Summer is here! For gardeners, that often means pests and bugs have arrived to wreak havoc in the garden. Using a few simple organic methods, you can help control or cut down on pest damage.
One of the best (and easiest) things you can do to control pests in the garden is to check your garden regularly and look closely for any potential pest problems. Damaging bugs are much easier to control when they are found in small numbers. In fact, your pests in small numbers aren’t really a problem – they are just nature’s food for the good insects! But, large infestations of “bad bugs” can be very frustrating, so don’t wait to deal with the problem when it’s nearly too late. Check your garden daily if at all possible. I like to do a quick check when I’m performing my daily watering and weed pulling chores. This way I can deal with any pest issues right away.
As you check your garden, remember that some bugs are beneficial to the ecosystem of your garden! Not all bugs are pests, and not all of them should be eradicated. When examining your garden, you should note the bug and examine it carefully. Take pictures if you need to. Then, look them up in gardening books or on the internet and check to make sure it is indeed a pest before you try to remove it.
Controlling Pests From The Start
There are many different organic control methods for each specific type of garden pest. Not all of them will work for every pest. However, there are some things you can do in advance to deter pests from the garden and to help keep harmful bugs in check.
1. Place birdhouses around the garden. Birds feed on many of the harmful insects in the garden.
2. Add water features to invite in natural predators and beneficial insects.
3. Keep chickens. They love to eat many of your problematic pests! Plus, chickens give you eggs and are a lot of fun to have around. We have a small flock of 8 hens and I’m convinced they are excellent garden helpers. Let your chickens eat in the garden area, especially in the fall and winter where they’ll keep working at the pest problem long after the garden is finished.
4. Use row covers in the garden for young plants. This works especially well for deterring squash bugs from young cucurbit plants. They also seem to help deter pests for plants in the cabbage family.
5. Copper strips can help deter slugs. Simply place the strips around the garden as needed. You can buy copper strips at your local hardware store.
6. Do everything possible to have healthy soil. The healthier the soil, the healthier the ecosystem in your garden, and the less pests you’ll see. Dumping toxic chemicals and “pest potions” on your garden will make your soil unhealthy, perpetuating a cycle of problems that can take years to correct. This is why organic methods are best when dealing with bug problems.
7. Clean up your garden regularly. Don’t allow weeds and plant debris to pile up. A messy garden is just a “vacancy” sign for pests. Don’t leave wooden boards or other “trash” around the garden.
8. Mow down any weedy areas each fall when gardening season is finished to help get rid of bugs that might overwinter. Clean up the garden thoroughly at the end of the summer season, removing all plant debris.
9. Handpick and kill any problematic pests you see. It’s a bit gross, but it really works. Just pick and squish those nasty bugs! Or, you can scrape them off into a glass or bucket of soapy water where they’ll drown. This method can prove overwhelming for large infestations, but is quite effective for small problems. (Just another reason to check your garden daily.)
10. Last but not least, try vacuuming up your pests! Yes, some gardeners will use a shop vacuum or hand-held vacuum to suck up the little boogers. Just make sure you kill the bugs after removing them from the plant. Feed them to the chickens or drown them in some soapy water and discard.