This weekend I spent a lot of time in the garden and got to see how much the garden has grown in just a few weeks to contain everything from garlic to pea plants to marigolds to herbs. Unfortunately, the leafy plants also attract garden pests that due to Ontario legislation on pesticides and our desire to keep our garden as organic as possible can be very difficult to get rid of. However, thanks to resources available from Green Venture and other great sites, I've assembled several solutions for dealing with the critters.
1. Keep your garden healthy
The best way to keep bugs away from your plants is to make your plot as uninviting to insects as possible. This means keeping your garden free of weeds and dead plants that make perfect habitats for bugs and ensuring your garden is healthy and disease free by using compost and mulching. Watering can also help keep your garden healthy but make sure to only water when your plants need it and only around the base of plants as excess water can also attract bugs.
2. Grow crops that ward off insects
You may also want to consider planting beneficial plants, such as marigolds (which many gardeners have already done), anise, peppermint, garlic and hot peppers, as these can deter insects as well. Companionship plants can also help keep your garden healthy as well as ward off insects (check back next Tuesday for more on this style of gardening).
3. Encourage beneficial insects
Luckily, many insects like ladybugs, damsels, lacewings, wasps, tachinid flies and hover flies can actually help keep unwanted pests away. To encourage these helpful insects to populate your garden you may want to consider planting fennel which helps attract damsels and ladybugs, mint and parsley which encourages wasps and tachinid flies or yarrow and dill for ladybugs and lacewings.
4. Remove bugs manually
While this won't work for all infestations, some bugs (like slugs) can be removed by hand or by spraying your plants lightly with the hose. Also, insects such as aphids often can't do a lot of damage on their own. If the population is small and you don't notice any damage to your plants, it not be worth your time and effort in trying other solutions.
5. Make your own natural pesticide
For some insects groups, homemade insecticides can work just as well as the real thing. Examples of some household products that can work wonders include borax, vinegar, sugar and soap (note: use these sparingly as too much can harm your plants). As well as these you may also want to try some of these brews, curtesy of Naturally Hamilton: For ants: Circle the hill with a line of red chill powder, paprika or dried peppermint leaves or pour boiling water over the hill. For grasshoppers and aphids: Soak chill peppers and garlic in paraffin oil and then spray the mixture directly onto your plants.For rabbits: Soak two heads of garlic in enough water to cover them completely. Boil the water and allow to sit overnight before spraying on your plants. For spider mites and cabbage worms: Dissolve 2tbsp of salt in a gallon of water and spray onto your plants.
6. Use barriers and traps
For some animals and critters the only way to keep them out is to place physical barriers and traps around your garden. Apart from fencing your garden, here are a couple ways to keep unwanted pests out of your plots. For slugs: Place a shallow dish of beer near your plants.For all insects: If none of the above works you can also buy commercially available traps but before installing them please talk to a member of the Churchill Park Garden Collective to make sure these are permissible in our garden. I hope this list helps you keep your garden pest-free in the months ahead and if you have any more suggestions or questions about the ones here please feel free to comment.