Unfortunately, pests are a fact of life. Actually, they’re a necessary part of the ecologic chain, but it’s hard to remember that when they’re invading your home and garden. Ever since buying our home in the country, we’ve been battling various types of pests. Adding a vegetable garden in our backyard just gave us one more battleground for that fight.
Granted, insects and rodents must eat, but why do they have to think it’s my job to feed them? Like many people, I’ve got enough trouble feeding my family, and once pests have been into my food, it’s pretty much spoiled for use by my family. But even without that, hearing my wife scream every time she sees a cockroach or ants invade the house is tiring. Fortunately, she doesn’t scream about mice.
Of course, if a major disaster occurs, problems with these pests will only increase. As scavengers, insect and rodent populations tend to grow in the wake of disasters, living off the abundance of food available to them.
Unlike some people, I am not really in favor of using chemicals to control pests. First of all, I have pets that I want to protect. Insect repellents are nerve agents and rat poison is, well, poison. So they can both harm my pets. They also pose a risk for the grandchildren that will soon be visiting my home. Besides, in that post-disaster world that I just mentioned, those means of controlling pests may not be available to me.
The first real step in gaining victory over these pests came when we started making changes in our food-storage techniques. From the very beginning, we had problems with ant infestations, maybe because our home had sat vacant for over two years before we bought it. When they got into the pantry and spoiled a bunch of food, we realized that we had to store it better.
Now, just about everything in the pantry that’s not canned is stored in rectangular food storage containers. We have a variety of different sizes and shapes, allowing us to fit the container to the item. Most of the foods that ants can get into are repackaged as soon as they come home from the store.
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Another of our favorite storage containers is five-gallon buckets. As preppers, we are accustomed to buying in bulk, so we extend that to our normal purchases, as well. I also like galvanized trash cans. Although hard to find, they are ideal for dog food and feed for the chickens.
This also does a fairly good job of protecting them from rodents. Although I have a few buckets where rats have gnawed at the lids, they have yet to get inside one of them. Lids are replaceable anyway, so no problem.
We have mice, rats and possums living in the field behind our home and in our backyard. So, it’s inevitable that they’ll get into our home. Proper storage has stopped them from getting into our food, but that hasn’t kept them out of our home. A mouse can squeeze through a space as small as six millimeters, so it’s virtually impossible to seal a house from them.
The oldest, and probably best solution for rodents is having a cat or two. Don’t overfeed them, as that can dull their hunting instinct. I really can’t see any reason why anyone who doesn’t have allergies to cats, wouldn’t have one. Just consider it part of your prepping tools.
Unfortunately, I am allergic to cats, so we can’t have one. But we do have dogs. One of them, a black lab, is a great hunter. If there are any mice or rats around, she finds them. If she can’t get to them (most of the time), she’ll let me know they are there. Then I can dispatch them with a pellet gun I keep for that purpose. So far, we’ve only had one rat manage to get away from us.
Unless you’re far, far out in the country, I’d recommend against using even a .22 pistol for shooting rodents, even with “rat rounds.” Discharging a firearm is illegal in most municipalities. While a .22 is fairly quiet, if the neighbors hear it and call the police, they have to respond. If there is any evidence that you discharged a firearm, like a hole in the wall, you’ll be in trouble. The mice and rats aren’t worth a night in jail.
We don’t kill the possums, although I have a hard time convincing my dog of that. Even though the possums like to eat my grapefruit, they also eat ticks. We have a problem with ticks in our area, so I’m glad to have them around.
We use urine to help keep rodents out of the garden. While not a perfect solution, animals mark their territories with urine. Other animals, smelling this, understand the signal and will be wary. While some may still find their way in, many will avoid it. If you can train your dogs to pee around your garden, it marks it as their territory. Since that is a bit difficult to do, you might consider collecting human urine and pouring it around the perimeter of the garden. It will even act as a fertilizer, putting useful minerals in the soil.
Another good rodent repellent is a mixture of:
- 1 cup diatomaceous earth
- 2-3 drops peppermint or lemon citrus essential oil
- 1/8 cup water
Mix the liquids together first and then mix in the earth until it is totally moist. Set in a container near entrances where rodents enter or in their holes. The smell will drive them away.
When we talk insects, we’re talking about a huge variety of life. In the home, cockroaches and ants are the big problems. But in the garden, there are many more to worry about.
A lot can be done to keep ants and cockroaches out of the home by using diatomaceous earth. A thin line around your home and garden will keep most insects out. While totally safe for humans and animals, this amazing substance is deadly for insects, cutting them like a series of knives.
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There are a number of different natural solutions which work well for controlling insects. A spray made with garlic oil, peppermint extract or hot peppers, combined with dishwashing soap works to keep many insects at bay. These both act as repellents for bugs and destroy their skin, killing them if they come into contact with too much of it.
But my favorite means of pest control in the garden is to use good bugs to control the bad ones. I’ve had incredible results in using these, without creating any risk for my family. The food I grow in my garden is natural and chemical free. While I am sure that there are many more types of insects than what I am currently using, here is at least a partial list of the most common good bugs and what they kill:
- Praying mantis (one of the best) against anything smaller than it.
- Ladybugs against aphids & soft-bodied pests.
- Trichogramma against moth & caterpillar eggs.
- Fly exterminators (I don’t know what their actual name is, but you can buy them by this name) against flies
- Nematodes against grubs and many other soil pests
One nice thing about using these good insects against the pests in your garden is that once you have a good population of them living there, you shouldn’t have to replace it for several years, unless they run out of insects to eat or something happens to kill them off. They’ll stay on duty, generation after generation, protecting your garden and harvest.
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