Note from Naturally Loriel: Today’s resourceful post comes from Claire over at Bloom. I LOVE her knowledge in gardening and chickens. I love this post especially since I am having issues with pests in my garden… and I am sure you are too! She’s written some great topics on Naturally Loriel about gardening like this one about succession planting and this one about making chicken poop into fertilizer.
If you haven’t checked her out, you MUST check out this cherry tomato vinaigrette and this hilarious and relatable post called, “Chickens Should Come With Warning Labels.” I’m so excited to have you here again Claire — thanks for joining us!
I started gardening a few years ago and within the first couple months I was frustrated.
My large, beautiful cabbage plants were full of small green caterpillars. So was my broccoli. And, these caterpillars also covered the kale leaves.
While at a neighbor’s cookout that first summer, I was talking “garden” with an older woman who told me that she had been gardening for years. I told her about my hungry, little caterpillars and without hesitation she recommended a pesticide and told me where I could find it.
I was a rookie, so the next day I headed straight to the store to it pick up. I easily spotted the bottle, stocked in mass quantities in the front of the store. I grabbed a bottle and flipped it around to check out the directions for application.
Immediately, I was greeted with warnings and cautioning. “Do not use around children.” “Do not use around pets.” “Wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt and gloves while applying.” “Multiple days needed in-between application and harvest.”
Then, organic wasn’t my main goal. I just wanted to grow my own food and cut down on the fossil fuels used to get food to my table. I also wanted to use the land that I owned for something productive and to try to eat more seasonally.
But that bottle made organic my goal. I couldn’t imagine taking so much care to protect the outside of my body from this product, only to put it on food that I planned to put into my body.
Since then I have tried a handful of the natural pest control solutions for the many different pests I have encountered in the garden. Some are DIY, some are able to be purchased at a store and some require just plain old manual labor; however, all of these solutions offer a balance between the elements of the earth, my family’s health and controlling annoying- yet common- garden pests.
Rabbits and Deer
Every garden is full of living, growing, and delicious things.
Delicious to you… and, unfortunately for us gardeners, delicious to deer and rodents like rabbits.
Already this spring, I have dealt with a lot of munching on my sprouting cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprout plants. I believe that this current culprit is a rabbit. But every year that I have grown vegetables in my garden, deer have found their way to it as well.
The first time a deer wrecked havoc on my garden I was so upset. They chowed down on beautiful, large heads of romaine just one day before I planned to snip them for dinner.
Half joking, my husband, an avid hunter, offered to shoot it.
Half serious, I almost let him.
But instead, I found luck with Liquid Fence and have every season since.
Liquid Fence is a spray that is natural and safe for the environment. Predominate ingredients are rotten eggs and garlic. So be warned, it really stinks, especially when concentrated. But these are smells that deer and rabbits are sensitive to. The smell to humans doesn’t stick around, but it will continue to repel these pests even after rain.
I have read a few other tricks for repelling animals such as lining a garden with human hair, pinwheels to cause noise or to construct an actual fence using materials like chicken wire. (Fair warning: To keep deer out, this fence would have to be really tall.)
I am pretty positive that we built our home on the worlds largest thistle patch. They are everywhere from the grass to the landscaping, and, of course, in the garden.
Thistles are tough because they get huge and take space that vegetables desire in order to grow.
They are also tough because they are super hard to get rid of.
You can pull thistles, but you have to be careful and pull out the whole taproot. If the taproot rips, the weed will come back.
Instead, snip the thistle at the base. It will take a little while, but over time the plant will continue to be deprived of nutrients and no longer be able to live. For a preventative measure, always be sure to snip weeds like thistles, before they go to seed.
In place of a traditional herbicide, white vinegar works well in getting rid of weeds. The acid will kill the leaves and after multiple applications it will eventually kill the plant.
However, use caution when applying as vinegar does not know the difference between a weed or a plant that you want to grow. You will see many places, on Pinterest in particular, that suggest using spray bottles with vinegar on weeds. I prefer to use a foam craft brush to ensure direct application to the weed and to prevent accidentally spraying a vegetable plant.
Ahh, the hungry little caterpillar.
The green caterpillars I find on my broccoli, cabbage and kale are loopers. Loopers are tiny green worm-like bugs that blend into plants very well. Despite their small size, they can cause major destruction.
If I spot one, I pick it off and smush it. However, because of their color, they are really hard to spot. I often feel like my eyes are playing tricks on me when trying to find loopers because they blend in so well. (Note from Naturally Loriel: These little bastards have tore up my garden year after year and I swear it seems like every time I feed one to my chickens, they somehow multiply by 10!)
Because plain, old manual labor isn’t the easiest with loopers and how they typically lead to quite a bit of frustration, I have explored other solutions.
Bacillus Thuringiensis, or Bt, is sold as a spray or a powder. It is a safe, natural bacteria that controls caterpillars without harming helpful insects. Bt works best if it is applied later in the day as the sun can prevent it from activating and if stored properly it can last up to five years in concentrated solutions.
In addition to Bt, I am experimenting with food grade diatomaceous earth, or DE, for the first time this year. I have read that it works as a great insecticide for mites, slugs, ants, and earwigs. It works because it is comprised of microscopic sharp edges that can cut through a bug’s protective covering and cause them to dry out.
You want to use a bit of caution when applying DE to a garden because these sharp edges can be a skin irritant to humans. DE can be applied as a dust or when combined with water and works best when applied after a light rain so that the DE will stick to the plant.
Note: Be sure to read all instructions when working with any herbicide or pesticide.
Claire is a City Girl Transplant that now lives on eighty panoramic acres in the country and writes for Bloom. Bloom is a local food and backyard gardening blog full of recipes and humous realities of what life is like when you own chickens… and designer shoes. Through the sarcasm and the dirt, there is an underlyng theme of growth in every sense. Claire is a longtime foodie with a career in the food industry and a passion for wholesome, home cooked meals.