top of page

Natural Pest Control in the Garden

Natural Pest Control in the Garden

It only takes garden pests a few days to decimate a garden completely and few things are more disheartening to a gardener. The reality is that pests are opportunistic little buggers who are basically just out there waiting for some food to appear. Sure, they could eat the weeds, but all those tender crops taste so much better. This fact means that a pest-free garden is an almost impossible goal. 

But pests don’t have to be a problem, and there is no need for pesticides and harsh chemicals. First, we’ll look at why pests get in our garden in the first place. Then, we'll look at some natural pest control solutions you can use to battle all the creepy, crawly, and fuzzy critters that can pose a threat to your garden. 

Why Do Pests Get in Our Gardens?

Tomato Horn Worm

It may not be what you want to hear, but even garden pests serve a purpose in the whole circle of life. They are part of the food-growing process—an unwelcome one, to be sure, but part of it nonetheless. There is an old saying that I heard, and I can’t remember where, but “If nothing is eating your garden, you probably shouldn’t either.” Think about it. Bugs won’t eat food sprayed with pesticides because they know it will harm or kill them, yet most people eat foods every day that have pesticides on them. 

Nature knows good food when it sees it. A pest infestation might feel like an insult, but it's actually a compliment. It means the food you’re growing is good. As much as we don’t want garden pests, the goal with a garden should be to become part of the ecosystem. Which is why natural pest control comes into play. 

Companion Planting

One of my favorite ways to keep pests under control is through companion planting. This practice allows you to plant more variety in your garden and helps to keep pests at bay naturally. Plants like basil, calendula, marigolds, mint, nasturtiums, and rosemary are some of my favorite companions. 


Basil is especially effective at protecting cabbages, beans, and tomatoes. As an added bonus, it can also help protect cucurbits from powdery mildew. 


Calendula, also known as pot marigold, repels asparagus beetles, nematodes, and even tomato hornworms.

Marigold with Watering Can


Marigolds emit a strong scent that many garden pests prefer to avoid, so they are great to plant throughout the garden. From rabbits to whitefly and soil nematodes to spiders, mites, and beetles, most things prefer to steer clear of these cheery blooms. 


Mint is another fragrant plant that pests tend to avoid. Its pungent, fresh scent repels aphids, cabbage moths, and even ants. However, mint can quickly take over a garden, so it is best kept in pots rather than in the beds with your vegetables. 


The chemical nasturtium produces provides protection from squash bugs and cucumber beetles as well as other creepy crawlies. The other side of the coin on this plant is that they can attract aphids. Because of this, many gardeners opt to use them as a “trap crop” to attract pests away from more valuable crops. 


The pungent aroma of onions can repel aphids, carrot rust flies, and flea beetles. They are also great for repelling rabbits and squirrels. 


While many of us find the scent of rosemary appealing, common garden pests detest it. Use rosemary to deter rabbits, squirrels, carrot fly, whitefly, mosquitoes, and cabbage moths at bay.

To learn more about companion planting, check out Companion Planting 101. Or purchase our printable Companion Planting Chart at the link below.

Companion Planting Chart

Introduce or Encourage Predators

If you’re striving to make your garden part of the ecosystem, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to encourage garden predators. 


Not many people like spiders, but spiders eat many of the pests you want to keep out of your garden. Mulch, rock piles, and convenient places to build webs will encourage your eight-legged friends to stick around. 

Lady Bugs

Ladybugs are synonymous with blooming gardens. Not only are they a cheery and welcomed sight, but those dainty ladybugs are also deadly predators who can decimate an aphid population in hours and make light work of whitefly, mites, fleas, and Colorado potato beetles. Attract these lovely ladies (and gentlemen) to your garden with dill, dandelion, and yarrow.

Praying Mantis 

The mantis eat a huge variety of insects, including leafhoppers, aphids, mosquitoes, and caterpillars.  Atrack these leggy predators with marigold, raspberry dill, fennel, and low-growing shade plants. 


