How to Keep Pests Out of Your Backyard Garden

The Pacific Northwest is home to many animals that love enjoying a tasty snack in the backyard. And no, we’re not just talking about humans.

Slugs, bunnies, aphids, birds, squirrels, cabbage worms. Any home gardener is familiar with just how dearly these animals will find the plants you’ve been tenderly growing and slowly munch them back into the circle of life.

As much as we’d love to sit guard over our backyard gardens all day, there are a few ways you can protect your plants and give them a fighting chance against the creatures of your neighborhood.

Plants as pesticides

While kale and sunflowers and carrots might be inviting to some critters, other plants will keep them away from your garden. You can collect an army of beautiful and sweet-smelling herbs and flowers that will stand guard around the yard.

Consider lavender, which can deter moths and flies. Or lemongrass and mint, which can keep the mosquitos at bay.

Slugs and cabbage worms are likely to stay away from the scent of alliums. Check out the Farmers’ Almanac for a great rundown of which plants to enlist in your fight.

Physical barriers

The Eastern Cottontail has been having a hayday in Washington state these past few years. The adaptable rabbit, originally from the east coast, is great at surviving in many types of climates and terrains. They are undeniably cute, until you realize they’ve been making your lettuce quickly disappear.

Fencing barriers like chicken wire are often helpful in keeping rabbits out. Bury your wire several inches into the ground so that the rabbits can’t burrow underneath it. The Spruce also recommends protecting individual plants by wrapping cylinders of wire around them for protective armor.

While certainly not as fast as cottontail rabbits, the leisurely moving slug can be just as damaging to plants. You may not even notice at first, as a slug slowly takes away your bean sprout leaf by leaf. But if there’s something a slug loves more than bean sprouts, it’s beer (hey, they’re not alone in that!).

Beer traps can be an effective way to control a slug population. Cut a plastic cup so it’s about a half inch tall, and bury it in the ground near your garden. Fill it with beer, and the slugs will gather there, rather than at your vegetable plot.

Now, if you’re feeling guilty about decimating the slugs of your backyard via IPA, a more humane method is to crumble egg shells around the perimeter of your garden. The sharp edges will convince the slugs to take a different path on their slimy nighttime stroll, ideally, away from your plants.

Scare tactics

Sometimes, you have to convince the birds of the air that your garden is a scary place to be.

Scarecrows can be a little startling to even humans, so if you’re looking for something of a lower profile to keep the birds at bay, perhaps try a large plastic owl to show them the territory is taken. Remember to move the owl frequently so the birds don’t realize it’s perpetually asleep.

You can also enlist some shiny, metallic, aluminum objects, whose flashy sides will scare off the blue jays looking to de-seed your newly sprouted sunflower. For more ideas on deterring birds, Better Homes & Gardens has some tips.


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