With the season in full bloom, now is the perfect time to start protecting your garden from hordes of pesky insects. When untreated, seemingly small insects like caterpillars and whiteflies can obliterate your thriving plants by burrowing into their stems, cutting at their roots and siphoning their sap. Preserve your plants while curtailing potential insect infestations with a combination of natural, physical and chemical controls.
You can maintain the health and happiness of your garden by discouraging invading insects with companion plant combinations. When placed in close proximity, certain herbs and vegetables work together to attract helpful insects and repel unwelcome ones. These plants will defend your garden from insect attacks by releasing aromatic compounds from their roots, flowers and leaves, masking the scent of their companion crops. As these plants strive to repel insect intruders, they also encourage the growth of nearby plants by providing them with plenty of shade and rooting space.
PHYSICAL BARRIERS, LURES & TRAPS
A surefire way to keep pests out of your garden is to surround your beautiful plants with physical barriers. You can minimize the amount of crawling insects in your garden by wrapping aluminum foil around the stems of tender tomato, cabbage and bean plants. These foil collars will create barriers that physically prevent cutworms, caterpillars and other crawling critters from grazing on your plants' stems and leaves. If you're worried about slugs or snails sneaking into your garden for a late night bite, cover your garden beds with crushed eggshells. Since slugs and snails require smooth surfaces to move, they'll be unable to glide on the rough, jagged edges of eggshells protruding from your garden soil. Plus, eggshells naturally decompose, supplying your garden with additional nutrients.
If your garden is already bombarded by thrips or other flying insects, you can quickly eradicate them with visual lures. Since most day-flying insects are instinctively attracted to the color yellow, many visual lures use this color to capture winged aphids and whiteflies. As a lure's coloration diverts insects' attention away from your garden, its adhesive coating will render them immobile as soon as the insects touch the lure. Whether you situate them on the stems of plants or hang them in nearby trees, visual lures will minimize the amount of insects lurking in your garden.
Unlike visual lures, pheromone traps appeal to an insect's need to reproduce. Used to directly target one specific insect variety, a pheromone trap secretes synthetic female pheromones through a controlled-release system. As the scent thickens, male insects will follow it and unintentionally enter the trap, which is usually lined with sticky paper. If your garden is brimming with Japanese beetles, consider placing Japanese Beetle Traps or Spectracide Bag-A-Bug Japanese Beetle Traps at the far edges of your yard to draw the beetles away from your garden plants.
Although chemical controls are typically used as a last resort after other control strategies have failed, there are some insecticides that exterminate insects without damaging flowering foliage. In recent years, neem oil has become a popular solution for organic insect control. Extracted from the nut of a neem tree, this oil is low in toxicity but high in pesticidal properties. When applied to the stems and leaves of plants, neem oil successfully repels and kills aphids, leafminers and mealy bugs. Once encroaching insects ingest the neem oil, it will slowly start to interfere with the insects' hormones. In due time, the insects will forget to eat, molt and mate, which will cause them to die. Protect your plants from insect pests with either 70% Neem Oil, Ready to Spray or End-all Insect Killer.
Another safe and effective way to remove soft-bodied insects from your garden is with insecticidal soap. Unlike most chemical compounds, insecticidal soap is an all-natural, nontoxic concoction rich in calcium, magnesium and iron. Once it's applied to the leaves and stems of plants, the soap seeps into the cellular membranes of soft-bodied insects. Without their protective membranes, insects will quickly succumb to dehydration and suffocation. Although insecticidal soap is commercially available, you can easily create your own soap solution with a few things from your kitchen. Simply mix 2 1/2 tablespoons of Dawn Antibacterial Dish Soap with 2 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and a gallon of warm water.