We toil away for hours and hours in our gardens and on over our container crops so WE can enjoy the fruit of our labors.
Preventing garden pests from sneaking in and munching on our fruits and vegetables, destroying the plants in the process, is a vital part of the process…at least if you want to have anything left to harvest!
They might be tiny, but these little garden pests are sure mighty! When ants come across a barrier that means them harm, a brick-and-mortar physical one of pesticide spray residue, they band together and build themselves into a bridge or similar shape, to get over or away from the deterrent to their entry. There are roughly 14,000 different varieties of ants, and all of their colonies are difficult to evict from your garden or yard.
Ants will “farm” all the aphids in your garden, often moving them away for the territory the ants want to inhabit, and pushing them onto even better plants. Ants thrive on the sweet honeydew secreted by the aphids after the suck up and expel plant sap. In turn, mealy bugs and a host of other soft-bodied insects follow ants deep into the garden to dine on the honeydew they secrete after eating the left overs from the aphids.
Any nests and tunnels often destroy both the structure and quality of garden soil and can harm plant roots. To get rid of ants, you can carefully sprinkle Borax around your plant rows, but only when there is no wind.
The Borax can kill the very plant you are trying to protect, and your livestock as well. If you mix some honey, peanut butter, or other sweet-tasting treat with Borax, the community-minded ants will drag it back to their nests and poison the rest of the colony.
You can also spread diatomaceous earth on the ant trails so it attaches to their bodies when they follow the same path back to their nests and eventually kills them via the dehydration the diatomaceous earth causes.
They might be pretty, but aphids are destructive little assassins when they get in your garden. Aphids suck the sap from your plants and multiply very quickly – quite like bunnies. Once they do, the offspring seek out even more of your growing plant to call home. They prefer to set up housekeeping on stems, leaves, and fruits.
Anyone honeydew secretions that are not consumed by ants will begin to grow a very sooty mold that can also kill your crops. Aphids often use the cover of darkness to invade and claim your garden. They prefer to live on tomato and cabbage crops, and roses, but will attach themselves to just about anything your are growing.
Keeping birds out of the garden has been a problem for farmers for centuries. Scarecrows help deter them from picking your crops somewhat, as do dangling aluminum pie pans and CDs.
A bird’s vision is vastly better than a human’s. If you paint large eyes looking right up toward the sky on a wood bench in your garden, they might think a large predator has already claimed the area and move on.
Reflective tape or “bird tape” sold at garden stores for a slightly higher price, also startle crows and other birds and may deter them from landing in your garden.
The best way to keep birds out of your crops, outside of camping out in the garden day and night and shooting them out of the sky, is with bird netting. If you have a large garden, buying enough bird netting to hang over the crops after being supported over T-posts or wood stake, will likely cost you several hundred dollars – but our food source will be saved. Bird netting can be used for several years, I have gotten as much as five years out of the plastic netting, making the initial cost a bit easier to stomach.
Caterpillars and Worms
Worm and caterpillars can ravage your crops, regardless of your climate or the type of growing areas you choose. Cabbage loopers and cabbage worms eat holes in not just cabbage, but in tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, broccoli, Brusels sprouts, and potatoes.
Then they begin their egg layer in earnest. Eggs are typically laid in clumps, on the underside of plant leaves.
Carefully pick the egg clutches off of your plants the moment you detect their presence. Spraying the plants with a spray of equal parts molasses and water each week helps keep the destructive worms and caterpillars at bay. Garlic-based natural pesticides also seem to work well on these common garden pests.
I am not a cat person, not at all. I had one once that acted just like a dog, I did love him, but my cat love started and ended with the sweet yet ferocious little Rocky.
When cats get into your garden, they paw at the dirt and pry loose seedlings and urinate on the ground and the plants, destroying them as well. Sprinkling cayenne pepper or chili pepper around the border of your garden often deters cats – but not always, and you will have to repeat this practice on a weekly basis throughout the growing season.
Cats are also deterred by the smell of oranges. Save your peel, grind them into a powder and sprinkle them around the border of your growing areas to help keep cats away from your crops.
