We love to grow our garden.

We love to eat from our garden. (Mark calls it “drive by eating” when you just eat lunch off the plant.)

We even love to share our garden with other people.

We do NOT like to share our plants with garden pests who eat the plant or produce without sharing!!

Last year we had a few different bugs harrassing our harvest.  The garden seemed to be a squash bug sanctuary.  The tomatillos had bugs eating them.  The summer squashes struggled. And my oregano had some kind of tiny spider looking bug.  UGH!

Here are a few things we’ve tried and learned over the years to deal with pests without chemical sprays:

1. Amend the soil.  We sat under Dan Kittredge this winter for a workshop and learned that we didn’t have an insect problem.  We had a soil problem.  Our plants had what they needed to grow, but now the nutrients to have a strong immune system.  So, we learned the first thing to do to deal with pests is to amend the soil.  Fall is the best time to nutrient test (NOT a standard NPK test) your soil and put in the mineral amendments.  BUT, the best time to farm is the season you’re in.  So, test the soil and then feed your plants.  There are sea salt (plants love salt) blends, fish meal, blood meal, and compost tea recipes galore that you can “side dress” your plants with.  That means that you just apply it near the base of the plant or spray it onto the leaves (per the recipe you use).  You can grind eggshells and bury them by your tomatoes.  I sometimes feed the garden buttermilk or whey. Compost can be side dressed and gently blended in, but be careful putting it right against the plant as it can burn it (we lost a few trees that way one year).  Logan Labs is a highly recommended soil testing lab and their website has all the directions for you.  Here’s a video by Dan Kittredge about amending the soil. 

2. Diatomacious Earth.  DE has long been used to discourage pests of all sorts.  You can sprinkle it directly onto the plant and ground, or add it to a spray.  Many people report really good success with it.  Last year it really helped to knock back the bugs in the zuchinni and the squash bugs when I dussted it on after spraying the Fels Naptha solution.  A couple of cautions: 1) it won’t work when wet, 2) it can kill bees and other beneficial insects as well.  So use it judiciously, avoiding flowers and places pollinators might contact it.

3. Essential Oils and herbs.  There are many ways to use these! I added lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, eucalyptus and neem oils to my soap spray last year and gave the soap and extra kick for everything but the squash bugs.  Planting peppermint around known ant areas can deter them.  Garlic is extremely potent in detering a lot of creepy crawlies. You can buy concentrated garlic (which my folks use to good effect on mosquitoes by their pond) or just put a few spoons of diced garlic in your soap solution and let it soak.

4. Fels Naptha Soap Solution.  This recipe comes from a book called Old Time Gardening Wisdom by Jerry Baker.  He shares a lot of gardening information from soil fertilization to design to plants, trees, bushes, herbs to how to harvest and store your crops.  There are recipes using regular, plain ingredients for almost everything.  The one for bug pests is called the Fels Naptha Soap Solution.  It really worked great for me last year except for the squash bugs. I added essential oils (lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, and neem) and sometimes some diatomaceous earth.   Here’s the recipe (click on the recipe to get a printable version):


Fels Naptha Soap Solution

This is a cheap,easy recipe to deter the bugs on your garden plants.

Author: Mark & Jill Baker
  • 1/4 bar Fels Naptha Soap
  • 1 qt. boiling water
  • 1/4 cp. liquid dish soap (use a natural type of dish soap)
  • Essential oils, according to your preference (optional)
  1. Shave or grate the Fels Naptha soap into the boiling water.

  2. When the soap is completely dissolved, mix in the liquid dish soap. The dish soap keeps the mixture from separating.

  3. Add in any essential oils you want to put in your mix.

  4. Allow to cool. Store in a suitable container until ready to use. You'll want to give it a good shake before using.

Happy gardening!

Resources for organic pest control: