Natural Pest Control Solutions; Organic Garden Pest Control & Prevention Methods
Here are not only the best but the safest ways to control problem bugs in your landscape.
A thorough, well-tested treasure trove of proven organic pest control solutions and information.
We are not affiliated with any of the products we recommend and only recommend any products after having tried all free methods and still found the products as or more useful.
If you want the benefits of a bio-diverse co-existence in your garden but have a particular bug bugging you, or maybe you have an all-out pest war going on, you’re in the right place.
Usually, all you need to do is confuse or deter the insects with strong fragrance and/or support beneficial predator insects by planting certain plants and/or creating habitat.
For example, planting nearby and/or mixing garlic and ginger powder in water and spraying it on the plant to be protected can resolve more issues than one would imagine.
Safe and effective ways to deter and eliminate garden pests.
Good soil grows strong plants and keeps their carbohydrate, protein, chemical (including natural pest deterrents) and other nutrient ratios in balance. Poor soil under-nourishes plants which weakens their immune systems, self-protection, production. Among other things, weak plants produce more carbohydrates for energy which insects thrive on.
So keep your soil fertile and healthy and pests will have a harder time feeding on them at all. Enlightened farmers now use what they call integrated pest management (IPM). It’s about striking that crucial balance between protecting their crops and protecting the environment… as well as protecting their pockets and saving money by reducing their use of chemical sprays.
You’ll have an advantage in managing pests by gardening organically as you will be encouraging natural biological checks and balances which control population levels from getting out of hand. Still, it’s wise to be prepared for action should your plants ever come under attack.
Essential information about controlling garden pests organically
Before you read the specific A-Z list of pests and controlling them; here is a brief overview of all organic garden pest control methods, mixtures, and what they consist of and how they work:
- Step #1 – Physical Approaches: Barriers such as plant collars, netting, surface materials or strips; traps, and simple hand removal, are often very good garden pest deterrents or removal methods that have absolutely no harmful side effects to anything.
- Step #2 – Allelopathy (Smell, gases and odor molecules): Garlic, ginger, tea-tree, tobacco, rhubarb, fish and other strong smelling substances that are used to repel pests. Many plants give off natural odors or have volatile oils which some bugs find intolerable. Often these odors or oils are a warning to bugs that the plant contains its own built in insecticide. This is called allelopathy and concoctions made from these plants will deter pests.
- Step #3 – Heat, plant chemical, or fumes: Chilies, kerosene, methylated spirits, fire, blow-torches, etc, will burn, harm or kill pests.
- Step #4 – Oil and/or soap mixes: Mineral oil, vegetable oils and proprietary oils, such as those made with cottonseed oil, will suffocate soft-bodied pests. Natural vegetable based soaps or detergents are added to sprays in small amounts to make them stick to plants. Many insects dislike and are harmed by soap also, especially Dr. Bronner’s tea tree soap. Dr Bronner’s is one of those rare things I don’t think I could live without – it’s an amazing soap and has almost infinite uses.
*Never spray plants during hot sunny weather as it may cause beading of water, which focuses sunlight like a magnifying class and causes the leaves to burn.*
***Natural soap is tolerated by plants better than detergent (which may have other ingredients such as surfactants, enzymes and softeners added). A small dash of detergent is okay to give a spray some ‘stickiness’ but is not required with Dr. Bronner’s. Even when using natural sprays, do as little harm as possible and don’t try to outgun nature. A little goes a long way.***
Decide what you need to do and do no more. For example, don’t you want to reduce the caterpillars that are eating your cabbage while still protecting the earth worms? Number one is get the big pests by hand. Number two is grow plants that are allelopathic to pests. Number three is create natural barriers. From then on you should be able to keep an eye out and use only a mixture that deters or repels the larvae and butterflies or moths from landing to lay eggs.
Always remember that you want a garden teeming with life. The more insects and creatures keeping each other in check, the less you will notice pests and have to rock the boat. It’s a numbers game, really. After the first couple rounds of pest control applications / treatments, you will significantly reduce the pests’ populations. Then, the natural predators of the pests will be competing even more, hungrier than before, scavenging to kill and eat the few remaining pests. If you run out of pests, beneficial insects may decide to make their home somewhere else, so this is why you actually always want a spot in your landscape that is a bit wild as a home for pests.
Yes, you want wonderful vegetables, flowers and trees to eat and enjoy; but the most resilient method is to practice diversity and not to hold on too tightly to perfection and neatness. In fact, you can create even more interesting and beautiful aesthetics, textures, patterns, and color with intermixing tons of different species of plants, just like nature does.
