Alternatives to Pesticides for Garden Plants

If insects are eating and killing your garden plants, you might consider chemical-based pesticides to rid your garden of the pests. However, these products may be indiscriminate killers, destroying beneficial insects, and may be detrimental to your and your family's health. Alternatives to pesticides are available that allow you to target only the destructive bugs without poisoning your plants or soil.

Essential Oils

Certain aromas may deter pests such as squash bugs, aphids, beetles and flies. Create sprays with essential oils and water that, when applied to your plants, may prevent pests from chewing them or nesting in them. Mix a few ounces of water with a small amount of oil to make your spray. Use spearmint or peppermint oil for aphids, ants, beetles and caterpillars. Oil of rosemary deters cabbage fly and carrot fly. For ticks, oil of lemongrass is recommended.

Companion Planting

Marigolds, garlic and onion have long been held to deter pests from tomato plants, roses and cucumbers, among other vegetables and flowers. Plant these throughout your garden to deter aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and caterpillars. Keep ants away with mint. Rosemary helps control beetles and thyme keeps away the cabbage worm. Slugs abhor fennel and sage. If squash bugs are after your zucchini, plant radishes in your garden, along with petunias and mint.

Beneficial Bugs

The praying mantis is a predator. It eats pests that eat your plants, making it a beneficial bug. Obtain praying mantis eggs from your local garden center and place the egg sac in a central location in your garden. The emerging mantises will live in your garden and act as pest control. Bring home a swarm of ladybugs from your garden center to control an aphid infestation. Free the ladybugs from their container near the infested plant. The ladybugs will feast on the aphids without chewing your plants. If you are unable to purchase beneficial bugs, use plants to attract them to your garden. Dill, fennel and coriander attract ladybugs. Lemon balm attracts the parasitic wasp, which feeds on a host of pests. Lemon balm also attracts the tachinid fly that in turn will eat cabbageworms, squash bugs and beetles.


Employ preventive measures to deter pests from invading your garden. Use a drip irrigation system to prevent standing water on your soil surface or pathways. An irrigation system also prevents your plant leaves from holding water on the surface. Wet leaves attract pests. Practice crop rotation. Avoid planting the same crops in the same place each season. Bugs are creatures of habit. If they found summer squash in one place last year, they will look for it again in that same place. Move your crops around. Mix your plants with each other. By planting tomatoes throughout the garden, interspersing them with other crops, you reduce the chances of losing all your tomatoes to a pest infestation.

Keywords: prevent garden pests, pesticide alternatives, companion plants

About this Author

Shelly McRae resides in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned her associate's degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. Her credits include articles for, and several non-commercial sites. Her work background also includes experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.