Winning the war against summer garden pests without harsh chemicals.

Summer is here. And so are the myriad of insects, animals and pests that love to invade you and your landscape! From Japanese beetles, tomato hornworms, aphids, cabbage worms, slugs, rabbits, and birds who invade the garden and landscape – to mosquito’s who love to attack us  – it seems there is always something trying to launch an invasion.  

summer garden pests
One of the most famous of the summer garden pests, the dreaded Japanese beetle. It showed up this week and started munching on our grape leaves.

This past week, out of nowhere, the Japanese beetles arrived at our little farm. At first, we noticed just a few beetles on our grape leaves. But by day 3, there were hundreds trying to take on our roses, grapes and bushes.

For many, the first response is to grab a commercial spray and simply start spraying. But the issues with that solution are two-fold. One, those sprays often kill as many beneficial insects as the ones you are trying to destroy. Insects that help keep other insects under control, or ones that help pollinate your plants. Spraying as a first defense can seriously upset the balance of nature in your landscape.

Secondly, there is the issue of the health and safety to you and your family as you use spray those chemicals. And then, of course, consume the food those sprays are used on or around. 

So we thought it would be a great time to today to take a look at how to control many common pests, without having to spray harsh and often damaging chemicals. As you will see below, in many cases, there are simple and safe solutions to keep insect populations, and the damage they do under control.  

Controlling Summer Garden Pests Without Harsh Chemicals

There are three things to consider right off the bat when trying to control summer garden pests.

#1 The first line of defense against anything is knowing what is going on in your landscape. Make it a daily habit to walk your property and garden and simply look. Early detection of any issue is a huge key in preventing crop and plant losses! In just a few days, an unnoticed problem can turn into a full-blown issue.

summer garden pests
Hand picking works wonders in controlling insects. A bucketful of beetles from this past week that have been eliminated from our plants.

#2 Hand picking and removing really does work more than you can imagine. On those daily walks, hand remove beetles, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms and more as you see them. It really can keep insect populations under control and manageable.

#3 Accept a little damage. It is okay if you have a few leaves chewed in a cabbage plant. And a tomato or pepper here and there might have a small area that has been damaged. But all is not lost. Too many times, folks jump at any damage at all and start spraying anything and everything. And that balance in nature is all but gone, and more and more problems arise because of it.

Here is a look at a few common pest issues, and how to resolve naturally.

Natural Solutions For Common Pests

Japanese Beetles – One of the best ways to control Japanese beetles is simply by hand. Taking a trip through your landscape a few times a day and removing them by hand really does work. Just get a small bucket of water and a little dish soap and knock them down into it. There is no need for anything more in the bucket to wipe them out.

In the case of our little invasion this past week, it worked wonders. If you simply have too much land to cover everything by hand, you can also make a simple solution from fresh cedar wood and water that repels them. See : Homemade Japanese Beetle Spray. One thing for sure, do not use beetle traps. All they do is bring more and more from surrounding yards into yours!

cabbage worms
The Swiss-hole like damage of the cabbage worm

Cabbage Worms / Moths/ Slugs – Again, hand picking through your rows is a great start to protection. Another great natural method for control is to use all-purpose flour and dust plants in the early morning. The flour will kill by expanding them and keeping their skin from staying in that slimy state we all know! And be sure to take out those little white moth’s you see in the garden. They lay the eggs for future cabbage worms! They can be fast though, so a badminton racket is handy in the garden to swat with success!  For more on controlling cabbage worms and moths with more natural remedies, see : How To Protect Your Garden From Cabbage Worms And Moths – Naturally! 

Dealing With More Summer Garden Pests…

Birds – When it comes to birds taking our strawberries, cherries, blueberries and more, the best line of defense it netting. Period.  As all of our various berry crops come into season, we cover each with inexpensive bird netting to protect the crop. You can try the tin pie pans, scarecrow, and pinwheels scattered throughout the garden and landscape – all will have some limited success – but the most effective is simply to cover them. And don’t get too mad at those birds, they do a tremendous amount of good in keeping insect populations under control.

Mosquitos – Probably the most annoying of all – these biting creatures that can ruin an evening. But you can help to repel them from areas you want to enjoy with many easy to grow potted plants. Oregano potted up on your patio can work wonders in repelling them. It’s compact, fragrant leaf structure looks great and mosquito’s simply do not like them. And the oil extract from oregano leaves even makes a terrific all-natural repellent spray.