What works for some, doesn’t work for others due to a variety of factors. A combination of two or three methods is usually more than enough to remove any problems. Do you have a favourite organic garden pest control trick that works for you that isn’t here? Let us know by commenting below, on Facebook, or with our contact form!
Remember too that just because a substance is a natural insecticide, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. Beneficial bugs, birds and critters, including kids, pets and you too can suffer toxic effects of organic potions and lotions. From bees to butterflies, ladybirds to long-tailed lizards, they all have the potential to get caught in the crossfire. Don’t let that happen!
10+ Natural & Organic Ways to Get Rid of Snails & Slugs in the Garden
Free, snail/slug control methods without killing:
- Pick Them Off By Hand – While this method may seem time consuming, you may be able to solicit the help of your kids! They will find this a fun activity and you won’t have to apply any pesticides to your yard where they play. If it is safe to do so, you can have them take a flashlight out at night and pick off the snails and slugs when they are more active. If you don’t want to do it on your own, we provide our pest management services and have excellent 5 star reviews. Picking the likes of beetles and caterpillars off your veggies by hand is the first choice as long as you’re vigilant and have a small area. If you can’t re-locate them and they must be killed, you can crush them in a bucket and sprinkle them around your plants as a warning to other intruders.
- Set up a “Hiding Place Trap” – Snails and slugs like to hide in dark, damp spaces. Find a wet piece of wood or wooden plank or upside down / cracked gardening pot and place it near an area where snails and slugs are frequently spotted. The next morning, check the object’s dark cracks and crevices and get rid of any critters attached to it.
- Use Emptied Grapefruit Halves – Slice a grapefruit in half then scoop out and enjoy the grapefruit flesh. Next, place the emptied grapefruit halves near affected plants and leave them overnight. You should find plenty of slugs and snails in it the next morning. Move them to another area or crush them all up and throw them in your compost.
- Scatter Egg-Shells – Break egg shells into tiny pieces then scatter them on the garden soil. Snails and slugs will try to avoid egg shells because of their sharp edges but it doesn’t kill them, making it much less effective than diatomaceous earth. However, they do have the added benefit of providing calcium and other minerals to your soil as they break down and water doesn’t degrade them as quick. If you have tons of egg shells, you may be able to may a thick enough barrier to protect your plants.
- Coffee Grounds – Like egg shells, many pests don’t like the smell of used but relatively freshly brewed coffee grounds and if you have enough if it, can create an effective barrier for snails and slugs temporarily while germinating seeds, for example.
- Seaweed – If you live near an oceanic beach, collect seaweed and chop it up to create mulch. Add the seaweed to the top layer of soil around your plants. The iodine smell will deter slugs and snails and the salty content will be the perfect amount to dehydrate them, but won’t harm plants and it will actually add nutrients and trace minerals to the soil as it decays! This includes many trace nutrients that would be difficult to get into your garden soil any other way! In fact, if you have any seaweed left over after you create your mulch, don’t throw it away! Put it in your compost pile!
- Don’t Water Your Garden In the Evening – Snails and slugs are more active at night because it’s more moist then and they need a moist environment to survive. If you water your garden in the evening, this just creates a haven for these slimy creatures and they’ll be even more attracted to your plants! You’ll notice the impact on the leaves of your plant the next morning. If you water your plants in the morning, the daytime sunlight will dry the plants out before nightfall and make them less attractive to slugs and snails.
Easier and more effective, long-term methods for snail & slug control (involves killing):
Sprinkle Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth (to ensure no heavy metals/contaminants)
If you want to kill the pests, this natural powder is handy to have around. Get some food-grade diatomaceous earth and sprinkle it on areas where the snails and slugs frequent. Diatomaceous earth has microscopic edges that can pierce the bodies of slugs and snails and will then dehydrate them within 24 hours.
Diatoms are microscopic green algae with a glass-like (silica based) shell. Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of these glassy creatures. If you sprinkle a circle of this special “dirt” around your plants being attacked, this will kill and deter the snails and slugs, heavily reducing their populations overnight.
For diatomaceous earth to be effective, you will need to reapply it after it gets wet by rain or sprinklers. This is not a problem, just apply it around sunset and all the slugs and snails that come out and try to eat your beloved plants will be unable to do so ever again. Repeat once a week or as needed until all existing eggs / larvae are depopulated too in the desired areas only. Remember, you want to keep some pests in wild areas as food for beneficial insects to stick around.
Here is the lowest price 4 lb. bag of food grade dieatomaceous earth we found online for $9:
Introduce Natural Predators
Birds love pecking at snails and slugs. Attract the birds to the backyard by setting up a birdbath, natural bird houses, trees for nests, and bird feeders or grow plants for bird food like sunflower.
