Every green thumb in Canada imagines a glorious world of gardening where pests don't pester and dogs don't dig. Plants flourish because nothing is eating them -- and not because they have been sprayed with harmful pesticides, which are not only dangerous to the pests they target, but detrimental to human health as well. A balanced, healthy garden is achievable without commercial chemicals -- we just have to dig a little deeper for the solutions to common pest problems.
Lynn Bishop, project manager at Everdale Organic Farm and Learning Centre in Hillsburgh, Ont., offers a few tips on how to organically pest-proof any garden. Each solution is not only environmentally friendly, but easy on the wallet, too.
1. Keep friendly plants together
Bishop suggests "lots of garlic" to make companion planting work. The strong scent will prevent some insects from finding their favourite host plants. This also works with onions -- but be careful not to completely overpower your garden, because this can deter helpful insects too.
2. Rotate your crops
If you group related veggies in different garden beds or sections of your garden, you can rotate them each year to avoid attacks by disease and insects. For example, beans and peas should live together, while cantaloupe, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and watermelon are a separate family. Moving these groups from place to place makes it harder for pests to find them one year after another.
3. Use beneficial insects
Most bugs are a gardener's ally, not enemy. Ladybugs, spiders, praying mantis, ground beetles and wasps all eat insects that destroy plants. To attract spiders, apply a thin layer of mulch in the spring. This will offer them the cool environment they like, so they will stick around and eat the aphids and other pests in your garden. Planting herbs, flowers and clovers around the borders of a vegetable garden also helps attract a wider variety of insects.
4. Guard plants with fences
While they may not be attractive barriers, fences are the surest way to keep dogs, cats, deer, groundhogs and other large animals out of gardens. For deer, encircle plants with six-foot-tall (1.8 m) cages that reach several feet beyond the tips of the farthest branches.
Page 1 of 2 -- Keep rabbits running, deter dogs and find out which fruit in your house will keep cats at bay on page 2.