Natural Pest Control Remedies

How to deal with vegetable garden pests. A thorough list of proven organic pest control remedies

caterpillar control in garden

Maybe you want a peaceful co-existence in your garden, but there's a particular bug bugging you?

Or there's an all-out pest war going on in your food patch and your mind is working so hard for solutions that it's difficult to sleep.

Sounds like you need to read on...

Buzz over to Organic Garden Pest Control for how organic pest control works— and when and why solutions are needed.

That's worth reading first, being a short but important page which wraps up this whole pesky pest information in a neat parcel.

Remember too that just because a substance is a natural insecticide, it doesn't mean it's not harmful.

Beneficial bugs, birds and critters, including kids, pets and you too can suffer toxic effects of organic potions and lotions. From bees to butterflies, ladybirds to long-tailed lizards, they all have the potential to get caught in the crossfire. Don't let that happen!

watering can & other tools for mixing garden pest spray

Label and store your pharmaceuticals safely. When using them, wear gloves, goggles and a mask if necessary to avoid breathing in fine powders or strong fumes.

Play fair. . . are these pests really out of control? I mean THEY think it's THEIR garden, leave THEM alone... YOU'RE the pest.

Picking the likes of beetles and caterpillars off your veggies by hand is the first choice as long as you're vigilant and have a small area.

If you can't re-locate them and they must be killed, squash them, or drop into a bucket of soapy water, or suck them up with a vacuum cleaner or dust buster.

There are some effective organic commercial preparations, such as Neem Oil, Insecticidal Soap and Fatty Acid Sprays, but if you want cheaper options and be more eco-friendly, make your own!

Here then, to have at your fingertips, is the list of the best homemade organic garden pest control solutions...

Iron phosphate to control snails

Iron Phosphate

Read all about it here: Slug and Snail Control

Garlic, Onions and Chillis

Chillies for Controlling pests in garden

Garlic fire spray is the stuff of legend. There are many recipes, but they consist of some or all of the following: garlic, chilli peppers, soap, vegetable oil, kerosene and water.

Don't leave home without a concoction of this. Depending on its strength it will slay dragons and ants (must have dragons if we mention legends)!

Here's my very effective brew:

  • 2-3 garlic bulbs (about 6-10 cloves per bulb)
  • 6 large or 12 smaller hot chilli peppers (any variety will do, or if unavailable try 1-2 tablespoon hot chilli powder)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 squirts of eco liquid detergent (approximately 1 dessertspoonful)
  • 7 cups water. (Use about 2-3 cups in the blender, and top up with the rest later)
Controlling pests in garden - garlic and onion spray

Put the whole lot into a blender and vitamise well, then strain through muslin, a coffee filter or similar.

Pour what you need into a spray bottle for use and store the rest in well labelled jars with lids on.

Experiment with it if necessary and check for results or any damage to young plants. If it fixes the problem and your plants are happy, you've got the perfect mix.

But if there's still a few biggie pests, albeit struggling, then lower the water dilution rate or change the ingredient quantities slightly.

Lovely garlicky, pongy stuff, but the smell dissipates quickly once it's been sprayed around. This garlic fire mixture needs to be re-sprayed frequently, such as after rain and dew.

It's best to spray every few days until there's no sign of pests, then about every week to 10 days for any eggs or larvae that may have hatched out.

Uses for this natural garden pest control are unlimited. Because it has oil and dishwashing liquid in it, it sticks to plants as well as suffocating pests such as scale and mealy bug. It will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs and just about any little invader.


garden bugs

Spraying this mixture around the edge of your garden will deter pets. Rabbits, gophers, woodchucks and other garden gate crashers will also be discouraged.

Here's another version: If you don't have a blender (really!), put a whole garlic bulb through a garlic press and let it sit in a glass jar with several ounces of mineral or salad oil. Mix a few spoonfuls with dishwashing liquid, hot pepper sauce and water in a spray bottle.

Yet another version: Keep your scraps from all or any onions, garlic and chillies. Skins, end, bad bits, good bits, old softies that are past eating are all good. If you have spare room in your fridge or freezer, then accumulate them in a bag until you have a good amount.

When ready, cover well with water, hot water seems to bring out the essences well, and leave to steep. Or you can bring to boil in a pot of water.

