Gardening, on its own, is a calming practice. It’s the kind of hobby that lets you work quietly among your luscious greenery. And at the end of the day, you can enjoy a piece of fruit, or some fresh leafy goodies for your salad.
But anyone with any level of experience in gardening knows the immense frustration brought about by pest attacks. Cabbage flies, carrot flies, aphids—you name it. There’s nothing more painful or draining than seeing white creepy crawlies munching on your soon-to-be salad.
You would think that perhaps pesticides are an option if it means saving your garden. But what that entails in terms of consumption of fresh greens or its impact on the ecological balance may be concerning to many.
You can always go organic.
Now, to be clear, all plants are organic. In terms of gardening and agriculture, however, organic is typically meant to be “organically farmed” produce. No synthetic, man-made substances were used or added to the fertilizer or the pest deterrents used.
The studies on benefits of whether or not organic farming contributes to more nutritionally dense crops are insignificant. The true benefit of using more natural methods of pest deterring are more for the maintenance of good soil quality. Using natural methods also adds reassurance that nothing in your vegetables will harm you or the environment with unwanted residue.
Look In Your Pantry
One of the easiest ways to achieve an all-natural pest-free gardening regimen is to swap your artificial pesticides for home recipes. You can easily do this with things you may find in your kitchen.
A great basic recipe that really drives away most common garden pests is a chili-garlic spray. This might sound like the start of a delicious stir fry, but if you spritz this spicy concoction on to your greens, worms and bugs won’t think your lettuce patch was so tasty after all.
Just take about 12 cloves of garlic and a handful of spicy red peppers. Blend them together. Mix them into a gallon of water and a cup of cooking oil, and just like that, you have the magic potion to drive away little critters. This works well on aphids, apple maggots, codling moths, cutworms, earwigs, flies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, Japanese Beetles, leafhoppers, mealybugs, chinch bugs, mite, slugs, snails, and whiteflies.
It also helps to get back to the basics.
Assuring that you have good soil quality can deter pests. Make sure to regularly change your soil or supplement it with compost if it turns too sandy or too dense. At the start of every growing season in the spring, add a fresh layer of organic mulch a few inches deep into the soil bed. Always check to remove dead plant materials after the harvest. This is to make sure nothing bad is staying in your soil.
Molds and wilting may be a problem of plants that were chosen for the wrong climate or simply placed in the wrong spot. Plants that love sun would be hurt in this way if they were left to grow in damp, shady areas. The protective enzymes covering the leaves might rot away from the excess moisture and the pest-resistant film would fade away.
Switch It Up
If you can see a yearly return of the same pest problem, you may need to diversify and rotate your crops. Always change up what you’re growing in the patch. This prevents bugs from making a habit of taking up residence in the same area where you freely supply them their food.
You can also consider growing the kinds of plants that naturally deter pests on their own to see if you can handle a totally pesticide-free garden. Fruit bearing trees like Apples, Nectarines, and Peaches are great long-term examples. Garden crops like Cucumbers, Celery, Potatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers and Spinach also make for great examples of this type.
A great trick though is to try out companion gardening. Certain plants naturally deter pests or distract them away from others.
The best examples are Alliums, like onions and leeks. They repel aphids, carrot flies, cabbage worms, and Japanese beetles. They’re best planted alongside carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, and other nightshade plants. The kinds of plants that help Alliums on the other hand are African Spider Plants and Marigolds, as well as the mint plant. Avoid planting beans and peas with your onions.
Aside from onions and leeks, chives are also another type of allium with pest-fighting capabilities. It also has an added bonus of improving the flavor and the growth quality of its companion crops. They are most suitable growing alongside berries, grapes, and roses.
Attracting lady bugs is also a great idea because they feed on worms and aphids that typically plague home gardens. Planting asparagus together with basil can attract lady bugs to your garden. In turn, this can really help protect your tomatoes and your parsley plants from aphid attacks.
Radishes are also great crops to have. They deter cucumber beetles, and distract leaf miners away from spinach. The leaf miners will then chew on the tops of radish leaves, but this wouldn’t harm the growth of the radish in any way. Growing radishes with spinach, cucumber, parsnips, and carrots make a great combination. Add some lettuce to the mix to help the radish stay tender for a delicious harvest.
Stick with the Program
There are many great combinations for companion gardening. There are also plenty other recipes for DIY sprays for pests and weeds.
If you’re new to the idea of gardening without the extra help of harsher chemicals, you don’t have to force yourself or your plants to adapt to the new practice rapidly. Let your garden wean off of it gradually. What matters is you stay with it and continue to progress until you achieve a fully organically farmed patch.
Remember that the benefits aren’t merely for health concerns. Definitely it may seem like an issue to eat fruit or greens that were once sprayed with synthetic pesticides. However, the best contribution you can make as a gardener to the ecosystem is to not use sprays with harsh chemicals. Such chemicals have killed a significant number of bees and other good creatures.
It’s their Earth as much as it is ours. Since we’re all just glad to be able to enjoy a nice fresh bowl of romaine and arugula fresh from the yard, we might as well do our part to help Mother Nature thrive.