Navigating through row after row of plants, my tiny fingers would reach into the leaves to pluck all the vile little creatures from their homes and deposit them into a can of gasoline. Potato bug duty, my least favorite gardening chore.
Growing up, my family had a small garden every year. And every year, I was recruited to help plant, maintain, and eventually harvest the vegetables from it. There were some tasks I didn't mind, but the ones I hated most usually involved bugs (have you ever seen a tomato worm?).
My dad used a few mild pesticides, but being a conservationist, he never liked to use anything with harsh chemicals that would kill more than just the intended target.
There are actually tons of natural remedies that use things you have in your home, or growing in your garden itself, to keep out pests. If only my ten-year-old self had known about a few of these...
If you're growing hot peppers in your garden, you already have most of what you need for this remedy. Redditor halfbaked04 chops a handful of peppers and boils them in a pot of water, then strains it into a spray bottle to use on other plants. It's best to wear gloves while handling the peppers, and be extra cautious when straining the water so the vapors don't get in your eyes.
Don't have any fresh peppers? Use ground cayenne instead. A recipe by Organic Gardening suggests chopping one bulb of garlic and an onion and adding a teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper. Steep the mixture in a quart of water for about an hour, then drain and add a tablespoon of liquid soap.
If you're having the opposite problem and bugs are eating your pepper plants, try spraying them with a solution of liquid soap and water. If slugs are the culprit, spread coffee ground or oatmeal around the base of the plants.
It may taste delicious in food and smoothies, but ants and other pests absolutely despise turmeric. Sprinkle the powdered kind around the base and leaves of your plants, or steep fresh turmeric in water and use it as a spray.
Probably the most natural and harmless remedy for garden pests is companion planting. There are certain plants that will deter insects from eating your crops if you plant them close by. Chrysanthemums contain organic pesticides and can be grown in your garden with your other crops or around the border.
Lavender keeps out fleas, moths and mosquitoes, and the roots of a marigold produce a chemical that's toxic to roundworms.
If you don't want to plant flowers in your garden, there are plenty of edible vegetables and herbs that also work. Garlic, onions and shallots are a natural deterrent for aphids, fleas and Japanese beetles, and they're super easy to grow. Basil keeps out flies and mosquitoes, and rosemary and sage repel bugs that destroy your cabbages and carrots.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can find a more complete list of companion plants and the critters they repel here.
For unwanted slimy guests like slugs and snails, eggshells could do the trick. Just crush them up and sprinkle them on top of the soil either around the perimeter of your garden or just the plants that are being affected.
Next time you eat a banana, don't throw out the peel. Instead, cut it up and bury the pieces one to two inches deep around plants that are infested with ants or aphids. Orange peels can be spread around on top of the soil or boiled to make a spray.
For a ready-made solution you can pick up at the store, try diatomaceous earth. It's a soft sedimentary rock that's crumbled into a fine, white powder and can be sprinkled on the soil to kill ants, slugs and snails, fleas, cockroaches, and many other pests. It's best to use it when you aren't expecting rain for at least a few days, and you'll need to reapply it after rainfall.