In addition to alternative natural pesticide sprays, it is important to incorporate other natural pest control tactics, techniques, and products into your IPM plan.
Here are 7 effective tips to help you keep your garden pest-free:
1. Maintaining a healthy garden is essential, as pests are naturally inclined to target weak or dying plants. When you give your plants the right fertilizer, trace elements, growing conditions, good soil, and proper watering, your strong, healthy plants are less likely to be attacked by insect pests.
2. It is important to grow crops at the right time. When you plant vegetables out of season or beyond their suitable range, you will likely get poor growth and increased pest problems.
3. Harvest early to help prevent pest damage. Many pests prefer ripe fruits. You can allow crops to ripen safely in a protected area when you pick crops before they fully ripen.
4. Over-planting can be a useful strategy. By following the law of averages and growing more, you can reduce the impact of pest damage. When you have an abundance of fruits and veggies, you’ll have plenty for yourself and visiting animals.
5. Along the same lines, cultivating sacrificial plants or crops can help divert pests away from your main crops. By intentionally allowing one plant or group of plants to become infested, you can redirect pests’ attention from the rest of the garden.
6. Manual pest removal is an effective method. Taking the time to remove pests by hand helps reduce their population growth in the garden. It’s a simple task that can make a significant difference.
7. Keep poultry! Ducks and chickens are valuable for pest control around the property or home garden. Chickens are effective at preparing garden beds for the next season but can be destructive, so limiting their access to the vegetable garden during growth is advisable.
Chickens help break the life cycle of pests by digging up and consuming pupating insects, like fruit fly larvae.
Ducks, on the other hand, target stink bugs and their nymphs, as well as slugs and snails. Their foraging behavior is less damaging to gardens compared to chickens.
Introduce Beneficial Insects
Embrace the assistance of beneficial garden fauna. Beneficial insects play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy backyard ecosystem.
Of the numerous insects found in the average backyard, only about a tenth are destructive. The rest are either harmless or beneficial.
Working in harmony with nature’s allies, you can collectively combat pests. If you don’t already have a healthy beneficial insect population, you can buy beneficial insects online.
Examples include predatory mites that feed on harmful mites, ladybugs that consume aphids, or miniature wasps that prey on caterpillars.
Releasing these good bugs into your garden can help restore nature’s balance without using indiscriminate and harmful chemicals.
Beneficial insects can be grouped into three main categories:
Bees, butterflies, flies, and moths are essential for pollinating the flowers in your garden, ensuring the production of fruits and seeds.
Ladybugs, praying mantis, and green lacewing larvae act as predators, feeding on harmful pests and helping to control their population.
Parasitic wasps are a key example of this category. They lay their eggs on or inside other insects, such as bad bugs, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the host insects, effectively controlling their numbers.
Various Beneficial Insects
Some of the best beneficial insects to purchase or attract include:
- Ladybugs: Initially, as larvae, ladybugs consume up to 40 aphids per hour, making them ferocious predators. Ladybug larvae are odd looking. Take care not to mistake them for pests.
Time Lapse of Ladybug Life Cycle
- Green Lacewings: The larvae of green lacewings prey on soft-bodied garden pests like caterpillars and aphids, while the adults feed on pollen and nectar.
- Praying Mantids: Praying mantises are fierce (and sometimes entertaining) predators that eliminate grasshoppers, moths, beetles, flies, and other insect pests. They may also prey upon other beneficial insects and even each other, but not to a tremendously detrimental extent.
- Spiders: They hunt or trap live insects. Jumping spiders and wolf spiders are excellent pest hunters, and various orb-weavers create artistic traps for flying insects.
Spiders: Your Friend & Helper In The Garden!
- Ground Beetles: Both adult ground beetles and their larvae are predatory and consume a wide range of insects, including nematodes, caterpillars, thrips, weevils, slugs, and silverfish.
- Soldier Beetles: Soldier beetles are important predators of Mexican bean beetles, Colorado potato beetles, caterpillars, and aphids. They are attracted to plants with compound blossoms.
