Planning Out Your Pest-Free Garden
There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato straight from the garden. The grocery store just doesn’t compare, and getting them ripe off the vine is an experience that everyone should have at some point. However, nothing will ruin it faster than noticing that the surface is marred by nibbles and scars caused by pests in your gardens.
The question of keeping pests out of our garden doesn’t usually come up until later in the season. However, experienced gardeners know that a pest-free garden starts with effective planning. And if you’re like me, you already have a blueprint of how your garden’s layout is going to be. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about what your strategy will be.
Clear Your Space Well
One of the biggest contributors to pests in your garden is clutter. A corner full of old leaves or a composting area will attract pests that will ruin your garden and even invade your home! If you have a composting area, keep it well away from your house and from your garden.
In the garden itself, make sure that things are laid out in neat rows or in secure garden boxes so that you can easily maneuver through the area, and so that you’ll quickly notice if a certain crop is being devoured by pests before you can harvest. You might even want to consider adding certain hardscaping elements that will make it easier to monitor your garden. Here are some other landscaping ideas that can help you plan out your garden.
Understand Companion Planting
Companion planting is time-honored gardening wisdom. Some plants are beneficial to each other, providing shade, keeping weeds away, enriching the soil, and deterring pests. Other plants tend to work against each other, stealing natural resources that the other needs, crowding each other out, and even producing toxins that the other plant can’t survive. One of the basic principles of companion planting is that you don’t want to cluster too much of the same plant in one area, as it will attract more pests. However, when you mix flowers and herbs into your vegetable garden, pests are confused and not as drawn to their favorite foods.
One of the most well-known examples of companion planting is the Native American go-to of the “three sisters.” This is the combination of beans, squash, and corn. Squash shades the soil and protects from weeds. As the corn grows, it provides a natural terrace for the beans to climb, and beans enrich the soil with nutrients that corn needs to grow tall.
Marigold is a really handy companion plant. The bright color in the garden confuses some pests. But most of all, it attracts predatory insects that keep aphids and other small garden pests away. Mint deters slugs, which love to feed on young lettuce. And chives, onions, and garlic all repel pests that are drawn to highly-fragrant plants like tomato. It’s often a good idea to border areas of your garden with these guards. You can read more about natural pest-deterrents here.
You can look up more comprehensive guides to understand which neighbors will help each other and which will hurt. Keep in mind, though, that companion planting is a complicated practice that doesn’t always have exact science behind it. Usually, it’s a matter of trial and error. Find out what works best for your area, and talk with your neighbors to get ideas on your best strategy.
Some Organic Garden Hacks to Help
Reading around on other gardener’s blogs will help give you ideas to try in your own yard. Remember that it’s always best to go to local resources for ideas, since they’ll have similar species of pests to deal with. There are so many ideas out there that we can’t cover them all, but here are a few basics to get you started:
- Slugs and snails are some of the most annoying and persistent pests, especially since few pesticides are equipped to deal with them. However, you can keep them out of your yard by bordering your garden with diatomaceous earth, which is too sharp for slugs to handle. You could also try sprinkling coffee grounds or hair clippings. Another method to get rid of slugs in your yard is setting traps, either with beer, orange peelings, or even just providing planks where the slugs will hide in the heat of the day.
- Have a problem with scavenging deer? Confuse their sense of smell. Border your garden with lavender (which they don’t want to eat). Some people even dangle soap from a string over the garden.
- Attract birds with a birdfeeder or birdbath. Most birds prey on big garden bugs, like caterpillars, slugs, grasshoppers, and beetles.