Pests are the bane of every gardener’s life. They can be costly and time consuming to remove, but if you leave them then your garden will be destroyed. Every gardener will need some level of pest control in order to allow their plants to thrive.
It is much easier to implement an effective prevention plan than to try and remove pests once they have taken hold in your vegetable garden. Many people do not like to use pesticide sprays on their plants, particularly near vegetables that they are planning to consume.
Pesticides are designed to kill off insects, but this means that they can also kill off useful insects. They change the pH balance of your soil and can also kill helpful microbes that live in the soil. Some pesticides even leave a residue on the surface of your crops which can be toxic.
Promote a healthy soil balance
The best way to naturally control pests in a new vegetable garden is to be patient. Allow the soil’s ecosystem to readjust and the microbes to form some kind of balance. As the ecosystem begins to mature over time then you will see natural improvements with very little effort.
The natural microbes help to feed the plants and protect them from pests. If you begin spraying pesticides then the plants will not establish this natural defence and will become reliant on third party pesticides.
Opt for pest-resistant vegetables
There are many vegetables that are naturally resistant to pests. This is because they draw nutrients from the soil to sustain their overall health. This allows them to resist pests and survive well.
There are also many species of plants that have been genetically modified to be bug and disease repellant. These are hybrid plants, meaning that the seeds cannot be used the following year to regrow the crops.
Beans are a naturally pest-resistant vegetable and are a great, low maintenance crop to grow. Peas are also fairly insect repellant.
Some species of chard, including Fordhook Giant and Bright Lights Mixed, are naturally repellent to bugs. Chard is not a plant that really attracts bugs and is ready to harvest in as little as 60 days.
Location, location, location
When planting your vegetables, take into consideration what their optimal growth conditions are. Ensure the crops are planted in areas where they will get the right amount of sunlight. Take into account the water requirements of each plant.
Plant vegetables that need more hydration in areas where the soil remains damp longer. We also recommend planting crops with similar hydration requirements together.
Plant pest repellant companion plants
Borage and nasturtiums are great options to plant near to tomato plants. These will repel aphids and whiteflies that commonly infect tomato plants. Another common pest is hornworms - when you first see these you should spray a garlic, pepper, or onion spray on your tomato plants.
Plant hot peppers, radishes, and lemon balm near to squash plants. These will help to reduce the presence of aphids on your squash crops.
Rhubarb is a great plant to have near beans. This will repel any black flies that commonly attack bean plants. Sweet corn and melons will serve a similar purpose.
Petunia flowers are a great all-round insect repellant plant. Onions are also a good choice, as the strong aroma will deter any pests from feeding on your vegetable crops.
Rotate your crops
Frequently repositioning and rotating your vegetable crops will help to confuse any pests that are feeding on your garden. If you notice a specific vegetable becoming overwhelmed by pests it may be wise to rotate your crops.
Try to avoid planting crops in the same position within your garden for at least 2 years for optimal results.
Read up on interplanting
Interplanting is the practice of alternating crops within your garden. Bugs and other pests enjoy one continuous block of the same crop. If you plant vegetables, flowers, and herbs all in the same location then it can confuse the insects and lead to fewer overall pests.
Cover your vegetables
You can purchase equipment known as summer-weight row covers. These are pieces of material that are erected over the top of your crops to prevent pests from landing on the vegetables.
Summer-weight versions will allow any light and moisture from the environment to penetrate through to the vegetables while keeping pests out. You will need to use something heavy, such as garden rocks, to weigh down the sides and prevent the cover from flying away.
Deal with outbreaks early
The earlier that you notice and catch a pest outbreak, the higher chance you have of saving your crops. If you see a couple of heavily infested vegetables, we recommend removing them as soon as possible to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
It is a good idea to read up on the appearance of pests at all stages of their life cycles so that you know what to keep an eye out for.
What insect works as natural pest control?
Green lacewings and ladybirds both feed on aphids. This makes them an excellent natural form of pest control. Minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, and parasitic wasps are also natural forms of pest control for your garden.
They will feed on the parasitic insects and help to keep your vegetable garden in optimal health.
Soldier and carabid beetles are effective at controlling pests during the night time. Other good insects to reduce pests are braconid wasps, ground beetles, hover or Syrphid flies, spiders, tachinid flies, and trichogramma mini wasps.
All of these insects will feed on naturally occurring crop pests to keep your vegetables healthy and thriving.
To attract beneficial insects to your vegetable garden, you should plant some flowers that will draw them in. Their 3 main needs are shelter, pollen, and nectar. You should plant some sweet alyssum, coriander, and calendula plants.
As well as this, plant a border around your vegetable garden. This should consist of sunflowers, comfrey, and yarrow plants.