As a gardener, dealing with pests can be incredibly frustrating. From aphids to snails, there are so many critters out there that want to munch on your vegetable plants and ornamentals. While chemical pesticides may seem like an easy fix, they can harm beneficial insects, pets, wildlife, and even yourself. The good news is there are some effective, non-toxic tricks for getting rid of common garden pests. Keep reading to learn my weird but wonderful secret for protecting plants without poisoning Mother Nature.

Physical Barriers

One of the easiest and most Earth-friendly ways to stop pests is to put up physical barriers that prevent them from reaching your plants in the first place. Here are some of my favorite tactics:

Floating Row Covers

These lightweight mesh fabrics allow air, light, and water to reach your vegetables while keeping insects off them. Drape the fabric directly over your plants and secure the edges with stones, boards, or landscape pins. Use the covers at the first sight of pests and remove them once pest pressure decreases.

Copper Tape

Slugs and snails hate traveling over copper. Wrap copper tape around planters, garden boxes, or tree trunks to block these slimy mollusks. Be sure to overlap the tape to prevent gaps.


Cut old plastic bottles to create collars that surround seedlings. Bury the collars a few inches into the soil to block cutworms from munching on plant stems.

Beneficial Insects

Nature provides its own defense against garden pests by way of beneficial predators. Attract these critters to naturally control pest populations:


These spotted beetles and their larvae feed on soft-bodied insects like aphids, mealybugs, and mites. Buy live ladybugs to release onto infested plants or create an inviting habitat with pollen and nectar sources like dill, fennel, and cosmos.


The larvae of these elegant green insects are known as "aphid lions" for their voracious munching of aphids. Adult lacewings eat pollen, nectar, and honeydew. Plant umbelliferous flowers and allow aphid populations to build to provide food sources.

Parasitic Wasps

There are multiple species of tiny wasps that lay their eggs inside the bodies of caterpillars, aphids, whiteflies, and other prey. The larvae hatch and eat the pests from the inside out! Avoid pesticides so these beneficial wasps thrive.

Botanical Pesticides

For tougher pest infestations, there are some plant-derived insecticides that are far less toxic than conventional options:

Neem Oil

Extracted from the seeds of the neem tree, this oil disrupts insects' reproductive cycles and repels or kills many soft-bodied pests. Mix neem oil with water and a bit of mild soap. Test on a few leaves first before spraying plants.


Made from chrysanthemum flowers, pyrethrum quickly knocks down most insects but is non-toxic to mammals and birds. It breaks down quickly in sunlight. Stick to applications in the early morning or evening.

Insecticidal Soap

Simple soap diluted in water disrupts insects' cell membranes and kills soft-bodied bugs like aphids on contact. Use pure Castile soap and test on a few leaves before widespread spraying.


Getting rid of garden pests doesn't require dousing plants in dangerous chemicals. With a little strategic planning and encouragement of natural predators, you can protect your landscape without harming the creatures we share space with. I hope these organic solutions help you wage a gentle war on the critters nibbling your greenery. Let me know if you discover any other weird but effective tricks in your pest management adventures!