Controlling Aphids, Slugs and Snails

Sustainable ways to keep damaging pests away.

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Aphids on sweet potato vine

Sweet Potato Vine with Aphids

Aphids appear in great concentrations in early spring, when plants are pushing new growth. These sucking insects love to feast on tender, juicy new growth.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

Aphids appear in great concentrations in early spring, when plants are pushing new growth. These sucking insects love to feast on tender, juicy new growth.

Attacked by aphids? Stricken with snails? Sometimes the smallest pests can do the most damage in your garden. But you don't have to resort to chemical-based pesticides to discourage - or downright evict - bugs, slugs and other small garden enemies. Here are some tried-and-true tactics for keeping them away, naturally:

  • An Ounce of Prevention: The surest way to keep garden insects at bay is to grow healthy, disease-free plants that are a more difficult target for bugs and can  withstand the occasional attack more readily. Regularly inspect leaves for discoloration or damage, and remove, deadhead or pinch off diseased plants or leaves. Appropriate watering for your plant’s needs and healthy, nutrient-rich soil will also help keep your plants healthy. Keep weeds under control, as they can create a safe haven for pests.
  • Make 'Em Prey: One great way to keep pests away is to attract their natural predators to your garden. Your approach may vary depending on the type of pest  you’re dealing with. For example, aphids – also known as “plant lice” – are the prey of wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings, while ground-dwelling slugs fear ground beetles, lizards, toads…and snakes. Research ways to attract the types of critters that can wipe out your pest problem for you!
  • Unsafe Passage: Creeping pests like slugs, snails and caterpillars approach your plants from the ground – so make it a sharp, dangerous place. Spread crushed eggshells beneath the targeted plants and creepy-crawlies will move along.
  • Make A Stink: Many aromatic herbs, like yarrow, citronella, mint, fennel, catnip, basil, and lemongrass are natural deterrents for garden pests from aphids to potato beetles. As an added bonus, some of these herbs also attract the predators that keep pests under control.
  • Choose Your Poison: Flour, salt, beer: all substances that are completely safe for humans, but that can be seriously toxic to insects, slugs and snails. 

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