“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”
This famous quote by English poet Alfred Austin beautifully summarizes how gardening makes a person happy and healthy from the inside out.
Those who love gardening take care of their plants just like their children.
Among other things, you worry about slow-moving insects and other pests that can cause significant damage to your vegetable, plants, herbs and flowers.
Slugs, snails, earwigs, caterpillars, aphids, earworms, ants and mites are just some of the destructive pests that should not be allowed to roam free in your garden.
While pesticides can take care of these problem insects, they are typically not environmentally friendly and often contain harmful chemicals that you don’t want on your homegrown produce.
Fortunately, many natural remedies can help control garden pests without damaging the plants or soil.
Here are the top 10 home remedies to control garden pests.
1. Neem Oil
Neem oil is effective at saving plants infested with aphids and other harmful pests, such as mealy bugs, cabbage worms, beetles, leaf miners, ants and caterpillars.
The organic compounds in neem oil act as insect repellents and are also effective in controlling the spread of many types of fungi that infect plants.
Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that cold-pressed neem oil is safe and does not pose a risk to people or the environment, when used according to label directions.
- To make a foliar spray, pour 1 quart of warm water, 2 teaspoons of neem oil and 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid into a spray can. Spray the solution on the foliage and stems, making sure that it gets to places where insects usually hide. Spray every 3 days for at least 2 to 3 weeks.
- Alternatively, you can use neem-based products available in the market to get rid of harmful garden pests. Follow the instructions on the label.
Always water the plants a few hours prior to spraying.
2. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, made from fossilized water plants called diatoms, works as a good all-purpose insect repellent and treatment.
It can help you get rid of insects like aphids, ants, mites, earwigs, bedbugs, adult fleas, beetles, cockroaches, snails and slugs.
It is deadly to animals with exoskeletons, like most insects. The microscopic fossils have razor-sharp edges that can damage the insects’ outer shell, causing them to dehydrate and die.
- Fill a shaker container with diatomaceous earth.
- Sprinkle it on the garden bed and the surrounding area to deter pests from reaching the plants and kill those that may have already invaded.
- Repeat as needed.
3. Peppermint Oil
Another great way to control pests in your garden is through the use of essential oils from bioactive plants like peppermint. This herb has strong antimicrobial and pest-repelling properties.
In addition to peppermint, you can also use other essential oil like that of rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus, lavender, clove, spearmint, basil, and citronella.
Cedarwood and pine essential oils also act as highly effective repellents for gastropods like slugs and snails.
- Put 2 cups of water in a spray bottle.
- Add 2 capfuls of organic liquid soap in it.
- Add 1 teaspoon peppermint essential oil. You can also add ½ teaspoon of lemon eucalyptus oil, orange oil, and cedar oil.
- Mix well and spray this solution on your garden plants to repel harmful pests and insects.
- Repeat as needed.
4. Hot Pepper
Pepper works as a broad-spectrum, organic treatment for a number of garden pests, including aphids, lace bugs, cabbage maggots and spider mites.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center in the U.S., pepper works as a deterrent for a range of pests that eat or damage shrubs, trees and smaller plants.
- Ground cayenne pepper can be dusted around the base of plant stems from time to time to thwart crawling pests that feed on seedlings.
- Put ½ cup of chopped red chili peppers and 2 cups of water in a blender. Blend briefly, then strain the solution and pour it into a spray bottle. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap also. Shake thoroughly and then spray it around your garden boundary. Use it every 4 to 5 days until you are satisfied with the results.
Garlic is a great organic pesticide that can destroy harmful insects and keep your valuable plants safe. It is highly effective against aphids, stinkbugs and harlequin cabbage bugs that can really destroy plants.
- Put 1 entire garlic bulb and 2 cups of water in a blender.
- Blend on high speed until the garlic is finely pureed.
- Set it aside for a day.
- Strain and then mix the liquid into 1 gallon of water. You can also add 1 teaspoon nof cayenne pepper powder.
