Integrated Pest Management: How to Protect Your Plants from Insects

Integrated pest management is a modern way of describing a job that’s existed as long as people have grown things: keeping bugs and other critters away from our plants and flowers.

And while using pesticides can certainly repel most bugs, these chemicals can often have a negative impact on plants and beneficial insects like bees.

Fortunately, there are some natural remedies you can use to keep your garden pest-free.

1. Look to your kitchen

In some cases, the key to getting rid of leaf-destroying pests sits right inside your pantry. Mix together garlic, onion and hot pepper to rid yourself of things like beetles, caterpillars, aphids and hornworms.

Blend together a minced onion, six cloves of garlic and a dried hot pepper with a gallon of hot water and some TSP soap. Let the solution rest for a day, then pour it into a spray bottle and apply to your plants.

You can also add coffee grounds to your garden to keep away pests. Not only does this help your soil by adding nitrogen, but you’ll also scare off slugs, stray cats and even deer.

2. Companion planting

Some plants can help other plants repel pests simply by being close by. For example, there are several herbs and plants that deter pests, such as:

  • Rosemary – Deters cabbage moths, bean beetles and mosquitoes
  • Basil – Deters mosquitoes and flies
  • Lavender – Deters ticks
  • Marigolds – Asparagus beetles, bean beetles, nematodes
  • Rue – Keeps away flies and Japanese beetles

Talk to your local cooperative extension or gardening club for more advice about companion planting.

3. Neem products

Neem oils and soap are sold under a variety of brand names, and offer a low-toxicity, highly-effective way of keeping away insects. When sprayed on leaves, neem solutions keep insects from eating and even reproducing.

4. Slug prevention

Despite how soft and slow they are, slugs can do a lot of damage to lush, shady gardens. They love to feed on the leaves of plants as well as ripening fruits and vegetables.

There are a few different ways you can keep slugs away, including:

  • Raking your garden in the early spring to remove slug eggs
  • Make sure mulch isn’t piled higher than three inches
  • Use copper strips or copper tape to make a slug barrier

You can also try trapping slugs by using the half-rinds from an orange or grapefruit and placing them in your garden. Slugs will gravitate to the rind, and you can just throw them out or toss them onto your compost pile.

5. Bigger pests

Not all garden pests are insects. You might find you have some four-legged visitors such as deer or rabbits feasting on your plants.

The one tried-and-true method of keeping them away from your garden is to put up a fence. Barring that, you can try to deter them by using the home remedies we described above, or by introducing scents that scare them away.

Deer can be scared off by strong soap smells, but you can also purchase fox or coyote urine from a home and garden store. Spreading this in your garden, is a safe and effective way of convincing rabbits, skunks, deer and small rodents that predators are lurking nearby.

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