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Experienced gardener shares free and easy hack for deterring annoying pests from your harvests: 'They will release a smell that pests hate'

"I barely had any pests at all!"

"I barely had any pests at all!"

Photo Credit: TikTok

We've all heard the folklore about using garlic to ward off vampires. According to the legends, the smell of garlic is too strong for a vampire's heightened sense of smell and will send them flying in the other direction. 

However, unless you're Bella Swan or live in 18th-century Europe, vampires are probably not on your list of worries. 

Garden pests, on the other hand, may be a little higher on that list, especially if you are a gardener. Many turn to toxic pesticides for what seems like a quick and easy solution to rid their gardens of annoying pests, only to harm themselves and the environment, too. 

But did you know that the same garlic touted for its use against mythical, blood-sucking creatures is also a quick, easy, and natural way to ward your garden from equally terrifying and destructive garden pests? 

Brianne Graber (@thezenhenandthehoneybee), a biochemist and farmer who teaches food self-sufficiency to social media users, explains how in a now-viral TikTok video.

@thezenhenandthehoneybee Learning to companion plant along with a few other gardening skills has completely eliminated any need for harmful pesticides in my garden. I'm here to teach you those skills. #companionplanting #garlicgirl #naturalgardening #organicgardening #growinggarlic ♬ original sound - TheZenHenandTheHoneyBee

The scoop

The solution is simple — and free if you already plant garlic in your garden. Don't have garlic? Onions work, too.

To use garlic or onions as a natural pest repellent, Brianne says to simply plant a single garlic clove, or onion start or seed, at the base of crops affected by pests. In the video, she explains that in her garden, she plants garlic with her tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli.

"As they grow, they will release a smell that pests hate," Brianne explains.

Like the vampires in European folklore, strong odors produced by garlic and onions deter pests like aphids, caterpillars, and snails. The smell is thanks to compounds like diallyl disulfide and diallyl sulfide in the bulbs, which interfere with bug sensory receptors, causing disorientation and death.

The smell of garlic and onions even deters larger pests like moles, gophers, and deer.

You'll also have an extra head of garlic or onion to use in your home cooking.

How it's helping

Planting garlic and onions, among other crops, is a form of companion planting — the practice of growing several types of plants near one another for their mutual benefit. 

Companion planting can be the be-all and end-all solution to gardeners' most common problems. In addition to naturally repelling pests, companion planting can also suppress weeds, better utilize space, improve soil fertility, attract pollinators, and increase crop productivity. Plus, it's easy, natural, and environmentally friendly.

Regarding garlic as a companion plant, a study by Brazilian researchers found that when planted with strawberries, garlic reduced the presence of spider mite pests by 44-65%. 

Another study by Chinese researchers found garlic to have a stimulating effect on the soil. They discovered that enzymes released by garlic's roots benefit soil microbes responsible for nutrient cycling, organic matter decomposition, and plant growth. 

If companion planting is getting you excited about gardening, check out The Cool Down's guide on growing your own food. In addition to having fresh and delicious produce, gardening has numerous physical, mental, social, money-saving, and environmental benefits. 

What everyone's saying

Brianne's companion-planting tip enthused commenters on her TikTok. Some shared their own success stories, and others requested additional tutorials on growing garlic.

"Thank you for this," commented one TikTok user. "I'm redoing my whole garden this year."

"I did this last year with both garlic and onions in addition to companion planting and intercropping," another user wrote. "I barely had any pests at all!"

"You can do this with chives, too," one person suggested. "I am planning on planting those around my garden this year."

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