Caterpillars and slugs are among the great defoliators of the garden, chewing holes through leaves or eating them cleanly from the outside inward. Many gardeners battle with these pests, applying pesticides and other toxic chemicals — the pests in question may remain unaffected, but the soil, plants and insect communities are significantly impacted. There are natural ways to rid your garden of caterpillars and slugs if you are willing to diligently pursue these pests. Hand-picking, trapping and targeted biological pesticides are all safe methods for organic gardeners.
Fill a small bucket 3/4 full with warm soapy water and head out to the garden during the day. Carefully inspect your plants, picking off caterpillars as you find them and dropping them into your bucket. Repeat daily, until caterpillars become difficult to find, then check weekly.
Destroy leaf-rolling caterpillars by cutting out the foliage they’re occupying. Look for leaves that are folded over, or rolled into a tube, and covered with fine silk. Toss these cuttings into a trash bag or burn in a brush pile immediately.
Apply Bacillus thuringiensis to heavily infested plantings, preferably when the caterpillars are very young. Reapply every 3 to 14 days until the caterpillar problem is under control, even up to the day you harvest food crops, since the bacteria is not harmful to humans.
Fill a bucket 3/4 of the way full with soapy water and head out to the garden at night with a flashlight. Check the undersides of leaves and under boards and rocks for slugs. Pick them up by hand and throw them into the bucket. Repeat this chore daily until slugs are difficult to find, then begin checking weekly.
Bury aluminum pie pans in the garden, so that the pan lips are even with the soil level. Fill these half full with beer to attract slugs. Check the pans daily, removing any dead slugs you find and adding more beer as needed.
Apply iron phosphate slug bait to the garden on a dry day when rain is not expected. Reapply bait weekly, as needed, until slug damage is no longer visible in the garden. Do not worry about cleaning up the slug bait, it will break down into vital garden nutrients, which is why it’s safe for use throughout the growing season.
Things You Will Need
- Small bucket
- Dish soap
- Handheld pruners
- Trash bag
- Bacillus thuringiensis
- Aluminum pie pan
- Iron phosphate slug bait
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