3 simple ways to keep bugs out of your garden

You hope your home garden will help feed your family, but there are whole families of insects and other small creatures looking to feed on your garden as well.

Christine Noronha, a pest specialist with Agriculture Canada in Charlottetown, expects that following a mild winter this will be a worse year for bugs than normal.

“We had snow, but we had very few days where the temperature went down,” said Noronha. 

“The soil didn’t freeze that much, so because of that you have very high survival — so I’m expecting there’s probably going to be more bugs.”

The downside of a mild winter is more bugs in the summer, says Christine Noronha. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

The good news is that you don’t have to rely on chemicals to protect your garden. Speaking on Island Morning, Noronha provided these three tips.

Clean up

Clearing leafs and any other debris your garden may have collected over the winter is a key first step.

“In the spring, go and remove all the debris — leaf litter, any kind of branches — that’s where they hide for the winter, so it’s best to take everything away because that’s where they are,” said Noronha.

It’s not too late to do this, she said.

During cool nights, bugs and insects will still retreat to their winter havens. Once you remove those hiding places, bugs will be less likely to hang around your garden.

Picking

Some serious garden pests are easy to spot. For example, the tomato hornworm.

“They’re pretty big caterpillars,” said Noronha.

If a pest is big enough that you can see it, she said, there’s a simple solution.

“In a small garden you can actually pick them. If you’re capable of seeing them and managing to pick them,” she said.

The potato beetle, named for being a serious threat to potatoes, but which will also go after tomatoes, is another example. Inspect your plants regularly for pests which can simply be physically removed.

Insecticidal soap

For smaller pests that like to swarm plants, like aphids, try insecticidal soap.

“It’s not toxic to you, but it’s toxic to the insect,” said Noronha.

Insecticidal soaps can be purchased or made from recipes found online. (Jennifer Chen)

The soap works best on soft-bodied insects.

It works on direct contact with the insect, disrupting cell membranes and quickly killing it. You will need to return with the sprayer as populations re-emerge because there is no residual protection.

You are only killing the bugs you spray.