5 Organic Methods to Control & Prevent Pests in the Garden
Written by: Katie Oglesby
Time to read 5 min
If you’ve spent time, money, and energy on growing a beautiful culinary garden, it can be devastating when pests wreak havoc on your hard work. Luckily, there are natural pest control methods you can use to get rid of pests in your garden. Boost plant wellness by making sure your garden is as pest-free as can be using sustainable insect control.
Many popular pest control sprays are loaded with harsh chemicals and toxins that have been proven harmful to humans. Now think – do you want to spray those toxins directly on the food you’re going to eat? Probably not. And there’s no need to! There are safe alternatives for pest control to help prevent pests organically, and it’s healthier for everyone.
Are spider mites, aphids, fungus gnats, thrips, mealybugs, or other pests destroying your garden? Here are 5 organic methods to prevent and control pests in the garden.
1. Plant Partnerships
You’ve probably heard the term “companion planting” at some point in your garden journey. The idea is to pair two different plant varieties that can help one another thrive in your garden.
For instance, I often plant calendula near my herbs because the calendula will attract pests like aphids and nematodes, leaving the herbs healthy and vibrant for me to eat. And if you plant basil near tomatoes, it can help deter hornworm.
You can take this idea a step further and instead of just pairing certain plants, think of your whole garden as its own mini-ecosystem. And your goal is to make that ecosystem as diverse as possible. I like to add colorful flowers (like marigolds and bee balm) and aromatic herbs in my garden to deter pests and attract pollinators. Remember, not all bugs are bad! 96% of insects are either beneficial or neutral to your garden.
In addition to preventing pests organically, plant partnerships can also help your garden by boosting soil health, controlling weed growth, and improving pollination. So rather than separating all your plants and independently managing the different varieties, I invite you to mix it up a little! If you plant in rows, consider integrating different plant types or alternating every other row with plants. If you garden in raised beds, make sure you have several diverse plant types in each bed.
2. Early Identification
Take walks through your garden frequently. I walk through my garden at least once a day to monitor for weeding, watering, and pests. If you aren’t monitoring your garden, pests can show up and get a head start on decimating your plants before you even realize they are there. The best way to get ahead of a problem is by identifying it as soon as it appears.
Like I said before, not all bugs are bad. So before you take any bug removal steps, check out if the bug you spotted is beneficial or if it is a predatory pest. There are even apps on your phone to help, if you don’t have a mental directory of bugs in your brain.
If you have spotted a pest and want to get rid of it immediately, you can always pick it off with your hands. Those potato bugs and cabbage worms that are easily identifiable can also easily be picked right off of your plants. And if you’ve got kiddos, especially kids that love bugs, this is the perfect summer activity for them – have them collect the bugs for you! Just drop the pests in a bucket of soapy water to prevent them from returning to the garden.
If you have a small garden, or a small specific pest problem, handpicking is an effective natural pest control method that is easily maintainable.
3. Crop Rotation
No, it’s not just for farmers. Gardeners should practice crop rotation to reduce the likelihood of a recurring pest infestation. Different plant families have different vulnerabilities. If you have a pest problem and continue plant the same crops in the same spot year after year, you are inviting those pests every year, too. Rotating your crops can help break the cycle of recurring pests while also boosting soil health.
For example, potato beetles love nightshade plants. If they can’t get a hold of a potato, they move onto other nightshade crops. So if you have a potato bug infestation, you’ll want to rotate all nightshade crops out of that area of your garden.
If you have a smaller garden and crop rotation isn’t an option for you, you must focus on keeping your garden hygiene in tip top shape.
4. Healthy Garden Hygiene
Maintaining a healthy garden ecosystem is the basis of preventing and controlling pests organically. Consistent routines and practice help, but the key is to maintain proper soil health. All the nutrients in our plants are coming from the soil. The healthier the soil, the stronger the plant. And strong plants are more pest resistant, or able to bounce back after being damaged by pests.
Here are five tasks you should do every single week for healthy garden soil:
Prune and trim diseased branches and leaves. Rotting plant matter can attract pests, and pruning also helps with proper airflow so pests can’t find a place to hide and multiply.
Weed regularly. Weeds harbor pests and diseases, and suck nutrients from your soil.
Remove dead or infected plant debris. Remember, never compost debris that is infected or diseased.
Consistent watering. If you don’t have the time, money, or space to set up an irrigation system, you’re going to have to water by hand. Remember to water at the same time (early morning or late evening). Each of us has our own microclimate for our gardens, so check your soil moisture levels to know how much to water. Just dig your hands into the dirt to assess whether your soil is too dry or too wet. Learning your soil’s moisture levels by touch is the best way to learn how much water your garden needs. Make sure you water at the base of the plants.
5. Organic Insecticides
There are endless options on the internet for DIY pest sprays that you can make at home, and I’ve tried some of them. That being said, my go-to organic pest control spray is Arber Organic Bio Insecticide. Look, even organic pest sprays can harm those beneficial pollinators, like bees. And they can still be unsafe for pets and kids to get into. That’s why Arber is the only pest solution I use in my garden. It’s “spray and play” so I feel completely safe using it for me and for my dogs, who love to run through my garden and occasionally snag some snacks.
I combine Arber Organic Bio Insecticide with Arber Organic Bio Fungicide and Arber Organic Bio Protectant to spray weekly in my garden. The Organic Bio Insecticide and Organic Bio fungicide take care of any pest or disease problems, while the Organic Bio Protectant supports the plant’s immune system. If I have a specific infestation, I increase the frequency of spraying to every 3-4 days until the infestation is controlled.
Whether you’re struggling with an active pest problem, or you are trying to prevent an infestation, there are healthy ways you can eradicate pests from your garden. Organic, natural pest control methods mean that you can support your garden without sacrificing the health of people, pets, pollinators, or our planet!
Katie Oglesby is a Certified Health Coach on a mission to help her clients to stop being passive participants in their health journeys and become courageous, informed advocates for their wellbeing. As a Garden Coach and Real Food Advocate, she fuses the healing power of gardening with the healing power of food-as-medicine in her kitchen garden designs and holistic approach to lifestyle and nutrition coaching. In a past life, she was a private investigator — and her intuitive skills are stronger than ever to help you investigate your *own* health. Learn more about Katie here!