I still remember the first time I ever encountered a squash bug. I was relatively new to gardening and for years had coasted along with no problems. Then one day I went out and one of my zucchini plants was on the ground. Wilted and dying. Naive me thought it was the summer heat- but by the end of the night 2 more plants were down. And those stink bugs in the garden were identified as squash bugs.
Luckily most common garden pests can be dealt with relatively quickly and naturally!
So whether it is squash bugs or flea beetles that you are fighting- let’s get them out of your garden!
Get Rid of These 8 Common Garden Pests- Naturally!
Aphids are a common garden pest that can cause big problems. They target a lot of different crops and can cause viral disease in your garden as well. Luckily, aphids are fairly easy to control organically!
Aphids have a number of natural predators, such as lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverfly. You can also companion plant with onions or other alliums to help repel aphids. But if you have a large infestation to deal with you can use the following organic pest controls:
- Neem Oil– diluted and sprayed on your plants to repel aphids
- Soap and water- dilute a bit of dishsoap and water to spray on infected plants
- Mix a few drops of peppermint, clove and rosemary essential oils in a spray bottle full of water and spray on affected plants
I’ll be honest- we get aphids on our tomatoes every year and I have never once treated them. If your plants are strong and healthy, your soil is healthy, and you are attracting beneficials you should get a good balance and not have to worry.
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These common garden pests are fat green worms that are great at camouflage! I tend to see their droppings before I notice the damage. And then it takes forever to find the little buggers because they are so well hidden! And while you can control hornworms with organic biological control such as Bacillus thuringiensis, the best way to control them is through good soil preparation, hand-picking, and attracting beneficial insects.
The Braconid wasp is a beneficial insect that can help you control hornworms in your garden. This wasp lays it’s eggs on worm and when they hatch the larvae will feed on the hornworm. So if you come across a hornworm covered in white eggs- leave it! And allow more beneficials to be born in your garden.
Use companion planting to help attract these wasps. Planting herbs such as basil, cilantro, thyme and oregano in your tomato beds will attract the braconid wasp and reduce the number of hornworms in your garden!
Flea beetles are tiny black beetles that look, not surprisingly, like fleas! These common garden pests tend to target crops like eggplant and brassicas, though they can also do a number on tomato, pepper, and other nightshade seedlings.
Most of the time if you can get your crops past the seedling stage they will be able to fend off the flea beetles. In our garden eggplant and wonderberries are the hardest hit, and if I don’t treat them right away the seedlings are all but destroyed by the flea beetles.
My number one defense against flea beetles is diatomaceous earth. I keep the plants heavily dusted with DE from planting time until they are starting to flower. Once they start to flower they are usually big enough that the flea beetles don’t bother them anymore and I don’t want to risk harming any pollinators with DE.
Be sure to reapply after heavy dew and rain!
The potato beetle- and it’s larva- can destroy your potato plants very quickly. And while this garden pest does favor potatoes, they will also feed on other nightshades such as tomatoes and eggplant. A couple of the ways you can control this garden pest are:
- Companion plant your potatoes and eggplant with beans to help repel the beetles
- Hand pick off any eggs, larva, and adult beetles you see. Chickens love them!
- Use row covers in areas that are particularly hard hit
- Use heavy mulch a the base of the plants to make it harder for the beetles to find the plants
In our garden we rely mostly on handpicking, it’s not the kids’ favorite chore- but one we do every evening during potato growing season.
Cabbage worms are one of my least favorite garden pests. I can’t tell you how I hate to steam a fresh head of broccoli and find the hidden dead worms in the pot! The number one way I keep the cabbage worms away from my plants is by planting as early as possible. If I plant early then I can get a good harvest before many of the worms move in. Other control options are:
- Companion plant with herbs such as tansy, oregano, and thyme to attract beneficial insects
- Use floating row covers to prevent butterflies from laying their eggs on your crops
- Sprinkle the plants with cornmeal
- Spray with tansy oil
Sometimes I just give up and we bring the plant stalks inside and let the kids watch the worms turn into butterflies! If you can’t beat them- learn from them!
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Ahhh…the dreaded squash bug. I am not sure there is a more dreaded garden pest. These guys have the ability to take a big healthy plant down in a matter of hours. I even wrote a whole post on how I control this common garden pest. The things to remember most when it comes to getting rid of squash bugs are:
- Pick off the adults and eggs every. single. day.
- Use diatomaceous earth on the base of the plant and undersides of the leaves to help control the nymphs
- Companion plant with nasturtiums to help deter squash bugs
- Plant flowers and herbs to help attract the beneficial Tachanid fly
And just plant a lot of squash so that it will take awhile to eat through them all. Alternately, only plant squash every other year so that the bugs might move on during the off year.
Mexican Bean Beetles
Mexican bean beetles are garden pests that target all types of beans- and I occasionally find them on our pumpkin plants as well. They are similar in size and appearance to a large ladybug- only more orangish-copper in color. The larva are odd-looking- soft bodies that are bright yellow with black spines along their backs. They will eat through your beans leaving a lacy appearance to the leaves.
Damage to plants is most severe in the hot summer months of July and August, so planting early maturing varieties can help you get a harvest before the pests move in. Similar to aphids, a mixture of soap or neem oil sprayed on the plants will help with infestation.
Companion planting with marigolds will offer some protection, as will interplanting with potatoes- beans will help deter the potato beetle and the potatoes will help deter the bean beetles. It’s win-win!
And don’t forget to add picking bean beetles off the plants to your daily chore list! I keep a jug of soapy water in the garden for just this task!
Cucumber beetles are small yellow and black beetles that will primarily target your cucurbit – cucumbers, squash, and melons. While the insect itself can cause damage, the higher risk is the transmission of bacterial wilt to your plants. You can try to hand-pick these guys- but they are quick and tend to fly away before you can catch them! The best lines of defense against cucumber beetles are:
- Delaying your planting. The highest damage is usually in the early summer months. So by delaying your first crops by a couple of weeks to a month, you will miss the main first attack of these insects.
- Mulching with hay, straw, or plastic to reduce the number of eggs laid in the soil near the plants.
- Use floating row covers
- Kaolin clay has been used to deter the bugs from feeding and laying eggs on your plants.
You can read more about how to control cucumber beetles on my article How to Control Cucumber Beetles Naturally.
Additional Reading: 16 Ways to Use Companion Planting to Control Pests Naturally
With a little hard work and a few organic ingredients you can get all those common garden pests out of your garden and off your veggies! What is the biggest garden pest you deal with every year?
© 2017 – 2018, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.