Pests: ditch the chemicals

Guide
Droplets of rain on green leaves

Sometimes creepy crawlies in the garden can get a bit out of hand. You probably have a particular nemesis that you struggle with. They tend to be labelled as ‘pests’, and many people reach for the bug killer. It might seem like the easy solution, but there are some real problems with this approach.

Droplets of rain on green leaves

The problem with pesticides

Most pesticides are indiscriminate. They are likely to not only kill your target species but also harm all sorts of other wildlife, including the ones you want to stick around.

Blasting lots of minibeasts with chemicals also removes potential food for other wildlife. For example, if you have no aphids then what will ladybirds or hoverfly larvae or lacewings feed on?

Understanding the problem

How do you deal with ‘pest’ problems if you ditch the nuclear option? First, think about why the problem occurred. Using insecticides on your greenspace will only address the symptom, not the cause. Populations of creatures only build up because we have created the environment that fulfills their needs.

Mix it up

You can help the situation by mixing up what you grow. If you grow one thing, chances are that some creepy crawlies will take a liking to it. But if you grow a variety of plants, all mixed together, pests won’t have such a free for all. This is called polyculture and is part of the ethos of ‘companion planning’. If you grow plants like marigolds in between your lines of vegetables, they can provide nectar for hoverflies whose larvae then eat the aphids. The scent of the marigolds can also discourage vegetable-eating insects, so it’s win-win.

A few handy hints

  • Look for easy ways to solve your pest problems that don’t need pesticides
  • Be patient, and use a trial and error approach to see what works
  • Learn to tolerate some pests and damage. By avoiding pesticides, you’ll save plenty of time, money and wildlife in the long run