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Top Tips for Sustainable Gardening - Control Pests & Insects Naturally

Pests are just a pest when they start eating your much loved plants, flowers & vegetables. They are however living beings and as much as they are annoying to us, they're just doing what comes naturally to them to survive.

The biggest issue we have is the use of chemicals when trying to eradicate or deter these little critters. Chemicals on our plants and vegetables is never a good thing.

Ladybirds are essential to our gardens

You may think that as you're not going to eat your flowers, that it doesn't matter. The issue here though is the leakage of those chemicals into the soil. The chemicals affect or kill the insects in the soil, which impacts their ability to turn and improve our soil. Those insects are eaten by the birds or other mammals, which can in turn kill them. Then what happens if we use these chemicals on our vegetables? What about the pollinators that feed from the sprayed flowers? The impact of chemicals goes on and on...

Ultimately, spraying chemicals will mean that they end up in our water system. There is no getting away from it - using pesticides of any sort hurts us, animals, plants and the planet.

How can we control pests & insects naturally?

Companion Planting

Placing plants that deter certain insects is effective, natural and chemical free:

  • Plant French Marigolds next to beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn. Their strong smell deters greenfly and black fly

  • Plant garlic among vegetables to deter Japanese beetles, aphids & spider mites

  • Plant carrots & leeks next to each other. Carrots ward off leek moth and and Leeks ward off Carrot Fly. Perfect!

  • Planting Lupins, peas and beans around fruit trees will give you more fruit, as these plants store nitrogen in their roots

Plant Natives

Choosing plants that are native to your country or area means that they will thrive in local conditions. They are used to the climate and pests and won't need as much looking after as non-natives. Native plants also attract native predators.

Plant to Encourage Predators

Not all insects are pests, some are our best friends in the garden such as ladybirds, spiders and certain beetles. Encourage them into your garden by planting pollen and nectar producing plants and leaving areas of leaf litter/ compost heaps/ bug hotels undisturbed.

Encouraging Larger Predators

Birds, toads, frogs & Hedgehogs love to eat slugs and snails. Encourage them into your garden by providing an undisturbed area of water (even an old washing up bowl will do it), providing seed for birds or a bird box/ Hedgehog box. Chickens do a great job of eating slugs - but they also love to dig up all other sorts of plants and sunbathe in mud, which in itself can be a problem!

Create Barriers

Slugs and snails don't like sliding over anything rough. If you surround Hostas and other plants that they love to much on with gravel, grit or egg shells etc they won't be able to get to them so easily.

Create Diversions

Have you tried the open beer can in the flower bed? It certainly works for slugs. They can't resist the smell of the beer and merrily drown in it. Just be careful not to mistake it for a fresh one in the summer and take a sip!

Plant More

Do we just plant extra and accept that some of our plants and vegetables will inevitably become lunch for some insects? This one might just be the easiest approach and also cost us the least energy and frustration. We do share the planet, so maybe we should also share our plants?

Pick By Hand

Okay - you need a strong stomach for this one. I always try, but ultimately end up at best shuddering and walking away or at worst screaming and hopping about in disgust. It is a chemical free way though to control the pests. Washing off green and black fly works very well. Plucking off caterpillars makes a great feast for the birds. Going out at night with a bucket and torch (a la Grandpa Pig) will certainly bag you a good few slugs.

Slugs - not quite as dumb as they look!

I have always found slugs repellent. They are slimey and sometimes really big, ugly, dumb looking things. That was until I learned how clever they are. They roam about our gardens at night noticing how many other slimey slug trails they cross. If they don't cross many, that's their signal to reproduce. If they slime over a lot of other trails, they know there's a good population and there's no rush to produce more little critters. How can an insect be completely stupid and useless if it can do amazing things like this?

Any garden that is rich in biodiversity will encourage many varied insects and mammals, all of which will bring balance to the wildlife in your garden and control pests and insects naturally. I guess the answer here is for us to try and live together with nature, creating a beautiful, diverse garden that we can enjoy alongside the wildlife.

Do you have any chemical free methods to control pests and insects naturally? We would love to hear them and give them a go!

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As always, hoping you, your family & friends are safe and happy,

Keelly & Arianne xx

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