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Organic Remedies for Garden Pests

Here's an extensive list of organic remedies for garden pests from our "Guide to Organic Pest Control" article:


No-spray Options                                      

Top Product Choices                           

Row covers; beneficial insects including ladybeetles, lacewings and syrphid flies; reflective mulches

Insecticidal soap, diatomaceous earth, horticultural oil

Row covers; beneficial insects including braconids and other small wasps

Bt, spinosad, kaolin clay
Asparagus beetles

Predation by poultry; winter cleanup of debris


Cabbage loopers

Row covers; handpicking; predation by birds

Bt or spinosad

Row covers; handpicking; predation by birds 

Bt or spinosad

Colorado potato beetles Resistant varieties; row covers; straw mulch; crop rotation; handpicking


Corn earworms

Resistant corn varieties with tight husk tips; early planting

Bt, spinosad or vegetable oil applied to young ear tips

Corn borers

Good end-of-season cleanup of debris; parasitic wasps

Bt, spinosad (alternating use)

Cucumber beetles

Row covers; handpicking; vacuuming; trapping in yellow pails filled with water or with yellow sticky traps

Kaolin clay


Surface cultivation; weed reduction; rigid collars around seedling stems

Bt, kaolin clay, beneficial nematodes
Fire ants

Check garden weekly for new mounds and treat as needed


Flea beetles

Row covers; reflective mulch


Grasshoppers Poultry; good fall cleanup to dislodge overwintering eggs

Nosema locustae protozoa, applied to habitat areas in late spring 

Japanese beetles Row covers; handpicking; parasitic wasps Milky spore, beneficial nematodes 

Ladybeetles, lacewings and other beneficial insects

Neem, kaolin clay, diatomaceous earth

Mexican bean beetle

Scout twice weekly; handpick adults, eggs and larvae; release beneficial Pediobius wasps

Spider mites

Encourage beneficial insects; use strong water spray to wash undersides of leaves

Insecticidal soap applied in late afternoon or early evening

Slugs and snails

No evening watering; handpicking; trapping; ground beetles and other natural predators; reduced mulching; clean cultivation

Sand, diatomaceous earth, copper barriers, iron sulfate baits (restricted use in some certified organic operations)
Squash bugs

Row covers; handpicking; trapping under boards at night; growing non-preferred varieties; prompt composting of debris


Squash vine borers

Resistant varieties (butternuts); row covers; surgical removal; composting of all debris

Beneficial nematodes

Tarnished plant bugs (Lygus bugs)

Close mowing near plantings; vacuuming; row covers; trap cropping with alfalfa

Beauvaria bassiana fungus

Tent caterpillers

Tear nests open with a stick every few days

Late night applications of Bt or spinosad

Grow flowers to provide pollen and nectar for beneficial insects; reflective mulches

Kaolin clay, Beauvaria fungus, insecticidal soap
Tomato fruitworm (same species as corn earworm)

Encourage beneficial insects and wild birds; handpick

Bt or spinosad

Tomato hornworm

Scout twice weekly starting in early summer; handpick

Bt or spinosad


Wash off with water; yellow sticky traps; reflective mulches

Neem, insecticidal soap, horticultural oil

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Post a comment below.


Barbara Pleasant_3
6/20/2010 8:09:43 AM
Cindi, it's crucial to match the right organic remedy to the pest, the plant, and weather conditions -- and to only spray as a last resort. There is no one-size-fits-all "organic spray" and some plants are sensitive to insecticidal soaps, others to horticultural oils. And any spray, including plain water, can injure plants if applied in bright sun. What I'm leading up to is that you have to read the label and follow directions with organic sprays just like you would do with synthetic ones. I think many gardeners think they must use sprays when they don't really need them.

cindi aylin_2
6/10/2010 11:02:01 AM
on the general spray mix in your comments, have you ever had it burn or kill the plants? my sister used an organic spray on her veggies and nearly killed the plants. I have used an organic spray recommended by my local garden center and I might as well use plain water.

dan chase
2/27/2009 10:06:42 PM
A great general spray is simply 10 garlic cloves, 2 table spoons hot sauce and 1 table spoon of dish soap(organic of course). I have found that this works on all "bad " bugs.Very effective.

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