Garden Pest Control & Prevention (Natural Options)

how to prevent and control pests in organic gardens

Gardening can be a great way to save money and eat the freshest food available, but it can also come with its fair share of frustrations. From pests to proper watering… there are a lot of factors involved, especially if you are using organic methods to avoid chemicals.

Fortunately, the healthiest approach can be the easiest with a little preparation and research. Companion planting, proper spacing and natural methods of disease and pest control can ensure a healthy garden production without the need for nasty chemicals.

Garden Pest Control with Companion Planting

organic plant spacing and companion plantingSome plants have natural properties that help others grow and deter pests when planted close by. Making use of these natural properties is a way to increase production in the garden and fit more plants into a smaller space. The following are a few popular companion plants:

  • Basil planted with tomato improves production and flavor. Basil is also good for peppers and has been said to repel mosquitoes. I plant basil throughout the garden for its aroma and beneficial properties.
  • Borage is a great companion for tomatoes and cabbage as it repels both tomato horn worm and cabbage moths. It also helps strawberries and is beneficial to practically everything in the garden. I plant throughout.
  • Chamomile is a great companion for cabbage, cucumbers, onions and all the brassicas. It improves flavor and is a great herb to have on hand. It attracts beneficial insects and has delicate and beautiful flowers.
  • Dill is also great planted with cabbages, cucumbers lettuce and more. It improves flavor, helps repel pests, and is useful in making homemade pickles! It can get pretty big so I plant in the middle of cucumber beds. Don’t plant with tomatoes!
  • Catnip is another great herb to grow and have on hand. Planted near squash and cucumbers it will repel squash bugs and aphids. The dried leaves can be steeped into a tea to help sooth the stomach, and can double as a pest control spray for many plants.
  • Radishes can be planted throughout the garden and under plants like cucumbers to deter cucumber beetles.
  • Marigolds planted throughout the garden help prevent nematodes and repel pests. They will flower all summer as long as you keep pulling the dead flowers off.
  • Nasturtiums are also great companion flowers to tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and more. The flowers are edible and can be added to salads. They benefit melons and squashes as well.
  • Onions can be planted freely throughout the garden but help keep pests away from cabbages, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, cucumbers and more. Intercropping a few with all of these plants can greatly reduce garden pests.
  • Sunflowers are great companions and beautiful throughout the garden. Plant with Cucumbers, beans, and vining plants to provide a trellis. They are hardy and a great trap crop for aphids and other pests. They typically produce plenty of their own seeds to use next year.

There are many other great companion plants. Check out this chart for some other ideas.

Natural Pest Control Options

how to keep garden pests away naturallyCompanion planting is helpful, but if you’ve already planted and are having trouble with pests, some other natural solutions can be helpful:

  • A tea or solution made from powdered Kelp will help deter Japanese Beetles and Aphids and is also nourishing to plants. Spray on once a week or so before and during infestation times.
  • A garlic and hot pepper spray (see recipe below) repels many garden insects and wildlife pests. It is probably the most inexpensive option to make at home and isn’t harmful to you while applying. Use once a week or more for several weeks before and during infestation times.
  • A tea made with lemon Balm repels squash bugs and aphids. Apply 2 or more times a week as needed.
  • A solution of several teaspoons of Baking Soda dissolved in water can help prevent and treat fungus and powdery mildew on plants. Use as a preventative and acute treatment as needed.
  • Powdered Diatomaceous Earth is a good all purpose insect prevention and treatment for any insect pest, though it kills indiscriminately, so use carefully. I make to use this only in areas away from honey bees to protect them. I use mainly if I see slugs or larvae of any insect on plants, as it is especially effective on these. Has to be re-applied after watering or rain. Just sprinkle on plants as needed. [note: I buy food grade DE and also use it for indoor pests like ants and as an internal cleanse for parasites in humans and animals. This is the brand we use.
  • Neem sprays (like this one) are an increasingly popular pest control option and are available in many stores now.

Natural Hot Pepper Garden Spray Recipe

This is my go-to homemade garden pest control spray and it works really well!



