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Are You Using These 7 Non-Toxic Ways to Get Rid of Garden Pests?

Written by Alan Ray and updated on June 18, 2018
NATURAL Pest Control Methods

In an ever more health-conscious world, people are constantly seeking better and more natural pest control for gardens. They are looking for better ways of protecting their plants, grasses, flowers, and vegetables without the use of poisonous chemicals, which kill indiscriminately.

Natural Garden Pest Control

Whether you live urban, suburban, or rural, if you have plants, an army of insect-pests and parasites are on a mission to find them… and they will. Take heart, for we have many weapons available to us to help protect our beloved lawns and gardens. Choosing the right ones plays an important role in determining the results we are able to achieve.

Newton’s 3rd Law

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

One of our greatest defenses in the battle of the bugs is putting Newton’s 3rd Law to work for us. As there are many plants, flowers, and shrubs that attract all manner of pests to your yard and garden, there are also an equal number that will repel them.

A Better Way

With that in mind, let’s outline some of the natural alternatives that will produce the desired result and offer a safe alternative to chemicals. The main objective is to control the pests, without hurting the good bugs, while reducing our environmental impact on the planet. All three can be attained with just a little effort on our part.

There are several measures we can employ to accomplish these goals. Some are reactive (after the damage) while some are preventive (planting natural deterrents). Reactive treatment might include spraying with organic chemicals to kill eggs and larvae and/or removing damaged leaves and stems.

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Listed below are some of the naturally effective ways we can rid our lawn and garden areas of these insect-pests while being better stewards of our planet.

The least toxic approach to battling these space invaders is the cultural method. We just need to know which plants to plant.

Cultural Control

Plants Selections That Attract a Variety of Good Bugs

We won’t designate plant-to-bug specifics, as many overlap and there are literally hundreds of them, but by installing a variety of insect attracting plants you can encourage an army of beneficial bugs to set their barracks up at your house. Many plants attract multiple insects that can help rid us of the bad bugs.

Since there isn’t time or room to list them all here, below are more than enough plants to get you started.

You can realize good results naturally by growing parsley, spearmint, marigolds, lemon balm, pennyroyal (mint), cosmos (white sensation), dill, sweet alyssum-white, caraway, coriander, masterwort, Queen Anne’s lace, common yarrow, crimson thyme, Peter Pan goldenrod, lavender globe lily, fennel, and buckwheat. There are many others that will help protect your lawns and gardens as they attract reinforcements to help you do battle, but these are a good start. Some of these plants attract beneficial insects while repelling others. You can also choose plants that are resistant to assault from certain types of insects. Certain rhododendrons species are resistant types. The following have developed a resistance to adult weevils. Our thanks to toxipedia.org for this list. 

The list of recommended Rhododendron hybrids (color/rating):
  • P.J.M. (pink/100)
  • Rose Elf (blue/90)
  • Oceanlake (violet-blue/80)
  • Dora Amateis (white/79)
  • Crest (yellow/79)
  • Point Defiance (carmine-pink/76)
  • Odee Wright (yellow/73)

There are many more plants that have evolved natural defenses against certain invaders. Specific plants and more information can be found online.

Installation

The Proper Way to Install Your Insect Attracting Plants

As important as these plants are, just as important are proper planting techniques. It would be a shame to do all that digging and planting only to discover the plants didn’t make it due to improper planting.

While specific planting instructions may vary from plant to plant, you’ll want to make sure each hole is deep enough. If you are installing plants from pots, a good rule of thumb is to have the root ball lie just below ground level in the hole.

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When transplanting, make the diameter of the hole at least 2-3 times larger than the root ball. Without this space the roots get jammed up and can’t reach out to establish themselves.

If the plants are root bound when removed from their planter, you can easily cut off a third or more of the entire ball from the bottom. It won’t hurt them. In fact, this encourages new growth of the roots and removes the dead ends. The now open-ends can more readily absorb water and nutrients.

The Natural Methods

Physical Control Methods: Barriers

Garden Fabric: Gaining in popularity are safe, effective, and natural ways to protect your plants from birds, insects, and the sun and in some cases, even the weather to a degree. One of the more popular and easy to use methods is garden fabric, also referred to as row covers or floating row covers.

You may have seen these white coverings over rows of crops in a field or in a backyard. This is a very efficient method for keeping the bugs and other pests off your favorite plants without using poisons.

Made of lightweight material that breathes, the covers can block out the intense heat of the summer sun while allowing warm sunshine to enter and air to circulate. They make an excellent insect and bird deterrent and are easily set up.

Opinions vary, as you can see from the reviews on different products, but the netting that I have personally used and can vouch for is below. I use a 10'x10' piece of this fabric for my 4'x4' square foot gardens. It covers the box even if there are hoops, it's more durable than other netting I've tried, and it's pretty cheap on Amazon.

Recommended Netting
3 Types of Fabric Netting
  • Insect & Bird Protection
  • Shade Netting
  • Frost Covers

For insect protection, it is recommended you use support hoops to secure the cover to the ground. They’re pretty self-explanatory but essentially you place the cover over the hoops and pull the material taut. Secure the bottom edges with clothespins to the hoops or bury it deep enough to not be blown off by the wind. Garden pins are also available to ensure the mesh is held tightly to the ground. A tightly sealed cover deters the crawlers as well as the flyers.

The companies that sell these also make an all-in-one cover with built-in hoops that slide inside the cover like curtain rods.

Shade netting does what the name indicates. Young plants and seedlings can be sensitive to sunlight and shade netting offers a natural and easy way to protect them.

Frost covers employed in colder months can protect plants from cold weather down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit or -2 degrees Celsius.

A Side Note:

Pollination is necessary for many plants. Remember, if you are growing flowering plants such as strawberries, pumpkins, squash, peas, and others that produce a bloom, should they begin to flower while covered, be sure to lift the cover up somewhat or peel it back a ways to allow the bees and other pollinators to do their job.

Hand to Bug Combat

Hand Picking

One of the most effective ways of eliminating plant invaders which do not involve the use of poisons is hand picking. Removing pests this way is pretty much self-explanatory. The hand picking method is just that, the removal of insects, eggs, and larvae by literally picking them off by hand. It doesn’t get any more organic than the hands on-bugs off technique.

All that is required of you to begin this simple and effective method of pest control is a pair of tweezers and a small jar with dish soap in some water, plus a little time.

Generally found on the stem