Unless you live in a bubble or a force-field, pests are an unfortunate reality that most homeowners have to deal with at some point or another. But any infestations or invasions can be a lot more preventable than you might think. Here, we’re going to look at a host of methods to protect both the home and the garden from the bugs, rodents, and other intruders that can eat your greens, sabotage the home, and even prove a risk to your health.

Keep an eye out for the signs
Most pests that manage to worm their way into the home are small and rather skilled at evading your detection. That doesn’t mean that they don’t leave any signs. For instance, termites make some very obvious signs, such as chewing small holes into your wooden furniture and leaving tubes made of mud on steps, floors, and walls. It’s worth keeping an ear out for unexplained noises, particularly in the wall cavities. What’s more, larger pests tend to leave a musky odor that’s hard to get out of the home. The clearest visual signs are damaged wirings, furniture, and their leavings. If you notice any of these signs around the home, it’s likely you have a pest problem already.

Check for barrier breaches
How do pests get into the home? There is a surprising variety of creatures that can get in through even the smallest of cracks. Old windows and doors that have warped or weakened over time can provide just the entrance they need. To see whether or not these are airtight, try sliding a dollar bill through. If it gets through, that’s a big enough space for some pests. There are a lot of potential spots for air leaks throughout the home, as well. Check for cracks and gaps on the walls of the home. The parts that are particularly vulnerable are those areas where different building materials meet one another, like where outdoor faucets connect to the wall.

Keep a roof over your head
It’s all too easy to forget the risks above your head while you’re checking those on the ground. If your roof has any warped, cracked, chipping, or missing tiles, it’s practically offering free passage to all kinds of pests. It’s not unheard of for insects like bees to build nests in an unprotected attic. What’s more, the moisture that makes its way through a leaking roof provides the perfect conditions for other pests like woodlice and cockroaches. You should be inspecting your roof about twice a year, before the summer and before the winter. This way, you can spot the signs that you need roof repair sooner rather than later.

Maintain your garden
Overgrown and messy gardens are the perfect havens for pests. The undergrowth can conceal all kinds of things, from slugs and snails to mice and rats. Cluttered environments like an overgrown lawn are the ideal nesting space for skittish creatures like mice that look for areas where they can easily stay out of sight. No-one likes the idea of stepping out into the garden only to find something small and fuzzy skittering away from you. By simply scalping your lawn a little more often, trimming the bushes, and clearing away debris like fallen twigs and leaves, you can eliminate a lot of the cover that pests will use to infiltrate the home. Don’t leave old appliances or stationary objects lying in the grass for too long, either. Some pests can just as easily build their nests inside there.

Get rid of standing water
You might not see the harm in leaving a full watering can lingering near the home, but the truth is that standing water can be just as appealing to some kinds of pests, like mosquitoes, roaches, carpenter ants, and termites. These creatures thrive in moist areas, where they can easily get all their hydration. Water that has the opportunity to remain still, without any flow or fresh source can become a haven for these tiny intruders. Besides making sure you don’t leave any standing water unattended, you should also ensure that your garden has proper drainage. If your lawn is prone to becoming waterlogged, it’s just as much of a standing water threat.

Invite better guests
If you can tolerate some helpful insects in your garden, then you would do well to attract those that eat the pests that can otherwise bother you. There are flowers that can attract butterflies, ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles and more. Depending on your pest problem, you want to attract the right kind of predator. For an aphid problem, attract ladybugs by planting chives, cilantro, dill, or fennel. For ground-dwelling bugs like slugs or cutworms, you can attract ground beetles by growing clovers or bushy amaranth plants, as well as providing safe havens for them by placing flat stones. These predators primarily feast on those pests that tend to stay in the garden and eat up your own vegetables or plants.

Keep a clean kitchen
Indoors, the kitchen might just the jackpot that pests like mice and ants are all too happy to swarm to. This has huge hygiene implications, of course, so you want to avoid that as much as possible. The best way to do that is simply to quickly clean the kitchen as often as possible. If you’ve been preparing food, make sure you don’t leave any spills or crumbs lingering. Similarly, if you’ve been outdoors, then clean up any mug, twigs, or other debris you might have tracked in with you. These can all provide food or nesting sources for pests. By starving them out of the kitchen, you directly threaten their chances of survival in the home.

Keep your food off limits
Smaller insects like ants can be particularly diligent in their search for food. They won’t give up at the sight of a clean kitchen floor alone. If you have any uncovered or unsecured food left available, even in the cupboards, then they will waste no efforts in trying to get to it. If you have a grassy garden, then you should immediately start sealing your food to prevent any risk of attracting ants or other smaller pests inside. Airtight seals stop even the smell of food from getting out, making your kitchen look like much less of a smorgasbord for tiny intruders. For fresh fruit and vegetables, throw out any as soon as they start showing signs of decay. Fermenting fruit attracts fruit flies, which can lay an average of 500 eggs.

Barricade your veggies
If you grow fruit or vegetables out in the garden, then some of the aforementioned pests like aphids and slugs can really sabotage your efforts. Stop them from eating the food that’s meant for you by constructing makeshift barricades for your vegetables. Lining your vegetable garden with tin foil is a good start. The sharp edges cut into any ground-dwelling bugs that climb over it, causing them to bleed out. There are also some companion plants that produce fragrances that pests simply hate. Chives are great for repelling aphids, while fennel repels slugs and snails. Plant these near your vegetable garden and they won’t dare try to steal your food.

Don’t give them a way in
Besides air leaks and gaps in the roof, there are other ways you can cut off the access that pests might have to the interior of the home. Tree branches, bushes, and vertical gardening can be a concern. If they are overgrown, they can reach the roof, providing a ready-made path for bugs that will crawl into your guttering or try to worm their way in through your roof tiles. Mulch might be useful to us, but it’s just as helpful to pests as well. Lots of smaller pests can easily crawl under, making homes for themselves amongst the wood chips. Non-organic mulch might not be as beneficial for your own garden, but it’s those benefits that make the natural option much more appealing to pests.

Know when you need an expert
If you’ve spotted the signs of an infestation as outlined way at the top of the post, then there’s a good chance that it might already be beyond your own control. Don’t take any pest presence in the home lightly. They bring with them a huge range of health risks. Insect droppings, corpses, and urine can all fill the air in your home with allergens that can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues in children. Fleas can cause allergic reactions and even tapeworms in human hosts. Rats can spread a wide range of diseases. If you spot any signs of them, then you should call a pest control service as soon as possible. It’s not worth waiting around to find out the risks firsthand.

If you give pests the chance, they can do real damage to the home by eating through everything you have, as well as causing health issues by leaving their droppings around. It’s better to do what you can to stay on top of it now rather than having to deal with a full infestation.