8 Ways to Control Pests in Your UK Garden 

By  Enda

Best Pest Control For Gardens & Yards

Wouldn't it be great if we could simply care for our garden without being troubled by the many pests which attack our plants. There are a few simple things that we can do, that don't cost anything, but do help reduce the amount of harmful pests in our gardens and yards.

If you pile up waste anywhere in your garden, then you can be assured that this is a very happy breeding ground for slugs, snails and anything that crawls. It provides them with food, nourishment and the type of place they like to live.

So the cheapest advice that we can offer is to avoid collecting or storing any kind of waste for long periods of time.

Likewise, as you will know weeds grow with some abundance in our gardens and even on our paths. Weeds are essentially tough organisms, and they are extremely well adapted to protect themselves from enemies and diseases.

Our flowers and plants on the other hand, have evolved over time, through what is known as artificial selection. In other words we have bred them to look a certain way, and for vegetables to taste a certain way, and to grow in a certain way.

They are nowhere near as tough or as resilient as weeds. They are not as tough at dealing with pests and diseases, and so we as gardeners need to look after them.

Pest Control for Insects in Your Garden

There are two general classes of insects that you will find in UK gardens. Those are:

  1. Gnawing insects - They gnaw at plants, and they have mouths that are good at tearing leaves and stalks. The most common are grasshoppers and caterpillars.
  2. Sucking insects -  These insects are in our opinion the worst kind to get in your garden. They are insects such as plant lice and mosquitoes. They quite literally suck the life out of our plants.

The gnawing insects are best dealt with by using a poison. Now many of the chemicals used to deal with these can be harmful. A popular choice is one known as the "Bordeaux mixture," which is a poison sprayed upon plants for this purpose.

Making a Bordeaux Mixture

Most gardeners use a plastic bin or barrel to do this. Dissolve 1.8 Kg (4 lbs) of copper sulphate in 35 gallons of water. Then make a mixture of  0.9 Kg (2 lbs) of burned quick lime with 5 gallons of water. Pour the lime mixture into the copper sulphate mixture.

You can then spray leaves on top and under to keep gnawing insects at bay.


Blackfly and ants

Pest Control for Plant Lice

Plant lice are often green in colour, but you may find lice in red, yellow or brown. They are easy enough to spot as they cling to plants. Gnawing insects will bite the plants and then disappear, whereas sucking insects have to cling close to a plant for food.

Rose slugs do great damage to rose bushes, as they eat out the body of the leaves, so that just the veining is left. They are soft-bodied, green above and yellow below.

Almost always these will need treated with a chemical spray such as a biological insecticide.

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Pest Control for Slugs

One of the most annoying and damaging pests in UK gardens are slugs. Slugs will very quickly devour almost any garden plant, whether it be a flower or a vegetable.

Slugs do more harm in the garden than almost any other single insect pest, so need to be dealt with very quickly.

Slugs rest under the ground in day time and do their damage at night time. They also lay lots of eggs in old rubbish heaps.

If you water the ground during the day they will come to the surface  and from there you can get rid of them. It is better to pick them up and get rid of them that to use slug pellets, as they are not that good for the soil.

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a slug

The common slug

Top Tips for Natural Pest and Disease Protection for Plants and Flowers

Below we will offer you some top tips for controlling pests and diseases in your garden. Most of these are by natural means, and they have been proven to work over the years.

Tip 1 - Use Animal Manure for Pest Control Where Possible

If you can get your hands on animal manure, then that is always going to be a better option than buying artificial manure. Likewise if you can make your own compost, then that is a great product to use in your own gardens.

You can read about how to make compost by clicking here.

Compost heaps are used by many gardeners in the UK either at home or in the allotment. If you don't like the idea of an actual compost heap, then you can use a compost bin, or a compost maker to do the hard work.

You can read about compost makers by clicking here.

Tip 2 - Understand Crop Rotation for Pest Control in a Small Garden

If you like to grow vegetables in your garden, then it is worth understanding the importance of crop rotation. Organic farmers do this with great success. While most home or allotment vegetable gardeners are not dealing with large scale growing of crops, the same sound principles work really well.

The rule is "never grow the same crop on a piece of lane any more that two years running." That will help you avoid many pest and especially disease problems. Generally speaking this will help a lot with controlling soil diseases in your vegetable gardens.

Tip 3 - Make Birds Your Friend as a Means of Pest Control

Now some birds are also pests in the garden especially if you like to grow fruits of any kind. However fruit is normally very easy to protect with a net, and that will keep the birds at bay.

Birds will however work really well at getting rid of insects, slugs etc, so it is worth trying to attract them to your garden. A simply feeder, or a bird house if you prefer, will do the trick and you can then let the birds deal with many of the destructive insects.

A good birdhouse, grain sprinkled about in early spring, a water-place, are invitations for birds to stay a while in your garden.

In terms of protecting shrubs and fruit bushes from birds, something as simple as 4 sticks and some soft netting will keep the birds away from those, and protect them.

Just above we have described the most common pests. They will generally attack almost any plant or shrub. However you also need to be aware that there are certain pests, that will only attack certain plants as well.

For example greenfly have a particular liking for rose bushes and vegetable gardens that grow beans, potatoes and cabbages also have their own sets of pests.

With flower gardens the most common pests are garden lice, cutworm and the slug. You also may have to deal with ants.

With vegetable gardens you do introduce a whole new set of pests. One of the most annoying is the tomato worm. This is a large yellowish or greenish striped worm. It loves nothing better than tucking into the young fruit.

Caterpillars will go after celery and cabbage. Cabbage worms are also a major nuisance. 

