Whether you are a complete beginner or have been gardening for a few years, you’re bound to deal with pests. It is true that there are pesticides for these insects that destroy your plants. However, they contain harsh chemical compounds that can be harmful to the environment. You also have to worry about their safety if you have kids around.

The good news is that there are natural and inexpensive ways to combat these unwanted insects.

The First Defense Against Destructive Insects

You cannot always be in your garden getting rid of bugs. Thankfully, there are insects that help eliminate those that you want out of the yard. For instance, there are ladybugs that aid in removing soft-bodied insects, such as aphids. Braconid wasps lay their eggs on other insects. When they start to hatch, they eat the host before they move on to the next stage of their life cycle.

The best way to attract these beneficial bugs is to provide food for them. Pollen, nectar, and sometimes seeds can be inviting to these insects. Therefore, you should plant some flowering plants and offer the bugs with good water source as well.

Top Garden Pests and What to Do with Them

From tiny invaders to those that are easy to spot, you can keep them out with natural methods. These techniques will help avoid eliminating unintended species. Plus, chemicals will not leach into the soil and water.

Defending your garden should start with the identification of the insects that attack your plants. When you can identify the bugs, you will also know what to do. Here are the most common insects and how you can control them:


These insects are everywhere, from your home to your garden. You may have to kill the queen to eradicate them. The following are proven methods that work:

Slice bitter cucumbers or use the peels around the plants. Ants naturally detest the smell of cucumbers, which will make them stay away.
Leave mint tea bags where the ants often go. If unavailable, go for dried mint leaves.
Slice garlic cloves and spread all over your garden.

Cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and coffee grounds will also work as natural ant repellents.


You do not have to be a long-time gardener to recognize these pesky critters. Aphids are usually all over fruits and veggies but you can also find them on flowers and even shade trees. They are problematic because they eat plant sap. As a result, you will notice deformed foliage and plants lose their leaves quickly.

Aphids’ excretions stay on the leaves, supporting mold growth. As these insects feed, they spread viral diseases. Control them immediately through these methods:

  • Use strong water spray to wash the plants.
  • Invite beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and lacewings, to prey on the aphids.
  • Use natural repellents, such as garlic and hot pepper.

When the problem is severe, you can choose neem oil as your organic insecticide.

Cabbage Maggots

If you have cabbage-family crops and other cruciferous vegetables, you could deal with these maggots. They burrow in the ground, going directly for the roots. Therefore, they end up killing the plant directly. In some cases, they invite other organisms, which lead to plant diseases. Destroy these creatures with the following tips:

  • Cover the plants or grow them in row covers to prevent infestation.
  • Remove dead vegetation but do not compost the plants. It will lower the areas where maggots deposit their eggs.
  • Till the bed as deeply as you can before the fall season ends. This method exposes and eliminates maggot pupae, which may be living in the soil.

Neem oil can also be effective in ridding these pests.


These insects may turn into beautiful butterflies, but they can be damaging to your garden. They chew the leaves and tunnel into fruits. Deter them by encouraging the existence of native predators. You should also handpick your harvest and if possible, use floating row covers.


Different types of beetles can visit your garden from time to time. Most of them can be destructive when uncontrolled. Flea beetles, for example, hang out on vegetable crops. These insects are common all over North America, including the Central Coast. Adult flea beetles destroy the leaves of the plants, creating round holes. Meanwhile, larvae feed on the roots.

An effective way for you to control these beetles is by creating garlic spray. Kaolin clay also works in keeping them away from your plants.

Other Tips to Ensure an Infestation-Free Garden

It is not always possible for you to eliminate all the pests from your yard. However, the following can help keep damaging insects to a minimum:

  • Landscaping: Steer insects away from the garden with a smart landscape. Get rid of weeds, make sure you care for your lawn and start mulching. If you have decorative pools and bird baths, clean them often to remove standing water.
  • Native plants: Trees, bushes, and other plants that are native to California. Some examples include coast live oak, incense cedar, and sweet acacia. They have well-adapted to the local soil, as well as the climate conditions in the area. Therefore, they can mostly handle attacks from indigenous insects.
  • Diversity: Monoculture agriculture tends to use a great number of pesticides. Just one particular insect species can be disastrous for the whole crop. With permaculture gardens, you have different plant varieties. If one crop suffers and dies due to infestation, the others can still survive.
  • Healthy soil: The reason why plants thrive is the soil. If it is healthy, the plants become more robust as well. Build a fertile soil so the crops can withstand insect attacks. Limit soil turning to prevent erosion, compaction, and runoff. Let nature take over with the help of earthworms that will aerate the soil for you.The hard truth is that all gardens will have their fair share of pests. Even if you have healthy soil and there are beneficial bugs around, there will still be problems. Continuously monitoring your garden to stop damage before it gets worse is the key to a sturdy and thriving landscape.