How to control common garden pests

All dedicated gardeners long for a garden free of pests so that carefully nurtured flowers and vegetables survive without blemish. The key to controlling garden pests is knowing what you're looking for. This guide provides tips to enable you to more easily identify and treat a range of pest problems.

Project Checklist


  • Hand lens or Magnifying glass
  • Self-seal plastic bags
  • Secateurs
  • Protective clothing
  • Spray equipment
  • Chemical measuring glass
  • Garden hose & fittings


  • Insecticides
  • Baits

Step 1: Identify Your Problem

Identify Your Problem

Flowers, foliage stems and roots can all be affected by some pest, reducing crop size, quality and the vigour of the plants. The plant may even die if the problem is too severe. And simply buying an all-purpose spray when you don’t really know whether it will do the job will not only cost you money but may harm the environment.

So the first, and most important step is to identify the problem. Pests on plants display recognisable symptoms, just as humans do when we get sick. With a little investigative work, using a hand lens or magnifying glass if required, you can usually identify most common pests.

Step 2: Assess The Problem

Once you've identified the problem, the next step is to decide just how bad it is. Consider whether it is a mild or severe infestation. If only mild, there may be no need to take any action at all and you simply let nature take its course. On the other hand, if it appears bad with the possibility of it spreading to other plants, then control measures need to be taken.

Step 3: Control the problem

Control The Problem

Prevention is the best strategy. Each pest can be controlled using good, simple cultural techniques, such as encouraging natural predators like birds, increasing drainage, and keeping plants properly fed and watered to reduce their susceptibility to attack. But even this may not be enough and stronger methods must be used.

In controlling the problem, consider using the least hazardous method possible to achieve results. Many of the old methods are still useful, such as hosing off offending insects, picking off caterpillars by hand, inspecting the plants at night to catch slugs and snails, or capturing nocturnal insects in traps when they look for hiding places early in the morning. Consider also experimenting with herbs grown with other plants to deter pests - this is known as "Companion Planting".

Step 4: Check the results

Check Results

After treating, check your plants regularly. Watch for any re-occurrence that may need to be treated again before it becomes a problem. Be sure to let your first spray have enough time to work – the chemical label will recommend the time before re-spraying.