Natural Garden Pest Control

  Related: 'Mini' Insectary    Natural Slug Control    Natural Insect Pest Control                        
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  natural pest control
• Prevention

• Beneficial Insects
• Non-toxic Homemade Remedies
• Traps and Barriers
• Deer, Rodent, Mole Control

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Pick a pest and you can usually find a natural control for it.

Natural pest control is less expensive than buying and applying pesticides, and it's safer for your garden, your family, the natural wildlife and the environment.

Garden Pest Control Products

Pheromone Mosquito Traps

Eartheasy's Glass Wasp Traps

Apple Maggot Traps

Garden Pest Control Products

Natural Cedar Raised Garden Beds

Each year North American homes use approximately 136 million pounds of pesticides on lawns and gardens, and in the home. In fact, homeowners use about three times the amount of pesticides as farmers. Most wildlife pest poisonings, and most surface water contamination from pesticides, come from single-family homes.

For safety information about common pesticides
, see the Audubon Pesticide Chart.
The easiest way to prevent insect damage in your garden is to discourage them from coming in the first place. A healthy garden is the best defence.
Pull out any weak plants. They may already be infected. If not, they will attract predators. Pull the plant and dispose of it away from the garden area.

• Build healthy, organic soil. Natural composting methods, mulching and top-dressing your soil with compost or natural fertilizer is the best way to develop strong, vigorous plants.

• Seaweed mulch or spray. Seaweed contains trace elements such as iron, zinc, barium, calcium, sulfur and magnesium, which promote healthy development in plants. Seaweed fertilizer in mulch or spray form will enhance growth and give plants the strength to withstand disease. Seaweed mulch also repels slugs.

Minimize insect habitat.
Clear garden area of debris and weeds which are breeding places for insects. Use clean mulch.

• Interplant and rotate crops. Insect pests are often plant specific. When plantings are mixed, pests are less likely to spread throughout a crop. Rotating crops each year is a common method to avoid re-infestation of pests which have over-wintered in the bed.

• Keep foliage dry. Water early so foliage will be dry for most of the day. Wet foliage encourages insect and fungal damage to your plants. See our page on drip-irrigation for methods of delivering water to the root systems without wetting the foliage.

• Disinfect. If you've been working with infested plants, clean your tools before moving on to other garden areas. This will reduce the speed of invading insects.
Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects are insects which you can attract to your garden, or buy from catalogues, which prey on harmful insects or their larvae. There are many different species for specific problems, and more information is available at several of the links listed on this page.

Brachonids,Chalcids and Ichneumon Wasps

These small beneficial insects destroy leaf-eating caterpillars. You can attract them to your garden by planting carrots, celery, parsley, caraway and Queen Anne's lace, all members of the Umbelliferae family. These plants are easy to grow, and some should be left to flower. It's the flower that attracts the insects.

These common insects consume aphids, mites, whiteflies and scale. They can be attracted to your garden by planting members of the daisy family (Compositae), tansy or yarrow. Ladybugs are also available from catalogues online.

Lacewings are avid consumers of aphids, and their larva eat aphids and other varieties of other insect pests. They are attracted to "composite" flowers, such as yarrow, goldenrod, black-eyed susan's and asters. Lacewings can also be purchased online at the sources listed below, and released directly into your garden.


Hover-flies are avid consumers of aphids, and the larva of hover-flies eat aphids and other insect pests. Like the Lacewings, they are attracted to "composite" flowers, such as yarrow, goldenrod, black-eyed susan's and asters. Seeds for these flowers are available online, or at most garden centers.

Praying Mantis
These large insects have an appetite for most garden pests. Praying mantis eggs are set out in the garden where they hatch and quickly grow to adult size. The eggs are available through mail-order and online catalogues.

Effective against cutworms, a common pest which destroys sprouts before they can grow into seedlings. Nematodes are also effective against beetles and root weevil larvae.

Nematode eggs are microscopic and come in a small sponge a million at a time. These are mixed with water and applied to the soil, where they hatch and go to work. If they get on foliage, wash them off to the ground.

