Traps and Physical Barriers
We get a lot of wind, so I mulch a lot to help keep the soil from blowing away and to retain moisture. Last year we had a cold, wet spring, which led to a boom in the slug population.
I tried beer traps. I took a sour cream container, buried it up to the edge in dirt, and put about an inch of beer in the bottom. It cleared out the area, and then I didn't catch anymore. I think you'd need a lot of these to be truly effective. Plus, one of the traps got dug up and something drank the beer! Not sure I want to attract drunken varmints.
The best for slug control I've found is diatomaceous earth (DE) or crushed eggshells. Eggshells are generally free, and you're not likely to inhale much dust from them, unlike the DE. Apply crushed eggshells generously on the soil surface wherever you have slug troubles.
Preventing Rabbit Damage in the Garden
The first year I planted, the wild bunnies did a number on my freshly sown peas and other tender greens. I didn't want to fence everything, because it makes it more difficult to tend to, plus fences don't always keep bunnies out, so I had to come up with another solution.
I tried the spray on Liquid Fence products, and they worked – until it rained. They were also expensive. I tried cayenne pepper, which worked until the rain washed it off, but also burnt the plants where I had applied it a little too heavily.
My best solution for protecting my plants from rabbits is to mulch them heavily with strongly scented herbs. I've got volunteer catnip and lemon balm all over the place, which the bunnies don't bother at all. I cut bundles of these and other strongly scented herbs, and snuggle them up around newly emerging seedlings. This keeps the bunnies at bay until the plants are strong enough to withstand a little nibbling. The herbs don't wash away in the rain, and the protection lasts for weeks.
How to Keep Mice out of the Garden
Mice are tougher than rabbits, as they are usually not deterred by herbs and scents like the rabbits are. In my garden, control is provided by my cats and local fox snakes. (Fox snakes are not poisonous and very docile.) Unless you remove the mice or barricade your plants, damage will likely continue.
To keep mice away from a plant (or plants), you must use very fine mesh fencing – 1/4 inch or less is preferred. If a mouse can get its head through, the body will go through as well. I usually use fencing around individual plants such as blueberries.
Minimize brush piles or other easy cover near the garden. They also like to move into compost bins (especially in winter, when the heat keeps them nice and warm). Wood piles are another favorite hiding spot.
Traps and poisons are other options, but always be aware of other animals, pets or small children that may also encounter these items and plan accordingly. I don't put out mouse bait anymore since the cats moved in, as I wouldn't want my kitties eating a mouse that had eaten poison. The article How to Keep Mice Out of Your Home and Garage provides more detailed information on mice and their habits and abilities and keeping them under control.
Encouraging Beneficial Insects and Animals
I plant a variety of host plants for beneficial insects around the yard (or allow them to grow on their own), such as yarrow, cosmos, catnip, dill, dandelion, Queen Anne's lace, butterfly weed, sweet alyssum, parsley, lemon balm and zinnias. Beneficial insects will often use host plants during their larval stage before they begin hunting other insects. See the Weekly Weeder series for more information on wild plants and their role in the ecosystem, as well as their uses for food and medicine.
I encourage birds, toads, snakes and frogs in the garden by:
- Providing water in a raised bath and at ground level
- Using mulch
- Providing perches (the wooden marker posts and trellises around my garden do double duty)
- Stacking piles of rocks and other “hiding spots” for toads, snakes and frogs
We have beautiful little northern red belly snakes in our area that are about the size of a pencil, and they gobble up crickets and slugs. I've seen several different types of tree frogs (they are so cute).
The photo above is a tree frog we found in the bean patch.
Some common beneficial insects (and other small critters) include:
- Lady beetles
- Green lacewings
- Syrphid flies
- Ground beetles
- Hunting wasps
- Predatory mites
- Tachinid flies
- Braconid and Ichneumonid Wasps
See Beneficial Insects and Other Arthropods from Colorado State University Extension for more information.
I've watched wasps carry off cabbage worms, and seen little wrens working over the broccoli. The natural cycle is quite amazing.
*Note – If you read the comments below, you can see that a reader has pointed out that yellowjackets are responsible for most of the “bee sting” deaths in the US. While I have never been stung in my garden, others have not been as fortunate. Please exercise caution when working around anything with a stinger.
I use companion planting, too, but I'm rather haphazard about it for the most part. Every bed gets some flowers and herbs along with the veggies and fruits. I roughly follow the guidelines in the book “Great Garden Companions“.
These are my primary methods of pest control in the garden. One could write a book on the topic (indeed, many people have). I've linked to a few of my favorites below.
What are your best methods of pest control? Do you have a garden pest that you can't get rid of? Leave a comment and let me know, and don't forget to hit “Like” or otherwise share this post if you find it useful. 🙂