Top Five Garden Pest Myths

The SFC Grow Local team has heard a lot of claims about magical garden remedies or extreme garden myths when it comes to garden pests. “Sprinkle ground cinnamon powder on the soil to prevent fungus” or “add aspirin to water to help the plant absorb the water and grow stronger roots.” Many of these claims are still under debate, but some of them are just plain wrong. So the SFC Grow Local team decided to de-bunk some of the more popular garden pest myths that they have heard – everything from spider bites to marigolds, and beer to baking soda. Here are our “Top Five Garden Pest Myths” explained:

1. Pesticides only kill bad bugs.

90% of the bugs in your garden are good!! Think twice (actually think many, many times) before spraying any type of pesticide in your garden. Pesticide applications are not usually targeted at a single type of bug and can kill beneficial pollinators or natural bug predators, like ladybugs. Pesticides also cover your plants in not-so-great chemicals. We recommend hand removal of bad bugs (aphids, caterpillars, etc.) and NEVER applying synthetic, chemical pesticides to your garden. Keeping your soil healthy with compost and keeping your garden free of weeds will make it naturally less susceptible to pests.

2. Spider bites can be deadly.

Thankfully, the United States is home to zero “deadly” spiders (you’re sore out of luck if you live in Australia, however). Pest control and local exterminators have perpetuated the myth that black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders, and hobo spiders can lead to deadly nibbles, and unfortunately have led a lot of gardeners to harm good guy garden spiders. Spiders help out in the garden by eating some of the more common garden pests – so think twice before you smoosh that spider!

3. Marigolds repel insects and other critters.

This myth began long ago when it was found that dwarf French marigolds exude a substance through their roots that repels a certain type of soil nematode. The myth has grown from that particular finding to include many other garden pests. Below ground, marigolds may be doing some good, but above ground, marigolds’ effect is little to none (this means, sadly, that they don’t repel mosquitos or beetles). All that being said, we think that you still should plant marigolds and other flowers or native plants in your garden to attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

4. Rub a mixture of baking soda and water on plants’ leaves to get rid of fungus.

Unfortunately, homemade pest and disease remedies are not always the most effective or scientifically correct. Funguses and molds that plague our plants are found in the soil and only appear to affect the leaves. Molds like powdery mildew occur in the soil and can only be removed by removing the soil. We have also heard other claims that sprinkling baking soda around tomato plants will make the tomatoes sweeter. This is just incorrect! Get sweet tomatoes by growing varieties developed for sweetness, and by maintaining healthy soil and plants.

5. Beer will attract and kill slugs.

This is actually true! When placed in a shallow container around your garden, the yeast in beer will attract slugs, and once they fall in they will die. No need to use expensive craft beer – cheap beer will do the job.

For more discussion on these myths and how to correctly and effectively identify and repel pests in your garden, check out one of our many class offerings, held throughout the year.