Easy Ways to Keep Pests Out of a Garden

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Planting and maintaining a garden is hard work. It can be extremely frustrating to spend hours outside perfecting your work, only to have it ruined by one of the many pests that pose threat to your plants. Thankfully, there is a multitude of methods that can be implemented to keep your garden pest-free.

In this article, we look at some easy methods for keeping pests away that are ideal for readers without costing a fortune or hurting the environment. Rather than using harsh chemicals in pesticides, these methods can be done with household items. Read on to discover some of the best natural ways to rid your garden of unwanted visitors!

pest in garden

Identifying the Problem

Before choosing a method of unwanted pest protection, it is important to discover what type of pest will pose the largest threat to your garden. Once you know what you are protecting against, you can decide which of the following techniques best suits your needs.

There are several telltale signs that your garden is receiving unwanted visitors. One of the most common of these is holes in the leaves of plants, which is usually a sign of an insect infestation. Below you can look at some of the main signs of various pest infestations in a garden.


Some specific signs of insect infestations and the pests associated with each include the following clues below.

Curled or Fallen Leaves

Leaves that have curled up or fallen off the stem are associated with aphids, which are insects that extract moisture from leaves. Additionally, if you notice a lot of ladybugs, it can be another sign of an aphid infestation, as ladybugs eat aphids.

Leaves with Chew Marks

If you notice leaves that have chew marks but no actual holes, it can be a sign of sawflies.

Holes in Leaves

Leaves with various types of holes in them are signs of insect infestations. Larger holes in leaves are usually caused by grasshoppers. Holes in the center of leaves can be caused by Japanese beetles, which eat around veins and create a skeleton-like appearance on leaves. Holes in tomato leaves can be a sign of tomato hornworms.

Trails of Slime or Shells

Slugs can consume a large amount of the plants in a garden, and they leave behind silver slime trails. Snails can sometimes leave their shells behind after feasting on a garden, as well.

Droppings on Leaves

If you notice dark green droppings on vegetable leaves in your garden, it is a likely sign of cabbage worms.

Stem Damage or Destruction of Seedlings

Stems that are falling over or damaged near the soil level may have been munched on by cutworms. The complete destruction of seedlings is usually the result of earwigs.

Yellow Spots on Leaves

This is a telltale sign of spider mites, which are sap-sucking insects that can stunt the growth of or kill plants.

Mammals and Other Wildlife

Depending on where you live, you may be more likely to encounter certain animals feasting on your garden than others. When it comes to common animals that get into gardens, though, the following rodents and more are at the top of the list:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Voles
  • Squirrels
  • Gophers
  • Porcupines

Rodents usually leave behind trails of their presence. Ground squirrels can create burrow systems in your yard, similar to gophers, causing destruction and even structural damage as well as eating your plants. Moles also burrow underground, leaving soft mounds above their tracks, which is a telltale sign.

How to Keep Pests Out of Your Garden

There are several methods for keeping pests of all kinds away from your yard and garden. Once you have discovered the cause of the problem, you can implement measures to prevent it in the future. What kind of pest problem you have will determine what kind of prevention methods to use.

Look at some various natural methods for keeping pests away, from insects and animals to birds and other critters that might be eating or causing damage to your garden.

How to Keep Insects Away

Not all insects are destructive to gardens, though several can be damaging. Many insects prey upon the pests that are destroying your plot. For example, spiders and ladybugs often eat the small creatures that devour plants, particularly aphids. Tachinid flies and true predatory bugs feast on caterpillars and beetles.

To keep unwanted insects out of your garden, there are several methods that can be used, including:

Broken Eggshells

Instead of throwing away your eggshells after they are used, save them to use as a garden pest repellent. Crush up old eggshells and scatter them in the soil beneath plants that have been targeted by critters. This will safely deter such pests as snails, slugs, and caterpillars.

Herbs with Strong Aromas

Spraying plants with a mixture of aromatic herbs and water is a great way to deter pests, as the scent will cause them to choose something else to try and snack on. Cut up the leaves of herbs with strong aromas, soak them in water, strain, and pour into a spray bottle. Alternatively, you can purchase herbal oil and dilute it with water.
Try the following types of herbs:

  • Mint
  • Citronella
  • Yarrow
  • Lemongrass
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Lavender
  • Basil

Beyond the above herbs, you can use the following items that you likely have at home. If not, you can find them at a store nearby.