  • Put garlic, peppers, oil, soap and water in a blender and blend on high for several minutes.
  • Leave in a bowl or pitcher overnight or for at least 12 hours to intensify the effects of the garlic and peppers.
  • Strain through towel, cheesecloth or strainer and store in a glass jar
  • To use, pour about 2 TBSP in a 16 ounce spray bottle (or 3 TBSP in a 24 ounce) and shake well.
  • Spray directly on plants as needed… I recommend wearing gloves!
  • Can be used as often as needed for preventative and pest controlling effects.

Homemade Organic Fertilizer

Good planning and companion planting can go a long way towards a good yield, but if you are starting with poor soil, some fertilizer supplementation may be needed. Strong plats resist pests more easily too, so supporting the plants is an important step in protecting your garden from pests.

  • Kelp tea is a great foliar spray that nourishes plants when sprayed on the leaves (just don’t spray during the heat of the day). Sprinkling powdered kelp around plants can also have a nourishing effect.
  • Nettle Tea is another nourishing option and dried Nettle leaf can be added to supplement the soil and sleep composting if you compost kitchen scraps or leaves.
  • Yarrow flowers can be made into a tea or liquid mixture and used to water plants for extra nutrients. You can also just sprinkle yarrow flowers throughout the garden and they are said to have a pest repelling effect also.
  • Fish Emulsion is a natural fertilizer that can be sprayed on the leaves of plants to help promote growth. It is especially good for Tomatoes. It smells awful but if very effective.
  • Bone and Blood Meal (like thisare high in nitrogen and can be very fertilizing to plants but are also somewhat controversial since they are animal products. Organic options are available and can be great if you are comfortable using them.

Do you garden organically? What are your best tips and tricks for garden pest control?

Preventing bugs, insects, and other pests in an organic garden is a chore. Here's some natural ways to help keep them at bay.

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Reader Comments

  1. That is exactly what might cabbage leaves look like – is that from a cabbage moth? Will I still be able to use the inner leaves? I’m new to gardening, if you can’t tell! Thanks for all of the tips, since I’m trying to stay organic. 

    • Meant to type “my cabbage leaves”….

    • That is from the cabbage moth… or rather its larvae. The inner
      leaves might be fine… it depends on how bad the infestation is.
      These little worms are the larvae of the white butterflies you’ve
      probably seen flying around.

    • hi i try natural pesticide using hot peper and also garlic.

      • Hot pepper sprays and garlic concoctions can actually scare off beneficial insects that naturally take care of pests. the book “Organic Pest Control Secrets for a Non-Toxic Garden” explains about it.

  2. Forwarding to my husband, our resident farmer!! Thanks for sharing so many great tips!

  3. We already have the squash bug larvae in our plants…..have you had any luck with the lemon balm once they are in the plant? I have never used/bought lemon balm….where do you get yours and how do you prepare it? Thanks!!!!

  4. If I used the pepper spray on my basil, do I just wash the basil prior to eating? Do I wear gloves while picking? I guess my question really is how long does the spray last on the basil so I don’t accidentally add pepper in basil dishes where it isn’t called for! Thanks 🙂

  5. I’m debating over which variety of chamomile to plant in the garden. German doesn’t take up as much space, but it is an annual. The Roman variety is more of a creeper, but it is a perennial. I know they also have slightly different health properties, but are otherwise pretty much the same. Hmmm…. Maybe I should just get both.

  6. Do you add anything to the 2 tbsp of pepper liqiud in the spray bottle? Or just use the pepper liquid in the bottle? And will it make my peas and beans taste like pepper?

    • Just that and water… I haven’t noticed any lingering taste…

  7. Do you know of anything that works to deter rodents? They love my tomatoes.

    • A outdoor cat

    • used cat litter has worked for me

      • Cat excretion can carry toxoplasma gondii, so it’s probably not a good idea to put used cat litter in your garden…

        • How can I get rid of red ants in veg garden. I have s huge mound.

          • Rosita, use equal parts of boric acid and powdered sugar. Spread it around the ant mound, and watch!
            Excellent article! Thank you Katie!

  8. I like your blog here. So helpful to me as starter gardener.

  9. I’m seeing lines on tomato leaves. What kind of bugs are these and what will work best. If I am to use the pepper spray, would I be better off juicing the peppers and garlic?

    • I would think that just blending as stated in recipe would take care of that.

