Effective & Cheap Insect Barrier for Organic Gardens!

Every year, our organic vegetable garden plays host to unwelcome winged visitors, capable of transforming a once-beautiful, thriving plant into a wilted and despondent specimen the moment your attention wavers. Successfully cultivating chemical-free food often necessitates a robust defense mechanism, and a barrier proves to be the most genuinely effective strategy in safeguarding our precious plants from the voracious insects. Despite our extensive use of companion planting, the truth remains that a barrier is indispensable in the realm of organic gardening, particularly in a sizable garden.

In the realm of organic gardening, the adage holds true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

After numerous trials and errors, we have unearthed an insect barrier that exhibits exceptional efficacy in warding off winged pests from our cherished plants. Its aesthetic appeal further enhances the overall beauty of the garden. Having undergone testing for the second consecutive summer, this barrier has evolved into our preferred choice for pest control.

First lets talk about Traditional row cover, why we don’t like it and then we’ll share some great new alternatives.

Traditional Row Cover. Not the Best.

We’ve used the traditional floating row cover cloth for years as an insect barrier but I’ve never really liked this material. It does the job of guarding your plants quite well but it looks like a big ugly white sheet.  It also completely obscures any view of the plants.  This row cover is also tedious because you need to remove it and replace it when you need to insect or give the plants a good watering.  Water will permeate through this cloth but it can get rather heavy.

The Awesome Solution

We have discovered a few options that work a  LOT better! The following protective barriers are not only effective but they are far more aesthetically appealing than traditional row covers. These solutions can be watered through without weighing down your plants and because they don’t block out your view of the plants you can thoroughly inspect the garden bed frequently without the added time consuming task of removing and replacing the covers each time.

Tulle. An ‘ok’ option.

Better known for it’s use as wedding décor tulle s a fine lightweight netting usually made from nylon or rayon. It is available by the bolt in a wide range of widths and colours. It makes a wonderful floating row cover/insect barrier.  You can water the plants right through it and because it does not obscure your view of the plants, you can visually inspect the garden without having to remove any covers. The only downside is that it does tear easily so it’s not ideal for stapling down.

Another nice thing about tulle is that you can buy it in bulk by the bolt in a wide rage of widths to suit your needs. We like to make sure that it is wide enough to hang down the sides of garden boxes even when we have hoops in place. It works great but only lasts a few seasons at most and tears easily.

Mesh Bug Netting: The Best option.

More durable than tulle this lightweight bug netting has become an essential  garden staple. It really WORKS! This is a durable nylon mesh product and does not easily tear. It works well over hoops, frames, as a floating row cover or stapled down to frames. I started with a few rolls of bug screen from the hardware store. It worked well but the rolls didn’t go far and it was a bit too expensive an option for our large garden.

I started seeking out bulk or wholesale options and found an option on Amazon that looked promising and was surprisingly inexpensive. It shipped direct from China so it took a few weeks to arrive. I was a bit wary, I am fully aware that usually “you get what you pay for” and if it seems “too good to be true” it probably is.  My last order direct from china was a floating solar fountain for $7.99 and it really sucked! It might just be the worst thing I have ever bought.

The bug netting turned out to be a big win!  It is exceptionally well made and exactly what we needed.  It is durable and has stood up to some  severe storms. We don’t usually share links to Amazon on our site but I feel like I have discovered the holy grail of insect barriers and it’s something that should be shared. I did explore options from farming supply stores and other sources and it was incredibly expenssive and not feasible for me.

Funny note: To take these photos we laid a piece of each insect barrier over a beet that is not covered and has been chewed. I just didn’t think about it in the context of this post when I took the photos but it is sort of funny .

Where to Find it

You will find quite a few choices for lengths and widths to suite raised beds or garden rows. They even have a box shaped version that you could slip right over a frame. This style might be the magic trick to protecting against the horrible hail and massive storms that have swept over parts of North America this summer. You can find the page with all of the size options on Amazon (Canada) and (US)

Tomato Cage Cloches

You can purchase or make bug netting bags that with a few adjustments to a tomato cage can be transformed into bug proof cloches. We bought ours and they work really well.  This durable and inexpensive set of five mesh bags can be found on Amazon (Canada) and (US) Just remember they ship from China so it takes several weeks for them to arrive.

Fabric Barriers Protect Against:

Winged insects such as cabbage moth, cucumber beetles, potato beetles and other small flying insects. They also help keep out grasshoppers and they also deter birds from eating your about-to-ripen fruit. Mesh barriers don’t work well against slugs and snails and crawlers. We use basic beer traps for them.

Other Ideas:

I recently found a box of linens from our old house, and discovered some sheer curtains that look to be made of a nylon type material. They have been transformed into insect barriers in the garden and work well. If you have a light weight fabric that will dry easily, consider giving that a try in the garden.

Important Note on Pollination

If you have vegetables or fruits that require pollination you will need to remove the netting at certain times in the growing process or at intervals through the day. Often by the time our plants have flowered the pests are no longer a bother to many mature plants.

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