Recently I began vegetable and flower gardening. Mostly I vegetable garden, mainly because as a raw vegan on a budget it can get very expensive to keep purchasing large quantities of produce from the store. So what do you do when you have a huge backyard and a need for veggies? Plant them yourself! What started as a hobby and a way to provide some extra food for my family has turned into a borderline obsession. I love gardening! But what I don’t love? Pests. From slugs to nematodes there’s no telling what kind of pest will show up in your garden. And for me, since I have a little pet puppy, I’m vegan and try to be as environmentally friendly as possible, harsh chemical slug bait and pesticides won’t cut it. Fortunately I’ve found the following natural methods so far, and wanted to share them in the hopes they will help you in your own garden!
No, no, I’m not suggesting you make slugs into espresso. I’m vegan, remember? But if you are a coffee drinker, stop throwing away those old coffee grounds. Instead, put them out in the soil of your garden, specifically around plants that are most prone to being eaten by slugs. We have slugs pretty bad in our garden, and I read about someone who used coffee grounds to keep the slugs out, so I tried it myself. Where I scattered the grounds we no longer have any slugs at all, and the corn has been saved. Where I didn’t put it, we are still loaded. It works because slugs don’t like caffeine (they even have caffeine sprays you can buy to soak plants with), and also because the coarse grounds will tear up the bodies of any slugs that do try to cross it. There’s another added bonus to using coffee grounds in your soil, too. The acidity actually boosts the quality of your soil and your plants will grow better. I save up my grounds in a snap-lid plastic container and take it out every few days and use it like a sort of mulch. No slugs!
The Nematode’s Nemesis
If you’ve ever tried growing tomatoes and you live in certain regions you’ve probably come across nematodes. You won’t see them because they’re microscopic, but the damage they do to your plants’ roots can be disastrous. Here in Southern California over by the coast we have them in the soil, and they tend to attack tomatoes worst of all. While you can put your tomato plants in a terracotta pot and then put the pot in the ground in order to protect the roots, you can also plant some marigolds around your veggies. Marigolds, for some reason, are the nematode’s nemesis. Nematodes don’t like them, so you’ll drive out the microscopic plant-eating monsters and add some color to your garden at the same time.
For the Birds
A lot of people say they don’t want birds in their garden because the birds eat their veggies and fruit. However, I happen to love birds in my garden. Why? Birds love cutworms, and cutworms love my plants. I don’t mind sharing tomato or two with birds if they’re going to keep my garden pest free. Also, if you scatter birdseed throughout your garden, or on the edges of it, the birds tend to be busier with the seeds (and then the pests) than they are with the actual food. Attracting birds to your garden is particularly useful when you’re in the seedling stage, because if there is no fruit or vegetable to be eaten, the birds aren’t going to bother your plants. So grab some seed (I use songbird seed) and scatter it about. One thing to be aware of, though, is that some of the unused birdseed might sprout! But if you know where you scatter it and keep an eye out, you can always tear out any renegade sprouts you don’t want.
Be a Lady
You don’t have to be a lady, but you should certainly add some ladies to your garden. Ladybugs, that is! Mostly everyone loves ladybugs for their adorable nature and status as bringers of luck, but they are also very helpful as a means of natural pest control. They eat aphids, insect eggs, small caterpillars, and even powdery mildew. You can purchase ladybugs from sellers of beneficial insects. However, you can also attract them to your garden. One way to attract ladybugs is to allow light aphid outbreaks as spring dawns. I’ve heard from many other gardeners that unless the aphids are absolutely taking over, they let them be for awhile because ladybugs will come to eat them. If you’re not comfortable with that, though, you can also plant things that attract ladybugs. I have found that we have more ladybugs when we plant things like flowering mustard. A friend told me once that this plant attracts ladybugs, and it certainly seems to be true! However, I may end up purchasing some at some point, too, because they truly are a garden’s best friend. And adorable.
A Sticky Situation
This is one of my favorite tricks for capturing pests. I have only tried it once, but I plan to make many more of these traps. Insects and pests tend to be attracted to certain colors. Do some research and find out what types of insects are likely to be in your garden. If you already know, then find out what color or colors those insects are attracted to. Then, cut a four foot by six foot rectangle out of wood or any hard material and spray paint it in those colors, one color per trap. After the paint dries, make sure the surface is clean. Then, cover it with saran wrap for easy clean-up. Finally, coat it all with a sticky substance like Tangle-Trap. I don’t know how chemical-free it is, but other organic gardeners I know have said that it is safe and that they have no issues using it, and I trust their opinion. It is also promoted by the magazine Organic Gardening, which is an outlet I trust. Put one trap at plant height about every three to five feet, and in the morning you’ll see what you’ve trapped. With gloves, remove the saran and repeat. This can trap almost anything that flies and is particularly useful for fruit flies, white flies, mealybugs, cucumber beetles, and more. The most effective colors for almost any garden are yellow, white, and light blue.
Hopefully this has helped you out with your gardening needs. I know how frustrating it can be to look everywhere for natural ways to control pests, only to find aisle after aisle of harmful and toxic pesticides. Half of those products kill the good stuff along with the bad, and if you have kids or pets it makes the situation even more precarious. Fortunately, I’ve found in my own gardening experience that the above natural pest control methods work swimmingly, and I hope you find some help in them, too.