Tips: Natural Pest Control in the Garden

by Catherine Haug, July 2009

I’m researching natural ways to protect my garden from pests, and thought I’d share this information with our ESP community, as I come across them. I moved tips from other posts to this one, to consolidate them in one place (hopefully I found them all…).

This post addresses practical applications in your garden.  See also my article  Natural Pest & Weed Control for good gardening practices to help your plants fed off insects and diseases.

If you have any great tips, pass them on to me via in an email and I’ll add the tip. (NOTE: comments to this post by others have been disabled due to abundance of spam. But if you send me your ideas, tips, I can add the comment for you).

See also: Natural Pest & Weed Control

Reference Pages on the Web

Earth Easy Reference Page

One great site with lots of ideas, is Earth Easy (1).  This page includes the following sections:

  • Prevention
  • Beneficial Insects (I encourage my long-legged spiders to prowl my garden)
  • Non-toxic and Homemade Remedies
  • Traps and Barriers
  • Deer Control
  • Rodent Control
  • Mole Control

Figtree Community Garden Reference Page

This great reference from Australia includes a Home Remedies section for many different types of pests in the garden and in the home.  See (2)

Here’s one example: If you’re concerned about cabbage moth or cabbage butterfly (what’s the difference?), check out this clever tip:

Save white eggshell halves and scatter them amongst your cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts and any other crops that get eaten by cabbage moth caterpillars.  These territorial moths mistake the eggshells for other cabbage moths and leave the area.

(Hmm, I wonder if this really works? Well, I’m trying it and will let you know).

Aardvark reference page:

See their article on Natural and Organic Pest Control in the Home and Garden (10). Here’s a sampling of their ideas:

  • Diatomaceous earth sprinkled on areas where cockroaches or ants are often seen;
  • Also keep a spray bottle filled with soapy water nearby, to spray on individual ants/cockroaches
  • Integrated Pest Management (11)
  • Rose-scented Geraniums contain the natural mosquito and other insect repellents Citronellal and Geraniol.  Plant these in your garden and around your deck/patio.
  • Ageratum, Horsemint, Marigolds, and Catnip all also have properties that repel mosquitoes
  • A particularly useful way of helping you to manage troublesome insects is to create a garden environment which attracts their natural predators.

Bird and Insect Covers

Floating Row Cover

Floating row cover over lilac branch hoopsThis is one of the easiest methods, provided you get it set in place before the pests lay their eggs. Based on an idea from Jeffrey Funk’s garden, I made 4′ long hoops from lilac branches to place over my kale, cabbage and broccoli raab, then secured the row cover over the hoops, using pins and rocks.

Be sure to check the plants before covering otherwise you may end up protecting the pests from their natural predators such as starlings.

Keep flies off lettuces

This is similar to the floating row cover idea, above.


While photographing the Yenne’s root cellar and garden last week (for upcoming slideshow), I caught this tip (Photo by Edd Blackler):

Lay nylon mesh over young lettuces to keep the flies off — don’t want them to lay eggs that will turn into maggots on that tender lettuce!

Protect bush bean sprouts from birds


Today I’m reading the latest post on my friend Kevynne’s blog, and caught this tip:

After 30+ years growing bush beans [my husband, Jon,] wised up and put bird netting on the ground where he planted the seeds. The Crows and Scrub Jays always eat the sprouts when they first come up and look like green worms. Not this year!! I am happy to report that all seeds planted have come up and are looking fine.  (Photo:  Jon’s garden, by the Laynes).

I used this bird netting tip, as I just planted bush beans last week, and I have a lot of crows in my yard (they love to torment my cats Charlie and Cloe, who watch them from the window).  But I improved upon it: I raised the bird netting by laying it across a 2×4 on each side of the row(s), then anchored the netting on the outside of the boards with landscape staples.  This kept the young sprouts from getting tangled in the netting.

ChxWire-BeanSprouts-1_JHelpsJune 24, 2009 update:  Jean H. took a photo of a similar application in a neighbor’s garden.  Here, chicken wire is made into tents over the young beans, instead of laying plastic netting flat. From Jean:

The wire was 30″; he folded it in half and stepped on it to make a good crease.  Then he put it over his beans and covered up the ends in a few places with soil.


