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Eco-Friendly Bug Control Tips for Costa Rican Gardens

Let me first take the opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous new year in the garden. And to start off the year, I’d like to help you with the age-old problem of dealing with bugs.

Here in Costa Rica, bugs are king, and they can wreak havoc in a home garden. Some folks just throw up their arms in despair and quit gardening because of the bugs.

Others opt for commercial insecticides, which are often risky because of their toxicity. I spent a great deal of time last year researching natural bug controls and testing them in my garden to come up with some new solutions for natural bug control. Outlined in this article are two of the best solutions I have found for dealing with insects during the dry season.

January marks one of the best times to start a new garden in Costa Rica. By creating a little shade over your garden and mulching the beds with grass clippings, you can water the soil around the plants to create a beautiful, productive garden in the dry season – provided you can deal with the bugs.

During this season, most chewing bugs disappear, probably because they are not as well adapted to the drier conditions; but small insects such as flea beetles, leafhoppers and aphids are more predominant, because they can survive by sucking the leaves of garden plants for nutrients and moisture.

The small, sucking insects are impossible to handpick, and they reproduce in a cycle of just three days. If left unchecked, these critters proliferate and suck the juice out of tender leaves until plants become whitish and stunted. Well, don’t throw in the towel.

The first trick is the yellow sticky trap:

  1. First, you will need some bright yellow poster paper, sold in office supply stores as cartulina. Cut them into 10-by-20-centimeter pieces and then fold them so they are 10 by 10 cm.
  2. Next, obtain some stiff wire, sold in hardware stores as alambre negro. Create a ring-sized loop on one end of a 25-cm length of wire and straighten it like a skewer.
  3. Now, punch two holes in the center of the yellow square, about 5 cm apart, so you can skewer it with the wire.
  4. Finally, apply a thick coat of Vaseline on both sides of the yellow surfaces and stick the traps in the soil amid your garden vegetables.

I use one of these traps every meter or so in a garden bed for best results. For some reason, these little insects are attracted to the color yellow, and when they land on the yellow sticky trap, they become stuck.

In a few days, the traps begin to fill up with dozens of little insects, which can no longer reproduce or damage your garden plants. When watering your garden, be careful not to wet the traps so they last longer. If you take the time to set these traps, you will find that they will do most of your pest-control work for the rest of the dry season.

To complement the traps, the following all-purpose, natural insect spray is very effective in controlling dry-season bugs. It helps suffocate small insects, is very safe to use, and costs only about cents a liter to make.

Mix the ingredients below in a blender

  • 5 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp Bio-Land glycerin soap
  • 1 tsp vinegar

With a hand sprayer, spray both the tops and bottoms of leaves, as well as the garden beds. Repeat every three to seven days for best results.

I hope you have the same good results with these safe and inexpensive controls for garden bugs. May your gardens provide an abundance of healthy, vibrant food for you and your family this year.

This article first appeared in 2013

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