Organic Pest Control

Don’t want to douse your garden in chemicals? Send plant-eating critters packing with these homemade solutions.

Kill Slugs with Beer or Coffee

You can buy expensive and toxic slug repellents, but natural methods are cheaper and just as effective. Slugs, it turns out, have a fatal vice: They like beer too much. Fill an empty tuna or cat-food can with beer and bury it in your garden soil up to its rim.

Overnight, slugs will move into the beer and drown. You can throw out the entire can in the morning and replace it with a fresh batch. Not a beer drinker? Slugs hate coffee—or at least caffeine—just as much as they like beer. Researchers have found that a solution of 1 per cent to 2 per cent caffeine will kill slugs. That’s much more than the average cup of coffee contains, but coffee still might act as a deterrent. Spray foliage with the brew or sprinkle the grounds around your plants. (Many coffee shops give away grounds to gardeners for free.) If nothing else, coffee grounds make a good addition to the soil, especially for plants that like acidic soils.

Kill Slugs with Salt

If you’re not squeamish, you can deal with slugs you spot in the garden by hand. Sprinkling salt on the critters will kill them, and you can throw them into the trash. Or you can put a board or two on the garden soil, and slugs and snails will take shelter in the damp shade beneath them. Pick up the boards and scrape the creatures into the trash. To make your garden less inviting to slugs and snails, always water it in the morning. If the soil is dry at night, the critters will be less active.

Use Newspapers To Control Earwigs

Frustrate the insecticide salesmen with this no-poison, low-tech solution to earwig control. In the evening, roll up sheets of wet newspaper and lay them around the garden. At sunrise, earwigs will crawl inside the wet pages to take shelter. Collect the papers before they dry out, bugs and all. Don’t throw the newspapers into your trash cans, or the earwigs will soon escape and make their way back to the garden. Either burn the papers and bugs, shake the earwigs into a toilet or sink and flush them down the drain, or tie up the papers and bugs tightly inside a plastic bag—with absolutely no openings—and put them in the garbage can.

Repel Aphids with a Citrus-Rind Spray

Soap solutions are usually the recommended method for dealing with aphids. But the makers of insecticidal soaps don’t tell you that some of them may harm your plants as much as, or more than, the little bugs. Here’s an approach to try before you spray:

1. Grate the rind of one lemon or orange and combine it with 500 ml boiling water.

2. Let it steep overnight, then strain through a coffee filter to remove the bits of rind. Add the mixture to a spray bottle, and spray the aphids on the leaves of the plants.

3. Make sure to spray underneath the leaves, where many aphids gather.

4. Reapply every four to seven days as long as the aphid problem persists.

Make Your Own Insecticidal Soap Spray

If citrus spray doesn’t work and you need to turn to soap to get rid of aphids, there’s no need to buy a commercial product. Add 2 teaspoons liquid dishwashing detergent to 500 ml water to create an insecticidal soap solution. Now, whether you make it at home or buy it at the store, always test the solution on a few leaves before applying it broadly. Spray a few leaves on each species of plant you’ll be treating, then wait a day to see if the leaves curl or spot. If not, you can treat the entire affected area. As with the citrus solution, you’ll need to spray every four to seven days.

Get Rid of Grubs and Japanese Beetles for Good

If you have a problem with grubs eating your grass and plants, chances are you also have a problem with Japanese beetles, because the grubs are most likely the larvae of the beetles. You can solve both problems by just killing the grubs so that they don’t develop into beetles. Although gardening outlets are quick to sell fast-acting toxic chemicals to kill the grubs (and a lot of other less harmful insects), there is a perfectly fine natural remedy that will get rid of them for years to come. Called milky spore, it causes the grubs to contract a disease that kills them. Other beneficial organisms are not harmed. The only problem is that you have to be patient. Milky spore is slow acting—after you spread the granules on your lawn, it can take a year or more for the spore to become established in your soil. But once the spore is established, it keeps working for a decade or more. There are reports of a single treatment lasting 40 years.