I love gardens and am intrigued about all that goes on in them. Stopping to peer at plants is one of my favorite pastimes. An unfortunate delay in a day really if I’m meant to be heading somewhere or midway through a task! It depends on how you look at it. When you do have time to stay put for a wee while, with a cuppa in hand, you may notice the very still, tranquil landscape is a life and death war zone for many mini things. So many activities are happening in such a small, teeny tiny part of the world.

We are acutely aware as humans that we will live a cycle – born, alive and, fingers crossed getting on enjoying living life before the end our little blip of days in the universe. As we like to keep to our happy routines or exciting adventures without interruption, so too do many other lifeforms I’m sure.

Fortunately, we can provide an excellent environment for little critters to do their thing in the garden and for the most part, try not to interfere! A fan of David Attenborough, as most of us are, I can no longer look at a tiny bug without thinking twice “cringe…should I squish or let live?”  In my mind, it’s eyeballing me and asking why I decided to squish it out of its cycle of existence. EEEEEK!

So how do we go about controlling pests in the garden? Whether that’s keeping cats away from your yard, or stopping insects from eating everything. Fear not, there are lots of organic and homemade pest control options. One of many is using pest-repelling plants to deter too many from munching through your crop.

Marigolds in Lettuce

Marigolds are deterring critters from the lettuce leaves. See below more options for natural pest control including companion planting.

Where possible, I think it IS okay to try and create a garden of reasonable balance and try to deter rather than exterminate. As minimal Star Wars Death Star or Dalek style as possible, as it were (not always straightforward I might add). In saying this, as fascinated as I am to watch a little squiggle of a caterpillar grow into a big fat caterpillar, it does pose a slight problem – are we producing for nature and a bit for us or just enough for the bugs and sapsuckers? The less great news is unless you have an abundance of extra leaves for the masses you may have to do some pest management.

Rule number 1: Never spray anything on your herbs that could be dangerous for consumption. If you can, use as natural methods or products as possible, do so. You do want the bees to be happy, keep pollinating and so on.

Rule number 2: See if you can use plants to deter pests naturally. Sustainable Gardening Australia provides a great list of pest-repelling plants (including herbs).

Pests Who Hijack Your Herbalicious

Check out this awesomely comprehensive Dummies.com how to deal with pests table. It lists different pests, what they look like, what they do to the plant and what they prefer to eat. Thanks, Stee A Frowine from the National Gardening Association for smashing this one out!

Overgrown vegetable herb garden netting up

A slightly overgrown, but surviving, vegetable and herb garden. Often providing great rewards for my efforts, but also a beautiful paradise for creepy crawlies. I try to follow companion planting methods and create natural borders or distance between plants so if one does fall to some bug plague the others do not have the same fate.

A Tale Of The War With The Beloved Ants

Let face it, ants are great. Without them much would not soldier on. But I would instead like the ants to not harvest aphids on my herbs, sucking the sweet life out of the thing. One of our dear family friends ‘the surrogate nono’ i call him showed me how to tend to a kaffir lime and bay leaf tree lovingly. My lime had a few aphids on it, and the ants were harvesting it. He recommended a slow and steady overturning of each leaf to check who was lurking underneath and to rub/squash them with your hands (or gloves). For further prevention make sure the leaves aren’t touching other structures or plants where the ants can make a trail onto it.

If things get bad, you may find lots of ants and aphids all over the plant. Some mild soap mixed with cajun and water sprayed on the foliage and gently rubbed with a toothbrush will help alleviate the infestation. You could even squish bugs by massaging each leaf with your hand (preferably gloved). I guess this will bring you closer to your plant and also provide you with a very relaxing, meditative style mini-retreat in your garden!

Dwarf bay tree with ants and aphids

Ants are harvesting aphids on a bay leaf tree.

He also recommended some molasses or other slippery things for the stem, just a ring of it, to prevent the ants from crawling further up to the leaves. I haven’t needed to try that yet though I did make sure the leaves aren’t touching other plants. The same works with a bay leaf tree I discovered.

The kaffir lime is mature enough that it can cope with a leaf or two of sap-sucking as long as it doesn’t take over a considerable part of the tree. Which, of course, if left unattended it would most certainly occur. My only leeway for this is that I allow the ants a few days longer than I usually would do their harvesting thing, but as soon as they try and get too carried away, I do the cleaning up. I guess I’m still messing their system up, but I feel a little better know they had a bit of lime lusciousness for a short time? (cringe). Note: I end up washing down the one or two critical plants for my cooking on a weekly basis to keep on top of the ants. You can use pesticides, but then I’m afraid I’ll kill off the native bees that have been hanging around).

Tips For Pest Control

Here are just a few ideas from experience (my own or other more mature wise family friends!) as well as some tips off others I have found in my search for a healthy, balanced garden:

  • Fill a spray bottle with water, cajun pepper, and soap and lightly spray on leaves to deter pests
  • For an aphid problem, grab some kitchen gloves and gently scrub solution over plant including stem and leaves with a toothbrush – this is particularly good for smaller trees such as kaffir lime, lemon myrtle. If you have a vast aphid problem and it doesn’t seem to be clearing, consider removing most foliage from the plant and disposing of immediately, as long as the plant is sturdy enough it will regrow
  • Try Eco-Oil
  • For larger pests such as birds or possums, we have used netting and the next door neighbor’s dog as a deterrent (she loves to hang out in the sunshine on the verandah, so it’s win-win all round).
  • Homes to Love has a great tip about ‘inviting a possum for a cup of tea.’ Spray lapsang souchong onto plants, and apparently, they aren’t fans!
  • Earth Easy provides a whole range of natural solutions to pest control even detailing down to which pest will be deterred by which solution.
  • Companion planting. Healthy plants are much less likely to become riddled with pests, and many plants stimulate the growth of their fellow neighbors.

 

Jessica Meier

Jessica Meier

Garden fairy / mother of 2... also, I like to cook :)

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