The garden can suffer and benefit from all sorts of wildlife visitors. Insects such as bees and butterflies are critical to vegetation pollination, but the caterpillars that will some day become those butterflies can do significant damage to plants in the meantime.
Plenty of other insects will also harm plants, and outside of chemical treatments, there is very little that can be done to discourage them.
The easiest and most environmentally friendly option is typically insecticidal soap. This is sold in a spray bottle and has a chemical in it referred to as "potassium salts of fatty acids." When sprayed on insects, this will kill them quickly by disrupting their cellular structure.
When applying any chemical into the garden, be sure to understand how it works, how to apply it and how long it will be before you can safely eat or even touch the plants that have been treated. For fatty acid sprays, vegetables can often be used the same day they are treated as long as they are well washed.
Plant More Flowers
To encourage natural predators to eliminate insects, plant more flowers. Lots of big blooming flowers will attract pollinating insects and many insects that feed on pollen will also eat smaller insect pests.
Sprays, Nets and Fences
Bigger pests require bigger prevention. Tomatoes are a favorite summer treat of all animals, human and otherwise. To protect them from friendly neighborhood squirrels, it really takes a little ingenuity. If there is a real problem, consider using a bird netting. It won't necessarily keep them out but it might make them uncomfortable get through it.
Some gardeners swear by sprays that have a sulfur smell like rotting eggs that is sprayed around plants to ward off chipmunks, squirrels and even deer. Effectiveness varies greatly on whether there are easier food sources elsewhere.
Speaking of deer, there is one foolproof method of keeping them out of a garden: Fences. Solid or mesh fences, at least 10 feet tall. They can crawl under fences only a foot off the ground and can easily jump an eight-foot fence with little clearance.
There are also products available on the market that either include or mimic the urine of predatory animals, like foxes and coyotes. When sprinkled or sprayed around the perimeter of a yard, the foul odor can sometimes be just enough to discourage intruders.
Live and Let Live
The other methods of dealing with garden pests would include giving in and enjoying the natural visitors into the yard, or possibly consider planting more than usual and plan on sharing. This method won’t thrill the neighbors and will probably just result in pest population growth long-term, but could make for a short-term educational experience for the kids.
Make Your Presence Known
The next best method of giving in would be to live in the garden. By making a human presence known and visiting often, larger animals won’t feel as comfortable dropping by. So enjoy the summer in the yard, especially during the animals active hours, early in the morning and in the early evening to dusk when many escape the shade of the hot days and venture out to seek some peaceful meals.
Of course, gardeners can always refer to the popular phrase, "If you can't beat em, join 'em." Take pride in the garden creation and share those benefits with some hungry four (or more) legged visitors.
Information for this column was contributed by , 292 Forest St., Needham, 781-444-2351, www.volantefarms.wordpress.com.