Putting up a fence around your garden will only keep cats out if it is at least 6 foot tall, or made of sheet metal they can’t dig their claws into to climb.
Every year, no matter how tightly we put up chicken wire around our garden, deer eventually run right through it at some point. Putting up a fence of chicken wire or hardware cloth helps keep them out, but it must be tall enough that they cannot jump it and you continually check to make sure it is tight. Add some barbed wire fencing around your chicken wire or hardware cloth to create another line of protection against deer entry.
There are some very distinct smells that deer hate and will detract from the good smell of your garden. Hang, put in a pot, or sprinkle any of the following around your crops to help repel deer:
• Dryer sheets
• Cayenne pepper
• Crushed hot peppers
• Chili pepper
• Raw eggs
• Ammonia – mixed with water and sprayed
• Kelp – mixed with water and sprayed
• Garlic – mixed with water and sprayed
• Liquid soap – mixed with water and sprayed ( Zest and Dial brands of soap seem to work best)
They are a man’s best friend, but sure can make a mess of a garden. It took me several months to teach our blue heelers proper garden entry behavior. The fence put up to keep cats and deer out of your garden, should keep unwanted canines from digging in your soil, as well.
Thee bugs will eat on your plants until their small bellies are ready to burst. Earwigs seem to love newspaper. Crumble up your daily paper and stick it in a shallow bucket or planter in the garden. Come nightfall, the bugs will crawl into it to sleep. Arrive just after dawn and remove the container and dispose of them.
Earwigs are selective eaters, expect to find them most often eating on your chard and beet plants.
Ugh, yes..gophers are drawn to our gardens and destroy them pretty quickly. To deter gophers from getting near your garden, put bird bath or metal tubs full of water in the same area to entice the birds to swoop down and eat the gophers.
Putting a skirting of hardware cloth underground along the edges of the garden (just like you did to deter digging predators from tunneling into your chicken coop and run) may also help thwart gophers.
Spraying garlic-based natural pesticides around the border of growing areas can also repel gophers.
photo: By Crisco 1492 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
These insects suck the sap about of your plants and either kill them or cause their growth to be substantially stunted. Unfortunately, mealy bugs also reproduce quickly and can overrun a garden in a single month.
Using spray that will either cause dehydration or smothering of the bugs after their bodies are coated in oil, as the best way to get rid of them. See the lists below for natural pesticide recipes and herbs that your can grow in and around your garden to repel mealy bugs.
Green Veggie Bugs – Squash Bugs and Stink Bugs
Various and common bugs are attracted to green vegetable plants, eating especially corn, tomatoes, and green beans, and then lay their eggs on the leaves of the plant after having their supper.
A colored nymph hatches it eggs in only three weeks. A nymph reaches maturity when it’s only 100 days old. See below for natural pesticide recipes and herbs you can use to deter these common garden pests. Garlic-based spray usually works best.
I don’t like mice in my house. I don’t like mice in my barn. And I really hate mice in my garden.
Spraying a catnip-based natural pesticide and/or sprinkling it around the garden will help kill mice. Plant a healthy amount of catnip around the border of the garden, they will usually eat it and die a short time later.
Soak some clean old rags in either (or both) eucalyptus essential oil and peppermint oil and leave it in areas where a mouse presence has been detected. They will be attracted to the oils even ore so than cheese, hopefully they will walk right into your waiting traps!
Ground mole rarely eat plants, but they destroy them just the same by uprooting them and when creating their tunnels and nests. See the list below for multiple suggestions detailing how to rid the growing areas of they bothersome garden pests.
A possum will eat as many of your growing vegetables and fruit as it can get to. Camphor rub has been at least somewhat successful in repelling these pests. Simply slather the camphor rub onto rocks, fence posts, etc. around the garden.
Chicken wire or hardware cloth fencing and bird netting will provide even more security against these climbers. Possums will climb out and dangle on tree branches in an attempt to reach a single piece of delicious looking fruit.
Thee little brown, black, or green pests suck the very life out of your crops after camping out on the leaves and stems of plant. The honeydew they secrete can quickly grow a black fungus that can also harm the plant.
