Your backyard is an ecosystem. It is a community of plants, animals and organisms interacting with their physical environment. Worms are busy below the lawn creating new soil. Buttercups and clover attract bees and insects to pollinate plants. These insects, in turn, provide food for birds and wildlife. Each part of the ecosystem is dependent on each other and influences each other. We all belong to this diverse ecosystem. As gardeners, the way we chose to tend our beds impacts our garden ecosystem.
Pests and disease problems are evidence of an imbalanced ecosystem. In order to reduce these problems we need to understand that gardens are sensitive ecosystems and we need to adopt sustainable garden practices.
Many people love to see birds and Douglas squirrels in their backyard. A great way to encourage bigger wildlife is to allow the smaller life to thrive as well. A healthy garden is one that is teaming with microorganisms, insects and bugs. Encourage plants to blend into one another, let flowers go to seed and allow leaf litter to build. This will supply food and habitat for insects and microorganisms which feed the birds. If you keep your garden spotlessly clean this could create an imbalance, allowing bad bugs to disturb your plants.
Build Healthy Soil
Soil is the foundation on which a healthy garden is built. Healthy soil is teeming with organisms. It contains organic matter in various stages of decomposition, plus worms, fungi, bacteria and microscopic life. These workers break down organic matter into nutrients to be taken up by plant roots. The more organic matter in the soil, the healthier it will be. Using chemical fertilizers will destroy your soil creatures, leaving it sterile. Build healthy soil by adding compost, leaving grass clippings on the lawn (grasscycling) and aerating in the fall.
Many plants are famous for pest problems. Native plants are the best choice for trouble-free gardening. They are suited to our climate and soils so they do not need extra care to help them along. For a list of Native Plant options to fit your needs, see our Native Plant Gardening page.
Natural Pest Control Alternatives
- All-purpose spray – mix dish soap or pure soap flakes with hot water and spray on plants.
- Ants – mix peppermint toothpaste with a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Apply to area of entry with a cotton swab.
- Bug Juice Method – collect half a cup of the offending pests, blend with 2 cups water and strain. Use all right away or freeze remainder. Spray on plants harbouring offending pests. Do not use this method with pests of humans, such as houseflies, mosquitoes, fleas or ticks as they can hold human diseases.
- Slugs & snails – vinegar or beer in a pan will control slugs and snails.
- Weevils – black pepper, bay leaves or unwrapped spearmint gum are good weevil deterrents.