In Northern Arizona and around the world pests don’t mind pilfering your garden goodies. Small insects, birds, mice, rats, rabbits, skunks, racoons, cats, dogs, javelina (wild pigs), deer and any number of ground boring varieties of moles, prairie dogs and others will not give a second thought to eating up your hard earned garden goodies. 

We have to deal with the threat of these pests to protect our own garden bounty, but we don’t want to hurt ourselves in the process. Organic gardening eliminates any use of poison, herbicides or pesticides to “control” bugs or animals.

The first and foremost important protection is a fence. In some desert areas where food sources are slim for hungry animals, your food source can be a welcoming oasis. This requires a chain link or other fence as your garden enclosure roof as well to effectively bar access to jumping and climbing animals. 

We put a similar roof on our 12’ x 20’ x 8’ chicken pen because climbing animals were mauling the chickens. We did this using 4’ Tall “no climb” fencing. We have joists running across the 12’ span. The fencing lays across these wooden joists. The side walls are wrapped chicken wire which is stapled or wired to the wooden frame. This is a hardened pen. You can house animals or plants in such a structure. 

If you don’t have a serious pest problem fencing will suffice in a suburban area. If some of those climbing critters like skunks or raccoons or flying critters (birds) get into your garden, you may find some random holes and dug up beds when you wake up in the morning (not to mention some missing fruits and veggies), but overall your approach to a secure garden area is going to depend on the severity of your pests and their cleverness to get through your blockades. 

Many areas in Arizona require protection from underneath. This involves more garden bed prep and is usually done in raised bed garden areas. The bottom of the raised bed is covered with hardware fabric which prevents your digging pests from sneaking up to snatch your goodies. 

Once you have blocked out all the big animal pests, there is always the continuous threat of bugs. So here are some methods we use: 

  1. Ants are taking over: 
    1. Diatomaceous Earth. Keep the area dry around the ant colony entrances. Put a couple millimeters of diatomaceous earth directly where they are traveling on the ground so they must walk through it. This takes a few days. Method of death, razor sharp silica particles lacerate the exoskeleton of the bug and it dehydrates to death. 
    2. Borax and Jam or Peanut Butter. 1 Part Borax to 3 parts Jam or Peanut Butter. Some ants like protein, others like sweets. Put the mixture into a small cheap tupperware container or plastic bottle. Punch some access holes. Cover it with a light rock to protect your bait from the drying out in the sun. The workers will take this food to the queen and destroy the colony. 
  2. Aphids and ants or other small insects: 
    1. Soapy water. Spray the affected area of the plant with soapy water. (2 ounces dish soap to 1 gallon of water). A pump sprayer is very effective. You may have to rub the leaves of the plant where they are attached to clean it up. 
  3. Squash Bugs and Beetles: 
    1. Soapy water. Soak the squash plant from top to bottom with fresh water.. The squash bugs will come out to dry. Spray them with soapy water. They die in 5 minutes or less. Rinse the plants with fresh water. 
  4. Grasshoppers: 
    1. Well….good luck. You can try No-Lo. spreadable bait made from wheat bran coated with Nosema locustae, a target-specific pathogen. Easy to apply, Nolo Bait is harmless to humans

We always tell folks to plant one third for the pests, one third to share, and one third for yourself. We also recommend planting your squash and any other plants in phases so you have strong production all season long even with pest casualties.

Happy Gardening!

Gregory Eddolls
Gregory Eddolls

My dad once labeled me as border-line brilliant. I still don't know what that means exactly, but that's fine. I have big visions of using technology skills of 26 years combined with 20 years of gardening experience to develop a sustainable model for 365 days a year inside grow systems to be used as a stabilizing force in the food sector at a local level for each community.

I am a Christian, Husband, Father, Grandfather, I.T Consultant, Gardener, Musician and socialite who enjoys being the center of attention, preaching the gospel from God's prophetic Word, and giving an opinion or 50 on every subject under the sun. I view all through the filter of God's prophetic Word.

Been happy in Arizona since 1992, with one foray back east to Ohio, hated it...but loved the people. But too many people. Life should be simpler. More agriculture. More time to make your own food. Prepare your own food.

Gardening in Arizona is more challenging than other more humid areas. And requires a bit more help to maintain abundance in the desert. This is my vision for all who care to embrace it. Grow your own food or help others who grow it, so you are connected to it. Back to basics. Food, Water, Shelter, God. Let us follow His purpose for our lives.

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