Control Pests in the Vegetable Garden with Herbs

Avoid Chemical Pesticides with Ornamentals and Edibles

Copyright (c) All Rights Reserved; Author’s Google profile; Posted June 22, 2011

A backyard organic garden; photo courtesy USDA


Herbs are versatile; they grow effectively in containers, vegetable gardens, and raised bed gardens. It’s a good idea to grow a variety. Why?

Because they all do different jobs; some control detrimental pests, some attract beneficial insects. And of course, we all enjoy fresh herbs when we cook, rather than dried crumbs in a can (which are hardly ever organic anyway).

Incorporating specific herbs into your garden will is almost essential in an organic garden. Why? It is a natural way to avoid using harmful pesticides as well as providing fresh culinary spices throughout your growing season.

Which Herbs Repel Specific Garden Pests?

  • Peppermint: This one useful repels fleas, beetles, and ants. It’s also handy to keep around for those weekend mint juleps and adding to ice tea and coffee grounds before brewing the morning batch.

    Keep in mind that all varieties of mint take some work because it spreads so fast and will even tunnel under borders and fences.

  • Marigold: Use this one to run off nematodes. And I’m not talking about beneficial nematodes which you should always put out in the spring.

  • Sage: Plant some sage to control white cabbage butterflies, cabbage root fly, mosquitoes, and moths.

  • Garlic: This has been called the onion’s stinky cousin. It’s effective against spider mites, beetles, as well as aphids. What else?

    It’s a must-have pesto ingredient and is said to be a non-pharmaceutical fertility aid in many countries. Trying to lose weight? tells us "Research suggests that garlic consumption may actually help to regulate the number of fat cells that get formed in our body."

  • Tansy: This one repels houseflies, so plant it in both your kitchen windowsill herb and around your garbage cans.

  • Basil: Another essential pesto and pizza margherita ingredient, it is sold in a boat-load of varieties. It is also said to repel both flies and mosquitoes.

  • Borage: Borage drives tomato horn worms away. It is often grown by beekeepers since it is said to help bees make more honey for some reason, and bees are essential for pollination, which is just what you need in your garden.

    A notable exception are tomatoes, which are wind-pollinated. Most of your other plants need some assistance from our little flying friends.

  • Chives: This tasty herb repels many types of tomato pests and is a great ingredient in fresh garden salad.
  • Citronella: This plant is reputed to scare mosquitos off which is why you can often see citronella candles in a pail for sale. It’s not classified as an herb but is listed here for informational purposes.

Which Herbs Attract Beneficial Insects?

In addition to the herbs listed above, other edible ones give gardeners another method to deal with non-beneficial bugs and insects. They attract many beneficial insects.

They don’t do it with us in mind, but the end result is the same. Let’s look at what we can use them for and how they are beneficial.

  • Thyme: Another versatile spice in many dishes, it controls bean beetle, cabbage root fly, cabbage white butterfly, and the carrot fly. But the point here is that its flowers attract bees, and once they get to your garden...

  • Cilantro:Like salsa? This one is essential in any salsa recipe. This herb is self-seeding in my experience.

  • Fennel: This one is often a key ingredient in soups and whole-grain homemade bread.

  • Spearmint: In the same family as the peppermint mentioned above, this is a great addition to coffee and is said to have the ability to calm the stomach.

  • Parsley: Also used in soup, salsa, and salad, parsley contains a volatile oil called myristicin. Myristicin has been shown to activate an enzyme named glutathione-S-transferase.

    This enzyme helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that damage the body. It can also help neutralize particular types of carcinogens.

  • Dill: Even if you’re not a pickle-maker, this spice can is used in a variety recipes. Dill tea is said by some home remedy enthusiests to be effective against insomnia.

    Like parsley, it contains glutathione-S-transferase. It is also classified as an anti-bacterial, so regular consumption couldn’t hurt.

No Extra Soil Preparation Required

The same soil plus amendments that make vegetables thrive does the trick for these herbs as well. Where you plant your herbs is usually not much of an issue for the typical vegetable patch.

They can be planted in rows within your patch, or you can mix and match. Either way, controlling pests in the vegetable garden with herbs is a winning situation.


  • Randy Lemon, Landscape Consultant and Gardenline Radio show host, KTRH, Houston.

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