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How to Keep Unwanted Insects Away

Meredith Gaines — Aug 30, 2022

If you walk outside and look around you’re sure to spot at least one insect, if not a few! A garden is a world of its own, often brimming with several different kinds of insects all trying to make the space their own. While the butterflies and ladybugs might be helpful and appreciated, the ticks and spiders might not be. So, how do you keep unwanted pests away? 

Nature is a powerful force. Just as there is little you can do to stop the rain from coming down, you may feel helpless in the battle against your backyard pests. While sprays and various treatments are effective, they’re costly and often temporary bandaids on the larger issue at hand. Consider your other option of using the power of nature to your advantage towards a long-term fix. 

Read on to learn how to embrace Mother Nature and work with her instead of against her when it comes to the bugs in your garden. 

How Nature Can Help Your Pest Issues

Did you know that plants can communicate with one another? They’re communicating with possible pollinators and other flowers all of the time, right in front of you! No, flowers don’t whisper to each other when your back is turned, but they do communicate through chemical signals.

The communication that’s most noticeable to us is scent and color. The scents produced by odorous chemicals can communicate with the insect world to either entice or repel insects. Colors produced by chemical pigments also work to entice or repel insects. While flowers are the clearest example, many herbs produce oils on their leaves to keep the smell around even when not in bloom (rosemary and basil, for example).

butterfly garden

The chemical combination of colors and scents makes the environment of your garden. So, if you wanted to attract butterflies you’d make your garden a welcoming place for them, planting varieties that entice them to an environment they’d enjoy. And in the same way you can attract wildlife to your garden, you can also deter it. 

Garden Practices to Keep the Pest Population Down

What you plant and how you care for those plants will shape the habitat of your yard. If your goal is to keep certain insects out and keep others in, be picky about what you plant and how you maintain it. To help keep the pests away, follow these garden practices:

  • Keep on top of weeding. We don’t like to weed either, but the tidier your garden stays the harder it is for pests to make themselves at home.
  • Don’t grow the same thing every year. Don’t feel the need to re-landscape your yard, but do consider mixing up the annuals you plant in your garden beds or containers, as this will provide just enough change to help break pests’ cycles. 
  • Turn the pests into the bait. If you’re serious about ridding your garden of pests, bring in their natural predators by planting plants that will attract them. For example, if you have an aphid issue, attract ladybugs to eat them by adding geraniums or cilantro.

ladybug in garden

Common Pests & What to Plant to Keep Them Away

In addition to the methods listed above, target pests by planting what they don't like to dissuade them from calling your garden home. Here’s a list of pests and the plants they dislike to help you get started:

    beetle damage in garden

    Plants That Pests Hate

    There’s one commonality between all the plants that bugs generally dislike, and that’s that they have strong odors. Remember how plants communicate with chemicals? Yep, those strong smells are to thank for driving pests out of your space. Below are some other plants to consider if you’re not trying to target an individual pest and just want to keep your garden pest-free in general, try growing these types of plants:

    rosemary and basil

    Insects are necessary for a healthy ecosystem, but not all of them are needed (or welcome) in your garden. Next time you’re tempted to spray and kill all of them in your landscape, try using nature to deter them instead. It won’t be foolproof, but it’s a nice way to keep the beneficial bugs around. 

    Meredith Gaines

    Meredith's love for plants started at a young age, and only grew when she started working in the Desert Exhibit at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens and the Historic Filoli Estate in the Bay Area. After graduating from Clemson University (GO TIGERS!) with a degree in Biology and Horticulture, she found her niche in the FastGrowingTrees.com family as a horticulturist and has grown in her current role as Senior Plant Expert.

    She currently resides in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, and enjoys spending any time she can outdoors. She learns new things about plants every day and loves sharing her plant knowledge and tips with those around her. Her favorite plant is constantly changing, but her long-time favorites are peonies, oak trees, and ferns.

    Questions? Contact Meredith at information@fastgrowingtrees.com.

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