Natural Pest Repellents for the Garden

You don’t have to use toxic sprays or poisons to keep insects and other animals away from your plants! Try these natural bug repellents for your vegetable garden instead!

9 Natural Ways to Keep Pests Out of the Garden

Bugs, insects, rabbits, deer — these are just a few of the many pests that would love to eat well from YOUR hard work in the garden!

There are plenty of poisons and chemical repellents, pesticides, insecticides, etc. on the market. However, when you’re trying to grow your own food, you don’t want those potentially toxic substances in the garden!

The good news is that there are plenty of natural ways to protect your plants AND keep your food safe. These are things that we use to keep bugs out of our garden…and rabbits and deer too!

holding a plastic container filled with spice jars in the garden

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Coffee Grounds

Adding coffee grounds to your garden does double duty: they add nutrients to the soil AND repel many common pests!

Ants are particularly sensitive to coffee grounds — they don’t like the smell and the caffeine causes worker ants to lose focus. Coffee grounds also discourage larger pests such as rabbits, cats, and deer from coming around the garden.

I end up with a lot of coffee grounds because, well, I love coffee! Instead of throwing them in the trash, use them in your garden and add any excess to your compost pile.


I love the smell of cinnamon! Bugs do not!

Sprinkling cinnamon around your plants can help to keep many insects away. You can also put a spoonful of cinnamon directly on top of an ant pile entrance. Supposedly the ants will inhale and choke on the cinnamon when they try to go through it.

Crushed Egg Shells

Crushed eggs shells are another dual-purpose addition to the garden. Use them to form a ring in the soil around the base of your plants, about an inch wide.

crushed egg shells around the base of a plant

Over time, the egg shells will add calcium to the soil, which plants need to grow strong. They also create a barrier to keep slugs, snails, and even some caterpillars off your plants.

That’s because the broken egg shells feel sharp to these little garden pests, so they won’t want to cross over the barrier you made. Think of it like a ring of broken glass around your plants — that’s how it feels to snails and slugs!

Chili Pepper

Chili powder and cayenne pepper powder serve as effective deterrents for many pests, large and small. Aphids and other insects don’t like it and neither do deer!

You can apply chili powder in two ways:

  1. Sprinkling the powder around the base of your plants
  2. Mixing with water to create a spray that you apply directly to the plant

To make a simple chili pepper spray, mix 1-2 teaspoons of chili powder with a quart of water. You can add a squirt of dish soap to the mix so your spray will stick better to plants.

If using the spray, always spot test a leaf first. It shouldn’t harm your plants, but better safe than sorry!

You’ll also want to wash plants and veggies before eating them, to make sure that you remove all the pepper spray.

Related: Click here to learn how to use chili powder to keep dogs from digging holes too!


There are a couple different ways to apply turmeric to your garden. One is directly on the plant leaves, to keep bugs away. I tried this on a squash bug and it went running!

turmeric powder in the palm of a hand

You can also mix turmeric powder into the soil to keep bugs away at the base of the plant. It also helps prevent fungus from growing.


When I was a kid, my grandpa taught me this trick that he used to get rid of slugs and snails in his tomato garden. I remember being grossed out and fascinated at the same time by all of the slugs that perished in his beer traps!

All you have to do is dig a small hole in the garden and place a plastic cup or container inside. You want the rim of the container to be level with the dirt, so it is easy for slugs and snails to crawl into it.

making a beer trap for slugs in the garden

Fill the container with beer. Any beer will do, so might as well use a cheap brand!

Slugs, snails, and caterpillars are attracted to the sweet smell of the beer, so they’ll dive right in! They can’t get back out of the cup, so they drown and aren’t able to harm your plants.

It sounds a bit mean, yes. However, when you’ve seen caterpillars kill entire kale plants or snails ruin a tomato harvest, you don’t feel very sorry for them!


Companion planting is a safe and natural way to keep pests out of the garden. Fragrant herbs and flowers can be as good a deterrent as sprays and powders! Plus, you get to harvest these herbs too!

Plants that repel bugs include:

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Green Onion
  • Cilantro
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Catnip
  • Marigolds
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Citronella


I’ve been using a DIY vinegar spray for years to get rid of ants in both our house and garden. It works like a charm!

You’ll need:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Baking Soda
  • Water

Click here for the full recipe and a video tutorial!

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from fossilized algae (diatoms). To use as a natural pesticide, simply sprinkle around the base of your plants.

When bugs come into contact with diatomaceous earth, it essentially sucks the moisture right out of them, killing the bugs.

This is one of the most effective ways I’ve found to kill ants! Click here to learn more non-toxic ways to get rid of ants in the garden!

Where to Find These Natural Bug Repellents

Most of these items can be found at the grocery store or a garden store. I’ve also included links below if you’d like to order on Amazon:

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  1. This is something I’m going to try.

  2. Is it safe to use these suggestions on my lemon tree?

    1. I always spot test on a new plant, to be safe.

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