When your plants become snacks for creepy crawlies and other pests, don’t reach immediately for harsh chemicals. There are plenty of organic options that will keep you and your garden safe.
Here are our top five organic choices for controlling garden pests. And if you’re having trouble identifying insects in your garden, we’ve got answers for you in the Weed, Plant and Pest Problem Solver tool.
1. Hand-picking. There is a bit of an ick factor, but it is effective. Once you spy cabbage worms, beetles or other pests on your produce, pull on your gloves and pick off the offending pests. Drop the bugs into a Homer bucket of soapy water and dispose far away from the garden.
2. Neem oil. It smells like garlic and sulfur and has a bitter taste, so it’s no wonder that it repels pesky insects. Spray neem oil on plants to control insects, mites and even fungi-like powdery mildew. It will not harm beneficial insects like ladybugs and honeybees and is safe to use around humans and pets.
3. Insecticidal soap. It works against soft-bodied insects like aphids, whiteflies and mealy bugs and is safe to use indoors, too. Read and follow the instructions before using insecticidal soap in your garden.
4. Netting and covers. Birds like berries just as much as we do. Protect your harvest with netting or row covers.
5. Discourage habitats for pests. Keep garden beds neat and tidy through weeding and the little critters will have less to chew on and fewer places to hide. Spread clean mulch, and to reduce diseases, be sure to wipe down garden tools after use.