Leave to cool and soak for a couple of days or so, and over a week if you used cold water. Strain and use with spray bottle. Depending on how strong it is, test on a bug and a leaf to see if one or other keel over. Dilute with more water if necessary or throw in more of the vegetable matter.


Controlling pests in garden - salad oil Although the above garlic/onion/chilli sprays often have oil added, you can make a pure smothering oily mixture. Blend together ½ cup of liquid or grated pure soap in 1 cup of vegetable oil.

Any cheap salad oil from supermarket is fine. Emulsify it by using a blender or beat by hand and it will become a thick white consistency.

To use, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 litre of warm water and spray every bit of plant where you find the pests you're after.

Oily pest control mixtures are best for mites, nematodes and hard-shell insects, such as scale... it simply suffocates them. It's fine to use for indoor plants, but when using outdoors, don't use when the sun is out otherwise it can burn the plants.

Don't use too much of oily mixes either as it will harm the very plants you are trying to help—they need air too. Sometimes it's best to dab it on just the infected areas.


Natural pest control in garden - fish fertilizer Fish Fertiliser is another useful jack-of-all trades deterrent for unwanteds. Made into a liquid or meal from fish scraps, it is mostly used as an insect repellent for mosquitoes and similar. It's also good in the garden as a fertilizer and deters mites, caterpillars and even nematodes.

It seems some gardeners, orchardists and farmers noticed that when they sprayed their plants with fish fertiliser, the pests held their noses, packed up and left, spreading the word as they did so.

Exactly why it works is not yet clear but there are a couple of possibilities:

Firstly, because fish fertiliser is oily, this smothers nematodes and mites.

Secondly butterflies and moths find their host plants by their acute sense of smell. So they are not going to hang around breeding caterpillars when the smell of cauliflowers or apples is masked by fish!

Controlling pests in garden - fish fertilizer

You can make you own by soaking fish scraps in water for a few weeks, strain and use. A bit of brown sugar or molasses helps things along.

This is one concoction where you definitely need to put it way down the back of the garden and cover it except for some tiny little air holes. Pwuew!

Even if you buy and spray on the emulsion or make up a liquid from fish meal, the slightly fishy aroma lingers around for a day or two.

So if your neighbours stop smiling at you... it's not because of your hairstyle!

Shiny things

Controlling aphids - christmas tinsel

Christmas tinsel decorations make good deterrents for some garden pests. String some reflective garlands around the garden to deter birds, although as with all bird scares, this works for a few weeks before the birds get wise.

Aphids seem to get confused and retreat if you weave tinselly ribbons around plants, or place on the ground. The bright side of aluminium foil does the trick too.


insect control with soap

As well as adding to other insect sprays to help disperse and stick to plants, soap can be used on its own.

Make up a weak soapy solution with pure soap, grated then dissolved in warm water. Try approximately 1 tablespoon of soap to a bucket of water. Many people save their dishwashing water to use, but make sure it is eco-friendly.

Soapy water will control many little soft bugs, such as aphids and spider mites.


Organic pest remedies - tomato leaves

These often work well as a poison to sap-sucking pests, but other times they don't! I've proven results, but occasionally had to resort to a different method, don't ask me why. See how you go...

These are the three most favoured plants to use:

Tomato Leaves: Boil up a pot of leaves covered with water. Let cool and seep for several hours at least, then pour or spray over plant where you see insects or caterpillars.

Rhubarb Leaves: Rhubarb leaves are semi-poisonous to us, and a tea brewed from rhubarb leaves poisons smaller pests, such as aphids, mites, white fly, and some caterpillar varieties.

Pour boiling water over crushed rhubarb leaves then leave to soak for several days. Strain, add a good squirt of detergent and dilute enough so that it looks like weak tea then spray over pest infested plants. Repeat every 10 days or so.

Wormwood leaves: As for tomato or rhubarb leaves.


Pyrethrum daisy pest repellent

The pyrethrum daisy (Tanacetum cinerariifolium) is from the chrysanthemum species and is easy to grow.

With the teeniest bit of fuss you can make one of the most effective insecticides that has been around for many a year.

You can buy Pyrethrum; it's organic and is sold as a spray for flies, mosquitoes and just about every other annoying flying or garden bug.

To make your own, first pick the flowers in full bloom when the 'pyrethrins' in the flower heads are at their peak. Pick enough stalk so you can hang the flowers to dry in an undercover and preferably coolish, dark place.

