Growing a vegetable garden requires a lot of work, and pests are certainly not making it any easier. Keeping the bugs away from your salads while hunting rats and moles can challenge even the most patient of gardeners, which is why we’ve decided to share a few tips to do it a bit more easily.
1. Identify the pests
The first and most important part regarding any kind of warfare is knowing your enemy. There are dozens of different types of pests that can lay siege to your garden, and each type is vulnerable to different scents, traps, and elimination methods.
Aphids and springtails are very easy to deal with due to their flimsy bodies, but their numbers alone make them a considerable threat if you don’t react on time. Cabbage maggots are much bigger than aphids, but their natural camouflage makes them hard to spot. Cutworms are more recognizable and easier to handpick, but they mostly feed during nighttime.
Beetles are quickly revealed by their loud buzzing, but unlike most other insects, they can fly. Maggots are small and brittle, but they are typically underground.
Mammal-type pests are usually the biggest threats. Mice, rats, and moles are silent, they stick to the shadows and are actually pretty smart. Before deciding how to deal with any kind of infestation, you should first identify what type of pests you are dealing with.
2. Birds can handle multiple infestations at once
It’s also fairly common to see a garden infested by multiple types of pests. While larger insects will sometimes eat smaller ones, moles can eat the larger ones; the loop should have ended with the fittest predator, but that’s not always the case.
Namely, most garden pests are herbivores, which essentially means that they won’t be hostile towards one another. That being said, even if you knew exactly what kinds of insects are infesting your garden, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to get rid of them all before they swarm your vegetables.
Feathered birds, such as swallows, doves, rooks, and sparrows are experts at eliminating even the stealthiest insects, no matter how deep in the ground they may be hiding or how huge their numbers may be.
Some birds, especially larger ones, will also actively hunt rats and mice. However, rats are fairly cunning and will stay hidden during the day when birds feed.
In a nutshell, you should either buy pet birds or attract wild ones. The latter is obviously a bit more challenging, although it’s usually more cost-effective.
To attract feathered birds, all you need to do is provide a supply of freshwater (building a small outdoor fountain would do the trick) and have a clean spot where they could roost.
3. Prevent rodents from entering your home
Insects aren’t particularly smart when it comes to food, and they’ll simply dart towards your plants, almost completely disregarding the traps you may have set in advance. Rodents such as rats and mice, however, will do their best to infiltrate your home rather than sit exposed outside.
Even though they will be able to find enough food for a smaller group outdoors, they actually intend to settle in places they find attractive, which is where they’ll mate and breed, reaching huge numbers in very little time.
They’ll first scout the area to the best of their ability and won’t settle in unless they’re sure there’s enough food in store for their offspring. That’s why keeping your home sealed tight is absolutely mandatory if you want to be rid of your rodent problem for good.
Rats can enter tight crawlspaces and are able to efficiently navigate empty pipes and ductwork while mice are even smaller and can enter through tiny cracks between the walls and windows or doors.
They’ll also search for spots they can hide if they don’t manage to find a proper entry point, waiting until you open your doors/windows so they can try to slip inside.
4. Keep the garden tidy
Having a clear overview of your plants will allow you to scan the garden more frequently and more easily, which will, in turn, allow you to spot early signs of infestations quicker. Furthermore, most rodents will not find your garden as appealing in the first place; they’re more attracted to messy gardens, as they afford them more hiding spots.
Trim the leaves of plants that don’t necessarily need them and keep the grass short. This is the easiest way to prevent rodent infestations while keeping insects at a floor level where they can be handpicked.
In addition to keeping your garden organized, you should also do your best to keep the vegetables as healthy as possible. Plants with high vitality can fend off pests on their own through chemical secretion.
5. Keep beneficial insects in your garden
Most gardens house myriads of different insects, and you’ll want to keep the ones that are working in your favor. Insects that prey on herbivore bugs can make quick work of any growing infestation while reducing the chances of another one popping up in the future.
As most people already know, ladybugs are well-known for their beautiful appearance and their affinity towards eating aphids. Lacewings will eat pretty much any soft-bodied insect, although they’re most fond of caterpillars.
Even though spiders may be scary to have at home, they’re excellent pets to have in your vegetable garden. They can eliminate most insects while posing little threat to humans. However, if you notice wolf spiders, you may want to call exterminators, as these can be fairly hostile.
Ground beetles won’t touch your veggies, but they’ll nibble on every insect that comes near, including even smaller slugs. Praying Mantis is among the deadliest insect predators that will keep your garden clean of any pest, but they’re both dangerous and hostile towards humans in most cases. Keeping a couple of each will ensure that no pest will survive for long in your garden. Hopefully, this guide was useful to you and you have managed to learn something new today on how to keep your vegetable garden pest-free. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!
About the Author: Martin Miller is a veteran entomologist from Ithaca, New York. After graduating from Cornell University in his hometown, he collaborated with various professionals and colleagues in an effort to preserve endangered species of insects.
Photo by Jonathan Hanna on Unsplash
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