Hooray—Foiled Again!

You may think of aluminum foil as simply a handy kitchen aid. But its strength and light-reflecting texture make it one of the most potent tools you can have in your pest-control arsenal. Here’s how to put it to work outside:

Make your garden cat-free. Fill empty 2-liter pop bottles halfway with water, and add a few drops of bleach to keep algae from growing. Then drop two or three long, thin strips of aluminum foil into each bottle, and set the containers every few feet around the area you want to protect. The constantly changing reflections from the foil and water will make cats think twice before they venture closer.

Erect a flashing fence. To keep birds and four-legged critters like rabbits and raccoons away from your garden, pound stakes into the soil at 3- to 4-foot intervals all around the plot, and run twine between the stakes. Then cut aluminum foil into strips about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long, and tape them every foot or so to the twine.

Foil cutworms. All seedlings are vulnerable to these pests. To bar the “door,” wrap foil loosely around the stem of each tender young plant. The foil should extend about 2 inches below the ground and 3 inches above. You can remove the wrapping when the stalk is about ½ inch in diameter and too thick for the cutworms to damage.

Fend off slugs. These slimy villains will sink their jaws into just about any kind of plant under the sun. But the good news is that they can’t get through a coat of metallic armor. To protect single-stemmed plants, wrap a 1-inch-high band of crinkled aluminum foil around the bottom of the stem. For multi-stemmed plants, make a foil ring that’s long enough to encircle the whole base of the slugs’ target.

Deter flying insects. When placed on the soil around plants, aluminum foil will deter aphids, moths, thrips, whiteflies, and other destructive and disease-spreading insects. How? The light reflecting off the foil confuses the bugs so much that they can’t land. When you use this trick, it’s important to poke holes a few inches apart in the foil so that water can get down to the plants’ roots. Also, check on it periodically to see if the shiny covering is reflecting too much hot sun onto the foliage. If the plants’ lower leaves appear dry or crinkled, remove the foil immediately and give your plants a nice, cool drink of water.