If you want a natural means of pest control, your best bet by far is prevention. Once the little rotters have established themselves in your home, they’re ten times harder to get rid of. Make that one hundred times harder to get rid of in the case of small critters that breed at a rate that makes it look as if rabbits have infertility problems. And usually, the methods of prevention are much easier to do using natural methods. Faced with a major infestation of rats or cockroaches, even the most dedicated low-toxicity environmentally-friendly fan of natural cleaning products tends to think kindly of weapons of mass destruction in the form of poison baits and sprays.
So how do you prevent pests from considering your home to be a most desirable residence with all mod cons? Happily to say, being a good at keeping your house clean and well maintained is the key.
Flies: Fit screens to windows and doors. If you like the look of them, dangly hippy-style bead or bamboo curtains can do the job. Also remove fly attractors – keep rubbish and recycling bins inside your home covered, and keep on top of any dirty dishes left on the bench. Don’t worry too much about keeping outside compost heaps fly-free. Flies help in the process of breaking down the compost, so they can be left to do their job there.
Mice: Keep food in airtight containers and clean up crumbs. Also be vigilant with property maintenance – older houses with wooden floors are particularly vulnerable to invasion by mice. Keeping a cat also helps, even if your cat is lousy at catching mice. The smell of the cat will put mice off.
Fleas: Vacuum your house regularly – this is death on fleas. Also stay up-to-date with flea treatments for your cats and dogs (and other animals, if you keep them). Many herbs are a good natural way of repelling fleas. Pennyroyal is the classic, but other good flea repellents include tansy, catmint, wormwood, rue and peppermint and even a bit of lavender. All the more excuse to spray lavender essential oil and lavender water around your home.
Spiders: These aren’t really a pest, as they don’t do any harm or damage, and they like to eat real pests such as flies and fruit flies. If you must, just use a broom to remove webs you don’t like the look of. Don’t kill the spider.
Birds: Birdsong sound beautiful and they look sweet as they hop around your garden. They’re not so sweet if they are building nests under your roof and clogging your gutters, or if they’re helping themselves to your carefully cultivated strawberries – before you’ve had a chance to eat any yourself. Putting bird wire up in lean-to garages goes a long way to stopping them perching and nesting above your car and crapping all over it. Regular cleaning out of gutters helps prevent clogging, or else fit your gutters with a protective mesh that lets water through but keeps big stuff out – this also keeps leaves out as well as birds. Old CDs can be hung in fruit trees to deter birds, or else you can cover smaller plants such as strawberries with netting. If you come across a dead bird – something the cat dragged in – hang it up by one leg as a scarecrow in your garden (birds seem to like eating young green leaves as well as eating ripe fruit). This sort of scarecrow works much better than the decorative sort with the old tools for arms and the cheerful smile embroidered in thick string on a sack head.
Ants: Again, keeping food in airtight containers and cleaning up crumbs will go a long way. (Actually, the ants will clean up the crumbs for you and they’re not all that germy. But they’re a pain in the sugar.) Strong scented herbs planted or strewed where ants are likely to come in works, as does keeping strong-smelling herbs like bay leaves in dry goods that won’t be spoiled by a slight bay taste.