Last year, which was our first year living in our new home, we decided to try to grow a garden. You can read all about what we planted and our stock tank planters HERE and HERE. We had a good deal of success but we also had some failures. If you follow along in my stories on Instagram, you know that we had a really big problem with horn worms. A BIG problem. On my birthday I came out to water the plants and a worm had eaten our ENTIRE jalapeño plant which had about 10 peppers growing on it at that point. I was so frustrated and hoping it suffered a really spicy, painful death. We also had them all over our tomato plants. When an entire tomato got eaten, I started preparing for battle…
I researched all sorts of different remedies to keep them away. I was trying to go the more “natural route” versus spraying straight up pesticides on our produce. One method said spray the plants with a soap and water mixture and then sprinkle cayenne pepper on the top. That did work well but we still had some pop up. Looking back I was nervous to apply the mixture too much especially with the very high temperatures here in South Carolina but I probably could’ve used it more frequently and it would’ve been fine. I’ve also read that diatomaceous earth in the soil is really effective at keeping the worms away. However, that method takes a while before it actually starts working.
This year, we tried to be more proactive. We planted marigolds around all of our vegetables. Not only do they add a pretty touch of orange but they also attract mini-wasps that prey pests like hornworms and bees to encourage pollination. HERE is a post from the Imperfectly Happy Home that discusses marigolds and all they do in the garden. We are only a couple of months into the season but we have yet to have a worm pop up (knock on wood!!).
I also made a garden pest spray from one of my favorite essential oils books – The Healing Power of Essential Oils that I’ll spray on all of the fruits and vegetables frequently, especially after rain/watering. This bug off spray that I made for camping worked wonders to keep the bugs and ticks away from us and the pups so I’m really excited to see how the garden spray works to keep away the pests (especially the horn worms… Oh how I loathe them).
Garden Pest Spray
- 20 drops Peppermint essential oil
- 20 drops Rosemary essential oil
- 20 drops Clove essential oil
- 1/4 tsp Natural liquid dish soap (we use Thieves)
- Distilled water
- 16 oz Glass spray bottle
Combine the essential oils and dish soap in the spray bottle. Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water.
Spray on the leaves of pest targeted plants frequently, especially after rain or watering.
We didn’t change much from what we planted last year. For the vegetables we planted jalapeño peppers, green bell peppers, four varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, carrots (those will be so fun!), and green beans. We also have a pumpkin growing randomly from our compost soil.
The only fruits we planted this year were watermelon and strawberries. Otherwise, we have everything from last year going strong – blueberries, raspberries, and our favorite most rewarding thing to grow, Little Miss Figgy tree.
For herbs we planted Mint, Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, and Cilantro. All of these go in pots on our back porch.
If you are completely new to gardening, don’t be afraid! You’ll do great as long as you care a little bit for them! I would suggest starting with green beans and tomatoes because they were so fruitful for us. Herbs are also amazing and relatively low maintenance.
What we learned from planting these last year:
- Put something in place for the cucumber plants to climb like a trellis or tomato cage. Last year we didn’t do this because we thought it wasn’t necessary. WRONG. It is.
- THIN OUT THE PLANTS! I’ve already had to do this 3 times this year because they have been growing so much. I’d rather have less plants that thrive than more plants that only fruit a little if at all. Last year we had so many cucumbers in one area that they eventually just killed themselves. Lesson learned. If you have a friend that would be interested in growing produce or starting their own garden, this is a great way to share with them! Just be gentle when removing the root ball so they can transplant it into their own pot/garden space.
- If you’re using troughs/stock tanks like we do, make sure to drill holes in the bottom. All of our plants died in our stock tanks last year half way through the season because we had about a week long downpour and they weren’t able to drain fast enough. This year Stephen made sure to drill holes in the bottom so that doesn’t happen again!
- Raspberry plants take time. We thought ours was dead as a doornail at the end of last season. We almost took it out but decided to see if it would come back by any chance and it did! We got our first two little raspberries yesterday and were so excited!
- We put in this DIY compost container at the end of the season last year so that when we cleaned up the garden for the winter, we could recycle the plants instead of throwing them in the trash. We were able to use the composted soil when we planted the garden and they are thriving with it! My mom was so impressed with the quality of the soil. That will definitely be something we do wherever we go. It is such a great way to recycle!
I hope this post helps keeps any pests away from your garden and encourages those of you that are thinking of starting a garden to do it. It’s not too late! My mom is notorious for planting hers way too late in Virginia according to the internet and she always has an amazing harvest. Maybe it could be better but hey! It’s great as it is. Follow after Mama Newk and get planting!