Combating Pests

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We don't use toxic pesticides on our gardens.  The following methods will not harm you, your pets or your soils.


Bug Zapper - Studies have shown that the bugs that are attracted to zappers are not the ones you are probably trying to get rid of, like mosquitoes for example.  In fact the bugs found dead in zappers are ones that probably don't even bother you.  Worst finding of all is what happens to the insect's bodies as they are zapped.  They explode into tiny bits and fly a great distance.  So if you are sitting around a bug zapper you and your food, if you are eating, are being showered with tiny bits of insects.  Ready to put that zapper away?

Water - A strong spray from your garden hose will knock down and drown aphids and mites.  Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves where you will find a lot of them hiding.

Insecticidal Soap - This product combats a wide variety of pests including white flies, aphids, spider mites, scale, leafhoppers, earwigs, and grasshoppers.  Read directions since some plants can be damaged by it.  You must use soft or conditioned water with insecticidal soap.

Bt-Bacillus thuringiensis is one of the most important pest combaters available for the organic gardener.  The strain for most troublesome caterpillars is B.t.kurstaki.  The strain B.t. tenebrionis is used to control leaf eating beetles including the Colorado potato beetle.  There are other strains of Bts; these two being the most common for the home gardener.  These products are very safe to humans, other mammals, birds and non-target insects.  

Homemade insecticide       

Put at least 4" of cut up stinging nettles into a bucket.

Soak in water.

Strain and spray on plants and the bugs you want to get rid of.

Birds and Insects - Encourage birds to come to your yard.  They eat a tremendous amount of insects and worms, worms meaning the little caterpillar type.  Although they eat earthworms, those aren't the target worms I referred to.  You want earthworms, you need earthworms!  Without earthworms your soil won't be fertile, well fed and aerated.  If you never see an earthworm in your gardens, it is a sign of poor soil health.

Critter Scare Away - 8oz. Murphy's oil soap, 4oz. Castor oil, 1 T. Alum, sauce

Mix and put in hose end sprayer.  Setting: 1 cup to 20 gallons of water.  Spray around your gardens.

Chickens and Ducks - If you have the room and desire for chickens and ducks around they can eat a ton of insects and slugs.  When your seedlings are small keep them out of your newly planted beds because they will eat them also.  Ducks will even pull up small weeds!  You will also have the added benefit of their droppings to fertilize your yard.   

Organic Products

Gardens Alive! 

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply   888-784-1722 or


Ants - To make a solution that will attract ants and kill them, mix 1 teaspoon of boric acid (available at a drugstore) and 6 tablespoons of sugar to 2 cups of water.  Completely dissolve crystals.  Soak cotton balls in this solution.  Punch holes in the side of margarine containers.  Put soaked cotton balls inside and put lid on bowl.  Place bowl where you have ants.  Clean bowls and freshen "bait" at least once a week.  After a few weeks reduce the boric acid in the solution by half.  Use this as a long-term control.  The ants come to the "bait", take it back to the nest to feed the other ants.

Sugar Ants - This recipe will attract ants also; 2-T. molasses, 1-T. sugar, 1-T. dry yeast; Mix ingredients together and place in little containers such as soda bottle caps or on small pieces of cardboard.  The yeast in this formula is the killing agent.  It swells in their stomachs and they die.

Ants on hummingbird feeders - You can deter ants from the feeders by making little bags from cloth that contain lavender and whole cloves.  Using string attach to the branch leading to the feeder.

You can also make a "moat" by taking a cap, such as from a spray paint can, drilling a hole in the center and putting in on the hanger for the feeder.  Upside down, you keep it filled with water.  To use right side up you need to coat the inside with castor oil.  Either way the ants will not cross over to the feeder.

Asparagus Beetles - I can finally say, after this spring, I have found success on fighting these very determined pests!  Use Pyola frequently along with hand picking the beetles when you see them.  They appear as the little black larva attached to the spears.  Pyola can be purchased through Gardens Alive!.

Cats - Sometimes cats can be helpful and other times they can be a pain out in your gardens.  Cats will catch rodents and unfortunately sometimes birds.  But having your rodent population under control is probably worth it.  On the other hand sometimes they can use your gardens as their litter box.  To keep them out grind or grate citrus peels and sprinkle in the gardens.  Save your peelings by freezing for use when needed.  You can also try spreading Vick Vapo Rub on a board or piece of cloth, they don't like the smell and will stay away from it.  They don't like rough rocks so you could place them as a covering over your flower beds.  The perennial "Rue" will also repel cats. 

