Whatever pests you may be grappling with this year, I highly encourage you not to resort to commercial pesticides. The poisons used in these products are just that—poisonous. Many of the products have links to Monsanto, a gigantic agriculture corporation that is not only behind GMOs (genetically modified organisms) but has pushed thousands of farmer’s out of house and home by tying them up in legal cases merely because a Monsanto-patented seed was blown into the unsuspecting farmer’s field where it began growing—without permission and due royalties to Monsanto. And because of the dangerous precedence Monsanto set by being allowed to patent seeds, traditional seed saving practices are threatened.
All that is to say: For Pete’s sake please do not use commercial pesticides in your garden this year. They’re not only poisoning the ground but also the freedom of farming itself.
Instead, try one of these easy and natural pest deterrents:
Aphids, also known as plant lice, can ruin a garden pretty quickly. They reproduce rapidly and aren’t picky about what they eat. Their most common natural enemy is the beautiful ladybug. You can buy ladybugs at most garden centers or online, for about $20 per 1500. For best results, release the ladybugs into your garden at night so that they are forced to stay and make themselves comfortable (ladybugs don’t fly at night). If you release them during the day you run the risk of them flying away to greener pastures.
Last year, slugs invaded my lettuce patch to a disgusting degree. So what did I do? I threw them a kegger. You can host a kegger for your slugs too: gather a half dozen or more lids (depending on the size of your garden) from empty food jars and nestle them into your garden, spaced out every foot or so. Then pour in any cheap beer. I recommend doing this in the early evening so that you don’t lose any beer to evaporation. The slugs will be attracted to the sweet smell of the beer and crawl over for a drink. They’ll fall in, get tipsy and drown. The next night empty out the lids and repeat until you’re satisfied.
This bright orange and yellow flower attracts bees and butterflies while its pungent taste repels rabbits and deer. And it’s scent, while quite mild and agreeable to the human nose it masks the smell of the tasty fruits and vegetables in your garden, keeping many insects away. Plant marigolds around the perimeter of your vegetable patches to brighten things up, fill in gaps, and protect your plants.
Spice Things Up
This is yet another gardening tip I learned from my time on the sustainable farm in Costa Rica several years ago (where I met my husband!). In a blender or food processor combine several spicy peppers, such as the habanero, and a clove of peeled garlic. Add a cup of water and blend until the peppers and garlic are as fine as possible. Add another cup of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle (be sure to wear gloves). Spray the spicy concoction onto you plants—it won’t harm them a bit but the spicy smell and taste will keep pests of all shapes and sizes far, far, away.
Tin Plates and/or Empty Milk Jugs
This tip comes from my Grandma. If you don’t have a tall fence up to keep the deer out, or its not working, hang empty milk jugs and/or tip plates in the trees or bushes around your garden. The noise and the sight of these simple deterrents will scare the deer away.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.
Related: Let's Idle No More in the Garden