If you’re a gardener, you’ll probably never forget that first time you went to the garden–a big smile across your eager face, basket in hand, ready to harvest the fruits of your labor. However, at times, gardening can become discouraging when we find our hard work has gone by the wayside as the result of unwanted pests.

Holes appear, herbs are nibbled to the ground, plants simply don’t grow due to soil pests, and when we find our organic greens eaten to oblivion, we ask ourselves how to control garden predators and keep them away without pesticides or insecticides. For many, the answer is to simply spray chemicals on the plant, either preventatively, or for treatment, but this method of pest control has major disadvantages. Moreover, pesticides are harmful to human health, and many are persistent in the environment.

So, we’ve compiled a range of ideas that will help create an organic balance in your garden that supports what you love, while getting rid of what you don’t.

Give your plants room to breathe

We’ve all been guilty of trying to squeeze in as many plants as will fit in any given space (and then some). This will give you a temporary sense of abundance, but can easily lead to trouble in the long run. It’s crucial that your garden gets some air circulation from a good breeze on a regular basis. Tightly packed plants are very inviting to feeding insects that enjoy both the shelter from the heat and the cover from predators. They will raise their families in there and eat their way out.

Plant parsley, dill, and cilantro

Three of the single most beneficial herbs to plant in your pesticide-free garden and keep the bugs away are parsley, cilantro, and dill. They attract more beneficial pests to combat the unwanted pests than any other herbs.

Attract spiders to your garden

Spiders are fantastic creatures that eat all sorts of insects. Some of them catch their prey with webs, while others hunt them. Hunting spiders prefer a closed-in, shadowy retreat close to the ground. A pile of mulch would be appealing to them, as would asters, petunias, polygoniums, and sweet alyssum. Orb spiders, on the other hand, prefer any location that is at least waist-high where there’s abundant sunlight. Tall irises, blackberries, and bell peppers plants make a great place for them to settle.

Introduce ladybugs

Sometimes it’s hard to know who the good guys are. Not every insect comes to your vegetable garden to chow down on your harvest. Some are carnivores who will quickly reduce any population of pests the way no pesticide spray could. Ladybugs are harmless for your vegetable garden, but fierce warriors when it comes to eliminating the pests in your yard. They’re capable of eating up to 50-60 aphids per day, but will also consume mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites, and other soft-bodied insects and their larvae. To attract them to your garden, plant cosmos, sunflowers, yarrow, fennel, goldenrod, marigolds, and angelica.

Use food-grade diatomaceous earth

Food-grade diatomaceous earth acts as a natural, abrasive barrier to crawling insects like stinkbugs. Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth beneath growing watermelon, cantaloupe, squash and all fruits and vegetables resting on the ground, as well as on plant leaves.

Make a DIY bug spray

An all-purpose pest-control spray can easily be made by adding 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap a spray bottle of warm water. TIP: Add the soap after the bottle is filled to prevent bubbling over.

Grow catnip for stinkbugs

If stinkbugs are causing havoc, grow catnip in your herb garden. You can cut it off once it’s well established, and hang it upside down to dry. Once dried, crush it up and sprinkle it all over your beds.

Helpful tips for the gardener

To keep gnats away from your face, while working outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Make yourself unattractive to bees, black flies, and other flying pests. When working outdoors, don’t wear perfume, hairspray, scented deodorant, or brightly coloured clothing.

Also read: Boost your immune system with these 5 summer salads

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