How to Keep Pests Out and Bees In: Tips for a Healthy, Pesticide-Free Home Garden

Written by Christy Erickson from



If you want a thriving garden that’s free of unwanted pests and weeds it’s easy to turn to pesticides and herbicides, which are quick, easy, and highly effective. One of the main problems with using these chemicals in home gardens, however, is that they can wreak havoc on local bee populations. If you also care about protecting the bees, you need to find ways to maintain your garden that don’t involve pesticides and herbicides. Here are some tips.

Plant smart

Did you know that there are dozens of plants, flowers, and herbs that have natural insect-repellent properties? If you plant smart, you can control the amount of crop and flower-damaging critters present in your garden, and your local bee population will thank you for going the organic route.

In general, plants like basil, lemongrass, and lavender are known for their insect-repellent properties. Catnip, for example, is known to keep a particular type of pest away - the cabbage worm - that feasts on broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts.

It’s not just about repelling bugs, however. You should also consider plants that attract creatures that kill unwanted pests. “Include yarrow, goldenrod, angelica, candytufts, chamomile, evening primrose and morning glory vines in your landscape to attract parasitic wasps, lady beetles, lacewings, hover flies and other ‘good guy’ insects,” suggests

Learn about natural repellents

There are plenty of natural insecticides you can use in your garden that won’t harm bee colonies. Soapy water, for example, will repel some aphids and spider mites. Sprays made with pepper, garlic, or herbs like rosemary and thyme can also help. Be resourceful. Have a half-bottle of beer you didn’t finish last night? Use it in your garden.

“Beer. It’s not just for drinking. Snails and slugs like it, too. Set out saucers of beer to trap and prevent these creatures from munching on plant leaves and roots. Grape juice or grapefruit or orange rinds also make good traps,” says

Here’s a good resource on making your own natural garden pesticides.

Don’t overreact to weeds

Some weeds are beneficial to our garden, like clover for example. Others, like crabgrass, are a signifier of a problem with your soil. Dandelions in your grass signify a root problem, and can be caused by chemical imbalances in your soil (off-kilter calcium or potassium levels). Check your soil composition with an at-home kit and research ways to make it more healthy. Instead of blasting weeds with bee-killing herbicides, do your best to treat the root of the problem, so to speak.

“Weeds can be helpful indicators of specific problems with your soil, however. Got crabgrass? It can point to soil compaction, since it usually appears in highly trafficked areas, such as along driveways or walkways. Instead of zapping it with pesticides, get to the root of the problem by aerating the area where it's growing,” says

If you want to spot-kill weeds, some simple white vinegar may do the trick.

Even if a pest/herb/insect-icide says that it is more “eco-friendly” than the others, you still want to avoid using it in your home garden if you truly care about the health of your local bee population. Along with climate change and habitat destruction, pesticide use is one of the leading causes of the bee decline we’ve seen in recent years. You can still have a happy, healthy garden without using commercial pesticides. And if you make your garden bee-friendly, they will reply you plenty by pollinating your space. For more information on how to grow a beautiful garden, check out these tips.

Photo Credit: