Just as people are rejecting chemical laden foods, so too are they wising up to the damage chemicals can cause in the garden, particularly if they have pets or young children. Luckily, it is possible to have a beautiful pest-free garden with these clever natural alternatives.
Slugs and cats hate coffee grounds so start by adding these to the soil around your plants. If you don’t drink ground coffee at home, ask your local coffee shop. Starbucks, for example, has a thorough recycling policy which includes the use of coffee grounds for compost. Coffee is excellent for acidic plants as it increases the acid and nitrogen content in the soil.
If you find coffee isn’t enough to repel your slugs add copper into the mix, either by wrapping copper tape or wire around your pots, or using garden copper wire to wrap around your plants. Encourage slugs away from your plants using simple slug traps made with citrus skins, or saucers of fruit juice or beer.
Essential oils have long been recognised for their health benefits and they are just as helpful in the garden. When sprayed regularly on plants they will deter aphids, ants, caterpillars, beetles, ticks, and other flying insects. A good all-round recipe is to add 10-15 drops of each peppermint, clove, rosemary, and thyme oils to a spray bottle with distilled water and shake.
Fungus can be treated with a tea-tree oil spray, though avoid spraying on leaves in direct sunlight. Citronella and lemon balm are fantastic for deterring midges, as are basil, rosemary, and lavender. Growing these in pots around your garden in areas you like to sit will help keep flying pests at bay.
You can help to control pests in vegetable gardens and on allotments with sensible planting. Ensure there is sufficient space between plants and that they get enough sunlight. Larger bugs can be picked off by hand, and you can use cloches, polytunnels, lightweight netting and polyester covers to help stop them getting to your plants in the first place. Raised beds work wonderfully with organic gardening. The high sides help protect the soil from being infiltrated by windblown weeds, as do weed mats.
Encourage friendly predators like ladybirds, lacewings, predatory mites and parasitic wasps to your garden as they eat many insects, and the eggs of insects, which cause damage to plants. You even can buy the eggs of such predatory creatures online and from some garden centres which you can then hatch directly into your garden or greenhouse.
However, remember that prevention is always better than treatment in your garden so keep your plants healthy to discourage pests. Pull out any weak looking or diseased plants and use good quality mulch to strengthen the rest. Be careful not to overwater plants as this can encourage fungus and mould to grow, and, where possible, try to direct the water towards the roots rather than onto the leaves.