Munch! Munch! That should be the sound of you happily chowing down on organic veggies picked fresh from your home garden. But all too often, any munching that’s going on is being done by pesky little – or not so little – insects that’ve gotten to your crop before you. Here's how to get rid of these garden pests without spraying poison on your plants or putting your family and pets at risk.
1. DIY Organic spray. You can use herbs and spices from your garden (or your local market) to keep common crop-eating insects at bay. Experiment with infusions of chopped mint, catnip, sage, or thyme combined with garlic, cloves, or cayenne. Adding some castile soap will boost the mixture’s insect repellent powers. Put in a spray bottle and apply this concoction to your plants for a safe, natural, and inexpensive solution to your bug problems.
2. Mineral (Kaolin) Clay Spray. A combination of mineral clay and water sprayed on the garden is especially effective against stinkbugs. Not only will it prevent them from eating your plants, it also keeps them from laying eggs, meaning no new generation of stinkbugs will hatch in your vegetable patch.
3. Diatomaceous Earth. A powder manufactured from the microscopic skeletons of marine algae (yes, algae can have hard calcium carbonate “skeletons”), diatomaceous earth is non-toxic, as long as you use the food grade only. It kills all bugs but doesn’t harm humans or pets. Do not use shortly after rainfall or dew, as it is ineffective when wet.
4. Ladybugs. Treasured as a sign of good luck, ladybugs enjoy a diet of aphids, mealy bugs, mites, scales and other crop-destroying bugs. As a result, they have recently become popular as a means of insect control for home gardeners … so much so that sacks of these creatures are sold at nurseries. However, there are concerns about importing possible parasites and disease to your garden together with the benefits of the bugs. It can also be hard to persuade ladybugs, once released, to stay in your garden .
5. Other “Good” Insects. Green lacewings and beneficial nematodes are insects which lack the charm of ladybugs. However, lacewings, AKA aphid lions for their preferred snack, do a good job of eating up just about every kind of insect that you do not want to have around in your garden. Beneficial nematodes, when introduced into your soil, infest unwanted bugs and eventually kill them off, with no negative effect on your vegetables.
6. Lizards. As insectivores, lizards are happy to dine on your garden bugs. In the southern United States from the Texas border eastwards, a colorful Green Anole lizard in your garden will not only take care of your Viriginia pest control needs, but may reward you for the gourmet meal with a display of its puffed-out pink throat.
7. Trap plants. In a technique adopted from large scale farming, trap plants can be used to lure bugs away from your main garden. Early in the season, plant a few specimens of a different, more attractive species than your intended crop, either around the edges of your plot or mixed in, as edible decoys to distract the insects. Here’s a chart that shows which crops to plant to deter various species.
8. Handpicking. Carefully check your plants every day for signs of tomato worms and potato bugs. Hand pick off any specimens you spot. Then feed them to your chickens. This method is time-consuming but extremely effective.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.