How to Prevent & Naturally Treat Harmful Insects In The Garden
by Amanda Shepard, Staff Writer
It’s an age-old struggle, whether you’re gardening in Florida, Maine, or California – pests are a challenge to any growing landscape. Instead of using chemicals and pesticides in the garden, we’re here to offer a natural solution to your pest problem. Through prevention, the attraction of beneficial insects and non-toxic remedies, the population of harmful pests hurting your precious plants will be reduced, giving you a stronger, healthier garden.
Preventing Harmful Pests
The easiest way to help keep harmful pests away from your plants is prevention, which means keeping a healthy, happy garden.
- The foundation of a healthy garden is healthy soil. We recommend using all-natural compost, soil, and mulch, going organic when possible. This helps give your plants the best chance of healthy growth.
- Another way to prevent harmful pests is to identify and pull out any plants that may be diseased or weak. Pulling and disposing of diseased plants away from the garden helps keep pests or disease from spreading to other plants nearby in your landscape. Minimize pest habitat by always keeping your garden weeded and clear of unnecessary debris (as much as possible – we know this can be hard).
- Plant diversity helps deter many harmful insects, especially aphids. If you’re planting vegetables, try rotating crops every year to help avoid re-infestation of pests on your crops.
- Watering early in the morning so foliage can dry out for most of the day helps keep fungus and other pests that prefer a moist environment out.
- If you’re gardening in any area that has been infected by pests, remember to disinfect your tools before moving on to another area, as well as properly disposing of clippings and cuttings.
Keep your garden weeded and debris-free to help prevent harmful insects from destroying your plants.
Attracting Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects, such as lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, praying mantis, parasitic wasps, and nematodes, are a gardener's best friend. These helpful insects prey on harmful insects, such as aphids, thrips and mites, and their larvae.
The easiest way to attract beneficial insects to the garden is to plant flowering varieties that they love and need to survive. Plants such as Marigolds, Cilantro, Cosmos, California Poppy, and Sweet Alyssum should be planted throughout the garden to attract beneficial insects. This ‘insect war’ can be one of the most successful, natural ways to help keep harmful pests from your garden.
Marigolds and Nasturtium
If you’ve done everything you can to keep your garden healthy and attract beneficial insects to your property, but are still having a pest problem, we recommend trying a natural solution.
- For aphids and mealybugs, try mixing a spray bottle full of water with a tablespoon of canola or olive oil and a few drops of dish soap. Spray the entire plant from top to bottom, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves. This mixture naturally kills these harmful insects. You can also try simply knocking these small insects from your plants with a blast of the garden hose.
- For mites and other insects, try mixing a spray bottle full of water with a few tablespoons of cayenne pepper and a few drops of dish soap. Spray the entire plant from top to bottom, making sure to get the undersides of the leaves. This mixture naturally kills these harmful insects.
- For fungal diseases on your plants, try mixing a spray bottle full of water with a few tablespoons of baking soda, spraying the problem areas. Spray every few days until the disease goes away.
- Japanese beetles can be a big nuisance in the garden. The best way to naturally rid your landscape of these pesky critters is to hand-pick the beetles, which are green and brown, and destroy them.
- Borers, wormlike beetles in a young stage, tunnel into plant stems and can kill the entire plant. To get rid of an infestation, destroy the infested plant parts, and remember to keep your garden free of debris to discourage new borers.
- Protect young plants from cutworms by using ‘cutworm collars’ made out of cardboard tubes or tin cans, which create a barrier around the transplant.
Lavender helps naturally repel mosquitoes from your garden.
We know that natural remedies will never completely rid harmful pests from the garden, but that is the beauty of nature, it can’t be completely controlled. By keeping a clean, healthy garden and attracting beneficial insects, you’ll be on your way to a stronger, more vibrant garden without harmful chemicals or pesticides.
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