Organic Gardening: Protecting from Pests and Protecting the Planet

While growing a garden is one of the most environmentally friendly activities you can engage in, you can cause more harm than good for the planet if you use chemical-laden substances to get rid of weeds and pests. Herbicides and pesticides can quickly spread and contaminate your soil and neighbors’ land, too. It’s usually best to stick with natural solutions to keep your garden free of weeds and pests while protecting the planet. Here are some natural herbicides and pesticides that are highly effective for you to try this growing season.


Natural 20% vinegar from a gardening supply or building supply store can do the trick when it comes to killing the toughest weeds. Be careful when applying vinegar of this strength – household vinegar is better to use for weaker weeds, because high-strength vinegar burns and can cause eye or skin damage. Household strength is typically 5%. Of course, vinegar of any strength doesn’t have the same effect over the long term to the soil, which is a good thing overall.

Household soap

If you combine household or pickling vinegar with a little liquid soap, it will stick to leaves and kill weeds quickly. You can put it in a spray bottle to mist weeds – just be careful not to mist plants you like and want to keep around. Check after a couple of hours to see whether the plants are wilting, and if not, reapply once or twice.

Boiling water

It is very simple and natural, but boiling water poured onto a weed can kill it immediately. Of course, this is not a solution for an entire lawn, but if you’re maintaining small flower beds or garden patches, boiling water can do the trick to kill the occasional weed. Use a grill or backyard stove to boil a pot of water while you wander around with a kettle. As long as you have a cheap energy provider like Green Mountain Energy, you won’t pay through the neck for backyard energy use.

Neem oil

A very natural pesticide solution is neem oil. You can buy it from reputable companies in your area or online, then add half an ounce of it to half a teaspoon of organic liquid soap, mix, and spray on plants. This plant contains fifty insecticides in one, and has been used in ancient India to ward off insects for a long time.


Need to ward off aphids in your garden? You could release a batch of ladybugs or simply plant marigolds. They repel aphids and look pretty, too. They have a strong odor that mosquitoes, aphids, and most other insects dislike, though grasshoppers and spider mites don’t mind them.

Himalayan crystal salt

If you’re trying to keep those marigolds (or other plants) safe from spider mites, mix two tablespoons of Himalayan crystal salt with a gallon of warm water, then spray on infested plants to get rid of the spider mites. This salt spray will not damage the plant or soil long-term, provided you don’t use it every day once the mites are gone.

There are lots of homemade, organic pesticide and herbicide solutions you can use to keep your garden safe and protect the planet rather than relying on dangerous chemicals. Being organic doesn’t have to mean putting up with weeds and pests in your garden spaces.

Lily Stopford is a retired chef and grandmother of four. When she’s not getting her hands dirty in the garden, she’s typing out her next blog post on the topic.

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