Vegan Pest Control and Home Made Organic Pest Control Methods

organic vegetable growing

Here we look at home made organic pest control methods for general vegan pest control.

Gardening pest and disease management is also about understanding why your plants are being plagued in the first place, and correcting whatever the underlying problem is.


In organic gardening it is paramount to accept that you’ll have to share some of your crop with pests. Vegan pest control is not about total annihilation!

Tolerate a Few Pests

Pests are an essential part of your garden ecosystem designed by nature to exist harmoniously in a healthy system. In a thriving balanced garden, pests exist but not in plague proportions. They will take a little here and there, as is their due as part of any natural ecosystem, so the first attitude you need to cultivate is a little tolerance.

Indeed, healthy plants are rarely completely annihilated by pests or disease. Pests and diseases are nature’s way of removing the weakest individuals – those that are poorly adapted to thrive in the prevailing environment of soil, climate and season. If you are having pest problems, put your energy into your growing conditions, not the pest.

Striving to wipe out pests by bringing out the heavies not only deprives their predators of what they need to flourish, but may even kill predators. The result will be a worse pest problem the following season.

Survival of the Fittest

If a particular plant is being continually plagued by insect or disease problems leave it! If it recovers, well and good, but if it doesn’t simply replace it with something else.

If you find that all but one or two individuals in a plot of vegetables are destroyed by pests or disease, let the survivors go to seed and use the seed to grow your next crop. In this way your plants will continually evolve to become better adapted to your conditions.

Eventually you’ll have a garden populated by those plants that are “the fittest” in your unique situation. In the meantime, continually strive to improve your soil and growing conditions, and aim for biodiversity (a large range of species in the system) to strengthen the resilience of your garden as a whole.

Don’t Overdo the Nitrogen!

The use of high nitrogen fertilizers (e.g. poultry manure and ammonium based chemical fertilizers) or even pesticides can increase the sugar, protein and water content of plants creating lush weak growth that is very attractive to pests and diseases.

So for optimal vegan pest control avoid excessive use of nitrogen-rich fertilizers and balance them with adequate potassium and phosphorus to foster healthy resilient plants.


While we don’t advocate outright pest extermination, you can tip the scales in your plants’ favor by utilizing organic pest control strategies.

Use of a range of methods will be more successful than relying on one alone, as is the case with effective weed management.

Planting Pattern

Avoid planting large areas to one type of crop. It might look neat and tidy but can be a disaster for pest management.

Such “monocultures” are a beacon to pests and diseases. Once these have lodged into such crops, they are free to spread from one to the next.

I avoid this by adopting a scattered planting pattern, interspersing a range of crops as well as herbs and flowers (many of which discourage, confuse or even kill pests, or provide shelter or support for predators).

The result is much like a natural ecosystem. The different foliage patterns and smells confuse pests and make it harder for them to zero in on susceptible plants. Some plants thrive symbiotically when grown near each other by a variety of synergies.

Such benefits of mixed plantings can be reaped by the use of Permaculture guilds and companion planting in garden and farm design.

Provide Habitat for Your Allies

Enlisting nature is essential to vegan pest control, and you do this by encouraging natural insect control. Your natural allies include:

• Birds:

Some birds are omnivorous. If you provide their plant foods, they’ll hang around for a main course of insects. One small bird can consume hundreds to thousands of pests in a single day!

• Frogs and toads:

Not many creatures can match frogs and toads in their relish for fare such as slugs or ants. Put a small pond in your garden and surround with rocks, logs and plants to encourage them! They will soon appear out of nowhere and take up residence, or you could get things started with a scoop of tadpoles from a local creek. Throw a handful of grass clippings into your pond to give them something to eat.

Chalcid wasp eating aphids

• Wasps and hover flies:

There are many species of wasp and hover fly like insects that as adults are nectar feeders, but as larvae are carnivores. Adults in this group will hunt food for their young including caterpillars, spiders, aphids, earwigs, tomato worms and grasshoppers. Encourage them by letting parsley, carrot and fennel flower and having nectar producing native plants near your gardens.

• Spiders:

Spiders of all kinds are great insect eaters. Treat all spiders with care and provide rocks or logs around the garden to encourage the crawlers. Any little flower spiders I discover in the vegetables and herbs I bring in from the garden during summer are carefully collected and returned to the garden.

• Praying Mantis:

These guys are pretty indiscriminent carnivores. They’ll happily feast on both pest insects and beneficial ones, and even eat each other!

Lady Bug larva eating aphids. Photo: Robert Grubba

• Ladybugs:

Both adult and larval Lady Bugs (or Lady Birds) exclusively eat aphids – up to 200 a day! The larvae look like a grub Don’t exterminate all your aphids early in the season or these predators (and Hover Flies) will starve.

Learn to recognize these allies – both adult and larval forms - you wouldn’t want to accidentally kill the good guys!

Utilizing Zone 5

Zone 5 in Permaculture design is the area of your land that is set aside for native plants and animals. Unlike the other zones, Zone 5 can and should penetrate right through your property all the way to the vegetable and fruit garden at your back door.

Native understorey shrubs in particular provide birds with either food in the form or nectar bearing flowers and insects, or protected nesting sites in the case of the prickly species. Such bird attracting plants situated as a windbreak, sun trap or screen adjacent to your growing areas not only improve the ambience and microclimate, but also invite avian insect predators into your garden ecology to do what they do best… control your pests.

Adding a bird bath or nectar feeding station to your garden will make it even more attractive to birds. Nectar is high in carbohydrate sugars, and after feeding on it birds will be casting about for a high protein meal of insects.

