Getting Rid Of Pesky Little Critters Naturally

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Spring brings growth and not all of it is of the plant kind and unfortunately the flush of growth in the garden sometimes isn’t a food source just for you…

We believe pests and their natural enemies should co-exist in a balanced, well managed garden, and only when that balance is tipped and you are facing an infestation problem should you then resort to something more intrusive like a spray. Though don’t get us wrong, if we spot a caterpillar eating a juicy leaf we could be eating, off to the birds it goes.

The first line of defense with pest control should be the health of your garden. Plants much like yourself, need optimum conditions to remain healthy and pests prey on the weak. If a plant is stressed, it will give off a signal which those pesky little critters can pick up on, and before you know it, there is plant carnage.

Secondly and we think as equally important is observation. If you are spending time in your garden daily you will notice if any unwanted visitors have moved in before they can do any major damage. We are in our garden every day, so we know if and when something is having more than their fair share.

Along with having a healthy and thriving garden it is ideal to plan for plant diversity, as this will attract the good guys (the pollinators and predators) and keep the pests from taking over. Herbs are great for this (e.g. Sage, Rosemary, Yarrow, Coriander and Dill), along with flowers like Marigold or Sunflowers.

But we know you are all probably thinking yes that is all nice, but what can I do if I want those damn caterpillars dead! Below is a rundown of some of the most common unwanted intruders and what you can do organically (as we all know chemical sprays are bad!).

Our most used method for ridding our garden of any unwanted visitor is by hand – we will throw them to the birds, squish them or cut any affected leaves/branches off if they are too badly damaged, but we there is nothing wrong with eating a leaf with a hole in it.

Caterpillars – This spray has dual uses. It a mineral spray for your plants and a repellent for caterpillars. Simply mix 1 Tablespoon of molasses and some liquid soap to 1 Litre of warm water. Add to a spray bottle and spray all over your plants on top of and underneath of the leaves. This will protect the leaves and encourage the current residents of your plants to move on. Reapply after rain.

Cutworms – These little beasties will come out at night and nibble your newly planted seedlings at the bottom of the stem. We had a whole row of new baby greens taken out by cutworms, so the hunt was on, out at night with a torch in hand to nab them in the act. Alternatively you could sprinkle cornmeal around your seedlings which the cutworms love to eat but can’t digest. They will overeat and (fortunately or unfortunately) die. If you have cutworms in your pots the easiest way to find them is to submerge your pot in water until they come to the surface of the soil for air then you can dispose of them… hopefully to a grateful magpie.

Aphids – If you can’t eliminate these by hand you can try using a strong spray of water to knock them off the plant or you can make a spray which will kill the aphids. Chop 2 onions, 1 head of garlic and 3 chillies add these to hot water and leave covered overnight. Add this mix to 2L of water and use as a spray. Be careful though as this is a general insecticide and will kill beneficial insects also.

Slugs and Snails – By using a spray of 1 part espresso (not instant) to 10 parts water and spraying it around the area being effected by slugs/snails they will absorb the caffeine and die… or if you want to take the ‘fair dinkum’ approach some stale beer in a deep saucer will attract them and they will drown.

Good luck and happy hunting!  

We would also love to hear if you have any heroic hunting tales or your own remedies to share.