Gardening can be a great way to save money and eat the freshest food available, but it can also come with its fair share of frustrations. From pests to proper watering… there are a lot of factors involved, especially if you are using organic methods to avoid chemicals.
Fortunately, the healthiest approach can be the easiest with a little preparation and research. Companion planting, proper spacing and natural methods of disease and pest control can ensure healthy production without the need for chemicals.
Some plants have natural properties that help others grow and deter pests when planted close by. Making use of these natural properties is a way to increase production in the garden and fit more plants into a smaller space. The following are a few popular companion plants:
- Basil planted with tomato improves production and flavor. Basil is also good for peppers and has been said to repel mosquitoes. I plant basil throughout the garden for its aroma and beneficial properties.
- Borage is a great companion for tomatoes and cabbage as it repels both tomato horn worm and cabbage moths. It also helps strawberries and is beneficial to practically everything in the garden. I plant throughout.
- Chamomile is a great companion for cabbage, cucumbers, onions and all the brassicas. It improves flavor and is a great herb to have on hand. It attracts beneficial insects and has delicate and beautiful flowers.
- Dill is also great planted with cabbages, cucumbers lettuce and more. It improves flavor, helps repel pests, and is useful in making homemade pickles! It can get pretty big so I plant in the middle of cucumber beds. Don’t plant with tomatoes!
- Catnip is another great herb to grow and have on hand. Planted near squash and cucumbers it will repel squash bugs and aphids. The dried leaves can be steeped into a tea to help sooth the stomach, and can double as a pest control spray for many plants.
- Radishes can be planted throughout the garden and under plants like cucumbers to deter cucumber beetles.
- Marigolds planted throughout the garden help prevent nematodes and repel pests. They will flower all summer as long as you keep pulling the dead flowers off.
- Nasturtiums are also great companion flowers to tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and more. The flowers are edible and can be added to salads. They benefit melons and squashes as well.
- Onions can be planted freely throughout the garden but help keep pests away from cabbages, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, cucumbers and more. Intercropping a few with all of these plants can greatly reduce garden pests.
- Sunflowers are great companions and beautiful throughout the garden. Plant with Cucumbers, beans, and vining plants to provide a trellis. They are hardy and a great trap crop for aphids and other pests. They typically produce plenty of their own seeds to use next year.
There are many other great companion plants. Check out this chart for some other ideas.
Natural Pest Control Options
Companion planting is helpful, but if you’ve already planted and are having trouble with pests, some other natural solutions can be helpful:
- A tea or solution made from powdered Kelp will help deter Japanese Beetles and Aphids and is also nourishing to plants. Spray on once a week or so before and during infestation times.
- A garlic and hot pepper spray (see recipe below) repels many garden insects and wildlife pests. It is probably the most inexpensive option to make at home and isn’t harmful to you while applying. Use once a week or more for several weeks before and during infestation times.
- A tea made with lemon Balm repels squash bugs and aphids. Apply 2 or more times a week as needed.
- A solution of several teaspoons of Baking Soda dissolved in water can help prevent and treat fungus and powdery mildew on plants. Use as a preventative and acute treatment as needed.
- Powdered Diatomaceous Earth is a good all purpose insect prevention and treatment for any insect pest, though it kills indiscriminately, so use carefully. I use mainly if I see larvae of any insect on plants, as it is especially effective on these. Has to be re-applied after watering or rain. Just sprinkle on plants as needed. [note: if you buy food grade DE it can also be used for indoor pests like ants and even as an internal cleanse for parasites in humans and animals]
- Neem sprays are an increasingly popular pest control option and are available in many stores now.
Natural Hot Pepper Garden Spray Recipe
- 2-4 Cloves of Garlic
- At least 4 hot cayenne (or hotter) peppers
- 2 Tablespoons of vegetable or other oil
- 1 Tablespoon Liquid Castille Soap like Dr. Bronners
- 2-3 cups hot water
- Blender (I use my Vitamix)
- Towel, strainer, or cheesecloth
- Put garlic, peppers, oil, soap and water in a blender and blend on high for several minutes.
- Leave in a bowl or pitcher overnight or for at least 12 hours to intensify the effects of the garlic and peppers.
- Strain through towel, cheesecloth or strainer and store in a glass jar
- To use, pour about 2 TBSP in a 16 ounce spray bottle (or 3 TBSP in a 24 ounce) and shake well.
- Spray directly on plants as needed… I recommend wearing gloves!
- Can be used as often as needed for preventative and pest controlling effects.
There are some great natural options for fertilizers. Good planning and companion planting can go a long way to good yield, but if you are starting with poor soil, some fertilizer supplementation may be needed.
- Kelp tea is a great foliar spray that nourishes plants when sprayed on the leaves (just don’t spray during the heat of the day). Sprinkling powdered kelp around plants can also have a nourishing effect.
- Nettle Tea is another nourishing option and dried Nettle leaf can be added to supplement the soil and sleep composting if you compost kitchen scraps or leaves.
- Yarrow flowers can be made into a tea or liquid mixture and used to water plants for extra nutrients. You can also just sprinkle yarrow flowers throughout the garden and they are said to have a pest repelling effect also.
- Fish Emulsion is a natural fertilizer that can be sprayed on the leaves of plants to help promote growth. It is especially good for Tomatoes. It smells awful but if very effective.
- Bone and Blood Meal are high in nitrogen and can be very fertilizing to plants but are also somewhat controversial since they are animal products. Organic options are available and can be great if you are comfortable using them.
Do you garden organically? What are your best tips and tricks for keeping pests at bay?