Nothing is quite as disheartening as checking on your growing plants, only to find they’ve been nibbled on by a certain uninvited guest. Sharing some lettuce with the local rabbits might be more of an annoyance than a serious issue, but many other pests can seriously threaten the health of your garden. Luckily, there are some tried and true tactics for preventing and eliminating them from our garden. Here’s our best advice on controlling pests in Virginia and Maryland:
Protecting your Yard Against Pests
Like people, the environment kind of has its own immune system. So, it’s no surprise that the better you take care of your garden, the more easily it can defend itself against harmful insects. The first step to preventing infestation and damage is maintaining a healthy landscape. Proper mowing, pruning, and irrigation will keep your landscape lush and will encourage blights to vacate elsewhere.
Rabbits and Rodent Pest Control
Rabbits and rodents can be little tyrants in your garden, eating their way through your plants and vegetables, digging unwanted holes, and leaving unsightly droppings behind. Plus, if they’re still hanging around when the cold weather arrives, you might find rodents trying to cozy up in your home, too! Here’s how you can convince these critters that your yard isn’t the best real estate on the market:
Make your yard a less inviting space. Rabbits and rodents like to hide away, nesting in tall grass or under lawn debris like fallen leaves, broken branches, or piles of firewood. Cutting your grass and removing clutter from your yard will eliminate shelter space, while also giving your property some better curb appeal!
Eliminate food sources. Don’t worry—we aren’t suggesting you give up on veggie gardening or uproot your fruit trees. There are other sources of food that might be attracting animals to your property. Keep compost piles covered, secure the lids to your garbage cans, and keep bird seed contained to bird feeders as much as possible.
Prevent pests with physical barriers. Enclosing your property, or at least your vegetable garden and target plants, with fencing is a great way to keep rabbits, rodents, and even deer from wandering into your garden and snacking on your crops. Remember that many of these animals are known for the hopping and digging abilities, so make sure your fence is at least 6 inches deep in the ground, and at least 2 feet tall.
Set up traps. If prevention methods just aren’t working, or if you’re already dealing with a pretty bad infestation, you might need to resort to alternative methods. Traps and poisons work, but not everyone is super eager to go that route, especially if there are other animals or small children around. For something just as effective and a little more humane, you can always opt for live traps instead! You just need to drop them off at a faraway spot from your property, or else they’ll keep returning.
Insect Pest Control
Pest Repellant Sprays
While physical barriers might work for some of our larger critters, they won’t do much to stop the tiny, and often more harmful ones. Commercial repellents are a great way of deterring bugs and insects from setting up camp on your favorite plants. Choose from a wide range of repellants on the market that target specific insects that might be a problem in your garden.
These petroleum-based oils are sprayed on fruit trees, vegetables, flowering shrubs, and other ornamental plants to eliminate a wide range of bugs, such as spider mites, scale insects, aphids, whiteflies, slugs and snails. The oil works by coating the outsides of these bugs, which ultimately suffocates them.
Horticultural oils have been used in the past as “dormant oils,” which could only be applied before the buds open up in spring, to prevent tree damage. Luckily, there’s now a wide range of oils that are refined enough to be safely applied during the growing season. We don’t recommend applying them in the winter, or when the temperature is below 40°F, because they won’t work as well.
Since these oils don’t leave any residue behind, they’re pretty low-impact on the trees themselves, but they do require reapplication to contact more pests.
While prevention methods go a long way in managing the number of pests in your garden, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll never have to deal with them. When natural control methods have been unsuccessful, you might want to consider turning to pesticides. There’s a wide range of products to choose from, like solutions, aerosols, granules, and baits, so picking the right product for your problem can be puzzling. Here are a few tips for choosing the correct product:
- Make sure you select a formula that targets the specific insect you’re trying to control.
- Read the label to determine when and where the product can be applied, and make sure it’s appropriate for your situation. Some products are more effective at certain times of the year, and all products should indicate if they’re for indoor or outdoor use.
- Be mindful of toxicity warnings on the product. Read the directions thoroughly to determine the risks of using it, especially if your children or pets might come in contact with it.
- For an effective but chemical-free method, try using baits instead. These work really well for social insects like ants. Just remember to place them out of reach of children and pets.
When to Call Pest Control Services
If you’re unsure about whether or not you have a pest problem, the best method for controls, or the severity of the infestation, never hesitate to consult with professionals. They know what works and what doesn’t, and will work with you to implement an integrated pest management system.
Keeping pests away from your garden isn’t always an easy task—after all, this is their home too. The simplest, most efficient, and most eco-friendly way to control pests is to prevent them from invading yard in the first place. With these simple prevention and control methods, you should be able to enjoy a healthy, pest-free garden in no time!