You know the phrase an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? That applies tenfold to pests in the garden. Unfortunately when it comes to insects eating your garden plants, if you’ve noticed there’s a problem, you’re already in pretty deep. Follow these prevention methods early in the season to keep most problems at bay, and if you do find you have an insect issue, we're offering up some solutions as well.
Preventing insect infestations
Grow strong, healthy plants
Growing healthy plants starts with the soil, use plenty of compost and aged manure in your garden. Feed your plants with a side dressing of compost or fertilizer to keep them strong and able to fight off pests. Insects tend to gravitate toward stressed plants, so if you see a problem plant in your garden, pull it immediately and work toward preventing that issue in the rest of your garden.
Slugs and snails love to hide under pieces of wood and stones. Weeds and leaves are wonderful breeding ground for insects. Keep the garden clean and put down a thick layer of mulch around your plants to keep insects at bay.
Many garden pests overwinter in the soil and return in the spring to wreak havoc on your plants. Simply moving those plants to a new location every year will cut down drastically on insect issues. Plant your garden according to plant families and switch the location of each family every year to confuse garden pests.
Planting crops that are known to repel insects alongside crops that draw them in will help with keeping pest populations down. Many herbs and flowers are known to drive away pests, as well as garlic and onions. Do your research for the specific crops you’re growing to find companions that will help with insects troubles
Attract beneficial insects to the garden
Not all bugs are bad. There are many garden insects that will completely ignore your plants and instead feast on the pests that are plaguing you. Ladybugs, praying mantises, nematodes and lacewings are among some of your best gardening friends. If you were to spray the garden with pesticides, you would not only kill the bad bugs, but the good ones as well. Instead, work on attracting these beneficial insects to the garden.
You can do this by planting flower borders around your vegetable garden to provide a home for them. Many of these insects feed on nectar as adults, so plant a variety of flowers that will bloom at different points in the season. It’s especially important to get early bloomers in your garden so beneficial insects make a home there before garden pests become a problem.
You might also enjoy our post on attracting pollinators to your garden.
Insect infestation solutions
Each and every insect requires a totally different solution, so if you’re battling certain types of bugs, you’ll need to research what it takes to get rid of that specific problem. There are some blanket solutions that will help with a myriad of insect issues.
Floating row covers are used with great success to cut down on insect issues in large gardens. To keep out slugs and snails, a copper barrier can be placed around the garden, if they try to cross it they receive a shock. Toilet paper tubes can be placed around seedlings to prevent many insects from destroying the vulnerable crops.
There are plenty of commercial traps to capture insects. They vary by insect type and work well to control adult populations of insects. These can be used in combination with other efforts to control eggs and larva as well.
A simple beer trap can be used to attract and kill slugs in the garden. Simply pour beer into a shallow bowl and place it in the garden. If you have a slug problem, your bowl should be full of the little pests by morning.
Beneficial critters and insects
If you didn’t manage to attract the beneficial insects before you discovered you have an insect problem, you can purchase them online and release them into your garden to attack the issue. Ladybugs feast on aphids and can be purchased by the thousands. Fly predators can also be purchased online and will successfully eliminate your issue by eating fly larva.
Toads are very efficient insect hunters and a great friend for your garden. Give them some place to stay by setting up a toad house in your garden. A broken pot overturned in the garden will provide a cool home for your toad friends.
The problem with fighting off insects is, there are so many of them and every insect comes with its own specific prevention and solution. These tips will help with a wide range of insect issues, but if you have specific problems, research will guide you to the perfect solutions. The most important thing to remember is, work hardest on prevention and if that fails, research your way to a solution.