  • Instead of methaldehyde, a toxic material spread in pellets or a molasses paste that can attract and harm pets, choose less-harmful products containing iron phosphate, such as:  Sluggo, Escar-Go! and Worry Free Slug and Snail Bait.  Spread around the base of plants that you know might sustain slug damage.  The slugs eat it, stop feeding and die, even if they ingest a very small amount.(8)
  • Diatomaceous earth (tiny fossilized skeletons of ancient aquatic diatoms (is somewhat effective as a slug barrier, and also effective against web worms that infect lawns, but does not harm earthworms.  It is abrasive to the skin of susceptible earth-crawlers, causing them to dehydrate and die.  Some brands are Concern, Safer’s and Freshwater organics.(8)
  • And of course, you can try the beer in a cup or can, set into the ground in your garden.

Insects, Mites and Fungi

NOTE:  be careful in application of any pesticides, including natural ones, as they can kill or harm our pollinating bees. See On Gardening (from May 2, 2009 DIL), subheading “Home gardeners can help save the bees.”

  • Habanera pepper, onion & garlic spray is recommended by Bill Clanton (from his column in the Daily Inter Lake: In the Garden). See Bill Clanton: In the Garden post on this site (6).
  • Neem oil, “extracted from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), a renewable resource native to eastern India and Myanmar (Burma), kills insects, mites and fungi, and is said to repel mosquitoes.”(8)
  • Canola oil is considered an “edible, refined vegetable oil that can be used to control insects on a wide variety of crops, with no adverse effects on humans or the environment. But it is toxic to insects and mites. A product called Pyola is a broad-spectrum natural insecticide, and leaves no long-term residue.  It combines two natural ingredients:  canola oil to coat and kill eggs) and pytrethin, an extract from plants of the aster family that kills actively feeding larvae, nymphs and adults.(8)
  • Spinosad, isolated from a naturally occurring soil-dwelling bacterium collected on a Caribbean island, kills a broad spectrum of pests.  Monterey Garden Insect Spray (Spinosad) and Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew are organic alternatives. (8)
  • Bt is a biological insecticide (actually a bacterium that only infects caterpillars) that can help you control an existing cabbage worm problem. Use Bt by spraying infested crop’s leaves with it and allowing the cabbage worms to eat the leaves and become infected by the Bt. The infection will kill the cabbage worms. However, it does not kill the adult moths or any eggs they may have laid on your plants. (9) Bt can also be used on some corn pests.

There are also non-chemical ways to keep insects at bay, for example:

  • Scatter empty eggshell halves (white) amongst your cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and any other crops that get eaten by cabbage moth caterpillars (such as beets and lettuces).  These territorial moths mistake the eggshells for other cabbage moths and leave the area.

Deer Control

  • Keith attests that his motion-activated sprinklers send deer running, and they are reluctant to come back. Cat’s note: I bought two of these and they do indeed work great, provided you remember to turn on the water supply and keep the batteries charged!
  • A habanera pepper spray is recommended by Bill Clanton (from his column in the Daily Inter Lake: In the Garden).  See Bill Clanton: In the Garden post on this site.

Rabbit and Rodent Control

  • Keith’s motion-activated sprinklers may work with these critters as well as deer.
  • Another method is to place a fence around your garden area that goes at least 18″ underground.  This will prevent burrowing rodents such as rabbits, ground squirrels, etc. from getting into the garden area (See Gathering Summary: Root Cellars, Gardens & Greenhouses Slideshow).
  • For moles and voles: “Castor oil-based substances can be srpead on lawns to make the moles food sources, such as grubs and worms, taste disagreeable.  Castor oil is derived from the castor bean.”(8)



    based pre-emergent crabgrass killers are another all-natural product safe to use around children and pets.  Crabgrass is best controlled before seed germinates in the spring.” (8)


  3. Jerry Yenne
  4. Kevynne Layne
  5. Jean Helps
  6. Daily Inter Lake (see Bill Clanton: In the Garden)
  7. Keith Blaylock
  8. “Giving pests a gentle push out of the family garden,” by Joel M. Lerner, special to Washington Post
  11. EPA on Integrated Pest Management (

One Response to “Tips: Natural Pest Control in the Garden”

  1. […] that turn into leaf-eating green caterpillars – you will want white egg shells. See my post: Natural Pest Control in the Garden for more detail on using egg shells to discourage this […]