Gardeners have been fighting with plant pests from time immemorial, and advancing technology has introduced some lethal weapons for their arsenals, but many of these are deadly to more than the enemy for which they’re intended. Those who would avoid the perils of chemical pesticides have other options, and we will mention just a few of them.
One important factor is the health of your garden; proper watering and weeding promotes strong, disease-resistant plants. If your plants are scrawny and undernourished they are more vulnerable to the inroads of pests and disease. Also, weeds steal nutrients destined for your veggies, and they provide extra hiding places for unwanted visitors.
Slugs and snails are a common and persistent problem; they are quite capable of eating up an entire crop of young vegetables practically overnight. However you have the advantage; you can see them and they don’t move fast. An early morning or evening patrol of your patch will catch them out feeding so you can pick them off and do away with them. Combined with a sprinkle of aluminum sulfate powder, this is a very effective defense.
Insect pests are not so obvious, but there are good alternatives to pesticides. First, look for plant varieties that have proven to be pest-resistant (your local garden centre can help). Some plants are a natural insect repellant; marigolds for instance have an odor that seems to discourage most insects, so they can be planted as borders.
Another common pest is the black fly, especially for runner beans. Try spraying the plants with soapy water; it will kill the black flies but not other beneficial insects such as bees. You can also use netting for protection against flying pests; just make sure the mesh is small enough to keep out the insects you’re trying to deter.