There are so many benefits to planting your own garden beyond the satisfaction of your work and the delicious food you produce. Gardening can be a mindful and personally enriching experience.
If you have gardened before, you may have come across crop-destroying pests that caused devastation to your harvest. Although this is extremely frustrating, it is preventable.
Before you begin your garden this planting season, read up on a few tricks you can follow to keep your garden safe from common pests that destroy your vegetables.
These will save you time and allow you to focus on the joys of gardening!
Control Garden Pests with Beneficial Insects
Plenty of animals out there are perfectly willing to work for you (for free), the trick is how to get them to do it. Birds, toads, spiders, centipedes, mantids, ladybugs and ladybug larvae, green lacewings, and other carnivorous animals are ready to work for you.
Wasps: Pesky or Beneficial?
Keep in mind that wasps and yellow jackets are carnivorous and like to eat the arthropods that cause every gardener grief. That doesn’t always make them welcome, but if there are wasps nested nearby, chances are they’re looking for and eating the pests you didn’t want in the first place.
Wasps and hornets don’t typically become a problem for homeowners until late summer and throughout the fall anyway, which is when the workers start to die and look for harborages for the nesting queen. It’s also when they get a bad name for dive-bombing into soda cans.
Consider allowing paper wasps or yellow jackets free reign over your garden to help prevent a devastating infestation in your vegetable patch.
Birds may peck at fruit and vegetables now and again, and you may not want certain kinds of birds around, depending on where you live.
However, it doesn’t hurt to hang some bird seed around your garden to encourage them to swoop down and snack on the pests in the garden as well.
Eliminate Japanese Beetles
If you have a recurring problem with Japanese beetles, it may be time to consider attracting birds. Grackles, meadowlarks, geese, ducks, chickens, crows, gulls, and guineas will feed on them when they can.
Attract Ladybugs and Toads
If you have ladybug larvae in your garden, chances are you won’t see as many aphids. Ladybugs also like to prey on scale and other garden pests.
Consider setting a toad house near the garden to attract toads if you are in an area where they live. They are great at finding and eating all kinds of bugs. Sometimes, toads will show up and dig in if you leave a bowl of water lying around.
Prepare Your Garden to Fight Back
Healthy Soil Means Healthy Plants
Many pests are less likely to prey on your vegetables and garden plants if you keep the plants healthy. Most pests specialize in one kind of plant or another. That means, if you rotate your crops yearly, you’ll avoid recurring issues with the same pest.
If the infestation becomes overwhelming, you may need to remove plants that are dying or already affected by pests or disease in order to prevent other plants from receiving the same damage.
Crop rotation can also return certain nutrients to the soil that other plants absorb during growth.
Safely and Cleanly Mulch your Garden
Mulching is an excellent way to maintain plant growth year to year. Seaweed spray or mulch, in particular, will add beneficial nutrients to the soil and help keep slugs and snails away.
There are extreme and more intense mulching methods that every gardener can do, including adding thicker layers to the garden mulch. Some gardeners use mulching techniques to such an effective degree that their gardens remain healthy year-round and avoid weeds altogether.
**Keep in mind that if garden mulching is not done properly, it can attract more pests than it deters. Always be careful when you decide to use more advanced mulching methods.
Also be sure to use mulch that is safe for vegetable gardens. Some commercial mulch contains added chemicals or scrap wood that could contain chemicals that are safe for landscapes but not fit for vegetable gardens.
Watch for cockroaches and rodents control issues in decomposing material. Be cautious about compost during the snowy months, as it can be prime harborage for many pests.
Excellent Mulch Material:
These are the stalks of grain plants like wheat and barley. Reduce the likelihood of sprouting seeds by using the straw as bedding for waterfowl, like geese and ducks, which like to peck the bugs and seeds out of them. Piled 4-6 inches deep, straw can be used for an excellent top layer.
After hay has aged too long or spoiled, it can be great material for mulching. Used as a bottom layer for mulch, it can help prevent weeds from sprouting by decomposing quickly and producing heat. You’ll want this to be piled to a depth of about eight inches for best effectiveness.
After mowing, it’s a great idea to let the grass turn brown and mulch it in the garden. This can also be used as a bottom layer or a top layer, depending on what you want.
Anti-Pest Planting and Gardening Strategies
Let the Plants Breathe
Once you’ve prepared your garden centers and it’s time to start planting, how and where you plant can make a difference.
Every plant should have a sufficient amount of room to breathe. If the plants are too close together, they could smother each other or create too much shade, which can allow pests to create harborage areas.
Water in the Morning
Water in the morning as much as possible so that the plant leaves dry out early in the day. Better yet, implement a drip irrigation system if you can, especially if you have difficulty watering first thing in the morning. Pests need water to survive, including the slower or non-moving pests like scale.
Use Interplanting Strategies
Most pests specialize in one kind of plant. If you spread the plants throughout your garden, you can reduce the risk of cross-contamination between plants.
It can be a good idea to rotate crops with companion plants, depending on the rotation strategy your garden needs.
Pest Extermination Options
Control on Your Own, DIY Tips for Pest Extermination
You can add diatomaceous earth around your plants to keep numerous types of insects from invading. Diatomaceous earth is a natural, eco-friendly, safe substance that cuts the waxy cuticle around the outside of arthropod’s exoskeleton, which makes them dry out quickly.
You can also wash pests like spider mites off your plants using insecticidal soap, which you can purchase online or at a hardware or garden supply store.
Look to Professionals
If you’ve got a major problem, don’t be afraid to look to professional pest control services that can help you with your garden. Sometimes, total pest extermination is required to completely rid your garden of an infestation of certain kinds of pests.
Follow the EPA’s guidelines for choosing a pest control company. Do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting into.
When considering pesticides and their effects, just remember that it’s not 1972 anymore. Improvements to pest deterrents and eco-friendly products are available.
It’s okay if you’re still not comfortable with professional pest control or pesticides, but remember that there are plenty of safe and reliable options available to you.
No matter what you choose to do to keep your garden plants safe, we wish you good luck and a pest-free planting season!
Ben Bowen is a content writer for Fox Pest Control in Lubbock, Texas. Ben’s hobbies include novel writing, listening to audiobooks, practicing penmanship, and playing with his nieces and nephews.