Chemical-Free Ways to Keep Weeds and Pests Out of Your Garden

Tuesday Jun 08th, 2021

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There are few things more rewarding than growing a garden. Whether it’s food to feed your family or beautiful flowers and foliage to adorn your backyard, the act of gardening can be very enjoyable and even therapeutic.

But what happens when destructive, intrusive, and uninvited guests show up? In an instant, pests and weeds can destroy all your hard work. Let’s explore the most common pests and weeds you’ll encounter in your garden and how you can ward off these unwanted garden invaders this summer—without using chemicals!

snails taking over a vegetable garden by eating all the leaves

Pesky pests

There’s something to be said about a healthy garden. Not only does it look nice, but it can help repel insects and plant diseases. Much like humans, if a plant is uncared for or stressed, it’s more likely to get sick, thus attracting pests such as slugs, aphids, cutworms, ants, earwigs, beetles, caterpillars, and other creepy crawlies. 

Some of these pests will only ruin the leaves of your plants, however, the more damaging pests, like wildlife, can take out an entire garden, literally eating the fruits of your labour. Naturally, they’re attracted to your garden as they see it as a food source. Rabbits, deer, squirrels, and birds are just some of the common animal pests that see your garden as their personal buffet, while the neighbourhood cats might treat your garden like a litterbox (yikes).

Here are some of the most common ways to deter those annoying pests and creatures:

Mix up your plants 

Rather than planting a single row of crops, mix everything up by companion planting. An array of scents and colours can easily confuse pests. Herbs can work double-time in a garden working to discourage pests and animals while providing you with flavourful seasonings. Mint, rosemary, fennel, basil, chives, lemongrass, lavender, garlic, and spicy peppers are excellent (and delicious) options.

Constantly harvest

Rather than harvesting from your garden once per week, try shorter, more frequent harvests. Fruits or vegetables that fall from the plant and sit on the ground are prime pest magnets. Not to mention, overripe fruit or vegetables that are still vine-intact can compromise the health of the entire plant.

Encourage beneficial insects, toads, frogs, and birds

This might sound counterintuitive, but inviting other insects and animals into your garden can help reduce the more damaging pests. Toads, frogs, ladybugs, wasps, and spiders all feast on pests that can potentially take down your garden. And let’s not forget about bees–without them, pollination would not occur.

rushed up eggshells on top of the soil in a garden

Spread deterrents

Spreading crushed eggshells, flour, beer, and salt among your plants can deter insects, slugs, snails, and animal pests. 

Put up a fence 

From chicken wire to chain-link, depending on the type of animal invader you’re dealing with, a fence is especially useful in keeping wildlife out of your garden. If only certain plants in your garden are falling victim to animal damage, consider placing a wire cloche over them to keep the chewing at bay.

Crazy for catnip

If the neighbourhood cat continues to do its business in your garden, try planting catnip in a small pot on your patio, away from the garden. They’ll be more attracted to what’s in the pot than what’s in your plants.

If you can’t beat them, feed them

Growing a distraction garden filled with plants bothersome bugs love, can lure them away from your vegetable and fruit garden. Try nasturtiums, sunflowers, sweet peas, and petunias.

a hand holding a pile of weeds that have been picked from a garden

Worrisome weeds

The term “weed” is generally applied to any unwanted plant. Weeds can very quickly make a perfectly manicured lawn, flowerbed, or garden look overgrown and messy if they’re not kept in check. Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass, clover, and thistles easily pop up on your lawn, while weeds like lamb’s quarters, pigweed, and quickweed might show up in your vegetable garden.

Even though weeds are unsightly, they do have an important role to play in nature—preventing erosion, keeping topsoil from blowing away, breaking up soil compaction, and pulling nutrients from deep within the soil to the surface.

But understandably, most would prefer these eyesores be removed or not grow at all. The key to keeping your garden weed-free is to never let them set seeds—obviously easier said than done! Some seeds can lay dormant in your garden for years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate.

a hand spreading mulch in a garden

Here are some of the most common ways to deal with stubborn weeds:

Layer on the mulch

One of the best ways to deal with weeds is to prevent them in the first place. Laying down a thick layer (five to ten centimetres) of organic mulch is one of the most effective ways to choke out weeds. Plus, mulch holds water (reducing the need for frequent watering), supports nutrients in the soil, and prevents erosion. If you’re adding mulch to a food garden be sure it’s organic or use hay or shredded leaves, reducing unwanted chemicals in your food.

Vinegar

Believe it or not, plants don’t like vinegar. Pour a small amount into a spray bottle and spritz the weeds you wish to get rid of. Vinegar can kill a weed right down to the root, but it may take a few thorough applications. This method is best for weeds that might be growing between your patio stones, as vinegar can be harmful to all plants, not just the weeds.

Boiling water

Pouring boiling water directly onto the weed can also be an effective way to kill it. Just like vinegar, be conscious of the plants around it, as the hot water can’t discriminate between weeds and your prized tomatoes.

a person digging up weeds from their lawn using a garden hoe

Pull, pull, pull 

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but pulling weeds by hand as soon as you see them can prevent others from growing. New weed growth is easy to remove as their roots have not yet taken a stronghold. Take a walk around your garden daily and give all those new weeds a pull—you might even find it relaxing and therapeutic.

Take care at the end of the season

Gardens should never be left bare all winter. At the end of the growing season, once you’ve cleaned out all your spent plants, lay down a thick layer of mulch. This will help enrich the soil and ensure fewer weeds grow come planting season in the spring.

Your garden should always be a relaxing escape, so don’t let the pests and weeds stress you out. There are plenty of ways for you to keep your garden free of pests and weeds without using harsh chemicals! By keeping on top of its needs, your garden can thrive through the summer months and remain a beautiful addition to your front or backyard

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