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Plant-munching pests are just a fact of life when you have a garden. It only becomes a big deal when their numbers rise to the point that they are causing an unacceptable level of damage. The best thing you can do for your garden is to prevent pests from chomping on your garden, to begin with. Utilizing strategies to keep their numbers to a minimum is the key to success.

Most of us want to skip the dangerous chemical sprays and stick to more organic methods. More and more, we are turning to organic pest control specialists for controlling pests in our homes and yards. The good news is, natural pest control prevention can be very effective in your garden, too.

Nine Effective Strategies for Deterring Garden Pests Without Chemicals:

1. Start with Healthy Plants

Starting with healthy plants may seem obvious, but in all honesty, this is probably the most important step you can take for deterring pests without using chemicals. Just like people, unhealthy plants have a weaker immune system. Healthy plants are less appealing to bugs, and they are more capable of keeping pests away on their own. Plant your healthy plants in good soil with proper water and sunlight, and you’ll be off to the best start possible for preventing pests from taking over your garden.

2. Incorporate Pest-Deterring Plants and Inter-Plant to Confuse Pests

Incorporating pest-deterring plants and inter-planting in your flower and vegetable garden can repel bugs and make it more difficult for them to find their favorite host plants. Instead of growing your vegetables in a block or row, try mixing things up throughout the garden. You should also incorporate flowering annuals and herbs with heavy fragrances to discourage the bugs from wanting to hang around. These techniques make it harder for the bugs to zone in on their chosen plants.

3. Create a Physical Barrier Between Your Plants and the Pests

By creating a physical barrier between your plants and the bugs, you prevent them from getting access to your plants entirely. Floating row covers are one of the best ways to do this over a large area. Row covers are made from an extremely lightweight fabric that can rest right on top of your plants, or you can use wire hoops to hold them up. You need to make sure they are held tight at the soil level so that sneaky bugs, like cabbage worms, can’t find their way underneath. If you’ve had problems with cabbage worms, squash bugs, Mexican bean beetles, cucumber beetles, or squash vine borers floating row covers can be a lifesaver. They are often even more effective than chemical sprays.

4. Research Plant Varieties Carefully

Certain varieties of plants are more likely to have issues with bugs than others. Keeping pests away can sometimes be as easy as choosing bug-resistant varieties. For instance, if you are continually dealing with squash bugs on your squash vines, “Royal Acorn” and “Butternut” are two varieties of winter squash that are known to be more resistant to bugs. If Colorado potato beetles are always decimating your potato crop, try the potato variety “King Harry.” Its leaves are full of little hairs that the beetles don’t like. You’ll have to do some research, but most vegetables can be found in pest and disease resistant varieties.

5. Encourage Beneficial Bugs to Hang Around

Not all insects are bad for your garden. Bugs like hoverflies, damsel bugs, parasitic wasps, pirate bugs, lacewings, and ladybugs will eat the bad bugs and use them to feed their own young. While they won’t completely get rid of every bad bug in your garden, they will keep their numbers to a minimum. One of the most important thing to remember is that even organic sprays will kill beneficial bugs as well as the bad guys, so to take advantage of the beneficials, you need to avoid sprays entirely. The good bugs will also need to have some of the bad bugs hanging around so that they have something to eat. To attract more beneficial bugs to your garden, do some research to find out what their favorite food sources are.

6. Rotate Your Crops

Another effective way to confuse pests is to rotate your crops. Try to wait at least two years before planting crops from the same family in a specific part of your garden. Crop rotation has other benefits, too, like improving soil fertility. This technique is especially effective against soil born pests because they won’t be able to find their host plant so quickly when they hatch in the spring.

7. Trap and Deter Snails and Slugs

Slugs and snails are among the most annoying of garden pests. You must look very carefully, or you won’t even know they’re hanging around. To make matters worse, they come out to feed at night when you aren’t likely to see them. Coffee grounds and copper are the best way to deter them. You can also make your own slug traps by placing shallow containers of beer or grape juice around your plants.

8. Make Your Own Pest Repelling Sprays

You can find lots of great recipes for organic bug-repelling sprays online. They usually have pest repelling ingredients like garlic, hot peppers, or essential oils. These sprays can be useful for repelling everything from insects to rabbits. Just remember that these sprays will repel the good bugs and pollinators, too.

9. Kill Pests with Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a powder that contains a mineral called silica. If it’s used correctly, it is entirely safe for you and your pets. It kills soft-bodied insects, like slugs, snails, ants, earwigs, and silverfish, by cutting their outer shells so that they dehydrate and die. When applying it to your garden, sprinkle a light layer on the ground or directly on the affected plants. You only need a little bit, but you will need to reapply every time it rains because it only works when it’s dry. Always wear a mask when applying DE because it can be harmful if you inhale it. You will probably want to use DE as a last resort since it will also kill the good bugs along with the bad.

There are lots of ways to deter pests in your garden that don’t require dangerous chemicals. Using natural methods to keep their numbers to a minimum is the key to having a beautiful, productive garden.

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