I much prefer offering natural and sustainable solutions rather than a pointless list of negative things not to do. But this topic is something I am very passionate about and something new gardeners often get caught up in (including myself when I first started growing food many years ago). You will find my list of natural pest management remedies below 🙂
When you first start growing food you will get slugs and snails eating your new precious veggies and will want to INSTANTLY fix the situation. I see some newbie gardeners pour on huge amounts of snail bait to combat the hungry predators. This is POISON, not only will it kill the slugs and snails but is also deadly to cats and dogs. Now, if it can kill dogs, having it covering the soil and getting watered in and absorbed into the soil that your vegetable will feed on, especially those root vegetables, cannot be good for us.
If you’re reading this and thinking…I do this..you are not alone. It is something that has been a “norm” for way too long. But the first step you can take is safely throw out your poisonous slug bait. I would place it in something that animals can’t get into in case it crosses paths or they get into the bins. Even better, contact your local council to find the best way to safely dispose of it.
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There are plenty of ways to naturally combat pests and have safe and nontoxic vegetables for your family.
- Eggshells – Save your eggshells and dry in the oven on low. Then crush into small pieces and place in a jar. Sprinkle this around the base of your vegetables and the slugs and snails do not like the surface so will stay away. It also adds some beneficial calcium to your soil.
- Plant extras – Plant a few extra plants in different areas of your garden so that if one gets attacked you still have plenty 🙂
- Encourage beneficial insects – Plant diversity and flowers to create habitats and attract beneficial insects. You could even make an insect hotel using lots of different sized sticks and logs for them to live 🐞🐝
- Manually remove – Go out and check your garden and remove the pests by hand. I often do this when I am on the phone, its a great way to multitask.
- Beer Traps – Cheaper the better, there is no need to use up any fancy craft beer. Place little containers around your vegetable patch and this will capture the slugs and snails before they get to your precious veggies 🍺
- Coffee grounds – Often your workplace or local cafe will be throwing these out anyway. Sprinkle around the base. Only add a small amount as it will change the PH of the soil ☕️
- Companion Plants – Often very fragrant plants will repel pests. These are plants such as: Marigolds and Rosemary 🌼🌿
- Soapy Water – this is great for aphids. All my dishwashing liquid is non-toxic and greywater friendly so I just mix up some diluted in water and paint it on the new growth that is affected by aphids. This is the last resort though as it may harm beneficial insects too. Try and isolate the coverage.
- Chilli spray – Mix up some chilli powder in some water and spray on your affected plants. I have read crushed garlic as well but that is bad for dogs so I would avoid.
- Healthy Soil – growing healthy soil by composting and mulching helps keep your plants strong and healthy 💪 this means that if they do get bugs they can survive and thrive after an infestation.
- Sacrificial plants – Usually one plant will just get attacked and I just leave it. It usually means the bugs will only eat that plant and the rest will be fine! Sorry for that one plant but it’s feeding nature…🌿
- Chickens and ducks are also a great way to integrate natural pest management into your garden. Win-win 🐛🦆
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What about bigger pests? I planted starters in my garden for kale, lettuce, arugula, and chard, covered it with bird netting, within a week everything has been chewed down to the stalk. I believe it’s a rat since it is only happening at night. It rips a whole thru the netting and ate everything. How do you suggest I could combat that?
AWW no rats are no good. I haven’t had to deal with rats but I do have mice that eat seeds when I plant them. So I have to start my seeds inside until they are big enough. Maybe a metal barrier around the base could stop them from climbing up if it was high enough.