Invading pests are part of the deal when it comes to gardening. Trying to ward them off without using chemical pesticides or harmful traps can be an endless challenge. Being prepared with careful planning and knowing the common types of pests for your area are very important.
The most common nuisance may be rabbits that can easily go under or through fences. These furry friends are abundant in the Issaquah Highlands, and in the vegetable garden, they prefer peas, beans and beets. In general, rabbits will not eat corn, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or potatoes. However, they have been known to sample some small items and then discard them, just to make their presence known.
The best way to protect your plot from rabbits is to put up a small fence that starts a few inches below the dirt’s surface and is at least two feet tall, as rabbits tend to go under fences, rather than over them. Plastic chicken wire works quite well since the holes are too small for bunnies to get through. Another possible way to deter our furry friends is to place different items around your plot soaked in aromas that they do not like. For example, fox urine, ferret feces and dried blood are scents that will make them think twice.
Slugs can also be quite a nuisance, and once you have them, getting rid of them is very difficult. They really love soft-leaved produce like lettuce, strawberries and many other vegetables. However, slugs are attracted to beer and other yeasty liquids, which is a good thing. Without using chemical pesticides, an easy option is to bury a half-empty aluminum can of beer in the garden with just the rim above ground. Slugs will be attracted to it rather than your vegetables, climb into the can and drown. You can then monitor and dispose of the slug-filled can – hopefully the next day.
Aphids! Or better yet, the reason why we want ladybugs in our garden! Ladybugs are a safe and natural form of pest control. They eat aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and even powdery mildew fungus. In addition to eating pests, they do consume pollen from various plants, so planting marigolds, geraniums, dill, parsley, and butterfly weed may help attract them to your garden. If you have a pest problem, purchasing lady bugs from the local garden store is also an option. They tend to stick around if there are pests available to eat and if they have water source. Leaving out shallow water bowls will do the trick if a natural water source isn’t available. Ladybug houses are also a fun DIY project and can provide adequate shelter.
There are usually ways to get rid of our garden pests without using chemical pesticides. If you need to use a form of chemical pesticide, always read and follow the label instructions. For the Issaquah Highlands community gardens, some organic pesticides are permitted in the garden, and any application must be kept within the confines of the single rented plot.
Ben Armlin is a Huckleberry Circle resident and community gardener.