You could also consider other natural predators like beneficial insects. If conditions allow you may want to buy praying mantis egg cases for slugs and snails (and lady bugs, lacewing flies, etc. for other pests) and let these insects effectively handle the pest problem. Continue to below or click here to jump right to see if your climate / growing area will accommodate and benefit from these insects.
Set up a Beer Cup Trap
First, find a spot in the garden where you can bury a container. The container can be a beer can cut in half, a red solo cup, a plastic cup, a glass jar, a plastic tote, etc. and ought to be buried near the plant being attacked and deep enough so that the rim is even with the ground level. Next, find some stale, flat beer and pour it into the container (a little over an inch deep). The snails and slugs will be attracted to the smell of the beer and drop themselves into the trap and die.
One beer trap every 5-10 square feet is recommended, but you can always do more or less depending on how many slugs/snails are in your garden. Snails and slugs are naturally attracted to the scent of beer because it contains yeast but they get disoriented when they drink it. This is a very effective snail or slug trap. Be sure to use a container deep enough so they can’t just crawl back out again.
Get Some Chickens Or Ducks
If you live in the country, this is a solution to your slug problem that will also produce some nice farm fresh eggs. Free ranging chickens and ducks don’t just eat grass! They also love highly nutritious and delicious slugs and snails and will happily help you with your problem! If you cannot afford to raise these foul birds in your small backyard, consider introducing beneficial predator insects to your garden.
Put Some Chopped Mint In Your Soil
Mint grows like gangbusters and can even take over a yard if it isn’t cut back. If you have a flowerbed that is being attacked, consider adding your mint trimmings to the soil to deter snails and slugs. They are repelled by the smell. However, to the human nose, the sweet smelling mint and the fragrance of the flowers blend well together. In fact, you may find your neighbors coming over for natural aromatherapy!
Plant Rosemary Or Thyme Bushes Nearby
Rosemary and thyme are in the mint family, so like mint (such as peppermint and spearmint), these plants deter slugs and snails with their aroma! Just give them the right care and watering requirements, and they will pay you back big time. This is a simple but effective natural slug and snail deterrent and you’ll have some nice perennial herbs for cooking.
Remember to ask yourself: are these pests really out of control?
There are some effective organic commercial preparations, such as Neem Oil, Insecticidal Soap and Fatty Acid Sprays, but if you want cheaper options and be more eco-friendly, make your own!
Here then, to have at your fingertips, is the list of the best homemade organic garden pest control solutions…
Read all about it here: Slug and Snail Control
Garlic, Onions and Chillis
Garlic fire spray is the stuff of legend. There are many recipes, but they consist of some or all of the following: garlic, chilli peppers, soap, vegetable oil, kerosene and water.
Don’t leave home without a concoction of this. Depending on its strength it will slay dragons and ants (must have dragons if we mention legends)!
Here’s my very effective brew:
- 2-3 garlic bulbs (about 6-10 cloves per bulb)
- 6 large or 12 smaller hot chilli peppers (any variety will do, or if unavailable try 1-2 tablespoon hot chilli powder)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 squirts of eco liquid detergent (approximately 1 dessertspoonful)
- 7 cups water. (Use about 2-3 cups in the blender, and top up with the rest later)
Put the whole lot into a blender and vitamise well, then strain through muslin, a coffee filter or similar.
Pour what you need into a spray bottle for use and store the rest in well labelled jars with lids on.
Experiment with it if necessary and check for results or any damage to young plants. If it fixes the problem and your plants are happy, you’ve got the perfect mix.
But if there’s still a few biggie pests, albeit struggling, then lower the water dilution rate or change the ingredient quantities slightly.
Lovely garlicky, pongy stuff, but the smell dissipates quickly once it’s been sprayed around. This garlic fire mixture needs to be re-sprayed frequently, such as after rain and dew.
It’s best to spray every few days until there’s no sign of pests, then about every week to 10 days for any eggs or larvae that may have hatched out.
Uses for this natural garden pest control are unlimited. Because it has oil and dishwashing liquid in it, it sticks to plants as well as suffocating pests such as scale and mealy bug. It will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs and just about any little invader.
SO BE VERY SELECTIVE—MIND THE LADYBUGS, LACEWINGS, BEES AND OTHER GOOD GARDEN FRIENDS.
Spraying this mixture around the edge of your garden will deter pets. Rabbits, gophers, woodchucks and other garden gate crashers will also be discouraged.
