How to Control All Types of Garden Pests Without Using Chemicals

Each year, homes in the United States apply approximately 171 million pounds of pesticides on gardens and lawns. You can avoid many of these toxic chemicals by using natural pest control methods instead. Taking a preventative approach will also save you time and money in the long run.

For all pests, the best defense is vigorous, healthy plants. Make sure your plants have plenty of water, nutrients, sunshine and attention. You can also boost beneficial microorganisms in your soil by applying compost tea, which is shown to help reduce damage from insects and diseases.

Related: How & Why to Make Compost Tea

These are some easy and effective ways to control common garden pests.

Cabbage White Butterfly Larva

Bugs and Insects

Insect pests can seem to move into your garden overnight. Preventing them from getting started in the first place is especially important.

  • Get to know your bugs. If you’re not sure who you’re dealing with, catch a few bugs in a clear plastic bag and take them to your local garden center for identification. You can plan the best defense once you know your enemy.
  • Grow organically. Many broad-spectrum insecticides will kill beneficial insects as well as the bad ones. Keeping your yard chemical-free will encourage good populations of predatory bugs.
  • Install row covers. A row cover is a cloth that’s hung over a garden bed like a tent. It protects the plants underneath from flying insects. This is particularly helpful for plants in the cabbage family to protect against pests like cabbage moths and loopers.
  • Use companion plants. Planting certain plants together has been shown to help deter pests. Check out some of the best companion planting pairs.
  • Choose appropriate plants. Select plants that will flourish in your local conditions. Plants in wrong locations will become stressed and attract pests. Also try planting varieties that are resistant to pests in your area.
  • Wash your plants. If you see unwanted visitors, washing them off with your hose or other water sprayer can be surprisingly effective.
  • Plant decoys. You can outsmart pests by growing plants they’ll eat instead of your crops. For example, if you plant nasturtiums near your vegetables, aphids will often attack the nasturtiums and leave your other plants alone.

Related: 5 Simple Pest Remedies for the Garden

Close-up of a snail on leaves

Slugs and Snails

These soft-bodied mollusks love fresh and succulent plant parts, especially leaves and young seedlings. You can do a lot to keep them out of your prized vegetables.

  • Remove them by hand. Wear an old pair of gloves while you do this, or use tongs or chopsticks. They’ll be covered in slime by the time you’re done, so use something disposable. After you’re done, you can manually squish your invaders, drown them in a bucket of salt water or throw them on the road.
  • Put out beer traps. For some reason, slugs and snails are attracted to the smell of beer. You can use this to your advantage. Slug Off has a great description of how to make your own slug beer trap.
  • Use a lure. A lure is any object that slugs and snails will crawl under to seek shelter from the day’s sun. You can then collect and dispose of them each day. You can use anything as a lure, such as cabbage leaves, an overturned pot, a plate or a plank of wood.
  • Get some ducks. You may not think of ducks as vicious predators, but they love eating slugs. They’ll keep your slug population in check.
  • Spread scratchy materials. Slugs and snails are deterred by rough materials like sandpaper, diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells or wood ashes, because they’re hard to slither across. Spread these around plants you want to protect or around the edges of garden beds as a barrier.

Related: 16 Natural Ways to Defeat Garden Slugs

Powdery Mildew

Fungal Diseases

Keeping your plants clean and dry is the key for preventing fungal diseases like powdery mildew, leaf spot, rusts and blights. This will prevent their spores from spreading.

  • Water plants in the morning. Any excess water on your plants can evaporate during the day. Watering at the soil level is also helpful because it keeps water off the leaves altogether.
  • Give your plants space. Good air flow in between plants will prevent moisture buildup and potential fungal problems, especially for vegetables and other closely-planted annuals. Also weed regularly to keep areas open.
  • Rotate your vegetable crops. Don’t plant the same veggies in the same place year after year. This invites soil-borne diseases. Check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac guide to easy crop rotation.
  • Remove infected plant debris. If you’ve had a fungal infection, make sure you remove the affected plants from your property. Don’t leave them on the ground or compost them, which could spread fungal spores.
  • Harvest regularly. Fruit and vegetables left to spoil on the plants will encourage fungal invasion.
  • Clean your tools. Wash any tools you’ve used with infected plants or soil. Wash with soap and hot water and dry thoroughly before storing your tools.

Deer

Foraging Animals

Deer, rabbits and squirrels can be very cute visitors in your garden, but these and other furry critters can do a lot of damage to your plants. Your best defense is to make your property as uninviting as possible.

  • Get a cat or a dog. Even if your pet would rather snuggle with you than chase an invading rodent, often their presence is enough to scare away potential four-legged pests.
  • Keep your yard clean. Garbage, standing water, piles of yard trimmings and other debris can all provide food and homes for visitors.
  • Put up fencing. The height of your fence depends on the type of animal you’re trying to keep out. A one- or two-foot high barrier is fine for rabbits, voles and most other rodents. Whereas, a deer fence often needs to be at least eight or ten feet high. It’s also helpful to bury the bottom of your fence at least 6-inches to prevent critters tunneling underneath.
  • Sprinkle deterrents around your property. Some excellent options are human hair, hot pepper flakes, human or animal urine, kitty litter, blood meal or fabric softener.
  • Use pungent plants. Garlic, chives, onions, hot peppers, marigolds, sage and yarrow are well-known for their pest-repelling scents.
  • Startle your visitors. Many garden props can scare off animals, such as floodlights or noisemakers triggered by motion sensors, flags waving in the wind, radios playing, hidden fishing lines or water sprinklers.

Related
12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup
25+ Beneficial Plants That Ward Off Pests and Protect Your Garden
9 Beneficial Bugs and Insects to Welcome in the Garden

85 comments

Melania Padilla
Melania Padillaabout a month ago

Thank you, sharing as well

SEND
Jerome S
Jerome S2 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jim V
Jim Ven2 months ago

thanks for sharing.

SEND
Philippa P
Philippa Powers2 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Jerome S
Jerome S3 months ago

thanks

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

thanks for sharing.

SEND
Philippa P
Philippa Powers3 months ago

Thanks. Good tips.

SEND
Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Carl R
Carl R3 months ago

thanks!!!

SEND
natasha s
Past Member 3 months ago

thanks 4 the tips!

SEND