It’s no fun spending an afternoon of hard work in the garden only to return the next morning to find the fruits of your labor destroyed by backyard pests. Whether you dwell in the downtown core and find yourself battling stubborn squirrels and bold raccoons who are spoiled with foraged Suzy Q’s doughnuts or Whole Foods day-olds, or if you’re in a more rural area and can’t seem to get those curious bunny rabbits from nibbling on your herbs and deer from devouring your hosta plants – we all face some form of pest hurdle to jump every growing season. While we welcome our animal friends with open arms and intend to share the space as much as possible, we draw the line when the pussy willow trees we’ve spent since Easter propagating get torn to shreds the day following their long awaited introduction to the garden bed. By ‘pest control’ we don’t mean going out and buying harmful chemicals or cruel entrapment methods, we mean simply finding natural remedies that act as gentle reminders to our unwanted hungry visitors. So here are a couple tips we have found to come in handy in our endeavor against garden pests!
We found this special publication edition of National Geographic called ‘Natural Home Remedies: Easy Ways to Feel Better, Live Longer & Enrich your Life’ that has proven to be very helpful (in general) – but especially in regards to our battle for insect control!
Our favorite thus far has been the castile soap spray. We’ve been using it for about a week now and the squirrels seem to have lost interest in destroying our plants altogether! Fingers crossed it stays this way. Here’s what you’ll need for this easy, minimal ingredient pest away spray:
-A small bottle of Dr. Bonners liquid Castile soap (ours is in lavender, of course). This can be found at any local health shoppe or grocery store.
-A small or large spray bottle depending on desired area of coverage (we used a recycled Lush cosmetics toner bottle, but you can easily purchase a large spray bottle at the dollar store).
-H2O! Nothing fancy, good ol’ Ottawa tap water will do!
Mix about a 3:1 ratio of water to soap in your bottle, shake well, and spray away! The castile soap is a powerful insecticide so we do warn you to be aware of what you are spraying – there are some ‘pests’ we consider helpful and welcomed such as pollinators like our dear sweet bumble bees and butterflies! This is merely a deterrent for squirrels who dig and chomp away at our beloved plants.
The lavender in the Dr. Bonner’s soap is helpful as well because the essential oil keeps insects away, too. Another recommendation is to mix approximately 10 drops of essential oils like thyme and witch hazel into water as a spray to keep bugs not only off your plants but yourself as well!
Another quick fix we’ve heard that helps is to sprinkle a handful of dried hot pepper flakes amongst the garden… one taste of this will be sure to scare away raccoons and squirrels by starling them with the surprisingly spicy sensation without causing them harm! A friend of ours had a particular groundhog who just adored snapping the heads off their spring tulips – not consuming them, just breaking them off! How rude? One sprinkle of chili flakes and the ground hog suddenly didn’t enjoy putting their flowers anywhere near his mouth!
We wish you the best of luck this season with keeping harmful pests away and welcoming helpful ones! We hope we can learn to coexist with these natural friends – just as long as they keep their paws off our peonies!