4 Natural Pest Controls That Won’t Hurt You or Your Plants

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—summer. The garden is really starting to take off and you're finally beginning to see the fruits of your labor! Unfortunately, right as the temperatures warm and plants begin blooming when we start to see the worst pests.

Maybe you’ve already noticed some bad bugs in your garden, or maybe you’re just hoping to stay ahead of a potential infestation. Regardless, it’s a good idea to start thinking about pest management now.

Generally, it’s best to use biological control to manage pest populations from the beginning. If it’s too late for prevention to be effective, then turn to insecticides and sprays as a last resort.

Keep reading for the top natural pest control methods to keep your garden (and yourself) from harm. 

1. Biological pest control

The first line of defense and one of the most effective non-chemical methods of pest management, biological control involves utilizing natural enemies to manage pest populations.

Natural enemies can include predators (like ladybugs or lacewings) that feed on pest populations, parasites (like certain wasp species) that lay eggs in or on the pests, or pathogens (including bacteria and fungi) that naturally kill pests.

Ladybugs are one of the most popular natural enemies, but they’re not the only ones. Damselflies, lacewings, assassin bugs, predatory mites, parasitic wasps, praying mantises, and predatory nematodes are just a few of the better-known natural enemies, but there are many more.

Several online stores sell beneficial and predatory insects, but NaturesGoodGuys and Arbico Organics are among the better-known dealers of biological pest control. Shop the online store by pest or by solution, and experts are available to help you make your purchase if necessary.

Any insects you order will come with instructions on when and how to dispense them, but in general, you’ll want to release insects in the morning or evening, and near their food source.

2. Diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance that looks like flour, but it’s really just the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. Sure, it sounds a little gross—but it’s a totally safe and effective method of pest control!

Though soft to the touch, D.E. powder is made up of microscopic sharp edges that puncture the bodies of insects, causing them to dehydrate and eventually die. It is particularly effective against crawling insects like ants, aphids, and beetles.

To use D.E. in the garden, dust plants with a generous pinch of Garden Safe Crawling Insect Killer. Be sure to wear a mask while applying D.E. to avoid inhaling fine particles, and keep in mind that diatomaceous earth is only effective when dry, so be prepared to reapply after rain or irrigation.

3. Natural insecticides

An insecticide is any substance that is used to kill insects. The most common insecticides are made of either synthetic chemicals or naturally-occurring substances.

We’re advocates of organic gardening here at GoBuyPlants, and we believe that your garden will fare better if you strive to use natural, environmentally-friendly options whenever possible.

Even commercial organic pesticides are highly concentrated, so dilute the chemicals per the manufacturer's instructions to avoid damaging your plants. When sprayed with care, insecticides can be an effective way to manage garden pests.


A botanical insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers, pyrethrin works by targeting the nervous systems of insects, leading to paralysis and eventual death. Pyrethrin is considered an effective and low-toxicity option for controlling garden pests, including aphids, mites, ants, and beetles.

The name-brand pyrethrin insecticide PyGanic Gardening is OMRI listed for organic gardening and is safe for most plants. PyGanic utilizes pyrethrin to kill more than 200 insects but is safe enough to use up until the day of harvest.


Spinosad is another natural insecticide, derived from the fermentation of a soil bacterium called Saccharopolyspora spinosa. Like pyrethrin, spinosad works by interrupting insects’ nervous systems to the point of paralysis and death. Spinosad is considered effective against a wide range of pests—including caterpillars, fruit flies, thrips, and leafminers—while maintaining low toxicity towards humans, pets, and beneficial insects.

OMRI-certified for organic gardening, Monterey Garden Insect Spray utilizes spinosad to kill leaf-eating insects like beetles, caterpillars, ants, moths, and more. The concentrated solution is intended to be sprayed on insects and plant foliage. Monterey Garden Insect Spray biodegrades quickly and can be applied up until the harvest day.

