pieces and spread them at the base of plants to repel some pests and rodents.
- Use coffee grounds
Another way to prevent food waste is to reuse your coffee grounds. Line coffee grounds near ant entrances to keep ants out of the house or near plants to repel pests such as aphids, slugs, mosquitoes, and biting flies. Also used as fertilizer, coffee grounds contain several key minerals for plant growth and may also absorb heavy metal contaminants. Worms, which turn organic waste into nitrogen-rich compost, love coffee grounds, which is why it is a perfect addition to a worm compost bin, along with other foodstuffs.
- Vacuum pests
While this may sound funny, an eco-friendly way to get rid of pests such as stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs without using chemicals is to suck them through a handheld vacuum. For more aggressive critters like wasps, use one with a longer nozzle. Shake the bugs to the front of the vacuum and dispose of them in soapy water.
- Insecticidal oils and soaps
Insecticidal oils work by suffocating pests and cutting off their oxygen supply. Designed to target the eggs and larval stages of insects, they can be used to control spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids, and psylla. Insecticidal soaps also kill by suffocation and are used to target soft-bodied pests including aphids, whiteflies, mealy bugs, and, thrips. Salts and fatty acids present in the soaps disrupt the cellular membrane of insects, resulting in dehydration – without leaving toxic residue in the soil.
While both oils and soaps do attract beneficial insects, these bug control methods are relatively safe and low-toxic. Do not use oils or soaps during hot or humid days over 85 degrees or when plants are water-stressed, as they can cause damage to foliage. Some soaps and detergents contain added ingredients such as bleach and make poor insecticides. They can also be phytotoxic and damage the plant, so make sure to test before readily applying to an area. When choosing a soap, make sure to select a fragrance-free product and carefully read the instructions.
- Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a natural pesticide composed of microscopic shells of algae. Though they seem innocuous, the abrasive particles will cut the cuticles of soft-bodied insects, leading to dehydration and eventual death. Be sure to purchase “natural grade” instead of “pool-grade” diatomaceous earth, which contains chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled and won’t work very well. Use DE on thrips, aphids, whiteflies, caterpillars, slugs, and snails. Sprinkle DE to the soil for ground-dwelling pests and to the leaves for other pests.
- Bt spray