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Has anyone grown any veggies or fruits and what are the best way to repel insects naturally without killing them?
My grandma used to have a garden with pear trees, and she never repelled insects. She'd go around her plants and pick bugs off them but that's about it. And the wasps that ate the dead figs were a HUGE problem. It made it impossible to go outside at times, haha. So... I just wanted to share that. And hopefully someone else will have actual, helpful advice haha!
It depends on what kind of bugs you have I guess. For instance, we have a ridiculous number of slugs just waiting to munch away on our seedlings and transplants so we out wood ash which is supposed to repel them. But that obviously won't repel flying beasties.
Probably the best thing to look into is the use of companion planting; many plants mask smells or emit smells which can help to prevent bugs from finding their preferred victim. A classic example is inter-planting carrots and onions - the onions mask the smell of the carrots (I think) which helps to prevent attack by carrot root fly. Another similar approach to companion plant with plants which disguise or obscure the shape of the vulnerable plant. A word of warning - companion planting can be a bit hit and miss. There's very little scientific research on the subject and you can encounter a lot of divisive opinion. Key is to try different this, record your methods and try and determine what works for you.
Another approach would be to try and attract beneficial insects into your garden. I'm not familiar with the insects you might have over in your part of the USA so I suggest Google :)
If you want to take companion planting to it's extreme you should look up some of the methods used in a permacultural approach to gardening. Permaculturalists advocate highly diverse polycultures which not only does the same thing as companion planting but also has other benefits such as disease prevention, habitat creation for beneficial insects, and a better use of resources.
Really hard being nice to insects. They eat what we eat. I'm not going to kill squirrels, possums and the like, but I've never heard of a gardener who ignores insects. Those big animals are going to get most of my mangoes, so I'm working on that--scare crows anybody?
We bought some nematode worms to try this year... You just water them in to your veg beds and they get rid of the slugs for maybe two months (if not longer). We had comparatively few slugs this year compared to last year as a result although the weather probably had something to do with it as well.
Chickens, if you're not adverse to keeping them, can be taught to eat slugs and some take to it naturally. Ducks are even more voracious apparently.
I found a solution. I added herbs to my garden and it repelled a lot of the insects and now less portions of my plant are consumed. The herbs attracted other bugs but they didn't cause any issues and eventually the catipillars turned to butterflies and I don't haven't had the problem.
I worked on an organic fruit and veg farm with a permaculture style garden and the head gardener there told me:
-Plant LOTS of everything, thus increasing the chance of some items left for you to harvest
-Companion planting to help with bugs and plant health
-Good soil and compost to make them strong enough to survive bug attacks and keep on thriving
-Don't plant too many of the same item close together, space them out and mix it up with lots of other plants, don't plant rows of the same plant, in fact he had crazy windy paths with no straight lines, lots of islands where various things were planted and the paths were basically trenches we hand dug out in between
Someone told me that leftover coffee keeps insects away.
Great to know much here. Mixed cropping with well cooked manure and fertilization with cow urine will do better.