When you see scales on your plant, whip our your pocket knife and scrape them off as quickly as possible. The garlic-based natural pesticides on the list below should also help keep them out of your garden and/or kill the ones that got in.
Snail and Slugs
Slugs eat holes in the leaves of plants and are even capable of eating an entire young plant down through its roots.
Snails have very rough tongues and the insect version of teeth. They use their “teeth” to saw around the edges of a plant to eat – harming or killing the plant.
If you use a chicken tractor in your garden, the chickens and ducks should take care of your slug and snail problem. Sprinkling sawdust, broken egg shells, or sand around your plants or garden border will also repel these pests.
There are literally millions of different mite species. The 2-spotted mite, more commonly known as the red spider mite, suck the chlorophyll from the leaves of the plant your are growing to feed your family.
Mites secrete a silky web to not only protect themselves from other bugs, but from the pesticides you use to try to get rid of them. The little mites are capable of covering an entire plant in their silky web in a single day.
Lady bugs, spiders, lacewings, and parasitic wasps prey on the spider mites. Using a soap-based pesticide spray seems to work best to kill them.
Garlic-based sprays are very helpful in getting rid of thrips. They tend to suck the sap from tomato plants more than any other type of crop. Pouring water on a thrip infestation may also help convince them to move on, they do not like being moist.
Just like gophers, they like to eat the bark and roots of crops. Rat traps and electronic sound devices designed to deter garden pest usually work well to thwart voles.
These garden pets are attracted to the color yellow. Paint a bucket or board yellow and then bait the surface with something sticky, like Vaseline or wax, to trap them and keep them from munching on your plants.
Whiteflies also do not like getting moist of being subjected to wind. Soap-based natural pesticides usually work well to kill whiteflies.
Top 25 Herbs and Plants To Cultivate To Kill Garden Pests
You do not need to rush out to a big box or garden store and buy harsh and potentially harmful chemicals to deter bugs from growing areas. You can make natural pesticides quite cheaply and easily and better yet, use herbs that you can consume for nutritional and medicinal purposes later, to repel pesky bugs and larger unwanted guests, like rabbits, squirrels, and ground hogs.
Instead of growing your own apothecary in a designated spot, make the most of the space on your homesteading survival retreat or the backyard at your bug in location, by growing your natural medicine ingredients with your crops!
1. Eucalyptus – Potato beetles, cabbage loopers, and aphids are solidly deterred by eucalyptus plants growing around the border of a garden or in a raised bed or crop container. This herb, especially used in essential oil form, has a plethora of medicinal uses.
2. Narcissus – This very pretty plant is hardy to most growing region of the United States and repels one of the most destructive types of garden pests: ground hogs.
3. American Beauties – Native Americans, the folks who pioneered this land, used American Beauties as a bug repellent. Not only will the plants help keep flying insects, except pollinators, away from your garden, you can crush the leaves and rub them on your skin for the same purpose.
4. Borage – Keep garden pests way far away from your cabbage plants by planting this medicinal herb in between your rows and alongside crops in raised beds and planters.
5. Lemon Grass – This herb should be planted not only alongside crops by in the barnyard and outside living areas a well. Lemon grass contains citronella oil and will deter garden pests looking for a free meal from either crops or humans.
6. Basil – You can use this herb to keep a broad range of garden pests away from your crops. Keep flying and biting insects off of your skin, use it as an ingredient in natural pesticide sprays, as well as an ingredient in homemade alternative medicines.
Basil is also an excellent companion crop for green beans, potatoes, asparagus, both bell and chili pepper, beets, eggplant, cabbage, oregano, and tomatoes. If you grow basil with your tomatoes, it often gives them a more delicious taste.
To make a natural pesticide spray using basil, mix together about 1 cup of crushed leaves and four ounces of boiling water. Steep the crushed leaves (you can leave the stem on) for approximately 2 hours. After straining the basil and water mixture, add 4 ounces of vodka to the mixture and pour it all into a spray bottle.
7. Sunflowers – Plant sunflowers a short distance from your garden to attract aphids and ants away from the growing area.
