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 How to Effectively Keep Pests Away from an Organic Vegetable Garden

Every organic garden suffers from pests at one time or another. Usually, this is a minor annoyance, with most of the damage being cosmetic. Sometimes, though, you can struggle with a pest incursion. This can be difficult for the novice organic gardener, who may be tempted to go back to conventional methods. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe, practical organic approaches to pest control.

1: Select plants for pest resistance

Some plants are naturally more resistant to pests.  Garlic, leeks, and onions are highly pest resistant. Some root vegetables like radishes are resistant to insects, although slugs and snails will still eat them. Rhubarb is naturally pest-resistant due to the high levels of oxalic acid it contains. There are also specific strains of certain vegetables that have been bred to resist the bugs and other creatures that tend to eat them. For example, the King Harry potato has been bred to have hairy leaves that discourage potato bug infestations.

2: Practice intercropping and companion planting

Companion planting is the practice of putting specific plants alongside each other to promote healthy growth. In the case of pest control, you should consider companion planting with species that can repel pests. Garlic is excellent for this; planting garlic here and there among your other vegetables can reduce the number of pests in your garden.

Intercropping involves planting different crops next to each other. This avoids monocultures, which can encourage pests. If a pest can't find the right species to settle on, it can't begin an infestation.

3: Use physical defenses

Pest control doesn't have to be chemical. You can protect your plants from insects, slugs, snails, and birds using physical barriers.

  • Nets: These are great if your problem is birds or small animals nibbling on your garden. Choose a mesh that's small enough to stop birds from sticking their heads through the holes.
  • Cloches: These are coverings made from glass, plexiglass, or transparent plastic sheets. They're designed to act like mini-greenhouses. Not only can cloches effectively protect your plants from insects, slugs, and snails, but they can also keep them insulated against cold snaps. You can buy ready-made cloches or make your own from inexpensive materials. For individual plants, you can make small cloches from a cut-down plastic bottle. Be sure that there are no gaps along the bottom of the cloche.
  • Floating row covers: These are made from lightweight fabrics rather than plastic sheeting. They allow air in and out and also let in enough light for your plants to photosynthesize. They may be held up by stakes or hoops, but sometimes you can drape them over your plants. Hold the edges of the fabric down with pegs or rocks to keep pests from sneaking underneath.
  • Copper wire and crushed eggshells: If your problem is damage by slugs and snails, you may need a different approach. Placing copper wire or strips along the ground can deter snails and slugs from attacking your plants. Crushed eggshells are also hard for slugs or snails to crawl over. 

4: Keep your plants healthy

Plants have a surprising range of defenses against pests. They can produce substances that discourage insects from moving in and keep infestations at bay. Adequately watered, well-fertilized plants are better at fending off predators.

5: Encourage beneficial insects

Pollinators are essential, but don't neglect other beneficial insects in your organic garden. Ladybugs, lacewings and other beneficial insects help keep down pests, eating greenfly and other bugs that you don't want. Avoid trying to introduce these artificially. Instead, attract helpful insects by planting flowers they can feed on. These include sunflowers, alyssum, angelica, and other flowers that have a flat shape and plentiful nectar.

If you're still struggling with pests in your organic garden, EARTH'S ALLY Insect Control is OMRI Listed® for use in organic gardening. It kills and repels spider mites, aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, leaf rollers and scale with a unique blend of rosemary, clove and peppermint oils. The essential oil formulation leaves no harmful residues and is safe for use around People, Pets & Planet.

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