By Sommer Cartier.
Summer is here, and with it, those heat loving garden pests – and lots of them. When faced with a spider mite pandemic on the tomatoes or a slug infestation in the strawberries, gardeners can easily become overwhelmed and turn to more toxic conventional pesticides to address these issues. However, there are a number of safe, effective and environmentally friendly options for treating pesky insects. Many of these can be made with materials you already have lying around the house. Below are a few DIY pest hacks to get you started.
Keep away those pesky slugs with a little beer and some upcycled yogurt or tuna fish containers. For those of age, this is perhaps the most enjoyable hack to implement in your garden. Just crack open a beer and share some with your garden slugs. Slugs LOVE beer – they can’t resist the yeast. This nifty hack also serves as an exercise in reducing household waste. Pour a little beer into a shallow container and bury it near your plants, leaving roughly 1 inch above the soil. By morning, you will find the slugs have fallen in and drown while trying to access the beer. Humans aren’t the only creatures with a thirst for this irresistible beverage. Be sure to replace the beer every 3 days until the problem has resolved.
Cutworms are an absolute nuisance in the garden. They take down perfectly healthy seedlings in a very short period by chewing the base of the stem near the soil line. Within a matter of hours they can completely devastate a young seedling. What’s even more frustrating is they feed at night, making them hard to manage. Nothing is more demoralizing than nurturing a young plant from seed, only to wake one morning and find it completely destroyed by cutworms. Lucky for gardeners, there is a simple hack to address these tiny but mighty pests. A very basic but effective cutworm collar can be fashioned from an everyday toilet paper roll or paper towel tube. Simply cut them into three-inch lengths and place them around the seedling, taking care not to break the delicate stem. Once you have the collar safely over the plant, provide support by pushing it roughly half an inch into the soil. Within a couple weeks, the tubes will begin to break down in the garden. No problem. By this time your seedlings will be much larger and able to withstand any assault by a cutworm. Crises averted.
Crushed eggshells are a simple and effective method for organic pest management. They can prevent several garden pests, including beetles, slugs and worms, from destroying veggie plants. Simply crush up empty dried eggshells and spread them over the soil around the plants. The sharp jagged edges will act as a barrier and bring harm to those who attempt to crawl through it. As an added bonus, the eggshells will nourish the plants as they slowly decompose, releasing calcium into the soil.
Insecticidal Soap: Insecticidal soap can be very effective in killing harmful soft body insects like mites, aphids, thrips and white flies. The fatty acids in the soap dissolve the insects' exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die. This is a popular remedy among gardeners given it is convenient, affordable, and more eco-friendly than many alternatives. To make the solution, mix 1 tablespoon of soap per quart of water, or 4 to 5 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water. Place the solution in a spray bottle and make sure to evenly coat infected plants from top to bottom and under leaves. The solution must cover the insects for it to be effective.
Given how accessible the required materials are, the above DIY hacks are incredibly convenient and affordable for any gardener looking to up their game in the garden. They are also among the safest to use and are natural products that are non-toxic to animals, birds, and humans who plan to eat from the garden.
Sommer Cartier is a certified Master Gardener with a Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change. Her specialty is working with local food systems and using gardens as a tool for community engagement.