8. Chrysanthemums – A natural pesticide known as Pyrethrum is contained in the plants. Planting the flowers with or near your crops will help thwart cockroaches, the dreaded Japanese beetle, ants, spider mites, root knot nematodes, lice, ticks, and harlequin bugs.
9. Chamomile – The medicinal herb has the power to prevent most types of flying insects (not honeybees) from getting close to your garden crops.
10. Thyme – If you only plant one herb near your crops to keep away garden pests, choose this one. Thyme will repel ear worms, white flies, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, and tomato hornworms.
11. Sage – All varieties of sage and the herb’s subspecies, salvia, are often heralded for both their natural pesticide properties and antimicrobial attribute. Red safe is one of the best varieties of sage to plant in and around growing areas to repel garden pests. Red Sage is toxic to rats, mosquitoes, and fleas when consumed in high doses.
12. Bay Leaves – To keep away flies and other common garden pests, plant bay leaves in or around your growing area. Putting planters or bay leaves in your livestock areas should also help keep flies from bothering both you and your animals. Chicken love bay leave, so you might want to put a screen around any planters the flock will have access to in the barnyard.
13. Fennel – To keep garden pets like aphids, snails, and slugs away from your growing crop, plant fennel near your growing areas.
14. Bee Balm – This plant can attract copious amount of bees to your garden, help your tomatoes grow healthy and large, and repel flying insects.
15. Castor Beans – Ground moles loathe castor beans. Plant them near or around your garden to keep these hungry and destructive pests away.
16. Mint – All varieties of mint will help thwart common garden pests, but catnip seems to work best. Cats may love the stuff, but mice who are enticed to try it are usually dead not long after.
To make a natural pesticide spray using catnip, use your food processor or manual kitchen tool to powder the leaves, mix about 1 cup of leaves with 3 drops of peppermint oil, 2 drop of almond oil, and spray it anywhere you are having a problem with mice or small insects like mosquitoes.
17. Chives – Japanese beetles are among the most loathsome of garden pests. They can completely destroy fruit trees and multiple varieties of common garden crop, in a matter or days. Grow chives amid your crops to get rid of not just beetles, but aphids and carrot flies, as well.
18. Marigolds – These flowers put of an odor that repel nematodes, mosquitoes, rabbits, and aphids. You will need to plant the marigolds around your garden and growing area early, approximately 12 months before cultivation begins, for their scent to be strong enough to repel rabbits.
19. Crown Imperial – To thwart large garden pests, like vole, squirrels, moles, rabbits, and mice, plant crown imperial plants in and around your growing area.
20. Rosemary – Place containers of this herb in areas where mosquitoes prone to congregate, especially around ponds, water spouts, and low-lying terrain that often floods, convince them to relocate.
Boil one quart of dried rosemary, strain away the herb, then mix in one quart of cold water. Store the natural insect repellent in the refrigerator until ready to use. The herb may also help to deter wasps.
21. Dill – To get rid of spider mites, aphids, tomato hornworms, squash bugs, and cabbage loopers, plant dill among your food crops.
22. Nasturtiums – It might not be possible to find more well-rounded and powerful garden pest killer than Nasturtiums. The plant will repel cabbage loopers, multiple type of beetles, squash bugs, and aphids. They are also a companion plant for cucumbers, radishes, kale, green beans, tomatoes, collard greens, and broccoli.
23. Oregano – This Mediterranean herb grows just about anywhere and naturally repels a plethora of bugs. It is also a great companion crop for peppers. Oregano plant alongside peppers provides grown cover and helps the crop retail essential moisture levels.
24. Lavender – Planting lavender around your growing areas will provide you with not only a great natural medicine ingredient, but also a repellent for a vast array of flying insects and bubs.
25. Lemon Balm – Most flying garden pests won’t circle anywhere near this sweet-smelling herb.
26. Petunias – This landscaping staple of a plant will thwart aparagus beetles, tomato hornworms, aphids, and leaf hoppers.
27. Garlic – You should grow garlic in the growing areas and amid medicinal plants to help protect them from most common pests. Garlic is also a potent natural medicine ingredient in a multitude of home remedies.
