All-natural ways to protect food gardens from pests
Homeowners frequently enhance their outdoor living spaces with attractive plants and trees. When that greenery also produces food, the results can be both beauty and bounty.
People who plant vegetable gardens and fruit trees in their yards can be blessed with an abundance of fresh pickings once it's time to harvest. Many home gardeners may have visions of warm evenings pulling vegetables right out of the garden and tossing them on the grill or in salads. But insects and animals enjoy fresh produce just as people do. The joy of harvesting from a garden can be diminished when unwanted guests have gotten there first.
Homeowners can employ these all-natural strategies to protect their fruits and vegetables from lawn pests and critters.
Plant gardens in raised beds
Though they're not a fool-proof deterrent, raised beds can eliminate some garden infiltration by small critters that come up and under from the ground. A raised garden bed can deter rabbits, gophers, groundhogs, slugs, and some other crawling pests. Raised beds also are ergonomic and easily accessible.
Prepare homemade insecticide
The environmental information site Treehugger provides information on making a homemade insecticide from vegetable oil and mild soap. Use one cup of oil with one tablespoon of soap (such as Dr. Bronner's castile soap). Add this mixture to one quart of water in a spray bottle. This concoction can eradicate aphids, mites, thrips, and more by coating insects' bodies and effectively suffocating them. Soap-and-water sprays or even neem oil sprays work similarly.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth, commonly known as DE, is an abrasive powder comprised of fossilized algae diatoms. It's widely used as a filter medium in swimming pools and makes an effective pesticide. The material's abrasive and absorbent qualities draw moisture out of insects, essentially dehydrating them to death. DE can be sprinkled around the base of plants but will need to be reapplied after rain and watering.
Space out plants
One way to reduce insect or animal pest numbers is to ensure ample space between plants. Tightly planted crops create a breeding ground for fungal diseases and provide hiding spots and warmth for pests. Leaving room between plants can help avoid these issues.
Use row covers or garden mesh
Specialized covers and meshes protect fruit and vegetables against insects and animals. Many plants can be covered all year long as long as the covers are lifted during flowering if the crops depend on pollination by bees.
Interplant crops in the garden
Interplanting is a technique that involves alternating crops, herbs and flowers to confuse the pests, so they have a difficult time finding what they want to eat. Alternate rows of vegetables with herbs and flowers that appeal to beneficial insects.
Keeping pesky insects and animals from damaging food gardens can involve safe and natural techniques.