Organic Ways to Rid a Vegetable Garden of Pests

In recent years, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has moved to the forefront of organic pest control. IPM simply involves using a variety of organic methods to deter predatory garden animals and insects. While you don't need to use every method discussed here, it's important to learn all you can about the pests eating your vegetables, when they appear, and which traps, sprays and predators are most likely to control their populations.

Animal Deterrents

Post and chicken wire fences standing at least eight feet above-ground and buried two feet underground effectively discourage deer, gophers, rabbits and groundhogs. Bottled coyote urine is said to repel a wide variety of four-legged pests, human hair and bar soap is renowned for scaring deer off, and citrus peels discourage cats. Watchdogs and guinea fowl, of course, guard against a wide variety of animal pests, while the latter also eats bugs.

Agricultural Fabric

This wonder fabric allows sunlight and water through, but is tightly-woven to prevent insects from getting to the vegetables. Agricultural fabric works best when the plants are in the young, pre-flowering stage, because it also inhibits weeding and pollination when the vegetables mature.

Insect Predators

Hang out the welcome mat for small creatures that prey on your biggest garden headaches. Toads, snakes, spiders, frogs and birds all eat their share of garden pests, so provide bird houses, nearby shrubbery, overturned flower pots and shelters for these enemies of your enemies.

Beneficial Insects

Gardeners report mixed success with bulk-buying ladybugs, predatory wasps, praying mantises and other "good" insects. Theoretically, however, these beneficial insects devour specific bugs which go after certain vegetables. If you have a serious overpopulation of a garden pest in your garden, consider browsing organic catalogs for known predators of that insect.

Crop Rotation

Home gardeners benefit when they grow vegetables in different spots each year, because insect pests often lay eggs in the garden spots of their favorite snack to hatch the following year. It's also important to learn about vegetable families, because insects tend to be drawn to a whole class of plants. Broccoli and cauliflower both belong to the Brassica family, for example, so planting cauliflower where broccoli grew last year would only encourage the same pests.

Homemade and Commercial Garden Sprays

One old-fashioned method of bug repellent involves concocting and spraying a puree of hot red pepper or garlic diluted with water, to which a tablespoon of liquid soap is added to help the spray stick to plants. More gruesomely, some gardeners capture some of their most troublesome garden bugs, blenderize and dilute them, and spray them on the same plants. Not surprisingly, this scares away bugs of the same species. Store-bought options include horticultural and dormant oil sprays, which repel pests, along with products such as milky spore disease and Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), which give the insects actual diseases.


Gadgets and methods which lure bugs to their doom run the gamut from old-fashioned to new-fangled. Slugs famously fall victim to saucers of beer placed around the garden. This "lure and drown" technique also works well on earwigs. In addition, try sticky traps---yellow ones for whiteflies, and red, spherical ones for apple maggots. These can be made at home or bought at garden centers. Nurseries also stock devices containing pheromones which lure insects like Japanese beetles to their doom.

Companion Planting

Many herbs and flowers protect vegetables either by repelling garden pests or encouraging beneficial insects. Sage, for example, discourages the carrot fly, while marigolds act as good all-around repellents for both flying and soil-crawling bugs and bacteria.

Keywords: IPM, vegetable pests, insect repellant, animal deterrent, insect sprays, agricultural fabric

About this Author

Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.