Outdoor vegetable gardens are valuable for the organic and wholesome foods you can grow in them, and as a source of aesthetic beauty. Getting the most beauty and productivity from your outdoor garden takes a commitment of time, a bit of gardening wisdom and the ability to prevent flying, crawling and hopping pests from helping themselves to your hard-earned vegetable treasures.
Help For the Soil
If you buy dry fertilizer for the vegetable garden in large plastic bags, remove several handfuls into a bucket and mix in a handful of flour before spreading. That way you can see easily where the fertilizer has been spread and avoid too high of a concentration, which can burn the roots of the plants. The flour is harmless to plants.
Chop up scraps from any fruits and vegetables you use in the kitchen and carefully work them into the soil near the vegetables. Egg shells can be broken up and added to the soil. Likewise, collect ashes from the fireplace. Ashes contain potash for your alkaline-loving plants. Ashes sprinkled around the perimeter of the garden help ward off slugs as well.
Save the water from your aquarium or fishbowl when exchanging it. The old water is loaded with minerals and is good for vegetables.
If you have an old pair of spiked shoes, such as football shoes with cleats or golf shoes, wear them when working in the garden to help aerate the soil.
Water the vegetable garden in the morning so it has time to dry before nightfall. Soil that remains damp is more prone to fungus diseases. It is best to water heavily one time than to water sparingly more often.
Help Deter Insects
Complementary plantings can help repel certain insect pests. Marigolds have pretty flowers and can be planted near tomatoes to ward off pests. Plant onions near carrots, beans and beets. Other plants, such as nasturtiums, sage, rosemary and mint, can help deter mites and other harmful garden insects. Mix a tablespoon of dish detergent in a gallon of warm water and spray it on the leaves of vegetable plants to eliminate insects. You can also stake certain plants so that the vegetables are kept off the ground--where they are more susceptible to insect pests. Use a soft yarn or strips of nylon from hosiery to prevent damage to the stems.
Help Deter Animals
A chicken wire fence, buried at least six inches into the soil and about knee high, makes the best repellent for rabbits but is often an impractical solution. Easier but less effective methods include sprinkling talcum powder or cayenne pepper, mothballs (toxic to humans), coyote urine or blood meal near plants the rabbits feed on. Any of these provide some measure of defense but would need to be replenished after a rainfall. There's always the option of filling the garden with vegetables that rabbits won't eat--pumpkins and squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes, to name a few--but the wise old gardeners suggest planting much more than what you'll eat. That way, there's plenty for all concerned.
Deer are another problem in many parts of the country. Aside from (tall) fencing, the best deterrents are scent-based. Heavily scented soap bars suspended from stakes provide some protection, as the deer will avoid the odors. There's also the suggestion of stringing Christmas tree lights around the perimeter of the garden to scare off deer. Plug them in from dusk until dawn.
No deterrent is foolproof, so plant the outdoor vegetable garden with the expectation that the bounty you provide will be shared by all.