They can knock over a whole pepper plant in a single night.
They can make Swiss cheese look complete next to the leaves of your green beans.
They can put holes in your fruit that will just tick you off as you struggle to cut around them.
If you have a garden, you know that you will have plenty of unwelcome bugs, caterpillars, and slugs coming to your garden to eat your fruits and vegetables. Many gardeners turn to pesticides to kill these bugs. However, pesticides are full of chemicals to kill things. Therefore, I definitely don’t want to be putting any pesticides into my body.
Also, pesticides kill both the good bugs and the bad bugs. Your garden will never have a healthy balance if you use pesticides. Some beetles and insects have actually become immune to these pesticides as a result of their overuse. Pesticides will not work on those bugs. Pesticides also run off into local water supplies and pollute them.
Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides. My kids love to eat food out of the garden, and there is no way that I want them to be exposed to these chemicals. Their bodies are still developing. Pesticides can block the absorption of nutrients that are needed, and children’s small bodies have even more difficulty excreting these poisons than ours do. Even the EPA indicates that their exposure needs to be limited. I actually go further than that and try to eliminate them from my children’s diet.
The problem that many people face is that they don’t know how to control bugs without pesticides. If you are not able to control the bug population in your garden, then your entire plant can be eaten by bugs before you ever get the chance to enjoy it. However, there are some effective methods to control bugs, some that are even effective against bugs that are resistant to pesticides. They are not perfect, and you will still have some bugs, however, they are healthy alternatives to using poison.
Manually Remove Bugs and Eggs
Every morning when we go out to water the garden, we go on bug patrol. When we see a bug that is not beneficial to out garden, we squish it or knock it into a cup of water to feed to the chickens, ducks and guineas. This method works fine for us early in the season. We aren’t harvesting that many vegetables yet, the bug population is smaller since it is earlier in the season, and we are able to feed our birds this way.
If we see bugs on our plants, we also flip over the leaves and look for eggs. Usually bugs will lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. All of the eggs need to be squished on the leaves. However, if the eggs are hard, and can’t be squished, they must be manually scraped off and removed from the garden. If you have birds, you can feed them the eggs, or you can just place them in water so that they drown. One example of eggs that are hard are squash bugs. These are grey bugs that love to eat squash. They lay hard, red eggs in a “V” shape on leaves. These eggs can be scraped off or a portion of the leaf might have to be removed.
Control Bad Bugs With Good Bugs
In addition to bad bugs that are eating your garden, there are also good bugs that hang around your garden to eat the bad bugs. You can actually order these bugs online. I would recommend Gardensalive.com. Once you release these bugs, they obviously don’t have to stay in your garden, but if there are plenty of bugs for them to eat, most will stick around.
Ladybugs and praying mantises are two of our favorite good bugs to use. Before you decide to use this method, you do need to know that you won’t be using pesticides (even organic ones). Pesticides indiscriminately kill all bugs, not just the bad ones. As a result, the honey bees, ladybugs and praying mantises can be killed as well. You don’t want to invest in good bugs if you are going to spray and kill them.
How to Make a Natural Bug Spray for the Garden
Halfway through the harvest, we typically have to start spraying bugs. We bring in wheelbarrows of produce each day, and there is just no time to use other methods to control the bugs, other than the good bugs that we encourage in our garden.
The night before you want to spray your plants, you can make up a spray made up of mint, soap, garlic and hot red pepper.
All Natural Spray for Garden Bugs
1. Cut up and mash the garlic
2. Place garlic, mint, and hot red peppers in a pan of water and heat almost to a boil.
3. Remove from the liquid from heat and let sit overnight.
4. The next morning strain the infusion.
5. Add a couple tsp of dishwashing liquid and spray the plants. We use 2 squirts of dish detergent per gallon of spray.
We do not actually measure out the garlic, mint and red peppers, but use what we have from our garden. Note: You are basically making a pepper spray, so use common sense with spraying to avoid injury. This makes the leaves too spicy for the bugs to eat, and will also kill many of the bugs in your garden. We typically do not have to spray very often, just when we notice the bug population starting to get out of hand.
When you are spraying your plants, you need to spray all of the leaves. Make sure to spray the bottom of the leaves as well as the top. Most young bugs, larvae and eggs are on the bottom of leaves. This spray is all natural, and will wash off, so after a good rain, you will need to spray again. Make sure that you only spray on a day that is not windy, and wear gloves, a mask and eye protection. You also do not want to spray the day before you pick your garden. Your vegetables would still be spicy.
7 Ways to Naturally Control Slugs
1. Crush up egg shells and place them around your plants. The sharp edges help to deter slugs from your plants. The shells will actually cut the slugs, which can cause them to die.
2. Water your garden in the mornings. Slugs are attracted to wet soil, the surface will have time to dry during the day before slugs come out at night.
3. Place copper wires around your garden or plants. The strips need to be at least 2 inches. When the slugs touch copper it causes a toxic reaction, and they won’t climb over it.
4. Look around your garden. Slugs like to stay under damp wood. If you have pieces of wood near your garden, flip the wood over and kill the slugs. Even, if there is no wood around, place a piece of wood near your garden. The slugs will go under it at night, and can go out in the morning to kill the slugs.
5. Place seaweed around the plants. (Make sure the seaweed is not touching your plants.) Seaweed is salty which slugs want to avoid because it dehydrates and kills them. When the seaweed dries, it is rough, and slugs don’t want to climb over it.
6. I have not tried this method, since we don’t drink coffee, but some people will sprinkle their coffee grounds around the plants as a deterrent. The coffee grounds should be caffeinated, since it is the caffeine that the slugs don’t like. I wouldn’t use a lot of coffee grounds, since coffee is pretty processed.
7. One of the oldest ways to trap slugs is using beer. Slugs are attracted to beer. Just place the beer into a shallow container above the soil. (There are good insects in your soil, and you want to keep them.) The slugs go into the beer and get trapped. I haven’t tried this method, since we don’t buy beer, but I know that many of my friends have had success with this method.
Written by Rene Christensen, founder of the original Budget Saving Mom.