- Assassin Bugs: Resembling resembles a cross between a praying mantis and a squash bug. Assassin bugs use their sharp mouthparts to chomp down on a wide variety of garden pests.
- Robber Flies: Long-legged robber flies are very efficient bug-eating machines. Be aware that they don’t attack people but can bite when threatened.
- Hoverflies: Hoverflies look like stinger-less little yellow jackets. The adults eat pollen and nectar and are valuable pollinators. The larvae are voracious predators, killing aphids, caterpillars, beetles, and thrips.
- Parasitic Wasps: You can hardly see them, but parasitic wasps are effective pest controllers. Braconid wasps lay their eggs on the backs of tomato hornworms and other caterpillars. Trichogramma wasps lay their eggs inside the eggs of over 200 different insect pests. Tachinid flies parasitize various pests such as corn borers, gypsy moth caterpillars, grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, and green stink bugs.
Bad & Good Bugs in Your Garden
Encourage Natural Predators With Diversity Planting
Aside from (or instead of) purchasing beneficial insects, you can take steps to invite garden helpers into your yard. You must meet their basic water, food, and shelter needs to do this.
Begin by embracing diversity in your garden. Growing a variety of plants and produce instead of a monoculture helps deter pests.
Nature tends to balance imbalances by countering them, and having a diverse habitat with different crops and plants reduces the risk of pests invading in overwhelming numbers.
Include native plants to attract beneficial insects and animals. By incorporating native flora and fauna into your garden, you encourage the presence of helpful bugs, predator insects, reptiles, and birds.
Creating a natural habitat on your property promotes a balanced and harmonious environment.
A diverse range of plants attracts beneficial insects, including those before pests. These insects require alternative food sources like pollen and nectar to stay in your garden.
Early-blooming plants like alyssum or blooming biennials such as carrots or parsley attract beneficial insects in spring.
Later on, plants with compound blossoms like yarrow, goldenrod, and Queen Anne’s lace, as well as flowering herbs such as lavender, mint, sage, dill, fennel, and lemon balm, are particularly enticing to them.
Discourage Bad Bugs With Companion Planting
Just as some plants attract good bugs, some plants repel bad bugs.
When using companion planting, scattering strong-smelling herbs throughout your regular flower and vegetable patches and in the orchard is beneficial. This technique helps repel pests effectively.
Here are some examples of herbs and the pests they repel:
- Thyme repels corn earworms, whitefly, tomato hornworms, cabbage loopers, and maggots.
- Dill repels squash bugs, spider mites, aphids, tomato hornworms, and cabbage loopers.
- Nasturtium repels whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, beetles, and cabbage loopers.
- Oregano repels mosquitoes, cucumber beetles, and cabbage butterflies.
- Basil repels mosquitoes, carrot flies, whiteflies, and asparagus beetles.
- Garlic spray repels aphids, beetles, carrot flies, and rabbits.
- Chives repel aphids, beetles, and carrot flies.
- Parsley repels asparagus beetles.
- Chamomile repels flying insects.
It’s worth noting that catnip repels ants, weevils, squash bugs, aphids, beetles, and cockroaches; however, it attracts cats! If this would be a concern for you, refrain from planting it.
Create Physical Barriers
There are many ways you can simply keep pests from accessing your plants. Among them are:
1. Apply a ring of Vaseline at the plant’s base to hinder ants from climbing up for farming aphids or scale insects. Without any protection, these pests will struggle to survive.
2. Use nets and bags to effectively protect against birds, small animals, and pests. Insect netting safeguards crops and prevents fruit flies from infesting stone fruits and apples.
3. Use natural powders, such as food-grade diatomaceous earth, baking soda, and crushed eggshells, to combat crawling insects like snails and slugs. Apply the powder to the ground surrounding plants or directly on affected leaves.
4. Sprinkle baking soda throughout your garden and flowerbeds for ant control.