A few blasts from a sprayer full of toxic insecticides will take care of your garden pest problems quickly, but most vegetable gardeners are aware of the drawbacks of a such a plan. Finding natural ways to protect your vegetable plants from insect attack takes a little more time and creativity but the results are safer for your family and better for the environment.
Pick caterpillars, slugs and other large insects off manually. Drop them in an empty jar for transport away from your garden or into soapy or salty water to kill them.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE), a fine white powder—the fossilized remains of diatoms—to dehydrate soft-bodied insects. Buy only agricultural DE. Do not use the type sold for swimming pool filters.
Drape lightweight row covers over plants to discourage insects. Sunlight, air and water can permeate these covers, but bugs cannot.
Spray aphids with 1 to 2 tsp. of liquid dish soap mixed in a 1-qt. spray bottle. Non-toxic commercial insecticidal soap kills a wider variety of insects including white flies and spider mites.
Bacillus thuringiensis is a caterpillar pathogen that is harmless to plants, people and pets. Bacillus popillae or milky spore disease attacks Japanese beetles.
Place a small saucer of beer in the garden to trap slugs. Make your own aphid and whitefly traps by coating stiff yellow paper with commercial adhesive, such as Tanglefoot, or glycerin. Hang them from your plants for best results.