- Transfer the solution to a spray bottle.
- Spray the tops and bottoms of your plants’ leaves thoroughly.
- Apply about once a week, and after a rain.
6. Beer Trap
Slimy critters like slugs and snails cause trouble year after year for gardeners. But you can use your favorite beer to control them.
Slugs and snails are attracted to beer. It’s not the alcohol but the yeast or yeast by-products that attracts them.
- Fill a few empty cans with beer.
- Bury the cans in your garden soil up to the rim.
- Leave them overnight so that the creepy creatures can move into the beer and drown.
- The next morning, throw out all the cans and replace them with a fresh batch.
- Repeat daily as needed until you are satisfied with the result.
7. Companion Planting
You can also try companion planting to avoid garden pests.
Companion planting involves growing different plants in close proximity on the premise that they will enter into a beneficial symbiotic relationship with each other.
This strategy can also be applied in pest management. Strong smelling plants with insecticidal properties can be planted next to vulnerable ones, or different smelling plants can be planted together to mask the chemical cues that attract or guide different pests towards their favored plants.
This is an eco-friendly method for pest management as there is no possibility of any toxic or harmful effects to both humans and beneficial insects like bees, butterflies and ladybugs.
Use plants like chrysanthemums, lavender, basil, rosemary, sage, horseradish and alliums (onion, garlic, chives, shallots) around any vulnerable plants to repel against various garden pests such as aphids, weevils, moles, Japanese beetles and fungus gnats.
Eggshells make good fertilizers for your plants. At the same time, crushed eggshells sprinkled around your garden work as a barrier to deter slugs and other insects.
In fact, crushed eggshells work as an organic pesticide to kill pests like Japanese beetles and slugs. The sharp edges of the crushed shells irritate the skin of the insects and ultimately destroy them.
- Boil and dry the shells from 10 to 12 eggs.
- Grind them into a powder form.
- Sprinkle the eggshell powder all over the soil around your plants.
- Repeat as needed.
Sweet nectar from flowering plants as well as the honeydew waste from aphids are what attract entire colonies of ants to your garden.
To deter unwanted ants, borax is one of the best home remedies that you can try.
Powdered borax consisting of soft, colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water. When consumed by ants, it causes havoc on their exterior as well as interior body parts.
- Mix together ¼ cup each of sugar and borax.
- Sprinkle it around any ant hills and travel paths.
- Repeat as needed.
10. Baking Soda
Baking soda can also play a key role in keeping your garden free of pests. It can kill insects that harm plants, such as aphids and spider mites, without harming the environment.
Plus, it works as a nontoxic fungicide to keep your plants safe from fungal infections.
- Combine 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 or 3 teaspoons of olive oil and a few drops of liquid soap into 2 quarts of water. Transfer it to a spray bottle and spray once every 3 days to get rid of harmful insects and prevent them from returning.
- As a deterrent, sprinkle baking soda around the boundary of your garden. Rabbits, ants, silverfish and roaches do not like it and will stay away.
- Before using any pest control remedies, water your plants thoroughly the day before treating them. Water-related stress can make the plants more vulnerable to damage from pesticides.
- Always test home remedies on a small area of a plant 1 or 2 days before you use it to make sure it does not harm your plants.
- Plant marigolds anywhere you suspect a soil nematode infestation. Marigolds serve as traps and lure soil nematodes.
- Pull out any weak plants, as they attract predators.
- Provide healthy, organic soil to develop strong, vigorous plants.
- Use seaweed mulch or spray to ensure healthy development in plants.
- Keep your garden area free of debris and weeds, which are breeding places for insects.
- Interplant and rotate crops. Garden pests are often plant-specific.
- Water early in the morning so the foliage will remain dry for most of the day. Wet foliage encourages insect and fungal damage to your plants.
- If fungi are a problem, make a solution using equal amounts of skim milk and water. Spray it on the plants to prevent mildew and black spots.