10 Most Effective Types of Organic Garden Pest Control Methods

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Using organic garden pest control methods begins before you even plant the first plant in your vegetable garden. If you want to conquer garden pests, it’s time to gather your supplies now so you’re ready before the bugs are!

woman holding a basket of garden vegetables

10 Most Effective Types of Organic Garden Pest Control Methods

Use organic garden pest control methods for a more holistic approach to your gardening. Harnessing the power of natural products, birds, beneficial insects, and physical barriers can yield a much healthier result than simply spraying synthetic chemicals. There are a lot of chemical-free options you can use to effectively battle pests in your garden – saving you from indiscriminately killing beneficial insects like pollinators.

I battle a lot of bugs every year – from the various beetles (cucumber beetles and potato beetles are the worst!!) to tomato hornworms, to cabbage worms, squash bugs, and more. It’s not always the same bug, but some garden foe is ready to lay eggs and take over the entire garden each and every year. 

Over the years, I’ve added a lot of tricks to my organic garden pest control arsenal, but it’s not possible to let down my guard. If you have pests in your organic garden, here are a few supplies you must have to protect your garden using organic pest control methods.

From crop rotation, to covering, to beneficial bugs, and backyard chickens – you have lot of organic garden pest control options at your disposal. So get creative, understand the pests you need to target, and get to killing those bad bags.

What Does Organic Pest Control Mean?

While some bad pests are actually quite pretty and fun to look at, it’s important to get a jump on them right away, as soon as you see the first one in your garden.

I hear a lot of people saying organic is crock because organic gardeners still use pest control. And it’s true that organic gardeners do have organic garden pest control methods at their disposal – but they are quite a lot different than Sevin Dust or other common brands of garden pesticides which kill good as well as bad insects.

Organic garden pest controls are made from natural substances like soap, salt, and vinegar. They can also mean using living organisms like beneficial bugs and birds or natural or bacterial powders. In this post, we’re going to look at four types of organic garden pest control options:

  1. Organic garden pest control sprays made with natural substances.
  2. Using living organisms to eat bugs and grubs.
  3. Natural powders you can also apply to kill bugs and grubs.
  4. Different types of garden covers or traps
garden spray for pest control

Organic Garden Pest Control Sprays

Neem Oil Garden Spray

Neem oil is an oil spray that you definitely want to have on hand throughout the growing season. It will keep your garden and harvest going strong. 

Made from the seeds of the neem tree found in India, neem oil is safe for all beneficial insects, birds, mammals, bees, beneficial nematodes, and earthworms. There are two ways to use Neem oil: as a soil drench or as a spray.

I use 1 to 2 tablespoons of neem oil per gallon of water when using it as a soil drench.  Mix it in a bucket and dump it quickly.  I will mix it up right where I plan to dump it as the oil tends to stick to the container. 

I like to use it early in the morning or at night depending on which bug/pest I’m targeting.  The neem oil sticks to the leaves which is what the bad guys eat. Eating this oil it keeps bees, ladybugs and earthworms safe as they’re not eating the leaves!

Insecticidal Soap 

You can make your own insecticidal soap using hot peppers, garlic, and a small bit of dish soap or you can buy a pre-made version of insecticidal soap as well. Using insecticidal soap is an easy way to knock pests levels down within a few hours.  

Be sure to follow each bottle’s directions for best results but I tend to pour a tablespoon or two of the soap into a gallon of water, pour that into a spray bottle and spray the plant down well making sure to get on the underside of the leaves and go about your day. 

The soap suffocates the bugs and will not harm your seedlings or plants.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) Spray 

Bt is a species of bacteria that makes proteins that are toxic to some soft body insects. Technically, Bt also falls in the living organisms category!

The good thing about Bt is that it is effective at killing caterpillars. The bad thing is it can harm monarch butterflies if used incorrectly. Make sure you spray ONLY the plants that are being targeted.  Bt is a bacteria that is sprayed onto the plants leaves and then ingested when the caterpillars are eating your veggies. 

It takes a few days to work so I recommend first picking off as many caterpillars as you can from the affected plants, and then spraying. Caterpillars can decimate plants overnight – so you definitely don’t want to wait to treat them.

chickens - good organic garden pest control

Using Insects & Living Organisms as Organic Garden Pest Control

Beneficial Nematodes 

Beneficial nematodes are microscopic organisms that arrive chilled in a powder form. They are actually one of my most favorite organic pest control methods. There are three different types of beneficial nematodes that target different pests. When deciding which nematode to purchase, think about what to kill most badly and double check the list of targeted bugs before buying.

beneficial nematodes - good organic garden pest control

To be safe, I almost always use a triple blend.

They can attack nearly every pest you have. They’re safe for all mammals and fish and will only attack specific pests. 

The earlier in the spring you start spraying nematodes the better as they’ll reproduce and live in your soil. Interrupting the bad bugs’ breeding cycle is the goal, but the nematodes will kill adults, pupae, and eggs.

