Organic Pest Control

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Organic pest control

Advantages: Little or no use of chemicals makes for safe food growing for you

Disadvantages: organic pesticides require more time commitment and application

Organic pest control involves several types of controls...


Physical controls - keep pests from reaching your plants: floating row covers, handpicking pests off plants.

Cultural controls  - keep plants healthy and reduce insect problems.

- Keeping a clean garden prevents insects from living in plant waste, especially over the winter to keep warm

- Rotating crops every year makes sure that one plant family doesn't keep attracting the same pests

- Applying mulch keeps weeds down, saves water, and nourishes soil

- Composting provides organic matter = improves soil health and nutrients for plants

Biological controls

- Companion planting strengthen crops and trap crops attract pests away from other crops.

- Plant pollen and nectar producing plants to attract good bugs: alfalfa, anise, angelica, daisies, dill, coriander, hollyhocks, marigolds, yarrow, goldenrod, white clover, fennel, zinnias, parsley, lemon balm, sunflowers 


Planting marigolds (scented) helps repel pests like Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies and attract beneficial insects to your garden. They're also quite beautiful!


Garden Pest Identification

  • This is a great resource ( to identify the cause of garden diseases and infestations. After identifying, we like to refer to this resource (UC Davis IPM) for a less chemical-reliant solutions.
  • Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects, grey, red, yellow, brown or green in color. They pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out plant fluids. Attract beneficial insects like lady beetles, parasitic wasps (pictured above) and plant aphid repelling plants like garlic and coriander.

Homemade Chemical-free Pesticides

According to this helpful website, organic pest control mixtures start with

  • Smell: Garlic, tobacco, rhubarb, fish and other strong smelling substances that are used to repel pests.
  • Gases and odor molecules: Many plants give off natural odors or have volatile oils which some bugs find unpleasant. Often these odors or oils are a warning to bugs that the plant contains its own built in insecticide. Concoctions made from these plants will deter pests.
  • Heat or fumes: Chilies, kerosene, methylated spirits, salt etc, will burn, harm or kill pests.
  • Oil: Mineral oil, vegetable oils and proprietary oils, such as those made with cottonseed oil, will suffocate soft-bodied pests.
  • Soap: Natural vegetable based soaps or detergents are added to sprays in small amounts to make them stick to plants. Many insects dislike and are harmed by soap also.

Check out this website for more homemade pest sprays. Apply selectively (mind the lady beetles and bees!).  

1. In a blender (or finely chopped up), blend these ingredients in 4 cups of water:

• 1 whole garlic bulb

• 6 large or 12 smaller hot chili peppers (or 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper)

• 1 small onion

2. Let mixture sit for 1-2 hours and strain with a coffee filter or cheese cloth into a large spray bottle

3. After straining, add 1 tablespoon each of liquid soap and cooking oil

4. Use spray in the morning or evening, spraying the plants everywhere, especially under the leaves! Reapply after rain.




A little pest pressure is okay - stay observant and keep notes. Apply pest control methods if pest pressure increases. Think about balance - what pests really need to be controlled and which ones can be left alone?