How to Protect Vegetables From Insects in the Garden


Insect infestation can devastate your garden, reducing yields and harming slow-growing plants that are more susceptible to diseases. Some cures for insect problems, like chemical insecticides, may be worse than the original problem because they kill beneficial insects and can harm animals and people. A combination of cultural methods and botanical insecticides can be effective at reducing insect problems without the dangers of chemical applications.

Cultural Methods

Step 1

Plant vegetables that are resistant to insect infestation. Beans, beets, cucumbers and squash are relatively insect-resistant, while potatoes, carrots, cabbage and broccoli all attract various pests.

Step 2

Follow a regular water and fertilizer schedule to keep plants strong. Healthy plants are more resistant to pests.

Step 3

Weed your garden well and regularly to minimize hiding places for insect pests and to prevent the weeds from competing with your vegetables for water and nutrients.

Step 4

Remove infested plants to prevent the pests from spreading to neighboring vegetable plants.

Step 5

Remove and destroy all plants after the harvest is finished.

Step 6

Attract insect predators by growing plants that feature small flowers, such as daisies, dill and coneflower. These plants will encourage predators of insects and beneficial insects including ladybugs, nematodes, bats and birds.

Physical and Chemical Methods

Step 1

Place traps around the outside of your garden. Pheromone traps attract insects during their mating cycles, and yellow sticky traps are effective against flying insects such as aphids, whiteflies and fungus gnats.

Step 2

Pick insects off your vegetables by hand or use a jet of water from your garden hose to dislodge them.

Step 3

Place insects in a bucket of soapy water to kill them after removal.

Step 4

Use Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria and beneficial nematodes, which can be found at garden centers, to kill insects in the garden.

Step 5

Spot spray insect-infested plants with plant-based insecticides like neem or pyrethrins as a last resort.

Tips and Warnings

  • Insecticide sprays applied to the entire garden may kill beneficial insects along with the pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Insect-resistant vegetable varieties
  • Fertilizer
  • Small-flowered plants
  • Pheromone traps
  • Yellow sticky traps
  • Bucket of soapy water
  • Bacillus thuringiensis
  • Beneficial nematodes
  • Botanical pesticide targeted to specific insects


  • Oregon State University Extension: Don't Let the Bugs Beat You To It

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota Extension: How to Protect Plants from Insects, Disease and Weeds
Keywords: insect pests, kill insects, insect problems, garden pest

About this Author

Angie Mansfield is a freelance writer living and working in Minnesota. She began freelancing in 2008. Mansfield's work has appeared in online sites and publications such as theWAHMmagazine, for parents who work at home, and eHow. She is an active member of Absolute Write and Writer's Village University.