As recent research finds that non-organic pesticides are amongst the biggest causes of cognitive decline, even those who haven’t yet embraced organic gardening and farming will be keen to find less toxic solutions to the problem of pest control. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions to suit every outside space and household. From creating physical barriers to planning your planting carefully – which can also help with reducing mold – there are solutions to suit every budget and skill level.

Tighten up security

One of the most effective things you can do to keep out larger pests such as dogs and rabbits is to create physical barriers. From fences to cloches and netting to row covers, there are options for every height and pest type. It’s also important to seal any smaller gaps in sheds and fence panels to try to keep out rodents, one of the most common garden pests which can quickly cause problems indoors. Research suggests that rodents affect around 21 million homes in the US. Their fur, droppings and saliva can cause health problems such as asthma and allergic reactions, so it’s vital that they are prevented access as far as possible.

Encourage friendly features

Fortunately for garden lovers, there are plants you can use to ward off pests in a natural way. Scented marigolds can help to put off wild rabbits and destructive insects due to their scent and the toxins produced by their roots. Lavender contains a non-toxic compound called linalool, which can deter mosquitoes, spiders, ants and fleas, and lavender also attracts honeybees, which are so crucial for pollination.  One report estimates that bees support $20 billion worth of crop production in the US alone, which is another powerful reason for avoiding non-organic pesticides and finding natural bee-friendly solutions instead. Other effective visitors to your garden are green lacewings, ladybugs and dragonflies, which consume aphids and other plant-eating pests.

Give your soil a health check

It’s always wise to check your soil’s quality regularly, clearing dropped leaves and fallen fruit that can attract and shelter pests. Infested plants should be thrown away, rather than added to the compost pile. By giving plants adequate spacing and avoiding overhead watering, you can help to prevent the spread of white mold and fungal infections, which can affect over 400 plant species. For crop fields or vegetable gardens, rotating what you grow can give the soil a chance to recover and prevent diseases from taking root in specific areas of soil. As a final precaution, spraying the soil with natural solutions using cayenne pepper, mint, onion or garlic can also be effective in deterring pests, but they do need to be resprayed regularly, especially after rain.

Keeping your green space clear of pests without resorting to toxic chemicals does require vigilance, but the rewards are certainly worth it.  Begin with physical barriers appropriate to the size or type of your most common pests, and support with positive planting and good soil management. Pests may be inevitable visitors to any garden or farm, but you can find ways to combat them effectively without sacrificing your overall green goals.

Author: Jenny Holt

Jennifer Holt is a freelance writer and mother of two, who loves nothing more than to play, “where has the cat hidden itself now.”