Natural Techniques to Keep Pests Out of Your Garden

Keeping pests- insects, pets, wild animals- out of your garden can be hard work, especially if you don't want to use harsh, expensive insecticides. There are plenty of no-fuss solutions that can often be found in your cupboards. When facing an invasion, try some of these low-key natural gardening tips before reaching for an abrasive chemical.

Cats often like to use gardens as their own personal playgrounds and/or litter boxes. For a non-chemical approach, try planting some catnip in special area just for them. Or plant a Ruta graveolens, commonly known as "rue" or "herb-of-grace". Dried rue is a great pest repellent, so this is an excellent plant to have on hand. This pretty plant has a unique odor that is a universal deterrent to cats. Black or cayenne pepper, mothball flakes, and borax soap can also be sprinkled around the garden to help keep cats out.
If you want to keep cats from using your garden as a litter box, try using chicken fertilizer or orange peels and coffee grounds worked into the top layer of soil. For an inexpensive, chemical approach mix ¼ cup shampoo, ¼ cup of disinfectant (such as Lysol© ) with two gallons warm water and spray over the area.

Another good idea is to cover newly planted beds with chicken wire so the kitties cannot dig them up. Use this method with one or more of the others and your cat problem should be solved!

Man's best friend can often be quite a nuisance in the garden! There are several commercial repellents available on the market, and the majority of them use the chemical components of moth balls or a citric base- ingredients you probably have at home. To make your own chemical dog repellent, mix moth crystals OR dried/crushed lemon or grapefruit rind mixed equally with rue (see cat section) and chili powder.

For something a little stronger, try this cayenne pepper spray: 2 tbs. hot sauce, 2 teaspoon. Cayenne pepper, 1 onion (chopped), 1 whole garlic (crushed), 1 quart of boiling water. Allow to steep 3-5 hours, and then use in problem areas.

Make your own ant bait with 1 tbsp of yeast, 2 tbsp of sugar and 1 pint of water. Spread onto cardboard and place in hot spots around your yard. You can also place piles of grits or corn meal in and around the ant hills. Once eaten, the food expands inside the ant- not very nice, but it's quick and effecitive. Mint is also a good natural deterrent, making it a great addition to any garden.

If you're being invaded by slugs, it is probably because you water in the evening- slugs are most active at night and the love water. Just avoid watering in the evening, and it will cut the slug assault in half.
The quickest method of dealing with slugs is to sprinkle them with salt- a bit cruel, but it works. Beer traps also work well: bury a shallow, wide-mouthed jar up to it's neck near the garden. The slugs will crawl in and drown. There are also things you can use right in the garden to deter slugs, such as seaweed, lava rock, and coffee grounds. Seaweed is great for the soil and is a natural slug repellent- pile 3-5 inches around plants or perimeter of garden. It is very salty, so make sure the seaweed is not in direct contact with plant stems.

Rabbits and Mice:
Rabbits can quickly destroy a gardener's hard work, and mice can be quite a problem in vegetable gardens. Try mixing 5 tbs. of cayenne pepper (or use a bottle of hot pepper sauce) with a gallon of water and 1 tsp. of dishwashing detergent. Spray plants thoroughly. Mothballs also work great- place in an old butter tub, poke holes in lid, and place under plants around garden. You could even bury the tubs and cover lightly with dirt to keep kids and pets out.

Deer will eat just about anything- plants, veggies, they like it all. While there are a few plants deer won't ear, it often varies from area to area. The best bet is deter the animals from the garden in the first place. The most obvious choice is a fence- make sure it extends partly underground and doesn't have gaps larger than six inches. Believe it or not, some deer can climb fences- so a tall, all-around fence is the best solution.

There are several natural deer deterrents, with the effectiveness varying on how quickly the deer in your area adjust to them. Try one or two techniques at a time and be prepared to get creative! Some frequent items used: mothballs, hair (human), dead fish heads, garlic, blood meal, soap, and fabric softener. Hang in bags of cheesecloth (or old pantyhose) around the garden. Lights, sprinklers, noisemakers, and flags can also be used. If all else fails, try planting some deer-favorites (azalea, daylily, tulip, beans, lettuce, etc.) in another, smaller area just for the deer.
As you can see, there are plenty of save, effective pest-control methods that can be made with little money or skill. While your garden will never be completely pest-proof, using these old-fashioned, no-tech approaches can make your garden a little less inviting to predators!