No Pesticides: 7 Tips to Naturally Protect Your Plants
A garden using no pesticides isn’t actually a garden under attack. Whether it be from critters with a taste for greenery or from insects eating, breeding and destroying your plants, home gardeners would be wise to devise a plan of defense. While pesticides seem to be an obvious solution, many home gardeners opt to keep their bounty organic and free from the array of chemicals in common pesticides. I spoke with Mira Kilpatrick, an organic farmer and founder of The Humble Huckster, about some of her favorite ways to grow crops without using pesticides.
Kilpatrick explained that one of the best ways for home gardeners to take care of pests is by handpicking them from the plants and placing them in a container of soapy water. It may be time consuming, but it’s incredibly effective.
2. Use garden fabric
Kilpatrick also recommended using garden fabric, which she uses on her farm, to keep pests away from plants. Garden fabric is a white netting-type material, designed to let in light and moisture, but keep bugs out and away from plants. If you use garden fabric, Kilpatrick noted to uncover your plants once they flower so they can pollinate.
3. Encourage beneficial bugs
Perhaps a bit more labor intensive, Kilpatrick encouraged the use of beneficial bugs to maintain a balance in the garden. To combat insects such as aphids, plant flowers to attract predators of aphids, such as parasitic wasps and ladybugs. Cornflowers are especially attractive to wasps, ladybugs, hoverflies and predatory beetles.
4. Plant irresistible trap crops
Seemingly contradictory, Kilpatrick noted that planting crops to draw insects away from other plants in your garden can work wonders. Plants such as alfalfa, clover, goldenrod and many wildflowers can keep insects away from your crops if planted around the perimeter. If aphids are your issue, dill is an effective trap crop.
5. Scatter crushed eggshells
In addition to being organic matter great for your soil, egg shells can act as pest deterrents. If slugs, snails and caterpillars are attacking your young plants, spread crushed eggshells around the base of your plants. Sharp eggshells will be uncomfortable for the soft-bellied critters, causing them to steer clear of your plants. If eggshells don’t do the trick, beer surely will. Bury saucers or jar lids so the lip is flush with the ground, fill with beer and watch the slugs come out to party. If you’d rather not kill critters, stick to eggshells, as the slugs eventually drown in the beer.
6. Crop rotation
Kilpatrick also explained that rotating crops from year to year is a good way to trick your backyard critters. This is especially helpful if you’ve suffered a soil infestation, as planting the afflicted plant in an entirely different area of your garden plot will confuse the existing critters. In a similar vein, inter-planting can confuse insects, as their favorite crops won’t be planted in concentration. Rather, they’d be interspersed with other vegetable plants.
7. Soap sprays
A quick Internet search will yield a dozen different recipes for insecticidal soap sprays. If you want an easy fix in lieu of using no pesticides, try mixing a natural dish soap with water in a spray bottle.
If you’re looking to use no pesticides in your home garden, don’t worry. There are many natural options for you to use. And if one option isn’t working for you, don’t give up and grab the chemicals. Try another natural deterrent, and keep trying until you have success. If all else fails, you can hand pick the pests from your crops.