Outfoxing Summer Varmints: Chemical-free deterrents for common household pests
For many of us, summertime means cookouts, gardening and spending hours soaking up the sun in the great outdoors. However, these warm-weather pleasantries can easily turn nightmarish when pesky varmints awaken from their winter naps. Each summer, countless beautiful gardens brimming produce and budding flowers are ruthlessly ravaged; millions of tanned ankles are repeatedly bombarded by blood-sucking predators; and hundreds of meticulously-kept lawns are attacked from below by beady-eyed night bandits.
Who can blame them? Nature’s critters enjoy our homes, gardens and backyards as much as we do. So, the question becomes: how do we keep these pests away without subjecting our homes and families to damaging chemicals contained in many pest control products? If you’re anything like me, you want to run off the unwelcome visitors, but you don’t wish to see them hurt – or your garden contaminated with toxic chemicals. So, how do we do it?
We simply outfox them.
SHOO FLY (AND MOSQUITOES), DON’T BOTHER ME
Nothing can suck the fun out of a backyard barbeque faster than an onslaught of flying insects around the food or around your ankles. Luckily, the solution to the problem can also be beautiful. Lavender, basil and mint are widely known to be natural fly deterrents. Planting these fragrant herbs in planters near doorways will steer flies away and provide a pleasant aroma as you come and go. Include them in your tabletop centerpieces and enjoy multiple benefits for your picnic – a pinch of mint for your tea, a sprig of basil with your tomatoes, a lovely scent that complements the food and best of all, a fly swatter-free dinner.
Think vampires are the only ones afraid of garlic? Think again! The potent odor of this plant sends those needle-nosed attackers flying in the opposite direction. According to the Amelia Island Mosquito Control District, simply scattering garlic cloves in your garden, around your yard or even on your deck will help keep mosquitoes away for hours, leaving you free to enjoy the outdoors in peace. Additionally, increasing the amount of garlic in your diet can also alter the natural scent that you give off to mosquitoes, making you a much less desirable meal option.
Another practical way to avoid these tiny terrors is to reduce the amount of standing water around your home. Since standing water is the mosquito’s favorite breeding ground, be sure to replace the water in your birdbath daily, keep the pool chlorinated, and ensure that all water pipes, hoses and outdoor faucets are working properly so puddles don’t form near the house.
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE
Did your mother ever tell you not to make a mountain out of a molehill? Sure, molehills are annoying, but don’t let them get the best of you or your yard. No one wants their front lawn riddled with unsightly mounds of dirt, pushed up by these blind burrowers. Contrary to popular belief, the moles are not interested in the roots of your garden plants, but rather burrow up to 15 feet per hour for the earthworms that are abundant in your healthy yard. There are a couple of things you can try in order to send Mother Nature’s lawn aerators elsewhere.
While many of us relish the smell of coffee and rely on it to jumpstart us in the morning, moles absolutely detest the scent of it. Try scooping coffee grounds into the mouths of the molehills to wake those rascals up and send them on their way. Repellents work best when applied to the loose, damp soil of freshly dug mounds.
Pest Control Product’s website (http://www.pestcontrol-products.com) additionally suggests blocking the tunnels by pushing trowels or small shovels one inch deep into the molehills, creating a barricade. The moles will become frustrated that their tunnels are blocked and will move out of your yard to another location that is more convenient for them and their lifestyle.
NOT TONIGHT, DEER
While Bambi is undeniably adorable, he becomes much less so when he’s testing your patience by devouring your impatiens. Try one of several ways to drop some not-so-subtle hints that your garden is off the menu.
If something smells unsavory, it is less likely to be eaten. Make your plants unappealing by spraying them with a home concoction of hot sauce and dish soap. According to www.ecolife.com, mixing these two readily-available ingredients and applying them with a watering can or spray bottle directly to your plants will cause deer to lose their appetite for your garden. Just remember, each time it rains, you’ll need to re-apply. One recommended brew is a solution of 2 cups water mixed with 1/2 cup hot sauce and 15 drops of liquid dish detergent (which works as an adhesive). Spray this nontoxic solution onto plant leaves and repeat each week until deer decide to take their business elsewhere.
Don’t feel like having to re-spray your garden after every rain? Then try scaring the deer away with motion and sound instead. Since sudden movements frighten deer, placing motion-activated sprayers attached to garden hoses around your garden will send those skittish sneaks dashing for cover. Another way to scare deer away is to hang whirligigs and wind chimes in tree branches near their favorite flower beds. As they twirl and clang together in the summer breeze, the movement and chimes will spook the deer, keeping these unwanted visitors away.
The most permanent preventative measure is to surround your garden with a physical barrier. This could be anything from large shrubs to sturdy fences, depending on your budget. Just make sure the barrier is tall enough to be effective in keeping your plants protected from determined deer. These types of barricades have the added benefit of being beautiful, so while you are keeping the deer out, you are also improving the overall look of your garden and perhaps even the security of your home.
Now that is outfoxing at its finest.
Just remember that when it comes to pests, it’s all about winning the battle, not the war. Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely get rid of unwanted critters. Every now and then, you’ll still see a mosquito trying to regain territory on your leg, a lone deer attempting to test the boundaries of your garden or a mole eye-balling your manicured lawn. However, if you are consistent with practicing the tactics above, you will come out the victor in the battle to outfox these varmints.