Organic gardening is becoming more and more popular, especially among those who care about the environment. Natural pest repellents are an integral part of this gardening style.
What is organic gardening?
Organic gardening is just gardening without the use of man-made chemicals. This gardening style is better for the planet and for the biodiversity in your local area. Click here to learn more about organic gardening.
Common garden pests
Aphids – also known as greenfly and blackfly – are little flies with pear-shaped bodies. With enough of them, aphids can cause significant damage to your plants. Plants that have been attacked by aphids tend to have curling, yellowing leaves. There is also often a clear, sticky layer of honeydew on the leaves
These sap-feeding bugs are hated in the gardening world, attacking both indoor and outdoor plants. They’re little bugs with a powdery white coating. Just like aphids, mealybugs leave behind a layer of honeydew which can lead to mould on leaves.
Slugs are one of the most familiar garden critters. They nibble on leaves and can cause a lot of visible damage. You can usually see their shiny trails around plants that they’ve damaged.
These insects get their name from their scale-like appearance. The females are hidden beneath domed scales, often appearing as small bumps on stems and the undersides of leaves. The males, however, are similar to small flies. They suck the sap from plants, leaving a coat of honeydew in their wake.
There are a lot of caterpillar species that might take an interest in your plant life. For example:
- Box caterpillars can remove all the foliage from a box plant.
- Cabbage moth caterpillars are yellow or brown-green and can burrow their way to the centre of a cabbage.
- Oak processionary caterpillars are notifiable pests that feed on oak leaves. They weaken oak trees and threaten human and animal health with their hairs which cause irritation and rashes.
The visible damage to your plants will depend on which species of caterpillar you’re dealing with.
The essentials of natural pest repellents
Beneficial insects act as a natural enemy to garden pests. There are two types of beneficial insects for pest control: predatory (which hunt other bugs) and parasitic. Predatory insects will naturally hunt common pests, helping to keep their populations low. For example, ladybirds are notorious aphid hunters. Parasitic insects use the pest as a host, ultimately killing them. Click here for our full article on specific beneficial insects for pest control.
There are a few methods of getting natural enemies into your garden. One way is to purchase insects like ladybirds, which some garden centres or online retailers will sell. You could also attract beneficial insects with natural methods such as planting nectar-rich flowering species – like calendula – to attract hoverflies and other predatory insects.
Companion planting is an excellent organic method of pest control. Mixing in different plants in a small area filters down the plants that a pest will find attractive. Put simply, pests will have to make their way through more plants to get to what they’re looking for. This makes it far less likely for the pests to end up on your plants in high numbers causing significant damage. Marigolds are a classic companion plant and are rich in nectar, making them likely to attract beneficial insects. Click here for our guide to boosting your vegetable garden with companion planting.
Using organic pesticides is a great way to actively do something about your pest problem without the use of man-made chemicals. Organic pesticides can either be bought or made. One example is a soap spray made up of roughly one teaspoon of mild liquid soap in a litre of water. Homemade sprays – and pesticides in general – should be applied in the cooler parts of the day.
Sprinkling some crushed eggshells around the base of your plant helps to deter slugs, snails, and other crawling pests. The eggshells act as a sharp barrier to protect your plants. They have the added benefit of being entirely organic and easy to access. Most of us use eggs in our day-to-day lives, so this method also reduces cooking waste.