Whether you’re dealing with pests in the house or garden, it can be tempting to reach for an instant fix. But while weed killer, slug pellets and fly spray do the job, they can cause more problems than they solve. The good news is there are plenty of natural ways to keep bugs at bay. If you’re ready to ditch the chemicals, we’ve got a bunch of simple, inexpensive ideas to get you started.
Pests In The Garden
Some insects are a vital part of a healthy garden, but others fall squarely under the heading of ‘pest’. Things like aphids, caterpillars, slugs and beetles can ruin whole plants. As well as spoiling your garden, insects can also make their way into the house, where they become even more problematic. So conquering them the natural way has multiple benefits.
Top of the list is to regularly weed your garden. Weeds provide a breeding ground for insects and also choke the goodness from the soil, leaving less for your plants. The best time to weed is after a good rain or just after you’ve watered. If you have a large area of weeds, try pouring boiling water on them or use a weed burner.
Build up the soil organically
Depending on where you live, the soil in your garden will have a profile (learn how to identify it here.). To keep your plants and garden healthy, investigate organic ways to improve or boost the soil. You could also consider growing plants which thrive in your soil, or adapting the soil for the type of plants you want to grow.
There are thousands of species of these tiny, worm-like insects, and while some nematodes are harmful, others are highly beneficial in keeping your garden pest-free. Those which live in soil help to break down organic matter, particularly in compost heaps, and there are other species which attack and kill pests, including slugs and vine weevils.
Keep foliage dry
Plant foliage – leaves and stems – can be prone to pests if it gets too wet. When you water the garden, try to get the water to the roots without touching the foliage. If you go for an irrigation system, look for one that’s low to the ground.
Clean the plants
Nature does a pretty good job of keeping plants clean but it never hurts to help out. A small amount of natural dish-soap diluted in cold water is ideal for rinsing your plants. The soap acts as a mild insecticide, and the mixture also ensures no mould or pests are clinging to the plants. Do a little research on the type of soap you use to make sure it’s eco-friendly and suitable for the plants in your garden.
Pests In The House
Pests in the house – the place where we eat, sleep and live – can be an even bigger problem than those in the garden. But there are plenty of natural ways to control pests indoors.
Start with good preventative measures. This can be as simple as regularly hoovering carpets and floors, especially around the edges, and making sure food containers are well-sealed to keep pests out.
Mix up a Borax solution
Add eight parts Borax, four parts flour and one part icing sugar to a mixing bowl. Stir in enough water to create a firm, dough-like mixture. Roll into balls roughly the size of a grape, and place around the house in spots where insects are likely to appear. Replace the balls every now and again, or use water to freshen them up. Curious insects will eat a little of the substance, and then die.
Catnip is another natural way to banish bugs. Harmless to humans and pets, it acts as an effective insect repellent and will help to keep them out of the house. Wrap some fresh catnip in a cloth bag and place around the house.
Block the entrance
Insects may not be the only type of pests in your home; rats and mice can also be a problem. They obviously need a slightly larger entry point to make their way into the house. Look for gaps around sinks, water heaters, pipes and vents that might be allowing them access and fill the gaps, cover them up, or fix a fine-grade mesh over them if air needs to circulate.
Natural Insect Repellents
There are a number of other natural substances that are also great for repelling or getting rid of various household pests.
- Cedar oil – this has a fresh, natural smell but is also a great way to ward off moths. Use wooden or felt balls soaked in cedar oil to hang in your wardrobe and keep moths away from clothes.
- Garlic – the cook’s favourite also wards off multiple flying and crawling insects, including mosquitoes. You can use fresh cloves, garlic essential oil, or even try mixing garlic with water to spray on your skin, if you can handle the smell.
- Apple cider vinegar – mix with washing-up liquid, then pour into a dish or shallow cup to trap ants, gnats and fruit flies. You can also add a small amount to water and rinse your dog’s coat to help repel pests and treat insect bites
- Citronella – candles and oils made with this naturally-occurring insect repellent are ideal for warding off pests, especially mosquitos.
Keeping your home and garden free of pests without resorting to harsh chemicals is better for you, your family and your pets. Any local wildlife, including birds and squirrels, will also benefit, and it’s much kinder to the environment as a whole.