Every gardener has seen the day when they go to check on their veggies only to find that they’ve been chomped down to the stem or infested with tiny aphids. The battle seems endless and sometimes your plants must be removed because the damage is too much. However there are many different ways to prevent and mitigate your pest issues. At Revival Roots, we use only organic, people and pet safe products to mitigate most pest issues. For larger critters, we typically install a metal enclosure over the raised garden bed to prevent any critters from getting inside. Whatever the issue is, there’s always a solution to your problem!
Starting with the soil!
Many insects that infest your veggies start their lifecycle down in the soil. A top layer of sand, mulch, wood chips or even hay can be used to deter tiny bugs from getting into the soil and making a home for themselves to begin with. One of the best natural ways to control an insect issue stemming from the soil is to apply nematodes. These microscopic worms will protect your plant’s root system, and defend against many soil dwelling insects. While there are a myriad of ways to try and control insects in your soil, a lot depends on your garden’s environment. It’s always best to try a few different options to see which works best for your garden.
These nodules on a plant's roots are a sign that you may need beneficial nematodes.
Bugs on my plants!
If you have bugs like aphids on your veggies, the best approach is to thoroughly rinse them off with water and apply an organic pest spray. The bugs will be relentless but remember, persistence is key, keep applying an organic pest spray weekly until the issue is resolved. Most organic pest sprays can be used up to the day of the harvest. And of course it’s always smart to rinse your veggies after harvesting.
Check the underside of leaves for pests. They love to hang out on these protected areas.
Furry critters are cute, until they eat all your veggies.
Squirrels, rabbits, and mice - some people enjoy these garden creatures - others, not so much. After planting your vegetable garden, the worst case scenario is walking out the next day only to see a barren wasteland of vegetable stems and missing plants. While we always promote working with nature, sometimes you have to protect your crops. Trust me, at Revival Roots, we have tried everything to deter the larger animals and rodents that eat our veggies. From solar powered buzzers and lights - to organic sprays that smell of garlic, cinnamon, and cayenne. The only completely effective method is to cover and protect. We build enclosures to cover our crops; a simple wooden frame and metal mesh cage sits atop the garden beds to keep the larger pests out. For smaller seedlings, individual cloches can be used to keep the critters at bay. We also have to deal with subterranean critters such as moles and voles. So before we load our soil into the raised beds, we place a bottom liner of metal mesh to keep the tunneling pests out of the garden.
Vertebrate pests can cause a lot of damage in a short amount of time!
For the most part, these feathery friends are beneficial to your garden because most species are looking for a tasty insect snack. The little sparrow can trot around the soil and pick off caterpillars and dig for grubs. Larger birds may go in for a bigger snack like a grasshopper. But what happens when they are thirsty and start to eat your tomatoes and other juicy vegetables. Well the best way is to work with nature, create a bird fountain away from your garden to give them a drink after their insect snack. If the problems persist and they continue to peck at your valuable crop, you can drape a bird netting over the plants or you can apply what is known to farmers as “scare-tape” which is a shiny reflective tape that startles the birds away from your garden.
This kind of netting can protect ripening fruit from foraging birds, but should be removed after the fruit is harvested.
Like I said before, we love working with nature, and sometimes you can use beneficial insects to battle the bugs infesting your plants. Most can be purchased online and shipped directly to you or purchased at a well stocked garden supply store. We use everything from nematodes for soil dwelling pests, to Assassin Bugs for larger insects like flies and fungus gnats. My personal favorite are tiny wasps, specific for aphids. These tiny wasps fly around and lay their larvae in the aphids body, mummifying the aphids and allowing the wasps to reproduce and multiply in battling numbers. Most gardeners know the famed lady bug to be a promising beneficial insect. While they do eat quite a bit, after they have had their fill they can take off and abandon your garden. When using beneficial insects to control pests in your garden, you must do your research to find which species will thrive best in your garden’s environmental conditions.
Three different stages in a ladybug's lifecycle: nymph, pupa, and adult
Whatever pest issue you may be encountering, never give up. Try something different, the critters are smart but can be outwitted. Or do as we do, adopt two big dogs to scare anything and everything away.