How To Control Garden Pests Naturally (10 Organic Insect Repellents)

If you garden, chances are you have unwanted insects that feast on your plants. And you’d like to get rid of them without adding a bunch of chemicals to your yard. Which is where this list of natural garden pest control options comes in handy.

Natural garden pest control (with a picture of a Japanese beetle)

It’s that time of year again.

One day, your garden is flourishing.

The next, bugs and rodents are eating your plants. Slugs are leaving their slimy trails on the leaves. And beetles are chewing through your flowers.

I know how frustrating it can be when your plants start getting eaten by pests, but don’t worry!

If you’re striving to be an organic gardener, you don’t have to resort to using chemicals on your flowers and vegetables just yet.

There are natural ways to deal with common garden pests in your garden without harming any wildlife or children who may come into contact with the area.

Which is where this list of natural garden pest control options comes in handy.

1 | Pest Repelling Plants

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8 plants that will keep bugs from eating your garden

There are many different kinds of plants that will deter pests from your garden.

Most have one thing in common: a strong scent that critters don’t find very appealing. The smell helps to mask the scent of other more appealing plants which keeps the bugs off your roses (or whatever other plants you are trying to protect).

To make the most of their pest-controlling ways, grow these flowers and herbs amongst the plants you are trying to save. You can either put them in the ground nearby, or plant them in containers that can be positioned where you need them.

Basil

Basil in a garden container

All kinds of basil will prevent flies, aphids and mosquitoes.

You can either use it as a companion plant in the garden. It is a short-lived annual that you’ll need to plant in stages to keep it going all summer.

Or crush the leaves and rub it on your skin to keep mosquitoes from biting you.

Bay leaf

Bay leaf is not only a common ingredient in many soup and stew recipes, but it is also a great insect repellent.

This slow growing plant can be planted in your garden for long lasting repellent against all sorts of insect pests.

You don’t even have to plant bay leaf to take advantage of it; simply spreading store-bought leaves around your garden can work wonders at repelling pests.

Catnip

catnip

Unlike cats, bugs such as mosquitoes hate catnip, making it a great plant to grow in your garden.

Be warned, however, that catnip can and will spread so be sure to put it in an area where it has room to spread out. 

As an alternative, you can also grow it in pots near your garden and have the same effect. 

Chives

chives

Plants like chives, garlic and onion do a great job repelling all sorts of insects and even rabbits. They’re also delicious and versatile plants, so adding them to your garden is a win-win.

Try planting chives, garlic or onions next to roses, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and beans as a natural way to repel Japanese beetles.

Lavender

Lavender

Lavender is a herb with beautiful flowers that smells good to us, but not to the bugs. It repels fleas, moths, mosquitoes, and many other insects.

To keep the bugs away from an outdoor gathering, try positioning large pots of lavender around your patio. They’ll look pretty and help to prevent flies.

Marigold

marigolds

A common companion plant often grown with tomatoes and squash, marigolds are probably the best known plant for repelling all kinds of pests.

Many insects, rabbits, and deer don’t like their strong scent. Even their roots emit a strong odor which can keep moles, snakes and nematodes at bay.

Marigolds can also be planted around your deck or even in window boxes as a great way to repel mosquitos from your living space.

Just be aware that while most insects don’t like them, spider mites and snails are actually attracted to Marigolds so they may not be the best option for you if those are your most common pests.

There are mixed reports on whether or not they keep aphids away, but lots of gardeners swear that they do. And that may be because Marigolds attract beneficial insects like ladybugs which love to feast aphids.

Rosemary

rosemary

With its strong scent, rosemary is an evergreen, shrub-like herb that is rarely touched by bugs.

Which makes it a great companion plant for discouraging pests in your garden. Use it to prevent slugs, snails, carrot fly, and mosquitoes.

Of if you’re having a cookout and want to get rid of the flies and mosquitoes, throw a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill and let the scented smoke take care of them.

Spearmint

spearmint

Plant spearmint around the perimeter of your garden to keep bugs such as aphids and spiders away, as well as rodents like mice.

As a member of the mint family, it can be invasive so you may want to plant it in containers to keep it from taking over your garden.

Thyme

thyme growing along a pathway

Thyme is a perennial herb that repels corn earworm, whiteflies, and tomato hornworm.

It’s a low-growing plant that isn’t invasive so it can easily be planted in your garden.

However, its insect repelling properties work best if the leaves are bruised. So planting it along the walkway in your garden so that you walk on it will help improve its effectiveness.