Garlic also makes a great repellent for bugs and deer thanks to its strong scent. Place a garlic clove beneath the surface of the soil to keep pesky critters away from garden plants.

Soapy Water

To keep aphids and spider mites away, spray plants with soapy water. Combine a mixture of about five tablespoons of dish soap and four cups of water in a spray bottle and use to spray plants and leaves.

Neem Oil or Pyrethrum Spray

Neem oil, which is made from the seeds of neem trees that are native to India, is a natural insecticide and also prevents fungus. Another natural insecticide is pyrethrum spray, which is made from chrysanthemum flowers.

Beer or Fruit

Both beer and fruit can be used to help deter snails and slugs from your garden. Set out small saucers of beer or grape juice to trap and deter slugs and snails from plants. You can also place the rinds of grapefruit or oranges around your garden to keep pests away from your plants.

Pepper Spray

Pepper spray makes an effective pest deterrent for gardens. To make your own, combine two tablespoons of red pepper – black/chili pepper, dill, ginger, or paprika will also work – with six drops of dish soap and a gallon of water. Spray plants and leaves to keep insects and spider mites away.


Nicotine is another natural insect repellent. Combine one cup of dried tobacco leaves with one cup of water and ¼ teaspoon of dish soap. Let the mixture sit for a half-hour, strain, and spray on leaves to keep insects from feasting on them.

How to Keep Birds Away

Birds can also be pests to gardens, as they like to eat vegetables. Some of their favorites include the following:

  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Potatoes

Whether it be pigeons, crows, pheasants, or other birds, they can be destructive to gardens. Luckily, there are several ways to keep birds from snacking on all of your garden vegetables before you do.

Some good ways to keep birds out of your garden are included below.


Butterfly netting is a great way to keep birds away from your plants. At the same time, it allows beneficial insects, such as bees, to get through. Most bird netting can be harmful to wildlife, who can easily get caught in the netting. Care should be used when using netting over gardens.

Chicken Wire

Placing chicken wire at the soil level can help protect seedlings or tubers from damage by birds who may want to pick them out of the soil. As plants grow, the wire should be adjusted and elevated accordingly for more effective protection.

Garden Fleece

Though garden fleece is usually used as a way to protect plants from frost damage, it can also be used to keep birds away. Plants such as lettuce, greens, etc. can be covered with garden fleece to deter larger pests.


A classic scarecrow can be a useful tool for keeping birds away. If you do choose to use a scarecrow, however, make sure to regularly. Otherwise, birds will pick up on the fact that it is not a real threat and move in on your plants. Toy snakes or plastic owls can also act as deterrents for birds that may want access to your garden.


Inflatable balloons with large eyes can be a good way to scare birds away. In addition, they sway in the breeze, eliminating the need for you to move them frequently. Balloons for gardens can be found at gardening centers, or you can make your own by drawing eyes on a beach ball.

Shiny Objects

Windmills, CDs, and other reflective or metallic objects can be placed in the sunlight to create a distraction that keeps birds away from vegetables and plants.

Household Pets

Birds are likely to be spooked by the presence of household pets. If you have a cat or dog, letting them roam near the garden could scare off any potential threats or pests. However, make sure your pet is not wreaking havoc on your garden while you are not looking.

Keeping Other Animals Away

There are certain plants that other animals such as deer and rodents have a natural aversion to. Planting these in your garden is one way to deter such animals from snacking on your vegetables and other plants, though there are other methods, as well. Some of these tricks are below.

Planting Barriers

There are some plants, such as marigolds, that taste horrible to most animals. By planting them around your garden, you can create a natural barrier to protect your plants from hungry critters.


Mothballs can make for effective garden pest deterrents, as well. Place them on the ground in and around your garden to keep deer away.

Dog Hair

It seems odd, but the scent of dog hair actually works as a garden pest deterrent. After brushing your dog, collect the hair and place it around your property – the scent will keep raccoons away.

Herbs with a Strong Aroma

The aromatic herbs mentioned previously not only keep insects away but also deter other animals from your garden. In addition, these plants have other useful purposes, so there is a good chance you already planned on planting some of them in your garden anyway.


