Let’s talk for a minute about outdoor pests. There are a lot of them. Some of them are small, some of them are large. Some bite, others sting, and some just make a mess. At the end of the day, a pest is called a pest because we don’t want it around. There are lots of chemical options out there for the myriad of pests in your yard, but what if I told you they just aren’t necessary. Are you ready to learn about the all-natural methods that we use with great success?
Oh goodie, because I would love to teach you!
For starters, we are always working on our soil health. Healthy soil = healthy ecosystem = healthy plants = healthy food in our tummies. We don’t use fertilizer in our garden; we just don’t find it to be necessary. What we do instead is apply a healthy layer of compost at the start of each season. As far as we are concerned, there is no better source of nutrients. This year we are also going to experiment with cover crops, or more specifically finding the best one for our garden. Cover crops can be a huge help in deterring weeds, and more importantly, help to add organic matter and nitrogen to the soil, getting it ready for the next round of planting. If you would like to learn more, this is a great resource
Next up, we keep a small selection of multi-purpose options ready to go for when the need might arise. There are hundreds of options on the internet for all manner of garden pest management, but for me, I can’t over complicate things. Over complication is when I fall into a research pit for every bug or weed I find. What is it? What do I need to do? What is the best method? Next thing I know it’s 3 days later and the plant has been annihilated. No good.
So here is what is on our super simplified garden shelf:
Fungus spray – There always seems to be one plant in the garden that gets hit by a fungus of some form or another. This year, it was our zucchini with powdery mildew. Regardless of the fungus, we always tackle it with Melaleuca oil, which is known for its purifying abilities. I keep a 16oz jar with 30-40 drops of Melaleuca added on hand at all times. At the first sign of an issue, I shake it up and spray away. Melaleuca can cause photosensitivity, so when possible I will spray only the stems and soil. If I really need to spray the leaves, I will shade the plant for day or so after application. I also use this spray if I am reusing a pot that held a potentially sick plant, spraying the pot and letting it dry on its own. Same goes with any tools I may have used on any infected plants, because we don’t need to spread that kind of love around.
Weed killer – A lot of people don’t know this, but vinegar makes an excellent all-purpose herbicide. It is not selective, so watch where you spray it, as basically nothing is safe. For most weeds, I tend to just pull them out, but when it comes to the driveway or sidewalk, a weed spray is super helpful. I buy a 1-gallon jug of vinegar and add 2tbsp dish soap, and about half a bottle of clove oil. I transfer this mix to a spray bottle as needed for garden application. The dish soap in this recipe does not have any direct impact on the weeds, but rather helps the rest of the ingredients to adhere to the plant. The acidity of the vinegar damages the leaves, causing them to dry up. At the same time, the clove oil causes damage to the cell membranes. This combination results in dried up and dead leaves within a few days. Sometimes I will spray a couple of days in a row if I don’t see much progress. Now, this spray will not kill the weed roots, so if you have a well-established weed you may want to dig it out. What this spray is really effective on is young weeds, before they have had a chance to build up stores of nutrients that could allow them to regrow after being sprayed. And it’s 1000 times better than Roundup when it comes to the health of your soil, the surrounding plants, and ultimately yourself.
All-purpose insect spray – When it comes to insects, this spray tends to take care of them all. I am, however, careful with spraying it, to minimize affecting the beneficial insects in our garden. I start with a 16oz spray bottle, and add 10 drops each of rosemary, peppermint, thyme, and TerraShield, all of which are known for their insect deterring properties. I then top up the bottle with water, give it a shake, and spray away. This spray is also effective against ants and spiders, and totally safe to use in the house. For planters and pots, I will spray the edges to keep pests from crawling in.
Slug Spray – When we are battling a slug problem in the garden I take a two-fold approach. I start by using my slug spray, which is 10-15 drops of Cedarwood oil in a 160z spray bottle filled with water. I spray the soil in the garden to help deter them. Next I put out shallow bowls filled with beer. Yup, beer. The slugs are attracted to the beer, crawl in, get drunk, and drown. I will go out every morning to empty and refill the bowls. Sometimes it’s saddening to see how many slugs are in the bowls, so prepare yourself for that if the infestation is extreme. I remove the bowls once we have gone 2 days with no new casualties.
Pollinator attractor – So this isn’t to combat a garden pest, but it lives on the same shelf, so I am going to mention it. I have an empty 15mL oil bottle that has been refilled with roughly equal proportions of lavender, wild orange, and rosemary oils. When a plant is ready for pollinating, I will add a couple of drops of the blend to fabric strips and tie them near the plants. Butterflies and bees love the smell and come a callin’.
So there you have it, 5 bottles of all-natural and safe products are the only ‘chemicals’ we use to keep our garden happy, healthy, and producing. They take me only minutes to prepare and cost only pennies per bottle. Most importantly, I have ZERO concern about their safety on our food, or even with allowing the kids to help in spraying them. There really is no downside.
If you would like to learn more about other measures we take to improve our garden health, please give this a read. Or, if you want to learn more about how else we use essential oils, please reach out. I would love to hear from you!
Sending dirt covered hugs from our garden to yours!