Pest control can be one of the most challenging things about gardening. Tomato hornworms, squash bugs, cabbage worms, grapevine beetles, iris borers, potato beetles… I mean seriously, is there a specific bug for every type of plant or what!? But hoooold on!! Whatever you do, do not reach for those toxic synthetic pesticides; they do more harm than good! It’s safer, and much easier to work with nature, and use natural pest control remedies to help you fight the pests in your garden.
Ok, I know, I know… when these bad bugs invade your gardens (and do their best to destroy your beautiful flowers and vegetables), it’s tempting to reach for synthetic pesticides to save your precious plants. But working with nature instead of against it is always going to be the easiest and best solution when it comes to gardening (whether it be for natural pest control, weed control, or feeding your plants). And, as it turns out, being an organic gardener really isn’t that difficult. Who knew?
The Problem With Synthetic Pesticides
Let’s face it, chemical pesticides give us instant gratification when it comes to killing nasty bugs. No doubt about that. But they cause major long-term damage to the health of our gardens (and to us, and to the environment…ack!). Spraying your yard and garden with chemical pesticides is the worst thing you could do. Pesticides don’t discriminate, they will kill the good bugs right along with the bad ones.
Even worse, some pest insects are resistant to chemical pesticides, and they recover much faster from chemical treatments than beneficial insects do. So, essentially what we’re doing by spraying chemical pesticides is killing the good bugs, and helping out the bad bugs – throwing off the natural balance of the garden, and creating a much worse problem for ourselves in the future. Sounds pretty horrible, right? It is!
It’s best to use natural pest control remedies that will target the pest insects, without harming other insects in the process. So we are working with nature instead of against it. I don’t know about you, but that not only sounds more natural, but WAY easier to me!
Natural Pest Control Remedies For Your Garden
There are several ways to fight insect pests naturally without using harmful chemical pesticides. Below is a list of natural pest control remedies that I use in my garden, and have had great success with!
- Neem oil – Neem oil is made from the seeds of the Indian Neem tree. It is one of the most common all natural pest control products on the market. It’s easy to use, plus it has a residual effect that deters the bad bugs from coming back.
- Traps – There are pheromone traps on the market for all kinds of pest insects. I like to use the Japanese beetle traps to catch as many as I can during the summer. You can also find traps for stink bugs and other pest insects.
- Hand picking – One of the best ways to control larger insects like Japanese beetles, squash bugs, tomato hornworms and grapevine beetles is to pick them off the plant and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Sounds gross I know, but wearing gloves (and enlisting the help of the hubby) a makes it much easier!
- Soapy water – Soapy water will kill many insects on contact, and it’s easy to use to target the pest insect without harming other insects in the process. I use 1 tsp of Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap per 1 liter of water in my spray bottle. If you don’t want to mix your own, you can buy an organic insecticidal soap to use instead. (soapy water works really great for boxelder bugs too!)
- Beneficial insects (ladybugs, nematodes, parasitic wasps, praying mantids, ground beetles …etc) – Talk about letting nature take its course! What’s better than enlisting the help of natural predators to fight the battle for us? Be sure to plant plenty of flowering annuals and herbs in your gardens to attract and support these amazing natural predators.
- Row covers – I like to use row covers on my squash plants when they are young to help control squash borer infestations. I’ve also successfully used inexpensive tulle fabric to cover my grapes and protect them from bugs and birds.
- All natural pest control sprays – There are also natural pest control remedies on the market for our furry friends (ehem, nemesis). I’ve tried sprays made with natural plant oils to help deter squirrels and mice in my garden. You can find natural repellents for pretty much any furry garden pest.
- Diatomaceous earth – Diatomaceous earth is another great all natural pest control product! Sprinkle it directly on pest insects like Japanese beetles and other hard shelled pest insects to kill them. It can also be used to deter pests like slugs and snails.
All Natural Pest Control Recipes
I have a few recipes that I have tried and work great, and also a few new ones that I’m concocting this summer and testing out in my gardens. I will keep you posted on how well they work!
All natural neem oil spray – Deters pests on garden plants, and also works on houseplants.
Mix all ingredients in a large container or spray bottle and shake to mix well. Spray on the leaves of plants and directly on pest insects. Will kill and also help to deter insect pests.
Simple organic soapy water spray – Kills pest insects on contact, also works great on houseplant pests.
- 1 tsp organic liquid soap
- 1 liter of water
Mix up a batch of this simple homemade bug killer in a clean spray bottle and spray it directly on bugs to kill them.
New Things I’m Trying This Year
I can’t recommend these yet because I haven’t tried them. But here are a few things I’ve heard about lately that I’m going to experiment with in my garden this year. I’ll let you know how they work out!
- Baking soda & flower to kill cabbage worms – I’ve read that using equal parts flour and baking soda will kill cabbage worms. I’m totally going to try it this year, and let you know if it works or not.
- Hydrogen peroxide to kill squash borers – One of my amazing readers suggested this – Try injecting hydrogen peroxide into the stem of squash to kill the squash borer. Yep, I’m totally going to experiment with this – for sure!!
- Hair to deter furry pests – Human and pet hair are supposed to deter rabbits and other furry animals from the garden, because they smell a predator nearby. I have cats, and THIS will motivate me to brush my cats on a regular basis. Haha!
I LOVE it when readers share their recipes for all natural pest control remedies with me… but I like to test them out before I recommend them to you. Here are a couple of recipes that readers have shared with me that I’m going to try this summer (you can try them too, and we can compare notes!!).
- Marigold, garlic and hot pepper spray – “Chop marigold leaves and mix in a bucket with a few garlic bulbs (chopped) and some crushed chillies. Add a sprinkle of baking powder and wood ash, and a small chunk of soap, mix it up, cover with water and then add a lid and leave for 4 days.”
- Hot Pepper Spray – “try mixing 1 gallon of water and 3 tablespoons of hot pepper flakes or 10 peppers chopped up finely if you’re using fresh peppers (cayenne works the best but other varieties work as well). Simmer ingredients in a pan for 15 minutes and then let it sit for 24 hours before straining. Add a couple drops of dish soap to help the solution adhere to your plants.”
- Mint and garlic spray: “take some mint leaves and garlic cloves and blend them in a food processor, then add a bit of cayenne pepper and a drop of dishwashing liquid. Bring the whole concoction to a boil and let sit overnight. Strain it into a spray bottle.”
Whew! So many amazing options for natural pest control remedies for our gardens! LOVE it!
Natural pest control remedies are no doubt healthier for us and the environment – but please, please make sure to use them with caution. They are still pesticides after all, and can kill beneficial bees and bugs just like they can kill the bad bugs. So don’t use these natural pest control remedies carelessly, make sure to focus your efforts to the specific pest you’re trying to control to keep from harming the good bugs.
Also, keep in mind that complete elimination of pesky bugs in the garden isn’t a realistic goal. The key is to find a balance so that your plants will thrive despite having a few bugs munching on them. Mature, healthy plants can handle a minor pest problem; and with a healthy population of natural predators on your side, nature will eventually take it’s course.
More Natural Pest Control Remedies
- Organic Garden Pest Control Supplies
- A Six-Step Approach to Organic Gardening Pest Control
- Eggshells as Organic Pest Control
- How To Control Houseplant Pests
Do you have any natural pest control remedies to add to this list, or recipes that you love? Share them in the comments below.