Nematodes are harmless to humans and pets. They are available in some garden centers and through mail-order catalogues, and at the businesses linked below.

Garden 'Mini - Insectary' - You can also set aside a small garden plot of flowering plants designed to attract and harbor beneficial insects. These 'good' insects prey on many common garden insect pests, and offer the gardener a safer, natural alternative to pesticides. Click for more information about creating a Garden Mini Insectary

Non-toxic and Homemade Remedies
Homemade remedies are inexpensive and, best of all, you know what is going into your garden. Many homemade sprays have been used with good results to control harmful insects. They usually involve noxious (but non-toxic) ingredients such as garlic, cayenne, stinging nettles or horsetail which are diluted in water and blended to be sprayed on the plants. Here are a few simple formulas:
  • Soft-bodied insects (mites, aphids, mealybugs):
    Mix one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray plant from above down, and from below up to get the underside of the leaves. The oil smothers the insects.

  • Grubs:
    For lawn or garden grubs, there is a natural remedy called
    milky spore. The granules are spread on the soil and cause the grubs to contract a disease that kills them. This natural control affects only the grubs, leaving the beneficial organisms unharmed. Milky spore multiplies over time and will sit inactive, waiting for grubs to infect. One treatment is said to last 40 years. The grubs are actually the larvae of Japanese beetles. So, when you kill the grubs you kill the beetle.

  • Mites and other insects:
    Mix two tablespoons of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper with a few drops of Ivory soap into a quart of water. Let stand overnight, then stir and pour into a spray bottle and apply as above. Shake container frequently during application.

  • Earwigs, slugs, and other soft-bodied garden pests:
    diatomaceous earth over plants and around edges of garden beds. The diatoms particles are very small and sharp – but only harmful to the small exoskeletons of insects, slugs and snails. Insects cannot become immune to its action, as it is a mechanical killer – not a chemical one.

    For more information about nontoxic slug and snail control, read our article Natural Slug Control.

  • Fungal diseases:
    Mix two tablespoons of baking soda into a gallon of water. Pour into a spray container and spray affected areas. Repeat this process every few days until problem ceases.

  • Powdery mildew:
    Mix equal parts milk and water and spray on infected plants. Three treatments a week apart should control the disease.

  • Insects and fungal diseases:
    Combine one tablespoon of cooking oil, two tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of Ivory soap into a gallon of water. Pour into a spray container and apply as above.

  • Insects on fruit trees:
    Lime sulfur and dormant oil, available at nurseries and garden centers, can be sprayed on the trunk and branches of dormant fruit trees. This concoction will suffocate insect egg cases. Because the oily spray is heavy compared to the other water-based sprays, you'll need a pump sprayer. These are fairly inexpensive, and are available to rent from some nurseries. Only use this method while the tree is dormant, however, or it can kill the tree.

    Commercial dormant oils may contain petroleum oil or kerosene. A less toxic method is to make your own. Mix 1 cup vegetable oil and 2 tbsp liquid soap in one gallon (4 liters) water. Mix the soap and oil first, then add the water. Shake often during use.

aution: Sprays which kill harmful insects will also kill beneficial insects. Use these homemade remedies selectively, only spraying the infected plants. Apply them early in the morning or just before dark. Re-apply after a rain. Wear protective clothing when spraying insecticides.
Traps and Barriers
Yellow Flypaper: Old-fashioned fly-paper is very effective in the garden for aphids and whiteflies. In fact, any board or heavy paper painted yellow and coated with a sticky substance such as tanglefoot (available at garden centers) will do the job.

Apple Maggot Traps: The apple maggot is the most destructive pest of apples grown in home orchards. This insect is a type of fly which pierces the skin of ripening fruit and lays eggs. In 5 - 10 days, the eggs hatch a maggot which burrows through the fruit. These pests can be managed by using sticky red sphere traps. Hang one trap for every 100 apples in a tree. Click for more information, or to buy apple maggot traps.

