Gardening can be a very relaxing and rewarding hobby. It allows you to feed your family during the growing season and preserve your harvest to use during the winter months. Gardening can help stock your herbal medicine cabinet, provide flowers for your kitchen table, and provide fragrant flowers to use in homemade bath and body products. Of course, gardening is a lot of work too. Weeding and dealing with common garden insects are just a few of the issues you'll have to address.
How To Deal With Garden Insects Naturally
You cannot really spend time outside without being exposed to insects. While there are some beneficial insects that we want in our garden, there are a number that we'd like to ban completely. Thankfully, there are natural ways to eliminate common insect problems in the garden without turning to toxic chemical sprays.
Aphids can be found on many edible and ornamental plants including fruits, vegetables and flowers. Aphids eat the plant sap which results in malformed foliage, leaf drop, mold growth, and viral diseases. To control aphids, wash the plants with a strong stream of water from the garden hose. Then introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs that enjoy eating aphids. Some people report success by spraying plants with a garlic spray.
Cabbage worms or maggots
If your garden has cabbages, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or other members of the Brassicaceae family, chances are that you've seen at least a few cabbage worms or maggots in your garden. These pests make tunnels in the root system of the plants which will kill them. They can often be controlled by mounding red pepper dust around the stem of the plant. For persistent problems, be certain to burn last year's roots to completely destroy this pest.
While not all caterpillars are bad, they can certainly do damage to your crops. You will often see them munching the leaves, fruits and vegetables that you've spent months trying to grow. You can certainly pick off (and destroy) any caterpillars you see in your garden, but for long term control try adding natural predators like paper wasps and lacewings.
Cutworms are found on many plants in North America. They actually aren't a worm at all but the larvae of a variety of night moth. They are called cutworms because they cut down the young plants at the base of the stem as they feed. To prevent cutworm damage, plant a paper towel tube around the stem of the plant to protect it as it grows. Work the tube down an inch or so below the surface. Some people have success with planting sunflowers around the edge of their garden. Cutworms love sunflowers and will feed there before they feed on your other plants.
Potato beetles aren't only found on potatoes. They can also be found on tomatoes, eggplant, and petunias. Potato beetles will remove the foliage from your plants are reduce the yield. To control them, you can try a floating row cover, handpick the beetles as you find them or add native pests like lady beetles and lacewings. You can also try adding a thick layer of mulch around your plants. Dill and fennel planted around your crops will discourage potato beetles as well.
Japanese beetles are a terror to many rose gardeners. They will completely defoliate a bloom in almost no time at all. One of the best ways to combat them is to hand pick them first thing in the morning and drop them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them. Plants that are particularly susceptible to Japanese beetles include apples, crabapples, roses, cherry, plum, apricot and peach trees. There are a few species of birds and wasps that enjoy eating Japanese beetles. Milky spore is a naturally occurring bacteria that will kill Japanese beetle grubs. It is safe for people, pets, wildlife, beneficial insects, and soil microorganisms and it will not affect streams or groundwater.
One of the best ways to keep your garden pest free is to keep it well weeded and frequently turn over the soil between rows. Keep a two-foot border of soil that is plant-free between your garden and the edge of your lawn. In the fall, you should completely remove any dead plants, weeds, garden debris or rotting vegetables and turn over the soil well to destroy any eggs or larvae that may remain.
Once you've dealt with your garden insects, you'll be able to maximize the amount of fruits and vegetables you harvest to better prepare for the year ahead.