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Beginner’s Guide To Gardening: Organic Pest Control

When you're an organic gardener, you face challenges that conventional gardeners don't, especially when it comes to bugs.

Aphids On A Leaf

Photo: Nick Dimmock (flickr)

Aphids can literally suck the life out of your plants.

We’re talking pesticides here, as in “Pick them right off that leaf.” Pluck them and chuck them!

Granted, a nifty slogan doesn’t address details, though I think we all know what I’m talking about here. But, let’s address the facts: when growing organically, the job of bug killing belongs in your capable hands – gloved hands, if you know what’s good for you.

Smarter Than Conventional Gardeners

When you’re an organic gardener, you face challenges that conventional gardeners don’t, especially when it comes to bugs. While others may be content with a chemical spritz from their spray bottle, or a toxic toss of their powders, you refuse such tactics. No way, no how! You are not going to add potential hazards to your otherwise healthy garden. Choosing organic methods requires you to be smarter than the bugs and quicker than the beasts.

It’s up to you to be vigilant and determined. In other words, to be a successful organic gardener you must become skilled in the “battle of the bugs.” Yep, we’re talking dispatch 101.

As for you sensitive hearts, don’t worry: killing isn’t a requirement. So long as you relocate the pesky invaders out and away from your garden so they can’t devour your leaves and vegetables, you’re good to go.

Employing The Help Of Others

One way to rid your garden of pests is by inviting a few of your neighborhood ladybugs and frogs to move in. Let’s say we make it a party and ask a few friendly dragonflies to join the mix along with a cardinal or two.

According to the laws of Mother Nature, everyone needs to eat, including insects, birds and amphibians. Did you know ladybugs love aphids, while frogs consume crickets and spiders like they’re going out of style? That, and dragonflies make a feast of mosquitoes and flies.

Cardinals apparently feed grasshoppers to their young. Have you ever heard of anything more glorious? Grasshoppers can prove to be a horrible nuisance when it comes to plants. And I must confess, anything that keeps them on the run receives an extra star in my garden journal.

  • Caterpillar Eating A Leaf

    Image 1 of 5

    Photo: Dianne Venetta

    Caterpillars are easy to catch (albeit difficult to spot) and easily pulled from the vine.

  • Flies On A Leaf

    Image 2 of 5

    Photo: Dianne Venetta

    Dragonflies are your friend because they make a feast of mosquitoes and these little flies.

  • Aphids On A Leaf

    Image 3 of 5

    Aphids can literally suck the life out of your plants.

  • Grasshopper On A Hand

    Image 4 of 5

    Grasshoppers can prove to be a horrible nuisance when it comes to plants. Good thing cardinals apparently feed grasshoppers to their young.

  • Hornworm Holding Onto A Branch

    Image 5 of 5

    Use companion planting to deter pests. For instance, dill attracts these tomato-loving hornworms. So, don't plant dill near tomato plants!

Feeding On Your Veggies Before You Do

For those with a squeamish stomach, relax. You’ll get over any ill-feelings quickly once you see the devastation wrought by these garden marauders. Incredibly, all your hard work and plant care can be reduced to stems in a matter of hours.

Aphids can literally suck the life out of your plants. And don’t even get me started on tomato hornworms or their friend the hungry caterpillar.

This is why you’ll want to make daily garden visits a part of your routine. Not only do they make for a lovely stroll, but you’ll spot any damage before it becomes a problem (i.e. infestation).


But here’s the good news: hornworms and caterpillars are easy to catch (albeit difficult to spot) and easily pulled from the vine. Do you have kids? Enlist their eagle eyes to root out the troublemakers hidden deep within the lush green foliage. I don’t know about you, but I find older eyes encounter a bit of trouble in differentiating bright green worms from bright green leaves.

Other tips include setting beer out for slugs and snails. It seems that they have an affinity for the stuff but find it easier to get into than out of. Diatomaceous earth is said to wreak havoc on the insides of many garden pests, effectively ending their romp through your plants. Garlic spray works wonders at repelling insects, particularly aphids, as does neem oil.

Plant Friends

Of course you can always plan ahead by referring to your handy-dandy list of companion plants and organize your garden sections accordingly.

For instance, rosemary deters cabbage moths, dill attracts hornworms, marigolds repel whiteflies, while lavender nourishes a host of beneficial insects.

These are just a few examples, but with a bit of homework on your part you can unearth a wealth of other advantageous relationships and revel in the joy of knowing your garden is chemical and poison-free.

More: Not all animals in your garden are pests. Some of them do wonders for your plants! Cue the pollinators!

Dianne Venetta

Dianne is an author, entrepreneur, and mother. She writes the blog BloominThyme and volunteers as garden coordinator for her children's school garden. At the end of the day, if she can inspire someone to stop and smell the roses (or rosemary), kiss their child and husband goodnight, be kind to a neighbor and Mother Earth, then she's done all right.

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  • Itzach Stern

    Use the physical pest control process. This may be accomplished through picking grubs off by hand, creating barriers and traps and plugging holes. Snails can be found hiding in damp places under rocks and towards the base of those plants with strap like foliage.

    pest control pueblo co

  • Amy Pearson

    If you’re truly interested in living organic
    you must take action by learning more about genetically engineered food and


  • Bobandgabt

    Just happened to come across your post while doing an image search for aphids…do you realize the aphids in the first picture are not sucking the life out of the leaf, but are dead, having been parasitized (probably by a wasp)? Great shot but should be labeled for accuracy.

  • Anna Marie Gruber

    before got lot of problem about pests in my garden but then when i found out about organic pests control it really help a lot. thankful that i have read about this. looking forward to hear more about your article.

  • Anna Marie Gruber
  • Silas Knight

    I appreciate the tips you have here for garden pest control. I had never thought to introduce lady bugs or frogs to the garden before. So those will only eat the pests and not harm the garden further? If so, I need to try that out sometime!

  • Ridley Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the great tips for pest control. I love your idea of bringing in other insects to help control pests. I need to try and catch some ladybugs and frogs and things to help my garden!

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