Planting Time

Wait until the ground warms up before planting spring crops. Early spring growth is soft and sappy – just what pests and diseases like – so resist the temptation to plant too early if pests are a problem. Insect predators are a few weeks behind the spring surge in pest populations, so early crops will be more vulnerable to pests during their critical establishment phase.

Early planted vegetables can also be permanently stunted by cold or late frosts, negating any head start you were hoping to achieve. If you want to give them an early start, plant your veges in pots in a warm spot or greenhouse before putting them out in the garden.

For winter crops, sow early to similarly avoid the spring pest buildup.


Low toxin pesticides should be your last line of defense against pests and diseases in organic or vegan pest control. Don’t consider them unless you have first paid due attention to improved crop rotations, use of more resistant crops, and tried earlier or later planting time.

Also ensure, of course, that your plants are not stressed and are adequately watered and have balanced access to organic manures and minerals.

Keep pruning gear sharp and sanitize regularly.

Garden Hygeine

Good garden hygiene is essential to effective disease control.

• Crop rotation prevents diseases from building up in the soil.

• Maintain good drainage (e.g. using raised beds).

• Compost fallen fruit promptly, away from fruit trees.

• Use sharp pruning equipment to avoid ragged wounds.

• Sanitize gardening equipment and pots, particularly after working with diseased plants, with a weak bleach solution (1 part bleach to 99 parts water).

• Keep a small mulch-free clearing around fruit trees to deter collar rot.

• Strive for a biologically active, living soil as it contains many beneficial fungi and bacteria that keep harmful ones in check and improve plant vitality.


Synthetic chemicals used for pest and disease control can cause serious health issues as well as ecosystem damage. However, there are a few botanically derived agents that can be used judiciously in an organic garden.

Biological agents:

The best known of these is Bacillus thuringiensis (Dipel), a bacterial parasite that specifically targets to caterpillars.

Neem based products:

The active ingredient derived from the oil of the Neem tree is Azederachtin, an effective pesticide and fungicide. Cape Lilac is a close cousin with similar properties. It has a good residual effect too.


Pyrethrum comes from the African Daisy (marigold). Like Derris Dust it is used as a 4% preparation and is very poisonous to all animals. Artificial pyrethroids (Promethrin, Allothrin) have been synthesized and have a longer life (1 to 2 weeks) than the natural equivalent.

Sulfur (Sulphur) Preparations:

Sulfur is an effective agent to combat mites and fungal diseases. Residual sulfur can be oxidized by Thiobacilli soil bacteria, forming sulfurous acid that in turn improves the availability of soil phosphorus to plants.


Predator Feeding Station:

Dot predator feeding stations around your garden with mixture made by combining 1 part Brewer’s Yeast with 1 part honey and 2 to 5 parts water.

Encourage Pest Diseases:

Collect the problem pest, pulverize in a little water and strain. Dilute with 50 parts of water and spray on affected crops.

Smelly Sprays: Most insect pests find their target by odor. Sprays made with strong smelling ingredients such as garlic or eucalyptus oil can confuse them.

To Make Eucalyptus Spray

Put 12 mls of Eucalyptus oil and a few drops of detergent in a litre of water and spray on your plants.

To Make Garlic Spray

Soak 120g (4 oz) chopped garlic in 2 tablespoons of mineral oil or liquid paraffin for 48 hours.

Add ½ liter of water and 7g of pure soap flakes then strain.

Dilute in 25 liters of water and spray to control aphids, thrips and soft bodied pests. Allow aphid numbers to build up first so predator populations are established.

All Purpose Soap Spray

A good orchard spray (enough to treat 100 trees) that controls sucking mites, aphids, Rutherglen Bug and thrips but does not seem to affect spiders can be made as follows:

Combine 18 gal (68 liters) of waste cooking oil (ask at your local fish and chip shop), 1 liter of white oil (optional), 9 gal (34 litres) of water, 3 kg (6.6 lbs) caustic soda and ½ box of washing machine soap powder in a large cooking pot and simmer gently for 3 hours.

Pour into containers to cool and solidify, then use as a spray at the rate of 2 kg soap to 20 liters of water.

Derris Spray: vegan pest control

Another plant derived product, Derris Dust (or Rotenone) comes from the dried roots of the genus Rotenone. Greatly diluted as a 4% talc it makes a very effective insecticide. However, it also kills earthworms, fish and frogs! Luckily it biodegrades within a single day so may be used carefully and sparingly, particularly for Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillars on young plants.


Chips made from the bark of Quassia trees contain a bitter substance that controls a wide range of insect pests. A great thing about Quassia is that it does not harm many beneficial insects such as Lady Bugs or Bees (nor is it effective against Codling moth, Mexican Bean beetle or Peach aphid). The chips are boiled to extract the active ingredient, then made up with a little detergent to use as a spray. Sprayed on the leaves it kills sap sucking insects. Taken in by plant roots, it has a wider effect on plant feeding pests, acting as a stomach poison. It is long lasting and should not be sprayed on edible parts as it tastes bitter.

Bordeux Mixture vegan pest control

This is a useful fungicide:

Suspend 90 g (3 oz) of copper sulfate in the toe of an old stocking overnight.

Blend with 100 g (3.3 oz) of slaked lime, and 4.5 liters (1.2 gallons) of water. Add a further 4.5 liters of water and use immediately.

Useful for leaf curl in peaches, especially at the bud stage in the first year to conserve the scarce early leaves. Also good on vege crops against potato and tomato blights, black spot on beans. Do not use every year as excess copper will tie up other soil minerals, and copper toxicity can also result.

Baking Soda Spray vegan pest control

Baking soda spray controls mildew, rust and scale:

Mix 500g (1 lb) baking soda with 22 liters (6 gallons) of water and 250g of soap and spray on affected plants. Avoid using during very hot weather.