Store bought pesticides are no doubt the easiest way to go about dealing with pests in the garden. When you get home, you bombard the plants with chemicals until all the critters are gone. But, as simple as that sounds, it’s not the best way to prevent pests in plants. Nor how to get rid of pests in the garden.
That’s because the more we learn about these products, the more we understand their potential dangers the can bring to our health just from exposure. In fact, I know a few gardeners who’ve experience acute pesticide poisoning before.
Thank goodness they fully recovered.
As such, I’ve turned away from using synthetics and been looking for more organic, homemade solutions to pests that don’t pose any harm to me or my family.
And, I’d like to share those with you so you can control pests in plants and vegetables in the garden without having to rely on pesticides, even the organic ones.
How to Prevent Pests in Plants – 10 Easy Ways
Encourage Beneficial Insects
The same way pollinators help your garden grow, beneficial insects help keep those plants healthy by ridding your yard of insects and bothersome pests.
Like bacteria, not all insects are bad, at least for your garden. Some are actually beneficial as they help keep it safe by taking out pests.
The most well known beneficial insects include:
- Praying mantis
Other lesser known beneficial insects like minute pirate bugs and parasitic wasps also help.
This is why it is not a good idea to use pesticides. In addition to the potentially harmful chemicals, they also wipe out many beneficial insects.
They act like antibiotics or chemotherapy where even the good bacteria or healthy cells are wiped out. As such, your garden’s ecosystem can end up weaker than when it started as the pests come back.
Attract Animals That Eat Bothersome Pests
Did you ever wonder why some gardeners intentionally attract birds, frogs are toads to their gardens?
Sure birds are beautiful. But, frogs and toads are not the more visually appealing creatures to have prancing around your yard.
However, they are predators to pests and smaller creatures like insects. Thus, having them around allows you to get rid of these critters without doing the work yourself.
Frogs and toads like water. And, all it takes to attract them ins a bowl of water.
On the other hand, birds are beautiful. But, if you grow fruits, you know they nibble of these as well. The good news is, these flying creatures eat insects. This makes them effective predators to pests that will eventually end up feeding on foliage.
Water in the Morning
Mornings are the best time to water plants because there’s a lot of sun. And, there are many hours of sunshine to come before dusk arrives.
This gives the moisture enough time to dry with the help of the sun. In doing so, it reduces the risk of leaving leaves and soil wet for long periods of time. Both instances eventually lead to pest and disease problems as too much water stresses the plant.
Watering in the morning also gets plants ready for the hottest part of the day by hydrating them beforehand. This also reduces the amount of stress they experience from heat.
On the other hand, watering late in the day is not a good idea as there is less time for the moisture to dry. Additionally, there’s little to no sunlight then. And, temperature always drop in the evening exacerbating the drying process.
Space Your Plants Out Properly
Squeezing as many plants as you can into your garden or yard is never a good idea.
But, I can tell you when I started, that was exactly what I tried to do in certain sections of the garden. At the time, it did not know or was aware that plants not only needed their own extra space to grow into, but also get enough air flow to breathe.
It has a harsh lesson to learn as the time I spent planting and caring for the plants there did not go anywhere.
However, as they say, you learn the most from your mistakes.
Air circulation is very important because it helps plants’ leaves dry. It also prevents insects from using the plants as shelter from the sun or a hiding place.
Keep Leaves Dry
One of the most common mistakes many beginner gardeners do is water over the plants. This wets everything including the leaves.
Unfortunately, doing this makes leaves susceptible to fungal growth if the moisture does not dry soon enough.
While this is not a problem in tropical countries because of the bright sunlight and warm weather, it is not something you can do outside of tropical and subtropical regions without any risk.
A good way to avoid doing so is to water directly into the soil. Some gardeners will even water from below if plants are in containers which reduces the risk of overwatering.
But, in the garden, it is a good idea to avoid wetting the plants and just water the soil instead.
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Pest Resistant Plants
One of the easiest ways to keep pests away it to choose the right kinds of plants.
Some plants are very susceptible to pests and/or diseases. On the other hand, others are hardy and resilient to them. And, there are those that pests are less interested in.
While this method does restrict the kinds of plants you’ll be growing and requires a bit more planning beforehand, it pays off as it dramatically reduces the prevalence of pests later on.
So, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time treating or inspecting for pests and disease, choosing pest-resistant and disease-resistant plants are the way to go.
Harvest on Time
In general, being late in harvesting does not cause problems. But, fruits that have ripen will eventually fall into the ground. And, the impact of the fall will damage the fruits or open them up partially.
This makes insects come around if you don’t clean them up quickly.
Also leaving overripe fruits and vegetables on the plant negatively affects the plant. As this cause weakens it, the plant becomes an easier target to insects.
Use Physical Barriers to Keep Pests Away
Physical barriers are another very effective way of keeping pests from your garden. Just like keeping deer and rabbits away from your garden, there are barriers designed to keep pests away.
Here are some types of barriers you can use as DIY pest control.
- Fences – these are designed for larger pests like deer and other animals that may come around and mess up your garden. You can create taller or shorter fences depending on what you’re trying to keep out.
- Row covers – these are fabric sheets that look like large plastic covers you can place over crops and other plants. They’re often draped over the plants or garden beds in a half loop fashion. The material allows light to pass through while giving the plants enough space to breath as well. While often used to keep plants warm when frost arrives, row covers also keep small animals and insects away from your plants. This makes them very effective against squirrels, rabbits, caterpillars and rodents.
- Cloches – Cloches work for plants just as they work for food servers that want to keep the food warm and present you with the food at your table. But, for plants, these coverings are often made of hard plastic or grass to allow sunlight to pass through. Unlike row covers, cloches are designed for single or just a few plants. Although you’ll also see rows of these that look like half cylinders.
- Cutworm Collars – There are simple collars you can make yourself to keep cutworms away from your plants. By encircling the plants about 2 to 3 inches around in a circle shape, you are able to close it off from these nasty pests.
- Netting – Also known as bird netting, this protects fruits and berries from birds and other pests like squirrels that can go after them.
Rotate Crops & Intercrop
How you plant also helps deter pests.
If you plant the same crops in the same position year in and year out, it makes it easier for pests to grow and increase in number. Similarly, diseases tend to overwinter in vegetables if you grow the same crops in the same location all the time.
In contrast, rotating your crops helps prevent this. It also improves soil fertility.
Thus, if you plant cabbage in the west side of the garden this year, you ca move it to the north west side next year. Then, to the northeast section the year after that.
Doing so will reduce the risk of pests.
Similarly, intercropping or growing different vegetables together or alongside flowers keeps unpleasant pests away. While researchers are still not completely sure why this works, they believe the lack of uniformity confuses pests.
So, by interplanting crops you’re also able to reduce the prevalence of pests in the garden.
Keep Plants Healthy
A healthy plant is your best defense against pests and diseases. Like people, plants have immune systems. And, when they’re healthy and get proper care, this keeps them protected from nasty pests.
While a plant’s immune system is different from humans, keeping it healthy makes it unattractive to pests. As such, this is your best bet in keeping pests from destroying your garden.
As such, giving them sufficient sunlight, the right amount of watering and the nutrients they need in fertilizer helps them stave off pests on their own without you having to intervene.