My Method of Pest Control: Befriend the “Garden Pests”

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Most people see crows and squirrels as unwanted garden pests since they tend to eat up quite a bit of the garden.  When I recently read that squirrels eat up all the potential fruit crops, I felt bad trying to chase them away since they are so cute!  I debated covering everything with bird netting, but that seemed like it would be a huge pain to do.  I have always put peanuts out for the local scrub jays, but then I started noticing that one of the squirrels and a crow took a liking to the peanuts as well.

My cats had chased both the squirrel and the crow out of my vegetable beds enough times that they were starting to seem a little scared of eating my vegetables.  Once I started putting peanuts and a bird bath of fresh water for them, I noticed that the crow and the squirrel were not bothering anything in my garden anymore.  The cats can sleep in a little now each morning and not worry so much about chasing off the crow and the squirrel anymore. 🙂

The best unexpected bonus of befriending the crow and the squirrel:  they are actually helping me keep out other unwanted pests!  If you have read some of my other recent posts, you know that one of the neighbor’s cats has been causing a lot of trouble for me.  The other day I heard a lot of noise in the backyard early in the morning, and went out to see what was going on.  The crow and the squirrel were actually chasing the neighbor cat out of my yard. 🙂  I was so happy.  If that cat was not so aggressive toward my own cats, perhaps he would be welcome around here too.

On a side note, there were originally two squirrels living in our yard (a male and a female), but sadly the female recently got decapitated in our front yard by one of the local dogs (I am assuming that is how it happened anyway).  It was a pretty upsetting thing to find in my front yard garden.  Her “husband” was sitting nearby screeching little squirrel noises.  It was heartbreaking.  The cutest part is since that has happened, somehow the squirrel and the crow have become best friends and are now inseparable.  I have never been a big fan of crows, but this one is special. 🙂

My Methods of Organic Pest Control

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I have been gardening on and off since I was a kid and I had my first vegetable garden with my dad at our old house in Long Beach, CA.  Some places I’ve lived did not accommodate for much gardening, but I made do with a few potted plants, herbs in containers, etc.  The house where my husband and I lived last had a decent sized yard, but not nearly as big as our house now.  Since we have more space to work with here, it has brought some interesting bug prevention problems that I didn’t have to deal with in the past.  I also feel that since the yard was so neglected and overgrown for a while before we moved in, it created the perfect environment for bugs to go wild.  I have definitely had a lot more work with pest control here than I have ever dealt with in the past.

There are many theories and varying opinions about the best ways to deal with pest control in an organic garden.  I am not claiming that my methods are the perfect solution, but they are what has worked for me over the years.  Here is a list of all the methods I use!

1.  When it started to warm up here at this new house, I noticed that we were getting tons of mosquitoes coming into the house and the patio.  I have a theory that one of the neighbors must have a bucket of stagnant water around or something because there were more than I have ever seen in my life.  I can’t burn a citronella candle 24/7, so I found something even better.  I got a citronella plant (shown in the back in the teal vintage planter) and placed it on our patio table.  I haven’t seen any mosquitoes around since!

2.  Most people know that cedar lined closets deter moths, and I have found that cedar wood chips used as mulch have really been helping me keep pests away from my delicate plants.  Added bonus:  mulch always helps with water conservation by limiting the water evaporation from around the plant.

3.  I have been using Sluggo to get rid of slugs and snails in my garden for years.  It is approved for organic gardening, and I have had great results with it.  I sprinkle the little pellets around most of my plants, and have always seen a great reduction in snails and slugs when I do.

I have tried to “bury a cup of beer in your garden” method with horrible results, and I do not recommend it at all.  Not only did the beer attract a few snails, but it also attracted wasps in swarms.  It was not a good experiment, and now I only use Sluggo.  I do not recommend Sluggo Plus however since that version kills bees unfortunately.  Sluggo Plus also gets rid of earwigs (a.k.a. pincher bugs), but I have found better ways to safely get rid of those.

4.  When we moved in here, the planters in our patio were overrun with earwigs.  I noticed all of my artichoke plants were getting eaten to within an inch of their lives.  They were all hiding in the overgrown and dead ivy that was in one of the planters.  Trimming back the ivy and eliminating their hiding spot and breeding ground helped a lot.  I also started trying to train our cat Pearl to hunt the bugs, which also started to help.  The cedar mulch helped as well, but I think the thing that has helped the most is a mixture of about 1 tablespoon Ivory dish soap and water in a spray bottle.  I spray the affected plants in the early morning and late at night.  I have noticed very few holes in the leafy green plants since I started doing this.  No one wants to eat soap, not even bugs!  The dish soap is safe for organic gardening, and if you have to get a little on something you will eventually eat, it just rinses off. 🙂

5.  When I installed the raised beds in one area of my garden, I bought a lot of bags of rich organic planting soil.  The soil was so rich with nutrients that for some reason it started attracting a ton of ants.  I found where they were coming in, and poured some boiling water on them (being careful not to pour any on my plants in the area).  I then sprinkled the area with cinnamon, and after a few days, my ant problems were over!

6.  When we moved in, the existing roses had been suffering with some aphid problems.  I bought a container of ladybugs at the garden center, and the problem solved itself. 🙂  Added bonus: now I get to see cute ladybugs all over the garden!

7.  One of my favorite methods of pest prevention in my garden is the concept of companion planting.  Planting garlic near things like roses and lettuces deter pests with their strong odor.  One old time known favorite is basil near tomatoes.  I also plant marigolds near my eggplant, squash, and tomatoes since their scent also deters pests.  Added bonus:  marigold petals are a great addition to salads!  I highly recommend the book Soil Mates for more ideas on companion planting.  The concept also helps the plants flourish to their best ability by finding plants that work well together.

8.  My favorite means of pest prevention is employing the help of our cats and our dog.  They help me scare away the crows that are intent on raiding my garden, and cats are great for eating bugs.  I would love to have a couple of chickens to help eat the bugs around, but since I am allergic to eggs, my husband thinks that idea does not make much sense. 🙂

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9.  We are planning to start covering all of our fruit trees with bird netting to try to keep out the squirrels and birds from stealing all of our fruit.  The green netting was sold out at our local store, so we haven’t gotten around to it yet, but once we do, I will post an update!

I hope these tips help inspire you to grow your own chemical-free garden!  It isn’t as hard as most people think. 🙂

*A side note:  None of the products mentioned in this post (or any of my posts actually) are sponsors or have requested to be mentioned.  These are just honestly all of the products that I have found to be useful to me over the years.