#1: How to Get Rid of Garden Pests Naturally

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One of the most common problems I hear from gardeners is that they struggle with damaging insects. When you grow a garden that gets overtaken by pests it can really be discouraging. It happens to all gardeners at one point or another, but when pests are a common problem you need a solution.

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How to Manage Garden Pests Naturally

In this episode, I’m going to cover must-have tips for managing pests, how to attract beneficial insects, and best gardening practices that will keep your plants thriving without any pest issues.

Let’s get into it!

Don’t Spray

You’ll kill good and bad bugs. When you spray an insecticide it kills all insects, not just problem insects. 

And according to the USDA less than 1% of insect species are considered harmful. Insects prey on harmful pests, pollinate plants, decompose organic matter, and produce valuable products like honey. 

So all in all, the majority of insects are beneficial and we need them in our garden. 

But the problem happens when the population of bad bugs is larger than the population of good bugs. 

Unfortunately, if you regularly spray or kill problem insects such as aphids, you’ve been killing off the good bugs too and you need to build back up the population of beneficials. 

When my son was born in 2022 I quit spraying bugs in my garden because I didn’t have time. But then in the following two gardening seasons I had fewer pest problems. 

I don’t believe it was a coincidence. I believe it was from building back up the population of beneficial insects. 

Learn to Identify Good Bugs

I know this one can often be difficult because some bugs are hard to identify. For example, it’s pretty easy to identify mature ladybugs but have you ever seen ladybug larvae? They almost look like tiny alligators. They’re long, black, and spiky looking with orange or yellow spots. 

And the larva stage is actually the most beneficial. They continuously feed on aphids and other soft bodied insects until they’re ready to pupate.

In fact, the larvae of many beneficial insects is often the most beneficial stage. But it’s often the stage many people don’t recognize. 

So now let’s cover some common beneficial insects you want in your garden. 

Beneficial Insects

Aphid predators

  • One of the best is the green lacewing, they’ll devour aphids and then move onto other pest insects.
  • The green lacewing imbeds in aphid colonies by laying their eggs there. Once they hatch, the larvae eat the adult aphids.
  • Another good aphid predator is the lady bug and the parasitic wasp. 
  • Some other good guys to have around in your garden include the praying mantis, assassin bugs, ground beetles, and beneficial nematodes. 

And now let’s go over some of the harmful insects. I know there are more than what I’ll list but here are some of the most common,

  • Aphids
  • Cutworms
  • Flea beetles 
  • Fungus gnats
  • Grubs
  • Root aphids
  • Slugs and snails
  • Squash bugs
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips and 
  • Whiteflies

Luckily if you have any of the beneficial insects in your garden they will help keep down populations of these bad insects. 

But one of the issues is that many of these harmful insects overwinter in the soil and it’s hard to break the continuous life cycle.

You may have heard of gardeners purchasing beneficial insects and letting them loose in their garden. Which is definitely is not a bad idea but in many cases the insects that you purchase will leave your garden because they aren’t native. 

So the best thing you can do is naturally attract them into your garden which we’ll discuss in just a little bit because it’s one of my favorite topics.

But first I wanted to mention beneficial insects that may be worth the investment, and they are beneficial nematodes. You can apply them to your soil to kill all of these overwintering bugs and to kill any other soil dwelling pests. There are even a few reputable stores online that you can purchase from.

So a really beneficial thing you can do this season, especially if you’ve had a really bad infestation of insects like grubs, cabbage loopers, cutworms, flea beetles or any other pest that overwinters in soil is to add beneficial nematodes to your garden soil.

Since the nematodes live in the soil it’s a much better solution than purchasing beneficial insects that can simply fly away. 

But sometimes the best way to identify pest problems is to get help from other gardeners. If you’d like to join my membership, it is an amazing community that can help.

We have over 200 members and I am constantly in there to answer each and every question, plus you’ll get access to monthly growing calendars for zone 9, monthly garden tours and teachings, plus a resource library full of gardening courses and guides. I’d love for you to check it out. Start a 14-day free trial here!

How to Attract Beneficial Insects

One of the best things you can do as a vegetable gardener is plant a variety of flowers and herbs amongst your fruits and vegetables. 

There are so many flowers and herbs that attract beneficial insects that will then feed on the bad bugs. 

There is really not much scientific evidence on deterring bugs with other plants, but you can definitely attract beneficial insects with various plants. 

A wonderful flower is phacelia! I’ll link to it in the show notes. It is wonderful for attracting bees which will help pollinate and for attracting hoverflies which will feed on aphids and other problem insects. 

Another flower I love to have around the garden is sweet alyssum. It is so easy to grow and lasts all year long in mild climates. I planted my sweet alyssum last spring and it survived all winter long and now as this spring approaches it’s regrowing beautiful flowers.

It will attract ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, as well as other beneficials. 

By simply having more flowering plants throughout your garden, you’ll attract more beneficials. 

You can also leave any bolted crops in the ground such as radishes, cilantro, lettuce, and broccoli which will all attract many beneficials. 

Keep Plants Healthy

The next tip is to keep your plants healthy. Stressed out plants attract bad bugs. If your plants are healthy and thriving there is a much lower chance that you’ll have any pest issues.

Here are some tips for keeping your plants and garden healthy.

  • Keep your plants watered well
  • Weed often
  • Harvest often
  • Plant at recommended spacing
  • Grow vertically 
  • Prune plants
  • Keep old fruit cleaned up
  • Replant multiple times throughout the season

Physically Remove Pests

My last tip for managing pests naturally is to physically remove them. You can use a water hose and spray them off of the plants.

You can also use a vacuum and suck them up. This method would be most beneficial for larger pests like squash bugs. 

As we wrap up, remember that growing a pest free garden takes time. Stop using insecticides, learn to identify insects, attract beneficials, and keep your garden healthy. In time, the pest problem will decrease. 

Join the Zone 9 Garden Club

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is reach out to other gardeners for help. I would love for you to join the Zone 9 Garden Club!

As a member you get,

  • Monthly video garden tours and trainings
  • Monthly growing calendars for zone 9
  • Timely harvesting & planting tips
  • Access to an active community off of social media
  • A resource library full of gardening courses and guides
  • And more!

Podcast Feedback

Did you enjoy listening to this episode? Please drop a comment below or even better, leave a review on Apple or Spotify!

I really appreciate the feedback and it really helps the show get found by other gardeners.

Podcast Episode Resources and Links Mentioned

How to Get Rid of Garden Pests Naturally
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One Comment

  1. Excellent article. I will not use insecticides for all the reasons you discussed. I have learnt that planting plants that attract pollinators are very helpful. Thanks

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