Here’s another version: if you don’t have a blender (really!). Put a whole garlic bulb through a garlic press and let it sit in a glass jar with several ounces of mineral or salad oil. Mix a few spoonful’s with dishwashing liquid, hot pepper sauce and water in a spray bottle.
Yet another version: Keep your scraps from all or any onions, garlic and chillies. Skins, end, bad bits, good bits, old softies that are past eating are all good. (If, unlike me, you have spare room in your fridge or freezer, then accumulate them in a bag until you have a good amount).
When ready, cover well with water, hot water seems to bring out the essences well, and leave to steep. Or you can bring to boil in a pot of water.
Leave to cool and soak for a couple of days or so, and over a week if you used cold water. Strain and use with spray bottle. Depending on how strong it is, test on a bug and a leaf to see if one or other keel over. Dilute with more water if necessary, or throw in more of the vegetable matter.
Although the above garlic/onion/chilli sprays often have oil added, you can make a pure smothering oily mixture. Blend together ½ cup of liquid or grated pure soap in 1 cup of vegetable oil.
Any cheap salad oil from supermarket is fine. Emulsify it by using a blender or beat by hand and it will become a thick white consistency.
To use, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 litre of warm water and spray every bit of plant where you find the pests you’re after.
Oily pest control mixtures are best for mites, nematodes and hard shell insects, such as scale… it simply suffocates them. It’s fine to use for indoor plants, but when using outdoors, don’t use when the sun is out otherwise it can burn the plants.
Don’t use too much of oily mixes either as it will harm the very plants you are trying to help—they need air too. Sometimes it’s best to dab it on just the infected areas.
Fish Fertiliser is another useful jack-of-all trades deterrent for unwanteds. Made into a liquid or meal from fish scraps, it is mostly used as an insect repellent for mosquitoes and similar. It’s also good in the garden as a fertilizer and deters mites, caterpillars and even nematodes.
It seems some gardeners, orchardists and farmers noticed that when they sprayed their plants with fish fertiliser, the pests held their noses, packed up and left, spreading the word as they did so.
Exactly why it works is not yet clear but there are a couple of possibilities:
Firstly, because fish fertiliser is oily, this smothers nematodes and mites.
Secondly butterflies and moths find their host plants by their acute sense of smell. So they are not going to hang around breeding caterpillars when the smell of cauliflowers or apples is masked by fish!
You can make you own by soaking fish scraps in water for a few weeks, strain and use. A bit of brown sugar or molasses helps things along.
This is one concoction where you definitely need to put it way down the back of the garden and cover it except for some tiny little air holes. Pwuew!
Even if you buy and spray on the emulsion or make up a liquid from fish meal, the slightly fishy aroma lingers around for a day or two.
So if your neighbours stop smiling at you… it’s not because of your hairstyle!
Christmas tinsel decorations make good deterrents for some garden pests. String some reflective garlands around the garden to deter birds, although as with all bird scares, this works for a few weeks before the birds get wise.
Aphids seem to get confused and retreat if you weave tinselly ribbons around plants, or place on the ground. The bright side of aluminium foil does the trick too.
As well as adding to other insect sprays to help disperse and stick to plants, soap can be used on its own.
Make up a weak soapy solution with pure soap, grated then dissolved in warm water. Try approximately 1 tablespoon of soap to a bucket of water. Many people save their dishwashing water to use, but make sure it is eco-friendly.
Soapy water will control many little soft bugs, such as aphids and spider mites.
These often work well as a poison to sap-sucking pests, but other times they don’t! I’ve proven results, but occasionally had to resort to a different method, don’t ask me why. See how you go…
These are the three most favoured plants to use:
Tomato Leaves: Boil up a pot of leaves covered with water. Let cool and seep for several hours at least, then pour or spray over plant where you see insects or caterpillars.
Rhubarb Leaves: Rhubarb leaves are semi-poisonous to us, and a tea brewed from rhubarb leaves poisons smaller pests, such as aphids, mites, white fly, and some caterpillar varieties.
Pour boiling water over crushed rhubarb leaves then leave to soak for several days. Strain, add a good squirt of detergent and dilute enough so that it looks like weak tea then spray over pest infested plants. Repeat every 10 days or so.
Wormwood leaves: As for tomato or rhubarb leaves.
The pyrethrum daisy (Tanacetum cinerariifolium) is from the chrysanthemum species and is easy to grow.
With the teeniest bit of fuss you can make one of the most effective insecticides that has been around for many a year.
You can buy Pyrethrum; it’s organic and is sold as a spray for flies, mosquitoes and just about every other annoying flying or garden bug.