When brittle and dry, grind them finely with blender or mortar and pestle. Use quickly as it loses its potency within 1-2 days. What you don't use, store in fridge or freezer.

Store the dried flowers in the freezer also, if you're not ready to powder them.

To use, finely shake the pyrethrum power onto target pests or make a solution by mixing 2 teaspoons with 3 litres of water. Let it steep for 3 hours; add a quick squirt of liquid soap, then use as a spray.

This is a contact poison affecting the nervous system, so must touch each pest. Depending on the pest and the contact strength, some insects will go a bit balmy, some will make a run for it and some will keel over for good.

A follow-up spray 2 days later can prove to be extra effective as it will often catch those insects that have tottered out of hiding.

As mentioned pyrethrum is unstable, and once used is effective for 1-2 days. Light and heat hasten its deterioration, so spray on a cool evening if possible.

Sticky Yellow traps

Sticky yellow traps for bug control in garden

Mostly used to attract and kill whitefly and aphids.

Coat yellow boards or strips of something weatherproof with oil or paste/glue, or double-sided sticky tape, and hang or tack nearby to plants.

The bright yellow attracts these insects and they then get stuck on the sticky surface.


Controlling pests in garden - molasses

This is a mild insecticide and it also acts as a fertiliser. Mix 1 tablespoon of molasses with 1 litre of hot water and add a squirt of liquid soap.

This repels brassica butterflies and moths partly due to its stickiness. For caterpillars already on plants, they soon drop off once sprayed with this.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil for earwig control

Especially useful against earwigs and other creepy, crawly bugs such as millipedes.

Mix 6 teaspoons of eucalyptus oil with 1 cup of water. Add half 3 teaspoons of liquid soap and spray surrounding soil of effected plants.

Quassia Chips

Natural pest control - quassia chips

NOTHING attacks Picrasma excelsa, a tree that grows in the West Indies. Its bitter bark is sold worldwide as an insecticide, mostly for flies, mites and aphids. It is especially useful to repel possums.

Quassia chips are often scattered in roof spaces and entry points to areas where possums are not welcome.

The easiest way to make a spray is to first buy the chips at a garden supplier, add around 3 cups to a large bucket of hot water, and let cool and soak for 1-2 days.

Add a squirt (about 1 teaspoon) of liquid soap or eco detergent, and spray the ground around plants. For small insects you can spray the plants themselves, but wait a week before eating them—it's very bitter, astringent and will do you no good.

For possums, it is suggested to put a fresh lot of cassia spray or chips around each night for up to a week. This finally gives the possum a lightbulb moment—ah ah, this place is awful—and they give up. If it comes back or a new possum tries its luck, just repeat your cassia program.


Natural pest control - vinegar

A very week solution of any sort of household vinegar will deter many leaf chewing beetles and caterpillars.

Firstly, just put a dash, about 1 teaspoon into a spray bottle of about 1 litre and lightly spritz all over leaves and stem of target plants.

DON'T make it any stronger or you may harm the poor plant. Full strength vinegar remember is a popular weed killer.

Secondly, only do this spraying in the evening or on dull days, because sunshine on vinegar can burn plants.

Fences, screens, cloches and floating row covers

Natural pest control - bottle cloches Pest netting on hoops

All of these barriers are useful and for bottle cloches and other simple methods, you can make yourself.

For other ideas it would be helpful if you had handyperson abilities to make your own.

Otherwise employ someone to build what you need or check out Agribon AG-19 Floating Row Crop Cover / Frost Blanket / Garden Fabric Plant Cover. This was a particularly good find, and better than what was available at garden suppliers. It lasts for many years, lets plenty of light in and keeps the warmth in, yet stops any searing sun damage. Well worth it!

For some animal pests, such as racoons, deer and rabbits, a very strong physical barrier is usually a necessity. We're talking about fences, cages, netting, and all the permutations of imaginative ways to show that Trespassers are Forbidden!

See our other pest pages. . .

Organic Garden Pest Control How organic pest control works and when and why solutions are needed

The A-Z List of Garden Pests Have you got one or more of these garden pests? Check these out.

Controlling Plant Diseases What do they look like and what to do with Pathogens, Fungus, molds, mildew, blight on vegetable plants

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