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The Bend Magazine

Design your Garden to Prevent Pests

10/26/2018 11:13AM ● By Justin Butts

By: Justin Butts  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

It is possible to repel pests from your garden simply through the selection and arrangement of your plants. No toxic chemicals are required to keep your plants free of pests. The garden design itself can act as a form of pesticide. 

Intensive Planting Creates a Mini-Ecosystem

Begin by planting your beds intensively. Intensive planting is the tight spacing of plants across the bed. This close spacing allows the leaves of mature plants to overlap and form a thick canopy over the garden. This canopy protects and insulates the soil. 

The canopy also provides a sanctuary for beneficial predators—frogs, toads, lizards, wasps, and other garden helpers. These good guys hunt in the dense foliage and patrol among the vegetables continually cleansing your garden of pests.

As an added bonus, each morning, as the air outside the garden warms up faster than the soil beneath the canopy, condensation forms on the leaves of the plants and drips down to water the soil!

Pest-Resistant Plants form Bug Traps!

The ideal garden bed is five feet wide and twenty feet long, which is enough space to create a mini-ecosystem (smaller 5’x4’ beds also work well). Plant your vegetables across the five-foot width of the bed, rather than long-ways from one end to the other. These short five feet rows are the second part of the design to control pests, as you alternate between rows of pest-sensitive and pest-resistant plants.

Pest-sensitive plants, such as lettuce and chard, are more susceptible to insect attacks. However, pest-resistant plants, like radishes or collards, emit an odor that pest insects abhor. In your garden, plant several rows of sensitive plants, like lettuce, across the five feet width of the bed, then plant a row of hardy radishes. Next, plant a few rows of delicate chard, then a row of collards.  Continue to alternate between rows of sensitive and resistant plants. 

The pest-resistant plants will form bug traps in your garden! Insect pests stop feeding at the line of pest-resistant plants and get trapped into localized areas. The beneficial predators in your garden (frogs, toads, ladybugs) will swarm to that spot and quickly devour insect pests before they become a problem. 

Herbs and Flowers for Flavor, Fragrance, and Pest Control!

Strong-smelling herbs, such as cilantro and dill, are fantastic pest-resistant plants. Winter flowers, such as cosmos, Queen Anne’s lace, and nasturtiums also repel and confuse pests. 

Plant alternating rows of herbs and flowers among your vegetables to form bug traps and to add a layer of color and beauty to the lush greens of your winter garden.