Chemical-free ways to deal with garden pests

Sometimes, despite all your precautions, you'll need to give your plants a helping hand to get rid of garden pests. Wherever possible, try using one of these non-chemical methods.

Chemical-free ways to deal with garden pests

Using natural pest control

  • Use diversity as a strategy against plant pests. Avoid monocultures – instead, mix plants together to avoid providing pests with a banquet of their one favourite food.
  • Find out about companion planting. Combinations of certain plant varieties can help keep certain pests away from food plants. French marigolds (Tagetes species), for example, repel the nematodes (eel worms) that attack tomatoes.
  • Encourage beneficial insects such as predatory mites and spiders to your garden by avoiding the use of pesticides.
  • Attract insect-eating birds to your garden by planting native species.
  • Collect and dispose of infested, rotten and mummified fruit as it may harbour pest eggs.

Dealing with slugs and snails

  • One of the best ways to deal with snails and slugs is to walk around the garden with a flashlight at night, particularly after it has been raining, and squash any you see.
  • Eliminate rough, weedy areas, piles of rocks and rubbish. These are the places where snails and slugs shelter and breed.
  • Fill a shallow container with stale beer. The snails and slugs will be attracted to the beer and drown. Mixing a little flour with the beer makes it even more attractive.
  • Make traps out of grapefruit and oranges. For example, cut an orange in half, squeeze out all the juice and cut a little door large enough for a snail to go through. Or make a trap from a can filled with bran.
  • Snails and slugs dislike crossing rough surfaces. Put physical barriers – such as sawdust, garden-grade diatomaceous earth and eggshells – around plants.
  • Surround plants with copper strips. Copper reacts with the mucus secreted by slugs and snails, creating an electrical charge.

Dealing with ants

Most species of ant are harmless. However, smaller ants can infest pot plants, making air-filled chambers around the roots, which may affect plant growth.

  • To get rid of ants in pots, flood the container or place it in a tub of water. Take out the plant and remove the ant nest at the base. Repot the plant in fresh potting mix, and use clay feet or bricks to keep the pot off the ground.
  • Slowly pour boiling water into the nest. Or try sprinkling a mixture of equal parts of borax and icing sugar. (Store any leftovers in a child- and pet-proof container in a secure place.)
  • Smear grease or calendula jelly onto a metal strip padded with cloth and use it to encircle tree trunks or plant stems. This will stop ants from farming honeydew excreted by insects, such as scale and aphids.
  • Squirt ants with water and disturb places where ants are nesting. The workers will be less likely to return to the colony with food, and, in time, the colony will decrease.

Keep your garden beautiful and pest-free all summer without the dangers, or cost, of chemical pesticides.

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