There are a couple of methods involving soap that can deter animals from your plants. Placing a bar of soap in a stick amongst plants can trick animals into thinking all plants have the same foul taste. Bathing plants in a mixture of milk or hot sauce with dish soap will also give them a flavor that will deter animals.


Building a fence around your garden is one of the most widely proven methods of pest control. Ensure that the fence is tall enough to keep out larger threats. At the same time, make sure that the fence posts go far enough below soil level to prevent burrowing animals from sneaking in from underground.

Scare Devices

Using things such as ultrasonic repellers, noisemakers, and motion-activated devices can deter animals from entering your garden.

Live Traps

Live traps – usually made of steel mesh – can be used to lure and trap critters that may be feasting on your garden. Rodents, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. can be caught in live traps and released elsewhere. However, it is important to first know your local state laws regarding the relocation of wildlife before choosing this method.

Other General Deterrents

There are several basic measures that can be taken to deter animals and pests from your garden, including:

  • Eliminating brush piles and tall grass – these make for good hiding and nesting areas
  • Placing a cover over your compost pile to keep raccoons away
  • Keeping your yard free of birdseed to deter squirrels
  • Closing off access to crawl spaces, under decks or patios, etc.

Additional Pest Deterrent Methods for Gardens

Aside from the methods listed above, there are other easy, general methods to keep unwanted pests away from your garden and prevent them from eating or destroying your plants. These include simple methods such as:

  • Regular weeding
  • Yearly crop rotation
  • Inviting beneficial insects and creatures to your garden
  • Take a look at some of these additional pest deterrent methods for those with gardens.

Crop Rotation

This is a centuries-old practice that has proven to be effective at deterring pests from plants by planting alternating crops each year. This way, insects that are attracted to certain plants during one season will be unable to find them the following year, eliminating the chance of these pests to thrive by removing their target.

If you are a serious gardener who plants regularly, keeping a written record of what you plant each year can help with crop rotation and pest control. For example, some pests such as nematodes (roundworms) stay in the soil unless they are removed by predators, so planting something in a different plant family can help eliminate them.

Attract Beneficial Critters

Not all wildlife is detrimental to a garden – in fact, there are many insects, arachnids (spiders), and animals that are beneficial to gardens in their ability to keep other unwanted pests away. This is arguably the most humane method of keeping pests out of your garden, as normal pest repellents can deter beneficial ally predators, as well.

Parasitic wasps, frogs, ladybugs, and spiders are all ally predators that can help keep unwanted pests away from your garden. By making sure you provide food for these critters, you can generate a good habitat and help maintain a healthier garden.

It is important to determine what pests you are dealing with in this area, as different pests require different ally predators to control them. Once you have determined the pests in your garden, do research into what ally predators you should attract to help control these pests.

Plant Herbs to Keep Pests Away

While many aromatic herbs can deter pests when used as a spray-on plant in a garden, there are also some that both deter bugs and attract ally predators while also remaining attractive plants in and of themselves.

Parsley, dill, and cilantro can attract pest-eating butterflies. However, these butterflies’ caterpillars do like to munch on these plants all the way down to the stem, so be sure to plant extra to support these pest-eaters while also providing you with enough plants to enjoy for yourself.

By planting herbs and crops that attract ally predators and promote those creatures’ life cycles, you not only create a habitat for these critters, but you benefit your garden in the long run, as well.

Additionally, planting herbs with strong aromas such as those listed above (mint, citronella, yarrow, lemongrass, thyme, sage, rosemary, rue, lavender, or basil) will help to deter unwanted pests, including insects and certain animals, from making their way to your garden and snacking on your plants.


There are many different unwanted pests that can invade gardens and cause headaches and frustration for gardeners. Luckily, there are also easy, inexpensive, and natural methods for keeping those unwanted pests away. From DIY sprays, distraction items, fencing, and more, keeping pests away is easier than you might think.

Some pest-prevention methods are also highly beneficial, both to your garden and the environment as a whole. Critters that eat unwanted pests, plants that deter pests and attract ally predators, and pets that can keep away unwanted animals are all good methods for keeping pests out of a garden without damaging our planet in the process.


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