Nematodes will not fix infested plants overnight. If you have a heavy infestation do additional sprays every week to every month until you have everything under control.  

How to Spray Beneficial Nematodes

To use nematodes you’ll need either a watering can or unused pesticide sprayer

  • Create a plan of what order everything will be sprayed with the nematodes as you want the areas and plants that are more at risk to receive the most protection. 
  • Thoroughly water your garden before opening your nematodes. Stir and spray the nematode mix in the garden starting with your most at risk plants or heaviest infestation.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon of nematode powder per 1 gallon, stir and sit in a shaded area for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Put any unused nematode powder into the fridge and use within 24 hours. 
  • Keep filling the watering can/sprayer up with nematode mix. If you finish all the plants, go back and do it all again and begin moving outward from the garden to create a boundary.      


Order 1500 ladybugs to get your aphid population under control. Releasing them under your floating row cover will give you a better chance at having them find your aphid issue as they’ll be encouraged to stay there on the plants that are being damaged.  

If you know aphids are a concern, be sure to plant strips of plants to act as ladybug and other beneficial bug habitat. Providing them with areas to mate and lay eggs will give them protection for birds and other predators. 

Bug Hotels 

Use a bug hotel to give your local bugs a home and nursery throughout the year. The good bugs can help to keep the bad bugs in check before they get out of hand. 

Bug hotels are affordable to buy or you can build one by placing hollow reeds in a box or tying them closed so they stay in a tight formation.

You can also place a jumble of sticks, pinecones, grasses and dried straw in an area that is allowed to be left wild along the edges of your garden or property.

Backyard Fowl 

Chickens, ducks, guineas, geese will handle so many pests from slugs to ticks. You can let your chickens into your garden in the evening or use tunnels to give them access to certain areas through the day. You do need to be careful with backyard birds as they will also destroy your garden while eating bugs.

Ducks are great for a more mature garden or one with some protection like nets or fencing around seedlings.  They will convert all those beetles, grubs, weeds, waste, slugs, ticks, larvae and flies into delicious meat and eggs!

DE powder for the garden

Using Natural Powders as Organic Garden Pest Control

Diatomaceous Earth 

Diatomaceous Earth or DE, is another powder I always have on hand throughout the growing season. It helps kill hard body insects by scratching the exoskeleton or kill soft bodies by dehydrating the bug, maggot, snail or slug as it crawls over the DE.

To use DE,  I like to form a ring around the base of plants like cucumbers and squash. Also, make to dust the soil well around any seedlings that would be at risk.

You’ll need to reapply DE after watering or a rain as the water will wash it away rendering it ineffective. 

Milky Spore 

will handle your Japanese beetle grubs that keep attacking your plants.  You will want to follow the directions on your package as depending on what you get will have different ways to dispense or use the product.  You’ll also want to make sure you’re using it at the right time of the year.  I prefer to use the standard granular type in my yard and a powder in my garden as powder requires more effort.

For the granular I can use a standard walk behind drop spreader and spread it over any grass or pastured areas with minimal effort.  A hand spreader will work also.  Go for the size that best fits your lawn.  

I’ll start spreading it in early spring and continue monthly up until the soil temp drops below 55* in fall.  Be sure to water everything well with a hose or a storm so the milky spore gets into the ground and kills the grubs.  For my garden I prefer to use a powder and place it in grassy garden paths or zones where beetles would be laying their eggs.  

You’ll want to do a checkerboard or zigzag pattern with your teaspoons of powder.  A piece of 3 inch pvc pipe that’s about waist high works well getting the powder to the ground without having to bend over. Be sure to thoroughly water the milky spore powder in and follow the same schedule as the granular one. 

Milky Spore will ONLY kill Japanese Beetle grubs so be sure what you’re dealing with is them.  

covered garden beds

Covers & Traps Make Effective Garden Pest Control

Floating Row Covers 

Floating row covers are another one of my favorite organic garden pest control methods. They are the best way I’ve found to keep cabbage worms off brassicas. These covers are 10’x50’ to allow plenty of side space and enough length to bring it together at each end to keep the warmth in.

Hoops with wire or pvc pipe will help hold the row cover off the plants.  Hold the sides down with bags of sand, mulch, dirt, rock, staples or whatever you have on hand so it does not flip up and go sailing off into the night.

Yellow Sticky Traps 

You should hang yellow sticky traps everywhere in the garden! They are amazing at keeping down gnats, aphids, and flea beetles. These simple tracks work well because a lot of bugs are attracted to yellow. They jump right on and get stuck and die. 

After they die, all you need to do is simply toss the traps or scrape the sticky bug mess off your reusable trap.  If you do throw the traps away be sure to either place a piece of cardboard over the sticky or place 2 traps sticky part facing them so you can protect any beneficial bugs from accidentally getting stuck too.

How do you keep pests out of your organic garden? We’d love to hear!

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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