Be sure as well to eliminate any standing water that can serve as breeding grounds. For more, see : 4 Perfect Plants To Grow To Repel Mosquitoes From Your Patio, Yard & Garden

Taking on Rabbits and Squirrels With Hot Pepper Spray – When it comes to rabbits, squirrels and other pests, a good concoction of hot pepper spray can do wonders. Coating the leaves of plants they love to munch on can serve as a great repellent. You will need to re-apply to keep the effectiveness of the spray every few days or after a hard rain. For more, see : Homemade Hot Pepper Spray

For more natural sprays and controls, check out our article : 5 Natural Garden Sprays For Combating Insects, Pests and Animals

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary! If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, sign up via email at the very bottom of the post. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram to receive all of our latest tips and articles. This article may contain affiliate links.

Battling Summer Garden Pests Successfully – Without Harsh Chemicals!
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16 thoughts on “Battling Summer Garden Pests Successfully – Without Harsh Chemicals!

  • July 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    My chickens ate all my tomatoes.I didnt even think about letting them free range until it was too late!!

  • July 16, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    This year has been horrible for bugs for us. Box elder bugs everywhere. Asiatic beetles eating everything. I can’t take it anymore.

  • June 26, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    I know what you mean about the chickens. We let them roam the garden in the fall when the crops have been removed. They do a great job of scratching and eating all the over winter bugs and larvae which helps decrease our pest population in the garden in the spring and summer. Good luck!

  • June 26, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    I may have to try it. I am about to give up and use Spinosad on them. I don’t know if it will work, but I have read that it kills similar bugs. We don’t allow our chickens in the garden when things start growing and producing. They will decimate the entire garden in a matter of hours. Plus…they love zucchini!

  • June 26, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Charlotte, that should work as well.

  • June 26, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    can you use liquid hot sauce in place of flakes

  • June 26, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Squash bugs are difficult to get rid of, that’s for sure. We plant Nasturtium as a companion plant next to our squash. We also let our chickens roam in the garden to eat the bugs and larvae so the bugs can’t over winter in the soil. One way to help get rid of them when they are full go in the garden is to place a board next to your squash plants – the bugs like to hide underneath the board at night and you can crush them between two hard surfaces in the morning. Best of luck! Jim and Mary

  • June 26, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you for your comment Tracy. We have looked into a print button for our articles, but currently only have one for our recipes. We will keep experimenting with options. In the mean time, you can copy and paste as plain text into a Word Document if you want to print it. Thanks Jim and Mary

  • June 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    You guys write such great articles. I wish that you would put a print option on your page so that we can easily print the great advice to you offer and add it to our ‘garden notes’. I like to be able to print and highlight on paper. I am totally NOT an Ebook reader.

  • June 26, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Wonderful article. I would love it if someone would PLEASE tell me how to get rid of Squash Bugs. We have them every year. I tried planting radishes around the zucchini plants this year but it didn’t help. Those are the bane of my garden every year. They have destroyed two of my healthiest looking plants this year. I have tried DE, I hand pick and squash the ones I can get to, I have also tried the bucket method. There are so many! :-/ Please help.

  • June 26, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Those might be the Mexican bean beetles that are eating your green beans. Unfortunately at this stage of the garden season, hand picking both the beetle and the eggs are the best way to control them. In future years, you might consider planting dill or Queen’s Anne Lace with your beans to attract other predators that would eat the beetles. Row covers in the early spring are also helpful.

  • June 26, 2017 at 7:36 am

    Thank you Maureen for sharing that wonderful tip! So glad it is working for you. We haven’t had earwigs in our garden, but we may try that for other pests as well.

  • June 25, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    I just tried something the other night even though have had instructions for long time. It is for earwigs or pincher bugs. At night is when they do their munching, so got my bargain can of tuna in oil. Dumped out the tuna but saved the oil. Put oil back in adding vegetable oil to about 1/2 depth of can. Put in garden wherever you notice them eating. It worked to my astonishment. Found 6 in the morning by the new melon seedlings. Tried 1 more night there then moved to the Swiss Chard last night. For a garden not too large, it’s not a bad solution.

  • June 25, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    I have huge problem with cucumber beetles. They destroye also my zucchini and squash plants. Does anyone have good remedies?

  • June 25, 2017 at 8:51 am

    What is the best way to deal with those yellow insects eating your green beans?

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