Fend Off Yard Invaders

Whether it’s ants making you antsy, mosquitoes hunting for your blood, or snails stealing your veggies, there’s a way to get rid of the unwanted guests in your garden. Here’s how to exterminate common garden pests without having to rely on pesticides.

Cut Out Cutworms

Cutworms, which are actually moth larvae, live just below the surface of your soil and, true to their name, can tear right through your flowerbeds. You can quickly get rid of them with yellow cornmeal. The cutworms like to eat the cornmeal, but they can’t digest it, so they die. Sprinkle it on the ground around your plants and let them enjoy their last meal.

Stop Snails

When snails proliferate in your garden, you can get rid of them in no time by putting a roof over their heads. Make a little table-like structure by nailing 2.5-centimeter risers, such as short pieces of thick dowel rod, under the corners of a 30-centimeter square of plywood or other board. Place this shelter wherever the snails are appearing and toss a few slices of raw turnip or potato under it as bait.

Snails like to hide in dark, cool places during the day, and they’ll gather under the board after their night’s activities. Each morning, collect the snails from under the board and relocate them as you see fit.

Put an End to Aphids

Just blasting aphids with a hard stream of water from the garden hose is a super way to kill most of the bugs and chase away the rest. Cradle your plant with one hand and hit the aphids with a narrow stream of water. Most of the time you’ll take care of the pests with the first session of water therapy, but you may need to return the next day to get the stragglers.

Another way to annihilate aphids: Fight bugs with bugs. Increase the population of ladybugs around your yard, and the aphids will be eaten in not time. You can order ladybugs from a number of beneficial-insect supply companies. Scatter the ladybugs around your property, making sure to follow directions from the company about what time of day to scatter them and how to make your property attractive to them so they’ll stay.

Get Grubs to Go Away

Grubs are actually immature beetles. They live in the soil and eat grass roots, which can cause large patches of your grass to die. Here’s a simple, natural way to control grubs: Attack them with nematodes. Nematodes are crudely built, microscopic worms that will attack and kill grubs underground. They’re available from commercial nursery and pest control suppliers, and you typically apply them to your lawn by attaching a container of them to a garden hose or by putting them in a watering can and sprinkling them on.

Vanquish Yellow Jackets

These little wasps tend to build nests underground, and if they feel threatened—when you run a lawn mower nearby, for instance—they attack aggressively, leaving you with many painful stings.

To get rid of a nest, take a large watering can—the kind you use to water your garden—and add 7.5 litres of water and ½ cup of liquid dishwashing detergent. The detergent makes the wasps drown more easily. Go out about half an hour before sunrise and pour the mixture from your watering can into the ground where you’ve seen the yellow jackets emerge. It’s important to do this early in the morning while the yellow jackets are all in their nest and the cool temperature limits their ability to fly out.

Make Mosquitoes Move Away

The little bloodsuckers like to lay their eggs in standing water. To keep the mosquito population around your house to a minimum, make sure you have no still water anywhere. That means all standing water, even what you would find in flowerpots and gutters. Change the water in your birdbath daily to clear away mosquitoes’ eggs and larvae.

If you have spots where you want water for landscaping purposes—in ornamental ponds and water gardens, for instance—stock them with mosquito fish, which are available at pet stores. These little fish are skeeter-eating machines: An adult can put away 500 larvae a day.

Annihilate Ants

If ants have invaded your yard, here’s a low-toxic and effective way to kill them: Use a commercial ant poison containing boric acid and sugar. Ants, like people, like sweet tastes, so the sugar attracts them. These ants won’t have to worry about cavities from the sugar, because the boric acid kills them. A boric acid–sugar mixture can decimate an ant colony. It may take a while, but this is one occasion when slow and steady works the best. This is because ants feed by a process called tropholaxis, in which one ant eats food, then brings it back up for other ants to share. If ants eat a poison that’s too strong, they’ll die before they can share it with other ants in the colony.

You can find this type of commercial ant killer in many supermarkets and hardware stores in a liquid form or in bait stations, which you leave around areas of ant traffic. It should be effective in killing most kinds of ant species. Follow the label directions for outdoor use and keep in mind that it will take time for the poison to reach the queen ant, who sustains the colony.