A common discussion topic among gardeners is how to keep out “unwanted” critters. Because I specialize in keeping gardens safe for humans and animals, I come at this challenge from a different perspective.
While I do not want my plants to be eaten by insects and don’t want my yard to become a mouse colony (even though my dog might disagree!), I am adamantly against using any chemicals or methods that might harm any of these beings.
Unfortunately, many people choose to use cruel methods that either injure or kill garden visitors. I think the problem is that most people are not aware that there are other ways to protect your garden that don’t require you to harm any living beings.
The good news is that there are various fragrances and plants that can be used as deterrents against the following critters:
- Aphids (plant lice): Plant chives, marigolds, mint, basil, or cilantro or place aluminum foil at the base of your plants. The foil reflects light onto the undersides of the leaves, which scares away aphids.
- Ants: Put out cucumber peels or slices (bitter ones are best)— ants won’t cross them. You can also try keeping ants away with coffee grounds, garlic, soap and water, or a string soaked in cayenne pepper, citrus oil, clove oil, or lemon juice. Place, sprinkle, or spray these items wherever you don’t want ants to go.
- Cockroaches: Create sachets of catnip and place them throughout the infested area (your cat will love you!). Cockroaches like high places, so put a few sachets on top of shelves and other elevated surfaces. Bay leaves, cucumbers, and garlic can also help to keep cockroaches away.
- Codling moths: Use a cheesecloth square full of lavender, chives and garlic, or cedar chips. Try adding cedar oil, rosemary, dried lemon peels, or rose petals.
- Deer: Place some soap shavings or used cat litter along the ground to create a boundary between their grazing area and your garden. Also try hanging a salt lick in their path to distract them from your plants.
- Grasshoppers: Simply spray garlic oil where you don’t want them, or plant calendula, horehound (a bitter herb), or cilantro.
- Japanese beetles: Try chives, garlic, rue, and catnip.
- Mice: Use mint plants, especially peppermint plants! Mice really dislike peppermint and will avoid any areas where it grows.
- Mites (spider and clover): Try planting alder, coriander, or dill, and use rye mulch and wheat mulch.
- Rabbits: Sprinkle chili pepper around plants (it must be reapplied if it gets wet). Install oven racks around plants. Rabbits tend to dislike their texture and the way that they feel on their feet. Other natural rabbit repellants include bellflowers, astilbes, asters, yarrows, cranesbills, hostas, lavender, sage, and other textured or thorny plants.
- Slugs: Place mint, lemon balm, human hair (remove excess hair from hairbrushes and place in gardens), pine needles, cosmos, sage, or parsley in your garden.
- Ticks and fleas: Plant mint, sweet woodruff, rosemary, and lavender. Also try placing cedar chips in your garden. They smell great to you … but not to fleas and ticks!
I find that it’s best to introduce these deterrents by planting them directly in your garden whenever possible. However, if some plants are not available in your area, you can also use essential oils. Marigolds— especially French marigolds— are easy to grow, are available in just about any climate, and attract many beneficial insects who will help protect your garden.
Please remember that you can keep your garden in top shape without harming any of our animal friends.