Flower garden with marigolds planted as companion plants
PestPlants that repel them
aphidsMarigolds, chives, catnip, garlic, leeks, spearmint, basil
carrot flyrosemary
fleaslavender
fliesbasil
Japanese beetlesChives, catnip
micespearmint
molesMarigolds
mosquitoescatnip, basil, rosemary, lavender, lemon thyme
nematodesMarigolds
rabbitsMarigolds, chives
slugsrosemary
snakesMarigolds
spider mitesdill
tomato hornwormthyme
whitefliesbasil, spearmint, thyme

2 | Essential oils

Lavender essential oil

Essential oils made from the herbs that deter pests (such as mint, lavender, and rosemary) can be used to create a pest-repelling spray.

Add 20 drops of the essential oil to 4 ounces of water and spray it around the plants that you want to protect from bugs.

You’ll need to re-spray after heavy rains.

3 | Dish soap

Using dish soap is an easy way to make a DIY insecticide for common bugs such as aphids, whiteflies and squash bugs.

To make it, combine 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil with 2 Tablespoons of the soap soap and 4 cups water. The oil helps the mixture to stick to the insects while the soap disrupts their membranes.

Dawn dish soap works best since many other commercial soaps will also harm the plants.

Then simply spray it on bugs such as aphids and whiteflies.

4 | Insecticidal soap

Insecticidal soap being sprayed onto a rose bush

If you prefer to go the commercial product route, then insecticidal soap maybe the option for you.

It’s a non-toxic spray made from the potassium salts of fatty acids which kills soft-bodied insects such as aphids, mites and mealybugs on contact.

But it doesn’t hurt plants, soil or hard-bodied insects such as ladybugs.

The one drawback is it is only effective when it’s wet, so you need to spray infested plants when the bugs are active in order to kill them.

You can find it HERE* on Amazon.

5 | Garlic spray

garlic heads in a basket

Garlic spray is another DIY natural insecticide that can be used to prevent insects from devouring your plants.

It is usually made with fresh garlic, water and a little dish soap. (Find the recipe HERE).

Then spray it on and around the plants you want to protect. Don’t forget to coat the undersides of the leaves.

Repeat every couple of weeks and after heavy rain.

If you use it on edibles, don’t forget to wash them well before eating.

If you don’t feel like making it yourself, you can also buy pre-made garlic spray* on Amazon.

6 | Cayenne pepper

cayenne pepper in a bowl

Cayenne pepper is a spice with a strong flavor and scent that can be used to deter slugs and snails from eating your plants.

You can add some to your garlic spray for an extra kick.

Or sprinkle it on and around the plants you want to protect. Just remember to re-apply regularly since it will get washed off by rain and dew.

Hot pepper flakes will also work for this purpose.

7 | Eggshells

Sprinkling crushed eggshells around your garden can be a great way to deter pests from getting at your plants.

Insects with soft bodies such as slugs won’t be able to get across eggshells. 

In this way, you can use eggshells to form a moat around your plants and keep them safe from harm.

You can also crush eggshells into a fine powder which is great at directly eliminating insects from your garden.

Make sure you wash your eggshells and allow them enough time to properly dry before making them into a powder. From there, dump them into a coffee grinder or a food processor in order to grind them down into a powder.

Then, simply take the powder and sprinkle it directly onto pests in your garden. I do not recommend sprinkling this around your garden too much as it can also harm good insects that you want to have.

8 | Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth being sprinkled in the garden

Diatomaceous earth is a natural substance made up of tiny fossilized plankton mined from fresh water lakes.

It is basically a dried silicon substance that causes the oil in insect bodies to dry up killing the bugs that come in contact with it.

Which means it can be used to get rid of many types of pests in the garden, such as flea beetles and box elder bugs. Just sprinkle the powder onto the bugs or around the base of infected plants..

While it is effective, you do need to be careful with this product since it can also kill beneficial insects.

And you should wear a mask while applying it so that you don’t breathe it in. It will cause irritation of the nose and throat if inhaled.

Find it HERE* on Amazon.

9 | Beneficial insects

Ladybug eating aphids

Beneficial insects (like ladybugs) are the ones you want to keep in your garden because they will help you get rid of your pest problems by eating the destructive bugs.

You can encourage them by not using pesticides (which kill all bugs). Or actually buy some to introduce into your garden.

10 | Bat houses

bat house on a tree

Similar to beneficial insects, bats eat a huge number of bugs every night.

So installing a few strategically-placed bat houses will encourage them to live in your yard and help to control the insect population, especially mosquitoes

Again, not using pesticides that can poison the birds will help to attract them to your garden.

As you can see, there are all sorts of ways to repel insects without resorting to harsh chemicals and pesticides. So hopefully you’ve found an organic solution to your pest control problem.

Other gardening tips you might like

Have other suggestions for natural garden pest control options? Tell us in the section below.

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