Gardening is a terrific way to have fresh fruits and vegetables in your kitchen at each meal. Unfortunately, the little critters that live in and around your yard are also produce enthusiasts, and may cause a problem when it comes to growing healthy, thriving plants. Sure, you can always go to the store and buy a bottle of chemical spray that will pulverize the insects at first douse. But why would you want to spray something you plan to eat later with something that harsh? Instead, try these organic options.
Use Barriers, Such as Floating Row Covers
When your plants are young, it’s a good idea to use a porous barrier that lets in light, yet keeps out insects. The floating row is made out of polyester and is typically sold by the yard. The sheets can be made of either light or heavier material, so choose whatever suits the season; you don’t want to cook your plants with a heavy blanket in the summer, for example.
Use Sticky Traps
Certain insects are attracted to certain colors, and these traps can lure pests with their hue and stickiness. You can purchase sticky traps, but you can also make them yourself.
To make the traps, spray paint a rigid material, such as scrap wood, in a color that will attract pests, such as yellow, white or pale blue. After painting the traps, wrap them in clear, plastic kitchen wrap and coat them with sticky substance. Later, when the bugs catch themselves in the trap, you can simply un-wrap the plastic, discard, and reuse the trap.
Image: “City Vegetable Patch” by Simon Howden
Keep Plants that Naturally Repel Insects Around
There are a few plants that are well known for naturally deterring insects. Keep a few of these plants around. Useful plants include marigolds, tansy, sage, mint, garlic, catnip, basil and onion.
Keep Your Plants Healthy
Insects are prone to visit plants that are displaying rotten fruit, or are sickly and weak. Don’t let your plants get this way; take care of them and you will keep the pests at bay. For the healthiest plants possible, collect any overripe or dropped fruit, keep the soil tended and fertilized, and select plants that can easily grow in your area.
Let Birds and Bugs Do the Work
Did you know that having some insects around can benefit your plants and get rid of the problematic pests? Moths and ladybugs are two examples of insects that can prey on the pests in your garden; invite these to hang around and help you do the work.
You also might want to try installing a bird feeder or birdbath near the plants, thereby inviting birds to eat the critters that are causing a problem.
Make an Organic Garden Spray
You can make an all-purpose insect spray, with ingredients found in your kitchen, as a last resort. These sprays can be harmful to the “good” insects in your garden, as well as the ones you are trying to deter, so you’ll want to use them wisely. Also, wear your garden gloves so you don’t accidently get the mixture on your hands and face.
Cayenne Pepper, Garlic and Onion Mixture
To make this spray, first grind one garlic bulb and one small onion, then add one teaspoon of cayenne pepper and mix with one quart of water. Let this steep for one hour, strain, then add one tablespoon of liquid dish soap.
You can spray this mixture on the undersides of your plant leaves where pests have gotten unruly. After use, cover the spray and store for one week in your refrigerator, since it is perishable.
Lime Juice Mixture
Did you know that lime juice repels insects? To make your own lime juice repellent, mix about half a cup of lime juice with one gallon of water and spray onto your plants. You can also use dish soap in this mixture.
With both spray options, you may want to hose the plants down afterward in order to clean the plants – one hour should be enough time for the pests to be affected.
Remember, there are plenty of ways to keep your garden healthy without the use of harsh chemicals. These organic options are better for your plants and better for the environment – not to mention more fun. Happy Gardening!
Mike Tuma has been a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area since 2005. Mike is a regular contributor to Home Depot’s blog, and provides tips on products ranging from chainsaws to a standard chipper to pressure washers and lawn mowers.