28. Four O’Clocks – Here is one more plant to add to your growing areas to help repel Japanese beetles. They will attract pollinators and add perhaps help hide the fact your are growing food in your flower beds, in the process.
29. Oak Trees – Mulch up the leaves from oak trees on your homesteading survival retreat and scatter them in and around your growing plots to repel most varieties or destructive worms and bugs.
30. Lemon Thyme – This delicious and medicinal herb is so hardy it can grow in both rocky and shallow low-quality soil. Garden pests do not like either the taste nor the scent of this plant. To increase the likelihood that lemon thyme deters bugs, lightly crush the leaves on the plant while you are tending your crops to enhance the release of their scent.
Natural Pesticide and Insecticide Sprays
Stockpile the ingredients to make your own garden sprays to help protect your crops from garden pests and help keep your family’s food supply secure.
Put two whole garlic bulbs in your food processor, blender, or powder them with a kitchen hand tool. Mix the crushed garlic with 1 quart of water and strain it into a Mason jar. Mix in 1 teaspoon of mild soap, like Castile soap.
Stir the mixture thoroughly and then pour in a ½ cup of carrier oil – almond or vegetable recommended. The mixture will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dry place. When ready to use, mix 1 cup of the garlic pesticide spray with 1 quart of water and spray directly onto plants. You can also use the mixture on your skin to keep bugs away from you as well.
Hot Pepper Spray
Mix together a ½ cup of hot peppers and 1 cup of water. Put 1 quart of water into a pot and bring it to a boil and then pour the hot pepper and water mixture in. After the mixture comes to a rolling boil, take it off the heat and allow it to cool. Strain out the peppers and pour the mixture into a jug or jar.
Next, pour in 2 or 3 drops of liquid soap, Blue Dawn recommended. Shake the mixture vigorously and spray it onto plants to deter garden pests. Do not use this spray on your own skin, even though it too repels mosquitoes.
Garden pests hate wood ash. Make great use of the ample supply of free wood ash generated on your homestead by spreading it around the base of your plants. Not only will it deter many varieties of flying and crawling insects, it will also boost the calcium and potassium content of the soil.
When this natural pesticide spray touches insects directly, it quickly and thoroughly coats their little bodies and suffocates them. To make the spray, mix together 1 tablespoon of Castille soap and 1 cup of the oil and shake it vigorously. Before spraying around garden plants, mix 2 teaspoons of the stored spray with 1 quart of water.
This old-fashioned herbal home remedy that helps bring down fevers also works wonderfully to repel garden pests. It works particularly well to thwart mosquitoes.
To make the tea, mix together 1 teaspoon of yarrow, 2 cup of water, and a ½ teaspoon of both peppermint essential oil and catnip. Boil the mixture and let it steep for approximately 15 minutes. Strain the mixture into a spray bottle once it cools and squirt it on and around plants to thwart insects and perhaps even larger threats to your crops.
This natural oil is an extremely durable and potent natural pesticide. Mix just a ½ ounce of neem oil with ½ teaspoon of liquid soap (Blue Dawn recommended) and 2 quarts of warm water.
Shake the bottle holding the ingredients vigorously and then squirt your crops, herb, and medicinal plants from bottom to top. This natural pesticide spray must be used immediately after mixing in order to maintain its potency.
Onion and Garlic Spray
This natural pesticide should be sprayed on both the underside and top of leaves of your crops.
Chop finely or puree 1 garlic bulb and 1 small to medium onion. Next, stir in 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Steep the mixture for 1 hour in very hot, but not boiling, water. Strain the mixture into a container once it has cooled and then add 1 teaspoon of Blue Dawn. Shake the container vigorously to mix thoroughly and then again before spraying it onto your garden crops.
This spray can be mixed in advance like the others on the list, but will only remain potent for 1 week if stored in the refrigerator.
Baking Soda Spray
Mix together 1 tablespoon of Blue Dawn liquid soap, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, two gallons of warm water, and ¼ of a teaspoon of carrier oil. Spray your crops once a week to deter or kill bugs, particularly scales and slug, or spray directly onto the garden pests.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.