10 Natural Ways to Eliminate Garden Insect Pests

Looking for ways to eliminate garden insect pests without resorting to pesticides? Get our tips for controlling harmful garden bugs, no chemicals required.

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Natural Ways to Eliminate Garden Insect Pests

There’s no greater joy for a gardener than a plot of perfect-looking flowers or vegetables. Problem is, many garden bugs use our flower and vegetable beds as a salad bar. Instead of turning to pesticides for help, maintain that beautiful garden by following these simple, natural and cost-effective tips for dealing with garden insect pests. We know these tips work because we use them in our gardens.

Plus, discover the good bugs for your garden and yard and learn how to attract then.

Start with ‘Clean’ Soil

Good soil can actually deter garden insect pests. But it takes time to prepare. Here’s a method that works great:

  • First, when the growing season begins, till in organic matter like compost. This adds natural elements and compounds that keep your soil clean and help keep pests away.
  • After tilling, cover your garden with black plastic or cardboard for six months. The heat that builds underneath it will kill most garden pests and their eggs, weeds, parasites and a host of other harmful microorganisms.
  • After removing the plastic, lightly cultivate the soil. Now you’re ready for planting.

Buy Disease and Pest-Resistant Seeds

It’s easier to prevent diseases and pests than it is to get rid of them. When you shop for seeds in a catalog, look for letters like V, F, N or T after the name of a seed; they indicate problems the seed is most resistant to. V and F stand for verticillium and fusarium, respectively, two diseases that affect tomatoes. N is for nematodes. And T is for tobacco mosaic virus, which damages the plant’s roots and causes leaves to wilt and yellow. Check out the these 10 low-maintenance flowers you (practically) can’t kill.

Selectively and Aggressively Thin Out Plants

This is essential because small, weak seedlings are more likely to become diseased. In turn, they may pass the problem on to healthy plants. So be sure to prune away dead shoots and branches that restrict airflow. Plants need good air circulation to breath and stay healthy.

Water Plants in the Early Morning

Why? Well, plants primarily need water to help with photosynthesis, which occurs during the day. Also, if you water later in the day, the leaves will be damp during the cooler nighttime — ideal for promoting fungus and other diseases. When you do water, soak the roots rather than getting the foliage wet. Soaker or drip hoses are a good investment. Follow these tips to conserve water in the garden.

Control Weeds

Weeds compete with your plants for water, nutrients and light. They often harbor garden insect pests and parasites, too. Be sure to pull weeds and their roots completely out of the ground. Here’s how to win the war on weeds.

Keep your Garden Clean

Removing faded blooms, fallen leaves and weeds is important because decaying plant matter is a prime breeding ground for fungus, garden bugs and diseases. Carry a small pail or bucket with you every time you enter your garden and use it to collect garden litter. Speaking of things you want, check out these must-have garden products

Use Insect Traps

Yellow “sticky” cards are available at most garden centers. When placed on the ground and between the shoots or branches of plants, they’ll catch many garden bugs traveling through. Contact your local garden center or county extension agent for help in identifying the good garden bugs versus the bad ones.

ladybugs on flower

Add Beneficial Insects

Insects like ladybugs can be invaluable in the fight against garden insect pests. They eat aphids, mites and the eggs and larvae of many destructive insects. Other beneficial garden bugs include praying mantises, lacewings and parasitic wasps.

Most beneficial insects can be purchased from large horticultural supply companies. Your county extension agent can help determine the quantity you’ll need for your garden. One important thing: Don’t use any chemicals for 10 days before releasing these insects.

Practice Crop Rotation

If you grow the same crop in the same place each year, the specific garden bugs that attack that crop will remain in the area, waiting for the next spring planting. Rotating crops also helps keep vital soil nutrients from being depleted. For instance, plant legumes, which put nitrogen into the soil, where you last planted tomatoes, corn or squash, which deplete nitrogen.

Pinch Off Dead or Infested Leaves

When you first see signs of diseased leaves, pluck them off. This will stop them from contaminating the entire plant.

Up next, here are 11 plants that can be harmful to your pets.