Deer and Raccoons - Consumer Reports has rated products for repelling deer and has rated "Hinder" number 1.  I have personally used "Hinder" for many years and can attest to it's effectiveness.  Gardens Alive! sells a deer repellent although I haven't tried it.  Literature claims to remain effective up to 3 months which is a great feature.   We also use Irish Spring soap bags hung from fencing or other ways of keeping them off the ground such as poles or wire supports.  You hang these little bags in your garden and the critters don't like the smell so they stay away.  We didn't loose one ear of corn when using these bags.  Cut a bar of Irish Spring into two pieces, place in pantyhose, cut hose, tie knot, add a paperclip to the knot for hanging.  


Some gardeners feel they have a usefulness because they eat other insect pests. But if you want to control them try the following:

1.      Using a hole punch, put holes in a plastic container around the upper rim.  Add 1-cup oil to 4 T. soy sauce.  Put 1" of mix in each container.  Put lid on and place where you have earwigs.  They are attracted to the solution and die.  Clean out dead earwigs and use again.

2.      Cut up 1-foot sections of old hose.  Leave them where you see earwigs.  They will crawl into the hose.  Everyday knock them out and then step on them.

Rabbits and Deer - Fencing that is made for keeping out critters can't be beat.  You don't need to deal with it after a rain and it is so handy.  Many years ago we made individual cages about 2 to 3 feet in diameter.  We have used them during all the seasons, moving them around as needed.  During the winter we used tent stakes to keep them in place around saplings so they wouldn't blow away.

Fencing around vegetable gardens is a must if you have rabbits or deer.  Hang Irish Spring soap bags to the fence every 5 feet.  Although the deer can easily jump over a regular garden fence, they stay away because they don't like the smell of Irish Spring.  Cut a bar of Irish Spring into two pieces, place in pantyhose, cut hose, tie knot, add a paperclip to the knot for hanging.  

There is a product called "Hinder" that is effective; it has been rated #1 by Consumer Reports.  It is a liquid that you dilute and spray on.  One minus is that you have to reapply after a rain or watering the garden.

Gardens Alive sells a repellent that is weather resistant; which is a great feature.  To save your tulips, hostas and other plants start using your repellent as soon as you see them coming up.  Don't give the animals a chance to get interested; it is much harder to control them once they have had something yummy from your garden.

Raccoons - A barrier of Hydrated Lime will keep raccoons away.  Also see "Deer"

Slugs- (U-Pick)

  1. One of the easiest ways is to use coarse swimming pool filter sand.  It must be the coarse kind.  Make a ring around the plants you are trying to save, hostas in particular.  It is easier to do this early in the season just as you see the plants coming up.  They will not cross over this barrier and you won't need to replace it for the rest of the season.

  2. Sluggo is Iron Phosphate and works well.  It is a bait that will attract those slimy critters out of their hiding places, cause them to stop eating and then die.  It is not harmful to wildlife, pets or humans and can be used around vegetables.  Gardens Alive! sells Escar-Go! which is similar.  I really like these products as finding all the very prolific slugs in the garden is very hard and these products really keep them under control.

  3. Put beer in little saucers, like jar tops, and place in garden.  They will crawl in and drown.

  4. Place melon rinds filled with water in your garden.  They crawl in and drown.

  5. After a meal of corn on the cob, put the cobs in the garden.  The slugs will visit the cobs where you can easily find and kill them.

  6. If you find slugs under rocks or boards or see them out at night you can sprinkle salt on them to kill them.  Be careful not to use too much salt around your plants.


Sow bugs don't like bone meal.  Dust plants with it.

Squash bugs-  We control them by smashing them and their eggs but when they become over populated we use Pyganic.  Gardens Alive! sells a similar product called Pyola.  As with a lot of organic products you need to re-apply frequently since they don't have a residual effect like the more toxic pesticides do.  


Voles - There are several methods for fighting voles, one of the ones being getting a cat.  Since my recommendations will be organic I can't recommend some of the commercial products.  Hardware cloth or 1/4 inch galvanized steel mesh cylinders will keep voles from young trees or seedlings.  There are some commercial products that contain capsaicin (hot pepper extract) that repel voles.  There are also a couple mixtures you can mix up that they don't like.  Take hot peppers (Jalapeno or Habenero) grind them in a blender along with some water and chili pepper.  Liquefy and strain this mixture, add a little dish soap and spray over problem area (wear rubber gloves, this can burn your hands) . Castor oil and peppermint oil have repellant qualities also.  Mix equal parts of the oil with dish liquid.  Mix in blender until foamy.  Spray around affected areas.  You could also try applying the oil to objects (board, rags etc.) and put them where the voles are.  Mouse traps baited with peanut butter work good.  Place a bucket or pot over top of the trap, propped up for the voles to get in, so you won't hurt a child, dog or cat that comes across it.


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