You may be reading this post because you are looking for a quick fix to a pest problem you are facing in the garden. There are organic pest control solutions that really work (I list them below).
It is important to understand the importance of healthy soil and plants as it relates to common pests in the garden. Healthy plants and soil are the best defense against pests. Pests often choose plants that are weakened in some way.
Before you decide which action to take, read through these 8 tips for effective organic pest control and prevention in the garden.
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8 Tips for Organic Pest Control and Prevention
Effective organic pest control tip #1: Focus on healthy soil
Healthy plants in soil rich in organic matter and nutrients, watered correctly with plenty of sunlight and airflow, are much less susceptible to pests.
In contrast, sickly plants struggling in depleted soil treated with chemical fertilizers are much more likely to have pests.
It’s important to have your soil tested at least once a year to determine soil fertility and pH. When the nutrient levels and soil pH are correct, this prevents stress which then reduces pest problems.
A soil test can determine the health of your soil. This is the soil test kit I use. It’s very simple to use.
Effective organic pest control tip #2: Keep your garden clean
Remove dead leaves, fallen fruit, and other debris that provide refuge for pests. This will help prevent major infestations. Remove and throw away infested plants; don’t add them to your compost pile.
Effective organic pest control tip #3: Keep plants healthy
- If pests or diseases have been an issue in the past, plant disease-resistant varieties.
- Water correctly, and avoid water on leaves.
- Give plants enough room, and space plants properly for adequate airflow.
Effective organic pest control tip #4: Enlist Mother Nature’s help
- Provide shelter for natural predators: lizards, toads, ducks, chickens, birds, bats, birds, ducks.
- Let herbs and vegetables go to flower.
- Attract and learn to identify beneficial insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis, hoverflies, lacewings, tachinid flies, and dragonflies.
- Stop using pesticides; they kill the good and the bad.
Effective organic pest control tip #5: Spend time in your garden each day
Notice small problems before they become big problems. Look for pests early in the morning, as pests are less active and easier to hand-pick. If you see an adult pest, look for its eggs on undersides of leaves.
Effective organic pest control tip #6: Use crop placement to your advantage by utilizing different plant methods
- Crop rotation – Avoid planting the same plant in the same location two seasons in a row.
- Companion planting – Plants such as marigold, bee balm, dill, and nasturtium are common companion plants to help prevent pests.
- Polyculture – Interplanting different types of plants in beds makes it more difficult for pests to find preferred plants.
Read this post, “5 Tips for Successful Companion Planting,” for more detail about these topics.
Effective organic pest control tip #7: Be patient and start with the least invasive methods
Demonstrate patience and use any method with a light hand. All products, even organic ones, may kill unintended insects. Follow the dilution and application instructions exactly. Organic controls used incorrectly or in too high concentrations can be as dangerous as chemicals.
Effective organic pest control tip #8: Consider pulling heavily-infected plants
A plant completely overrun with squash bugs may have reached the end of its life cycle. Remove and dispose of the plant (and its residents) rather than waging a losing battle only to have the bugs spread throughout your garden.
Common garden pests (see chart below for treatments)
Common garden pests and their organic treatments
The chart below lists methods that work for organic pest control in the garden. Begin with the least invasive and be patient. You will probably need to treat more than once. (Directions for the various treatments are found at the bottom of this article.)
|Aphids||Do nothing; attract beneficials; water spray; garlic spray; prune severely infected leaves and plants; horticultural oil; insecticidal soap. Beneficial insects to look for: green lacewings, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, minute pirate bugs, Aphidius wasp.|
|Cabbage Worms/ Cabbage Loopers||Row covers; attract beneficials (lacewings, lady bugs, wasps); handpick; Bt.|
|Corn Earworms||Attract beneficials (praying mantis); wasps; Bt; beneficial nematodes; horticultural oil; garlic spray; neem oil.|
|Cutworms||Rigid collars; diatomaceous earth; Bt.|
|Flea Beetles||Row covers; plant radishes as a trap crop; insecticidal soap.|
|Leaf-footed Bugs||Handpick; check undersides of leaves for eggs; neem oil is effective in the nymph stage.|
|Mites (Spider)||Attract beneficials; spray with water; cut off and dispose of infested leaves; insecticidal soap; horticultural oil. Heavily infected leaves are stippled with yellow. The mites thrive in dry, dusty conditions. Keep plants clean; spray with water every few days to keep numbers in check. Clean up fallen infected leaves. Quarantine new plants to prevent accidental infestation. Beneficials to look for: predatory mites.|
|Pill Bugs (harmful if found in large numbers)||Good garden sanitation; handpick; beer traps; citrus traps; board traps; diatomaceous earth; neem oil.|
|Slugs, Snails||Encourage natural predators; handpick (easiest at night); chickens; ducks; beer traps; citrus traps; board traps; diatomaceous earth. Natural predators to look for: beetles, fireflies, toads.|
|Squash Bugs||Grow resistant varieties; garden vertically; board traps; garlic spray (early and often); crop rotation; handpick; good garden sanitation; row covers to prevent adults from laying eggs; horticultural oil directly on eggs; insecticidal soap; neem oil. Beneficial insects to look for: tachinid flies.|
|Squash Vine Borers||Grow resistant varieties; pheromone traps to attract maile moths (lets you know to be alert for females laying eggs); garlic spray (early and often); beneficial nematodes; crop rotation; row covers.|
|Thrips||Attract beneficials (lacewings, lady bugs, praying mantis); water spray; yellow sticky traps; diatomaceous earth; garlic spray; insecticidal soap; neem oil.|
|Tomato Hornworms||Encourage beneficials (wasps); handpick; (use a UV flashlight to find them at night; row covers; Bt (must apply when they are small).|
|Whiteflies||Attract beneficials (lacewings, ladybugs, praying mantis); water spray; yellow sticky trap; garlic spray; insecticidal soap; horticultural oil; neem oil.|
Organic pest control methods
How to use each organic pest control method (listed from least invasive to most invasive)
|Organic Pest Control Methods||Directions for Use|
|Remove affected leaves||
|Yellow sticky traps||
|Beer traps, citrus traps, board traps||
|Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)||