There’s nothing worse than taking the time and effort to put in beautiful flowerbeds and vegetable gardens, only to have bugs, squirrels, and other critters wreak havoc on your garden. The truth is, we are in their territory and, most of the time, they are just doing what comes naturally to them and don’t actually intend to cause any harm.
While it can be tempting (and effective) to use pesticides and other chemicals to control some of the more common invaders of our gardens, there are also lots of natural ways you can deter them too. Here are some of the better-known bugs and small animals that you may have seen nibbling away on your most prized plants, and simple solutions to keep them away.
We’ve all seen these smaller hard-backed beetles that have blueish-green heads and bodies in a reflective cooper colour. These insects are not picky eaters and will feed on just about anything, but their favourites tend to be roses, raspberries, beans, and grapes. They will eat the entire bodies of leaves, leaving just their skeletons behind.
What’s the easiest way to eradicate them? Well, handpicking is effective but requires a lot of patience. You can also make a solution of 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent, 1 cup of vegetable oil, 1 quart of water, and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol, shake well and put in a spray bottle. Test it out on a small leaf to make sure your plant doesn’t react to it. Once you’ve tried it out, spray it onto the entire plant for a great way to diminish these creepy-crawlers.
Because slugs are essentially snails without shells, they don’t have the protection a shell provides and therefore mostly hide during the day under rocks. Some green thumbs take slug-hunting very seriously and will traipse around their gardens at night with a flashlight to hand-pick slugs from their plants. But one of the best and easiest ways to take control of slugs is to make it difficult for them to reach the plants they damage in the first place.
Gardeners have used crushed eggshells (which are sharp and jagged), balls of wool (which are itchy), or copper wire around their plants so that there is an uncomfortable barrier that the slugs cannot cross. You can also build a slug trap. Put down two-by-four pieces of wood between your rows of plants in the evenings, and in the morning, flip the boards over and collect all the slugs that are stuck to them.
Squirrels are clever little critters who can make growing fruits and vegetables very challenging. If squirrels are eating your strawberries or tomatoes, for example, the funny thing is they don’t even like the taste of those fruits. They bite into them because they are thirsty. So, a great natural deterrent is to put out a water source for the squirrels that is placed away from the plants they are bothering.
Sometimes moving, brightly-coloured objects or things that make noise will frighten squirrels away – foil pie pans on stakes or small windmills that spin can work. Otherwise, a motion-activated sprinkler could be a practical way to spook them away from plants while watering your crops too.
It seems that the old adage about “mating like bunnies” is true because there have been more rabbit sightings in local neighbourhoods this summer than ever before. While adorable to observe as they hop along from lawn to lawn, they are also extremely detrimental to your grass. They like to eat greens right down to the root, which can cause extreme damage to lawns including bare patches.
A simple way to deter them from eating what they shouldn’t is by providing them with a bit of what they can eat. A small patch with greens like clover or lettuce can encourage them to get in their snack time there as opposed to on your lawn. They also prefer longer grasses to hide in, so keep a spot on the side of your yard unmowed and then they’ll have their own little getaway (away from your grass).
Groundhogs need a place to live before they start finding a place to eat. The first step to avoiding groundhog damage is closing off any areas where they can burrow, such as under a deck, garage, or shed (just be sure there aren’t any animals living there first). Then, the number-one defence against groundhogs is to build a mesh fence around your gardens to keep the animals out.