You aren't the only one who finds fresh, homegrown vegetables to be a tasty treat. A variety of insect pests may also target your vegetable garden, turning your carefully tended rows of plants into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Take action to defend the garden, using a wide range of cultural and chemical controls to keep bugs off of plants so you can enjoy a lush, bountiful vegetable harvest.
Attract Beneficial Insects
Not all bugs are created equal. Some insects are actually beneficial in your war against pests. This includes hundreds of different kinds of parasitic wasps. These wasps help to control beetles, flies, caterpillars, aphids and many other common pests. When present in sufficient numbers, beneficial insects can keep pest populations at healthy, low levels.
To attract parasitic wasps, try planting the following annuals. The pollen from these plants are magnets for these helpful insects:
Spray With Water
Before turning to harsher treatments, try plain water. A strong blast of water from a garden hose can knock off and kill many common pests, including aphids and whiteflies. Often, surviving bugs aren't able to return to the host plant once they're dislodged from the plant.
Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is made from the crushed remains of diatom fossils. The resulting powder has tiny, sharp edges that repel and kill soft-bodied bugs, such as aphids and thrips. Diatomaceous earth is also useful against bigger pests, such as cockroaches, slugs and snails.
Dust a thin layer of diatomaceous earth on exposed plant surfaces to guard against foliage- and stem-eating bugs. Or, create a circle of diatomaceous earth around the base of a plant to ward off ants, snails and similar pests.
Mix a Homemade Insecticide
Instead of buying a commercially prepared pesticide from a garden store or nursery, mix a homemade concoction in your kitchen. The following recipe uses soap to kill bugs on contact, while the addition of spicy herbs repels and protects against future insect problems.
Place an onion and a garlic bulb into a food processor or blender.
Blend the herbs into a fine, liquified pulp.
Add 1 teaspoon of dried, powdered cayenne pepper.
Pour in 1 quart of tap water.
Allow the mixture to soak for at least 60 minutes, but ideally overnight.
Pour the mixture through a kitchen strainer or a piece of cheese cloth and into a clean, empty spray bottle.
Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. For the best results, use a natural, biodegradable soap to avoid adding unnecessary chemicals to your vegetable garden.
Spray the solution onto your vegetable plants, coating any exposed surfaces of the plant.
For more information on insect control, visit How to Keep Bugs Out of Your Garden Naturally and Cheaply and Flowers to Plant to Keep Bugs Out of Gardens.
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.