June 2020 – Gardening Among Pests

With most of us having a lot more time lately, we have taken to the gardens, some of us for the very first time. You have planted amazing symmetrical rows of veggies, flowers around the walk, or maybe even some fruit trees, only to wake up to slugs or pests chomping away, or the remnants of deer having their way with your perfect gardens.

When we took on our endeavor of forest farming, we were awakened to the vast array of pests that also wanted to indulge in the labour of love we poured into our garden beds and trees. It was an unfair ratio it seemed, as we were trying to cultivate a natural setting without being invasive, and in the process, we were inviting all of the pests and critters to enjoy our food! In this article we will discuss some of the most common pests; both large and small, and what you can do to protect your yards without the use of chemicals.

We often hear of companion planting, to maximize your space, regulate shade, suppress weeds or promote faster growth. Perhaps the best utilization of companion planting though, is its effectiveness in naturally deterring pests from your beloved plants.

One of the most annoying pests is the Cabbage Moth, which tends to attack cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, turnips and radishes. If you plant things like mint, hyssop, sage, dill, rosemary or oregano, you will offend them terribly and they will stay away! Thyme planted in your garden beds is the most effective for preventing them from laying eggs which result in Cabbage worms that will infest your plants and eat the leaves.

Aphids are also relentless at attacking fruits, vegetables and flowers, but some onions, garlic, dill, cilantro, nasturtiums, marigolds or tomato leaves nearby will discourage them. Leaf miners are notorious for eating up your spinach, but if you plant a row or two of garlic or radishes along your spinach bed, they will leave them alone. Slugs are one of the worst! Coming out and realizing your veggies have been slimed and eaten! For companion planting, rosemary, basil, fennel, lavender, garlic and/or parsley planted in amongst your veggies will deter them.

In rural areas like Fanny Bay, our gardens are vunerable to rabbits and deer if not fortified. But if you plan things out right and plant daffodils for when your seedlings are starting, or scented plants like hyssop, mint, bee balm, chives or garlic, they cannot stand the smell and most will just stay away. Or strategically place plants with fuzzy or hairy foliage like lamb’s ear, yarrow, comfrey or heliotrope, as they do not like the texture – keep in mind that mint, bee balm, yarrow and comfrey can also be invasive so best to have in a pot if you don’t want them to spread!

Another aspect of pest control in the garden is attracting bugs that will help you in the fight. This includes planting things like carrots, dill, yarrow and parsley to attract ladybugs, parasitic wasps and spiders that will dine on your insect pests. Many pests have simple solutions, like pill bugs (woodbugs) who just require their habitat to be eliminated by removing debris, leaves and weeds. I always like to use a coating of egg shells and diatomaceous earth around my plants as slugs, snails and worms hate to crawl over them. Leaf rollers who eat up fruits, beans and deciduous trees, really just need to be picked off and maintained (chickens are really good helpers for this one). You will never have a better apple than one from a tree with chickens under it! Everyone will figure out what works for them, it is all part of the process. 

With so much to know and learn, I hope this introduction helps some of the new gardeners out there. Although many natural remedies exist, companion planting to deter pests or attract extra help from ladybugs and spiders, is one of the oldest and most effective methods for chemical-free gardening.

Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild

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