Natural Pest Control & Companion Plants

Jul, 04, 2019

After those drought-busting rains we had last winter, insects and other pests are going to have a boom season this summer. I’m already seeing lots of spiders and flying insects — and Antpocalypse 2019 began in our home weeks ago. I’ve long since placed our pet’s food bowls in “moats,” i.e. sitting in pie pans filled with water, and we never, ever leave food or dirty dishes lying out. 

Cleanliness is a good general preventive. Sweep floors and vacuum rugs frequently. It’s not too late for spring cleaning — clean inside cabinets, and under and around the stove and refrigerator. Mice and rats can squeeze through openings as small as ¼ inch, and can climb virtually anything. Ensure that screens on windows, vents and under crawlspaces are in order. Caulk cracks to prevent insects and mice from entering your home. Concentrate on the bathroom and kitchen. Clear vegetation from the roof and exterior of your home. Don’t overlook floor drains, and if you have a letter drop, it should have a spring-closing cover.

However, often the persistent little devils still find a way to vex us. Here are some natural ways to repel or naturally kill some common household pests:

Rodents— Try soaking pads of felt with the following essential oils, then leave them in cabinets and corners: Balsam Fir, Lavender, Rosemary, Cedar, Orange, and Lemon. If that’s not enough, there are humane catch-and-release mouse trapsyou can employ for the little darlings. Whatever you do, DON’T use sticky traps, which should be outlawed. For outside, coyote urine is BY FAR the best option. Buy it from PredatorPee.com.

a cute little mouse

Ants—Place cinnamon sticks, sliced garlic, mint leaves or mint oil, or black pepper wherever you see them. Distilled white vinegar is another excellent repellant. For full-out anthills, pour boiling water or ammonia directly into the entrance.

Termites—Should be controlled by a professional, but there are many methods available that don’t involve fumigation of your home, such as heat, electricity, orange oil, microwaves and borates (salt treatments).

Cockroaches—Mint and garlic are good repellants. Food-grade diatomaceous earth(DE) kills them by dehydration, and so does Borax. Or try a trap baited with beer-soaked bread — click herefor easy instructions. 

Fleas, Ticks, Dust Mites and Bedbugs— Diatomaceous earth also works very well for all three of these pests. Sprinkle it into carpets, upholstery, pet beds, even your pet’s fur. It is easily available on the internet, but be sure to get food-grade DE.

Got unwanted critters wreaking havoc in the garden? You can purchase ladybugs or praying mantises from the local nursery to eat up aphids and mites. Water the garden first and release them at night to discourage them from flying away. 

For snails and slugs, surround areas with a thick line of chalk. They won’t cross it. Or, find a shallow jar lid or saucer, and dig a depression in the ground to hold it. The top should be level with the ground. Then fill the saucer with Coca-Cola or beer (either will be fatal). Snails will be attracted to the contents and slip inside. Replace the liquids every couple of days. You can protect individual seedlings by placing sandpaper collars around their bases. Finally, sprinkle salt around the garden edges and corners.

As for gophers and moles, which eat many other pests andare important prey for predators, we want to discourage but not kill them. Their preferred food is insects and worms; they don’t really want to eat your veggies. Stuff sheets of fabric softener into any holes that open to your garden plot, then cover with loose dirt. Spread coffee grounds around your yard; the bonus is that the grounds also make great fertilizer. Or pour used cat litter into their holes; cats are a natural enemy of rodents, and the ammonia-urine scent will repel them.

Companion planting is another way to naturally discourage pests via the presence of plants they dislike. It’s also one of the easiest and most attractive ways to go. Although the plants to use may vary by your geographical location, here are some good suggestions:

Pest                                         Plant Repellant

Ants                                         Spearmint, peppermint, tansy, pennyroyal

Bean Leaf Beetle                      Onion, turnip, potato

Codling Moth                           Common oleander

Flea Beetle                               Onion, mint, garlic

Harlequin Bug                          Turnips, onion, radish

Japanese Beetle                       Garlic, larkspur, red buckeye

Mexican Bean Beetle                Potato, garlic, radish, onion

Root-Knot Nematodes              French marigold

Spider Mites                             Onion, cloves, garlic

Squash Bug                               Marigold, radish

Squash Vine Borer                    Cloves, garlic, onion

Stink Bug                                  Radish

Tomato Hornworm                   Marigold, sage

Whitefly                                   Marigold, nasturtium

Do you employ any creative ways to repel pests naturally? Please share them with us in the comments!

Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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Hello there! My name is Fredrika and I’m a Sweden native living in San Diego, California with my husband James and our three children. I’m an environmental writer and have been sharing my family’s journey of living zero-waste since we shifted our lifestyle back in 2016.

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