Living a rich life, with or without vast riches

  1. Best organic pest-control: A snake.

When I asked Tony Kienitz, author of The Year I Ate My Yard, how I could keep birds from boldly poaching my blueberries, he calmly opined: “You need a snake.” I started to stammer something about liking my family more than my blueberries when he clarified: “A plastic snake.”

Among the funky products you can find in organic supply catalogs are faux predators, such as the aforementioned snake, as well as plastic or plaster owls and hawks. All are designed to work like scarecrows, startling the birds, bunnies, gophers and other garden pests into hightailing out of apparently dangerous territory to another, less protected, yard.

Kienitz, however, says to forget about the fake owls and hawks. No matter how realistic the representation, hawks and owls move too much in real life to even fake out a bunny. Snakes, on the other hand, regularly lie still before pouncing, so garden pests don’t take the chance. If you’re not a subscriber to an organic growing magazine, Kienitz suggests a trip to the zoo. Zoo gift shops often have particularly realistic plastic snakes for under $20.

Other organic means to keep snails, slugs and bugs away?


Like vampires and other evil spirits, garden pests hate garlic. 

Smash a few cloves of garden into a watering can; fill and let

sit over night.  Use this to water your garden about once a

week to keep away most pests. Or, I you prefer to spray, make

your garlic mix more concentrated (you’re going to use less of

it), and spritz all the affected plants.

Canola oil

To get rid of caterpillars, use a mix of water and canola oil, Kienitz suggests. You can also simply add canola oil to your garlic spritzer to make an all-purpose spray.


You wouldn't necessarily know it to look at them, but slugs are the frat-boys of the back yard. If you want to neutralize them, leave out some beer. They're drawn to it like moths to a flame. And in the case of garden slugs, once in your bowl of beer, they're stuck and can't get out.

Egg Shells

Another snail and slug deterrent, which also kills garden

beetles, are simple egg shells. Dry them in a paper bag for

a few days; crush them in a coffee grinder and sprinkle them

on leaves that are being eaten or around the plants you want

to protect.

Diatomaceous earth

If you don't eat enough eggs to protect more than a single

plant, consider buying some diatomaceous earth. Like egg

shells, this is a natural sediment that has sharp edges to squishy

bugs and can keep away everything from slugs to ants.

Cayenne pepper

Aphids, spider mites, cabbage maggots and cutworms can be controlled with a little cayenne pepper. Again, it’s easy to make into a spray, but you can also dust a little around vulnerable seedlings.

Soap spray

If you’re having trouble with flying insects, put a few drops of Dawn dish soap in a sprayer and fill the rest with water and spray. The bugs should die within a day or two; at which point you can brush them off.

Ducks and chickens

This fun way to keep pests at bay also results in eggs…and egg shells…for a perfect circle-of-life moment. The ducks and chickens consider slugs, snails, Japanese beetles and other slimy garden pests as perfect taste treats. You, however, need a safe pen to keep your fowl population safe from bigger pests, such as coyotes.

BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis)

Some caterpillars and the infamous “web worm” are nearly impervious to most organic pesticides. BT is the exception. This bacteria that’s found naturally in some soil, creates a protein that’s toxic to many insects. BT can be purchased in spray form at most nurseries.