Neem oil

Neem oil is a very aromatic vegetable oil derived from the seeds of neem, a tropical tree native to India. Neem oil makes a fantastic natural pesticide that is highly effective against a number of insects, including aphids, potato bugs, caterpillars, leafhoppers, mealybugs, thrips, spider mites, and whiteflies.

There are a number of neem oil products on the market, and all work as well as the next. Neem Bliss and Harris Neem Oil Spray are just a couple of the options available for purchase online.

4. Homemade sprays

The most cost-effective insecticides are the ones that you make yourself, and you probably already have many of these household items.

Homemade sprays typically rely on natural, non-toxic ingredients, making them eco-friendly alternatives to chemical pesticides. When prepared and applied correctly, these sprays minimize the potential harm to beneficial insects, animals, and the environment.

What’s more, homemade sprays can be easily tailored to the specific pest problems you face in your own garden. Different combinations of ingredients can target certain pests that pose a greater threat, ensuring localized pest control and leaving beneficial insects unbothered.

Insecticidal soap

Every gardener needs a recipe for an all-purpose insecticidal soap, so I’ll share mine here!

You’ll need:

  • Sprayer 

For a long row of plants or to spray your entire garden, you’ll want at least a 4-gallon sprayer. I like to use backpack sprayers but there are handheld models as well. For smaller applications, a spray bottle will do the job.

  • Soap 

Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Liquid Castile Soap is my go-to soap for this recipe, but you can use any liquid soap that doesn’t contain fragrance or other additives. Do not use dishwashing liquid, as it will burn plant foliage. Fragrance-free Castile soap is preferred since it is safe for plants and contains fatty acids that suffocate soft-bodied insects by interfering with the insects’ protective waxy coating.

  • Water

Oddly enough, hard water can affect the effectiveness of some sprays, so use filtered water or bottled water if possible.


  • Use one tablespoon of soap for every quart of water. For one gallon of water, you can use up to four tablespoons of soap.


  1. Locate a clean sprayer and fill it with an inch or two of water.
  2. Add the appropriate amount of soap to the sprayer.
  3. Fill the remainder of the sprayer with water and shake to combine.
  4. Spray the mixture on the plants and repeat as needed.


You can easily customize this recipe to suit different needs:

  • For powdery mildew, add a tablespoon of baking soda to every gallon of water.
  • Use a 1:3 vinegar-to-water solution for pest control. Mix one cup of white vinegar with three gallons of water and spray plants thoroughly.
  • Adding a teaspoon of ground cayenne or red pepper flakes to pack an extra-spicy deer-deterring punch. 
  • While you’re in the spice cabinet, one teaspoon of garlic powder mixed with one teaspoon of vinegar per liter of water works as an effective deterrent for spider mites and aphids–plus it’s also effective at eradicating powdery mildew.

Whatever recipe you use, use the mixture as soon as you mix it—these sprays lose their effectiveness the longer they sit.

Whenever you handle or mix chemicals, even if they are household chemicals, it’s important to follow safety guidelines. Wear gloves, a mask, and safety goggles, and if you spray wear long sleeves and pants to keep the spray from coming into contact with your skin.

Plan to spray your plants in the early morning or evening, well before (or after) direct midday sun hits plant foliage. Be sure to coat all plant surfaces thoroughly—spraying isn’t effective unless you spray the undersides of plant foliage and flowers, making sure to kill all pests.

Finally, spraying is not a one-time activity—once you start a treatment program, you’ll need to spray weekly for the remainder of the season to stay on top of newly-hatched insects.

Pests can cause significant damage to your plants if left unchecked, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. However, it is important to address these pests early on in order to protect and preserve your landscape.

Prevention is always the best weapon against pests, followed by biological control and natural insecticides. Make a point to pay attention to the goings-on in your garden and pests won’t take you by surprise this summer.

Pests can cause significant damage to your plants if left unchecked, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. However, it is important to address these pests early on in order to protect and preserve your landscape.

Prevention is always the best weapon against pests, followed by biological control and natural insecticides. Make a point to pay attention to the goings-on in your garden and pests won’t take you by surprise this summer.