Pheremones: These biological mating scents attract insects to a trap which is coated with a sticky substance. Pheremone traps are effective, but remember they are "attracting" the insects - be sure to position them on your garden perimeter or you'll attract outside pests into your garden! Available at larger garden centers, usually in the $5 - $15 range.

Floating Row Covers: Floating row covers consist of lightweight opaque material which is draped over the garden bed. Sunlight and water go through, but insects and birds are kept out. The material is so light that the growing plants simply push it up as they grow - like Jiffy Pop popcorn. The edges of the row cover need to be anchored with rocks or boards or the wind will lift it. The material is "spun" which resists tearing, but usually begins to break down after a few years. Row cover material comes in rolls so you can make a continuous cover no matter how long the garden bed.

Row covers are great for protecting seedlings. They are even more useful throughout the growing season when placed over vegetables such as carrots, beets, broccoli, swiss chard and spinach because it makes an effective barrier against flying insects looking for these plants to lay their eggs on.

Cloche: The cloche is like a miniature greenhouse for your seedbeds and young plants, and acts as a barrier against pests. Unlike the floating row cover, however, the cloche has to be opened on hot days and for watering, and this presents an opportunity for pests to find the plants. But because the cloche helps seedlings and young plants get well established, the enhanced natural resistance of stronger healthy plants is the best defence against pests and disease. Click here for more info or for plans to build your own portable garden cloche.

Barrier Paper: Scraps of waxed cardboard from milk cartons are a simple yet effective defence against cabbage moths. Cabbage moth larva kill young sprouts of the Brassica family (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale or cauliflower).

Cut into 2" squares and slit one side into the center; make another small slit crossways. Open the slit and slide the square so the seedling stem is in the center. This prevents the cabbage moth from laying eggs at the base of the sprouts. Leave in place - as the plant grows it will simply push the slit open wider. Be sure to apply as soon as the sprout appears, or the moth will beat you to it!

Deer Control

The average deer eats about 5 pounds of greenery each day. Creatures of habit, they revisit the same forage areas often. The following non-toxic recipes will deter the deer, but may need to be re-applied after a heavy rain.
~ Mix one whole egg with a quarter cup of water and mix well. Pour the mixture into a pump bottle and spray it on your plants. This deterrent will withstand light rains because the egg sticks to the leaves.

~ Mix one tablespoon of liquid dish detergent with one ounce of hot sauce in one litre of water and spray directly on plants which deer have been nibbling.

~ For larger volume applications, mix the following ingredients:

..............1 cup milk........................2 gallons water (8 liters)..............2 whole eggs
..............2 T cooking oil.................2 T liquid detergent

..............Pour the mixture into a pump bottle and spray it on your plants.

~ Nontoxic natural deer repellents are commercially available, using variations of the above formulas. Click to learn more or to purchase nontoxic deer repellent.

Eventually, even the most persistent deer will become discouraged and look elsewhere for forage. Once they're in the habit of feeding elsewhere, you may be able to let up on the spraying regimen.

Site visitors offer these suggestions for nontoxic deer control:

"Hang a bar of fragrant soap from a middle branch of a bush to keep deer from eating the leaves. They don't like the smell. The rain and humidity keeps the soap fragrant." Wendy "

Human hair stuffed into a small cheescloth sack and hung in trees will repel deer. This is useful in a small orchard." Anthony

Rodent Control

First, secure any open food sources, especially the compost bin. Sealed compost bins, such as compost tumblers, are recommended if you have rodents in your garden. As a deterrent, soak a rag or cotton balls in oil of peppermint (found at most health food stores), and place in areas of rodent activity. Place under an eve or under a cover that will keep the rain from diluting the peppermint. Rodents are allergic to peppermint and will avoid it.
This method is also effective at deterring rabbits.

Mole Control

Organic mole repellent is now commercially available for area-specific mole controL.

Related Pages:

Nontoxic Slug Control
Nontoxic Wasp Control
Nontoxic Flea Control
Natural Insect Pest Control



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