  10. we have a problem with root knot nematodes in tomatoes Etc.inspite of numerous marigolds close,I hear neem oil is good but wonder if liquid seaweed fertilizer could help

  11. Great list! Maybe, just maybe, it will be the kick in the pants I need to finally put my fall starter plants in the ground. The warm Texas climate will hopefully compensate for my very late start this season! 🙁

  12. I love the companion planting part. I love herbs so planting them can really be doubly beneficial considering their health benefits and pest control qualities. Thanks.

  13. I noticed on my pepper plant leaves are turning white. I have put oragnic spikes in for fertilizer but I do not know what to use to keep the pests from my pepper plants.

    • Maybe that’s mildew. Try a solution of baking soda.

  14. Hi, I have planted mint plants among my spinach, and regularly rub some mint leaves onto my hands and transfer aroma to the spinach plants works fantastically. Bearing in mind I have a tiny patch!
    Do you perhaps have a recipe for a non poisonous outdoor fly trap? They drive me insane!
    Thanks muchly appreciated as always.

    • put shinny pennies in a quart bag ; fill bag 1/2 full ;seal; hang up any where u need these ; we did this in a park under the shed and no bugs

  15. how do i apply the chemical on the plants against the worms, do i apply them on the plant directif the plant already out of the soil or on the soil even if the plant has grown?

    The document provided with the medicine doesnt show if its direct or not direct.

  16. Do you have an idea how I can get rid of the big white grubs in the soil in my containers without using chemicals? I live in the SE corner of Az. where we have soil unfit to plant in, so I grow everything in pots, planters and tubs. We just had over 1.40″ of rainfall in 2 days and I found 2 grubs floating in my onion planter today when I went out to plant my Shallots. I had left the bottom plug in the onion planter to really get the dried out soil wet, not realizing we were going to get that much rain. Glad I did now as I know about the grubs. I dread emptying all of them out and going through by hand picking them out, which I have done in the past. Don’t think my back could take it now. Plus I do have other health issues with disabilities these days to consider. I do love playing in the dirt (planting) trying new veggies and flowers. I keep at it when I have had to give up most of my other hobbies! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank You. Rhonda

    • Beneficial nematodes should be available at your local garden nursery. I used these alongside organic Milky Spore (I purchased from Amazon) to remedy my grub issues. The beneficial nematodes solved the grub issue for the short-term and the Milky Spore was the long-term solution.

  17. It’s rather cool that these have the double uses. I knew basil was a great spice for dishes, but had no idea it could repel mosquitoes! These tips will help out so much with my garden, thank you very much!

  18. Hello!
    How concentrated would you make the powdered Kelp for an insect repellent/infestation spray? Also, my local coop only had Sea Vegetable w/ Kelp mix. Underneath it had two long names (similar to probiotic names), just wondering if it’s still okay to use?
    Love your blog and you’re my “go to” for everything!!

  19. Hi! I seem to have a problem with the little green worms eating my squash and cucumbers. This is our first year and all was appearing beautiful until we found tiny holes in our veggies….Please Help!

  20. Hi Katie, We see that you have mentioned use of Diatomaceous Earth as a natural pest control solution. Would you be able to point us to some good information on using DE for home gardens as well as farms? We are currently promoting use of DE in India vis-a-vis other chemical solutions and believe that our readers and customers can benefit a lot from your information.

  21. Hi, the leaves on my tamato tree has dried up and I noticed white line on the leaves. Can you tell me how I can prevent this and what is the cause. Thank you.

  22. can I spray any plants with garlic will it make difference to flavour of veg I am growing

  23. Great post! Was wondering if you have ever used praying mantis in the garden. I live in Minnesota and hatched my first egg case in the garden. What blast it’s been watching them grow and they make a great conversation piece. Have a great day!

  24. Any tricks for keeping tomato worms off the tomatoes? We get them every year. They creep me out and chew off all the leaves of the tomatoes if you let them!

    • I haven’t personally had any issues with them, so it’s not something I’ve researched or dealt with before…

  25. Our biggest pest are slugs. Any of these work well for them? I think I’ll try the pepper spray. We already do ground eggshells and a salt pellet.

  26. We have a big ant hill in our garden. Would the Diatomaceous earth work? Thanks.

  27. How do I prevent cut worms from eating into the stems of my zucchini and summer squash plants? I have had this issue over the past few years.

  28. Can you tell me how you make kelp tea and where does one find powered kelp?

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