Expert Guide to Natural Pest Control

Featured Article, Gardening, Home & Family
on April 10, 2013

By using earth-friendly gardening practices to control weeds and pests, you can reduce the amount of synthetic herbicides and pesticides you apply, which can benefit you, your lawn and garden—and the environment.

“By avoiding the use of nonselective pesticides that kill more beneficial insects and birds than pests, green gardening allows beneficials and pollinators to thrive, creating the next generation of plants,” says Joe Lamp’l, 53, author of The Green Gardener’s Guide and host of gardening television programs on PBS and the DIY Network. “Ecosystems are preserved with little intervention on our part.”

Try these ecologically friendly methods on your lawn or garden.

Encourage birds. Birds are nature’s exterminators. Seedeaters such as cardinals and chickadees catch soft insects to feed their babies. “Even hummingbirds eat spiders and gnats,” Jenkins notes. To attract a variety of birds, put out feeders and birdbaths, and plant colorful flowers.

Companion planting. Some plants can benefit other plants by attracting beneficial insects or by repelling or destroying undesirable pests and diseases:

Purple drumstick alliums or catmint planted with roses help prevent aphids, mites, black spot and powdery mildew.

Marigolds thwart nematodes, beetles and numerous other insects.

Nasturtiums, mint and basil attract beneficial bugs and repel mosquitoes, flies and other pests.

Simple solutions

To eliminate ants, sprinkle boric acid crystals where they congregate.

To prevent slug, snail and earwig damage, surround plants with diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, sharp sand, pine needles or crushed eggshells.

To control black spot and mildew, combine 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of dish soap and a gallon of water. Spray on roses, lilacs and other flowers. Repeat every 10 days.

Neem seed oil spray kills insects that attack fruit trees, roses, vegetables and ornamental shrubs. It also prevents damage from fungal diseases.