Often overlooked as a beneficial addition, bats can play an important role in reducing the population of problematic moth species, including the Codling moth. As a bonus, they work hard to keep mosquitos in check. Encourage bats by providing bat boxes and planting night-blooming flowers. 

Garden Toad

Frogs, Toads and Lizards

These cold-blooded creatures can be great garden security, devouring everything from grasshoppers to snails, slugs, and mosquitos. Invite amphibians to your garden by providing ample places for them to hide and a small water source, or go all out and put in some toad houses. 

Cover Up

Add row covers or wire cloches to protect tender plants that are often nibbled by grasshoppers. A simple PVC pipe hoop and bird netting or bug netting can also do wonders to keep your crops from being eaten. 

Make Things Uncomfortable

If soft-body pests like snails and slugs are presenting a problem, make your garden uncomfortable by spreading clean crushed eggshells around your plants. Soft bodies hate sharp objects. 

Use Organic Sprays

We consider sprays, even natural ones, to be on the “break glass in case of emergency” list. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you have a full-scale infestation, natural organic pesticide may be your only solution. If absolutely necessary, sprays made with pure, cold-pressed neem oil can be a fairly safe and effective option. 

For a DIY version, mix 1 ½  teaspoons of Castille soap with 1 quart of water and spray the mixture directly on the infected surfaces of the plants.

Another DIY Spray we have used before is a Garlic Garden Spray. Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties and can be used as a potent pesticide. To make a garlic spray, crush five garlic bulbs and mix them with 16 oz of water. Let the garlic infuse in the water overnight. This spray can deter not only insects, but rabbits and squirrels as well. 

Feathery, Fury, and Fuzzy Pests

These are actually the things we have the most trouble with in our garden. Birds, moles, rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. During the first year on our homestead, our garden felt like a war zone. 

I went out one morning to water and saw our big, beautiful heads of lettuce ready to harvest. I came back later, so excited to make a big salad for dinner, and it was gone. Right down to the dirt. That squirrel didn’t leave us a single leaf. Next, when our fruit trees were just about ripe, the birds relieved us of all our apricots and cherries. Then, to add insult to injury, moles took out half of our pumpkin patch and two squash plants. Since my goal had been to grow and harvest enough food to feed our family for a year, to say I was crushed would be an understatement. 

I had no intention of using harsh measures, but these critters needed to be stopped, so I set out to learn how to keep everyone in check so that we would get to actually enjoy the fruits of our labor. 

Bird Deterrent Crystals

For the Birds

One of my favorite ways to keep birds from our fruit trees has been to add strings of crystals to the trees. I got inexpensive strands from Shein (not an affiliate link) and hung them in our trees. This would also work with CDs or other reflective items. 

Moles and Other Diggers

You can purchase a solar-powered stake (not an affiliate link) that emits a little sonic pulse to deter moles and other diggers. They work well for some people, but we must have tougher critters because the moles dug ours up. Since we have rock and clay ground and all of our beds are raised, we put chicken wire down underneath all of our beds to prevent anything from digging in. If you decide to take this route, be sure to purchase quality wire that does not contain lead. 

Garden Hoop Cover

Bunnies and Squirrels

The only natural deterrent for these fuzzy pests is to create barriers.  I’ve seen people purchase little inexpensive wire trashcans and use them as cloches over plants. For our garden, I used irrigation hose (PVC pipe would work as well) to create hoops and then stapled bird netting over the hoops.

Implementing Natural Pest Control in the Garden

Pesticides are nobody's friend, and even though there are prescribed organic treatments for all kinds of pest situations, I hope that this article has shown you some alternatives to the typical pest control regime.

What is your favorite method of natural pest control? Tell us all about it in the comments below. Until next time, we wish you a successful gardening season, and as always, 

Sign Off

Natural Pest Control in the Garden

bottom of page