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Eastern Cottontail

Garden pests come in all shapes and sizes-slimy little aphids, fuzzy caterpillars, furry rabbits, the neighbor's cat, maybe even the neighbors themselves. Most gardeners can tolerate minor pest damage, but when garden pests cause problems, there are safe, effective ways to stop them from harming your garden.


Prevention is key to controlling garden pests. The healthier your garden is, the better it will be able to naturally resist invaders. Healthy gardens can be encouraged in a variety of ways.

  • Keep your soil healthy. Healthy soil grows healthy plants. Build up your soil with organic material such as compost. Too much synthetic fertilizer can actually harm your soil by destroying beneficial microorganisms. Organic fertilizers help improve texture and nutrient content of soil.
  • Don't overfertilize. Too much fertilizer can promote excess growth, which attracts sap-sucking pests like aphids. Organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly and keep your plants growing at a nice steady pace.
  • Grow pest-resistant plants. Some plants are prone to pest problems. Others are tough enough to resist them. Choose plants well-adapted to your conditions. Native plants, for example, tend to be highly pest-resistant.
  • Grow a variety of plants. A healthy garden filled with a variety of plants is more resistant to significant pest damage. It will attract beneficial critters, such as dragonflies, ladybugs, and lacewings, which feed on pests.
  • Remove diseased plants. Insect pests are smart; they'll generally prey on weak and diseased plants. If certain plants are constantly under attack, you may want to sacrifice them for the good of the garden.

Controlling Insect Garden Pests

It's important to recognize that not all insects are pests. Insects belong in your garden. Most of the bugs in your garden are beneficial. They help pollinate plants, aid in breaking down organic material in the soil, and eat other bugs. But sometimes insect populations get out of hand and start doing serious damage to your plants.

When you encounter insect pests, resist the urge to reach for a chemical spray. Using a chemical pesticide can be counterproductive. Chemical pesticides, and even many natural sprays, kill good bugs along with the bad, further disrupting the natural balance in your garden. While spraying may kill the garden pests, it doesn't address the underlying cause of the problem, and they will likely return.

Keep your plants healthy, so they are able to resist pests. If problems arise, you can take simple measures to control garden pests.

  • Attract natural predators. Most beneficial insects will appear in your garden, if you provide a variety of plants and habitats. Some insect predators such as ladybugs can be imported into your garden.
  • Control physically. Pests can be controlled by handpicking or with traps or barriers.
  • Botanical pesticides. Botanical options such as neem and pyrethrin, soaps, or oils may be used as a last resort.

Controlling Animal Pests

Prevention is your best defense against animal pests. If possible, grow plants the critters don't like to eat. Install fences or barriers around your plants. Many gardeners have luck with products such as blood meal or sprays made of hot pepper, garlic, and other foul-smelling ingredients.

Weeds and Pests