To make your own, first pick the flowers in full bloom when the ‘pyrethrins’ in the flower heads are at their peak. Pick enough stalk so you can hang the flowers to dry in an undercover and preferably coolish, dark place.
When brittle and dry, grind them finely with blender or mortar and pestle. Use quickly as it loses its potency within 1-2 days. What you don’t use, store in fridge or freezer.
Store the dried flowers in the freezer also, if you’re not ready to powder them.
To use, finely shake the pyrethrum power onto target pests or make a solution by mixing 2 teaspoons with 3 litres of water. Let it steep for 3 hours; add a quick squirt of liquid soap, then use as a spray.
This is a contact poison affecting the nervous system, so must touch each pest. Depending on the pest and the contact strength, some insects will go a bit balmy, some will make a run for it and some will keel over for good.
A follow-up spray 2 days later can prove to be extra effective as it will often catch those insects that have tottered out of hiding.
As mentioned pyrethrum is unstable, and once used is effective for 1-2 days. Light and heat hasten its deterioration, so spray on a cool evening if possible.
Sticky Yellow traps
Mostly used to attract and kill whitefly and aphids.
Coat yellow boards or strips of something weatherproof with oil or paste/glue, or double-sided sticky tape, and hang or tack nearby to plants.
The bright yellow attracts these insects and they then get stuck on the sticky surface.
This is a mild insecticide and it also acts as a fertiliser. Mix 1 tablespoon of molasses with 1 litre of hot water and add a squirt of liquid soap.
This repels brassica butterflies and moths partly due to its stickiness. For caterpillars already on plants, they soon drops off once sprayed with this.
Especially useful against earwigs and other creepy, crawly bugs such as millipedes.
Mix 6 teaspoons of eucalyptus oil with 1 cup of water. Add half 3 teaspoons of liquid soap and spray surrounding soil of effected plants.
NOTHING attacks Picrasma excelsa, a tree that grows in the West Indies. Its bitter bark is sold worldwide as an insecticide, mostly for flies, mites and aphids. It is especially useful to repel possums.
Quassia chips are often scattered in roof spaces and entry points to areas where possums are not welcome.
The easiest way to make a spray is to first buy the chips at a garden supplier, add around 3 cups to a large bucket of hot water, and let cool and soak for 1-2 days.
Add a squirt (about 1 teaspoon) of liquid soap or eco detergent, and spray the ground around plants. For small insects you can spray the plants themselves, but wait a week before eating them—it’s very bitter, astringent and will do you no good.
For possums, it is suggested to put a fresh lot of cassia spray or chips around each night for up to a week. This finally gives the possum a lightbulb moment—ah ah, this place is awful—and they give up. If it comes back or a new possum tries its luck, just repeat your cassia program.
A very week solution of any sort of household vinegar will deter many leaf chewing beetles and caterpillars.
Firstly, just put a dash, about 1 teaspoon into a spray bottle of about 1 litre and lightly spritz all over leaves and stem of target plants.
DON’T make it any stronger or you may harm the poor plant. Full strength vinegar remember is a popular weed killer.
Secondly, only do this spraying in the evening or on dull days, because sunshine on vinegar can burn plants.
Fences, screens, cloches and floating row covers
All of these barriers are useful and for bottle cloches and other simple methods, you can make yourself.
For other ideas it would be helpful if you had handyperson abilities to make your own.
Otherwise employ someone to build what you need or check out Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Crop Cover / Frost Blanket / Garden Fabric Plant Cover. This was a particularly good find, and better than what was available at garden suppliers. It lasts for many years, lets plenty of light in and keeps the warmth in, yet stops any searing sun damage. Well worth it!
For some animal pests, such as racoons, deer and rabbits, a very strong physical barrier is usually a necessity. We’re talking about fences, cages, netting, and all the permutations of imaginative ways to show that Trespassers are Forbidden!
More organic garden pest control ideas. . .
Companion planting: Another important method to help control garden pests.
Beneficial Garden insects and creatures: Here’s how to attract these good critters to help with natural garden pest control.
See our other pest pages. . .
Natural Pest Control Remedies Exactly what solutions have proven to work!
The A-Z List of Garden Pests Have you got one or more of these garden pests? Check these out.
Controlling Plant Diseases What do they look like and what to do with Pathogens, Fungus, molds, mildew, blight on vegetable plants
See our other pest pages. . .
Organic Garden Pest Control How organic pest control works and when and why solutions are needed
The A-Z List of Garden Pests Have you got one or more of these garden pests? Check these out.
Controlling Plant Diseases What do they look like and what to do with Pathogens, Fungus, molds, mildew, blight on vegetable plants