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What are some of grandma's home remedies for organic garden pests?

Updated on March 22, 2010

Grandma's Home Recipes

Did you ever ask your mom “What are some of grandma’s home remedies for organic garden pests”? My grandmother was always talking about how they had to grow their own fruits and vegetables during the depression era, long before they had chemical pesticides to protect their food crop. Unfortunately, I didn’t really listen to her helpful garden tips because I was just a kid back then. Now, I wish I could ask her because just when I fix one problem, another one “crops” up (pardon the pun).

Many people hire professional pest control companies, or exterminators for pest removal. They also go to the store and buy a commercial pest control product. I want my garden and my food to be as organic as possible, so these chemical ideas are not an option for me.

I’ve had my small organic garden for two years now and have had the same issue both years. So what I decided to do was collect books and magazines this winter to start my own collection of garden tips for promoting healthy growth and for keeping away the nasty bugs. Every region of the country has different pests that live naturally in their area, but since I live in Michigan here are some of the critters and bugs that have invaded my garden. To help produce delicious produce in my garden, I have purchased organic fertilizer for my vegetables from both Lowes and Home Depot and their prices seem very reasonable. My vegetables are also extremely flavorful. For the formulas below, I try to use only organic ingredients when possible.

SQUIRRELS These furry little rodents are cute and they just love my tomatoes. I put up a fence of bird netting around my tomato plants this year and they still managed to lean on the netting and push it far enough into my plants to get a few bites out of each red tomato. They didn’t go for the green ones, just the ones that were ripe and ready to pick. How annoying. Well next year I’m going to try a couple of these tips that I came across in my library.

Hot pepper spray. Create a spray by using pureed hot peppers diluted in water. To this mixture, add a few drops of Ivory liquid soap and spray it on the plants that the squirrels are most interested in visiting and it will keep them away. You might even try to spray the area around the plants (like the netting or fencing) so that they get this spray on their paws even before they reach the plants.

Kitty Litter. Place a small amount of “used” kitty litter around the base of your plants. This includes your flower beds as well because the squirrels (and rodents) think that there is a kitty cat hanging around that may pounce on them.

Furry Rodents

"Peter Rabbit"

RABBITS I have a resident bunny that lives in my backyard that my young daughter has nicknamed “Peter”. To protect my vegetable garden, the chicken wire fence that I have around it does the trick. I bought the fencing at Home Depot and just wrapped it around the 3 foot high metal garden stakes that I have forming the corners of my garden.

However, I also have some pretty plants that he just loves to munch on, so I came across this neat trick. Just like for squirrels, I got “spicy” with him. I put together an organic mixture of ground black pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper along with some bone meal. I sprinkled this around the base of my plants and this has helped keep “Peter” away from my flowers.

GRUBS I have a lot of squishy white grubs in my garden and they just never seem to go away. Since I keep a good supply of garlic in my fridge for cooking, this ingredient will be readily available when summer arrives. Create a mixture of finely minced garlic cloves (use about 5 large ones). When they are dry, crush them into a powder and put this in 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl and let it to set for at least 2 hours.

Then take this mixture and add it to a bucket with 2 quarts of water in it. After mixing this solution well, place it in a spray bottle. Take your solution and spray the area where the grubs are populating in your garden. Be sure not to spray directly on your plants because it may be too potent for the plant leaves because its sulfur content. Use this solution sparingly, and only on the ground area in your garden because it will kill some of the beneficial insects such as ladybugs. Another tip: always use a glass spray bottle because metal may react with the acidic qualities of the garlic.

Common White Grub

APHIDS These bugs just love to reside on - and then eat my lettuce. They seem to show up just when the lettuce is ripe for picking. Again, the organic pest control solution to this buggy problem is simple: oil or lemon.

Oil: You can mix 1 tablespoon of canola oil and 3 to 4 drops of Ivory soap to 1 quart of water and stir this compound thoroughly. Put this into a spray bottle (plastic is okay) and spray your plants from the top down, then from the bottom up. You want to make sure that the under leaves are saturated.

Lemon: Bring 1 pint of tap water to a boil and add the grated rind of 1 lemon. Remove this mixture from the stove and let it steep overnight so that all the citrus oil from the lemon is released into the water. The next day, strain this and put the liquid into a spray bottle (plastic is okay). You can either spray it on the aphids or use a soft bristle brush to “paint” it directly onto the vegetable or leaves. You can substitute lime if you choose because the active ingredient you need is either limonene or linalool. Both citrus fruits are effective.

Another deterrent to Aphids is ladybugs, which can consume about 400 aphids a day. Did you know that ladybugs produce 4-5 generations of offspring each summer when the conditions are ideal? I happen to like this colorful natural pest control species so this summer I’m going to invest in buying myself some to release into my garden.

I recently read that it’s a good idea to make sure that your garden (or flower bed) is well watered before you release these insects. They must have water droplets in order to thrive. If your garden is too dry, they will leave and search elsewhere for their water supply. These bugs enjoy munching on aphids, mites, scales and whiteflies. To attract them, and keep them happy, you may want to plant daisies so that they stay in the immediate area. Plus they will bring butterflies and add color to your garden.

Aphid Infestation

Beneficial Insect

Well, I hope I've answered your question “what are some of grandma’s home remedies for organic garden pests?” There are many more natural pest control recipes and ideas that can be found in books on organic gardening. I keep my eyes open for them, especially since there is always some new little bugger or critter that seems to enjoy eating my vegetables before I do.

Happy Gardening!


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    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      BobbiKnech: Thanks for the advice - and the comment. I checked out the site you recommended and I'm going to get the product. It sounds like it will really help with all kinds of insect problems. Very nice of you to share this.

    • BobbiKnech profile image


      8 years ago

      Great info! I also heard that you can deter aphids by leaving some dead aphid bodies on the plants, which wards off others. Have you ever tried any sprays? I came across this organic insect killer while searching online: I like that it can be used right up until the day of harvest.

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      That was my problem too, I mean the "take it all part". I couldn't really get mad at "Peter" or the squirrels, they have a right to eat too and they are just so cute. Thanks for your comment.

    • BkCreative profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Love grandmas and all their advice! I remember my grandmother saying to plant enough to share with nature's lovely creatures. Of course I've had visitors take not only their share - but all of it! I've learned.

      I only do organic so thanks for the list!

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      Thanks. I'm a beginner at organic gardening too so these tips are going to come in handy this summer.

    • Crystal Hart profile image

      Crystal Hart 

      8 years ago

      Great information especially for the beginners.

    • Susan Carter profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Carter 

      8 years ago

      Yes, warm 55 degree days in March will do that to you. I'm enjoying the sun too. Thanks for your comment.

    • 4laso4 profile image


      8 years ago

      What a timely hub for I was just sitting here in the country in the middle of the city, thinking what a beautiful sunny day can not wait to work the soil.

      thanks for the post.


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