The potato bug is another pest to look out for. It is a beetle with yellow and black stripes down its crusty back.

Pest control should be done with the best methods and those that are safe to you, the plants, animals and to the environment. This holds especially true for those with vegetable and organic gardens.

The main purpose of growing vegetables organically will be defeated if they become tainted with pest control chemicals.

Here are a few long-term maintenance tips to make pest control less damaging and more environmentally friendly.

Physical Pest Control

This may be accomplished through picking grubs off by hand, creating barriers and traps and plugging holes. Snails can be found hiding in damp places under rocks and towards the base of those plants with strap like foliage.

These are best removed manually and disposed of. It is not the most pleasant of tasks but it is highly effective. You can also remove grubs and caterpillars, and our recommendation is to always wear gardening gloves, as it makes the task less horrible.

Biological Pest Control

Encourage predatory insects such as green lacewings and dragonflies to feed on aphids and other pests that attack your plants. You can do this by placing a shallow bowl of water in the garden.

Dragonflies especially will hover around water. Bacterial insecticides such as B. thuringiensis could also be used against caterpillars.

Bug killers such as Provanto do a very good job of general pest control.

Chemical Pest Control

Organic pest control methods can be successful and the ingredients for many of the recipes can be found in the kitchen cupboards.

If chemical sprays are really necessary, try and find the least-toxic. These include insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, dehydrating dusts, etc.

These help spread diatomaceous earth evenly and efficiently. Good for fleas, cockroaches, ants, slugs, termites, aphids, spiders, and more.

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Natural Home Made Pest Control

Recipes for alternative pest control include the following:

Against Green Aphids and Mites - Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and a cup of vegetable oil. Dilute a teaspoon of this solution in a cup of water and spray on aphids and mites.

Against Cockroaches - Dusts of boric acid can be applied to cracks or entry points of these insects. Bay leaves on pantry shelves could also help in warding off these critters.

Make sure that the chemicals you use are made specifically for the insects you are targeting. 

Pest Control for New Seeds & Plants

The most common form of protection for seeds or young plants is to use what is called a covered frame. They are very easy to make and a highly effective means of stopping pests attacking younger plants.

They are basically a wooden box, usually 18-24" square and about 8" in depth. This simple wooden structure can then be covered with mesh wire, with glass or with some type of protective cloth.

Glass or cloth have the added benefits of retaining heat and offering protection against last frosts.

You can also use cardboard, tin and even paper collars which are wrapped around younger plants, and keep ground pests off your plants.

the weevil

The Weevil

Types of Garden Pests


Plants affected



Apple Sucker

Apple Trees

Withered petals

Spray with BHC, dimethoate or fenitrothion

Been Weevil


half circle notches on the leaves

Dust BHC or spray fenitrothion


Beans, nasturtiums and honeysuckle

Colonies of blackfly infest new shoots

Spray with prmicarb or pyrethrum

Cabbage Root Fly

All brassicas

Maggots will eat the roots

Dust base of seedlings with pirimphos-methyl

Capsid bugs

Fruit trees, fruit bushes and herbaceous plants

Punctured leaves or fruit

Spray with BHC or malathion

Carrot Fly


Maggots will eat the roots

Use an insecticide seed dressing


Vegetables, fruit bushes, hedges and flowers

They eat the leaves

Spray or dust with derris

Codling Moth

Apples, Pear Trees

Grubs in fruit

Spray with fenitrothion in mid-June and then 3-4 weeks later


Brassicas, beetroot, lettuce and most flowers

Stems eaten

Work BHC dust into soil


Chrysanthemums and dahlias

Holes if leaves and flowers

Spray or dust with BVC

Flea beetles

Brassicas and wallflowers

Small holes on leaves

Dust seedlings with BHC dust or derris


Roses, flowers, fruit trees, bushes and vegetables

Colonies infest new shoots

Spray with malathion, derris, nicotine or pyrethrum

Leaf Hoppers

Fruit trees, roses and potatoes

Pale patches on leaves

Spray every 2 weeks with BHC, malathion or nicotine

Leaf Miners

Flowers and shrubs

Tunnels through leaves with fine lines

Remove affected leaves and spray with BHC

Leather jackets


Brown patches with grey grubs

Drench soil with pirimiphos=methyl

Mealy bugs

Mainly in greenhouses

Cream oval shaped insects covered with wax

Spray well with formothion or malathion

Onion fly

Onion family

Wilting foilage and grubs in bulbs

Calomel dust to soil

Pea Moth


Maggots in pods

Spray with fenitrothion

Raspberry beetle

Raspberries and blackberries

Grubs eat fruit

Spray with derris

Red Spider


Mottled leaves

Spray with derris, dimethoate and malathion

Root Aphid

Lettuce, asters and pot plants

Leaves wilt

Watered down solution of malathion


Apples and plums

Grubs in fruit

Spray with BHC

Scale insects

Fruit trees, vines, shrubs and houseplants that have foilage

Small insects under leaves and stems

Spray with malathion

Slugs and snails

Garden and greenhouse

Seedlings destroyed

Lay bait of metaldehyde or methiocarb


Many garden plants

Mottled and silvery leaves

Spray or dust with BHC, malathion, nicotine or derris

Tortix moth caterpillars

Apples, plums, trees and shrubs

Punctured leaves

Remove by hand or spray with BHC, derris or trichorphon

Vine weevil

Green house plants

Holes eaten at the edge of leaves

Spray with BHC


Garden and house plants

Infestations of new shoots

Spray with BHC, pyrethrum or malathion

Winter Moth

Apples and other fruit trees

Caterpliiars eat leaves and young fruits

Remove by hand or spray with BHC, derris or trichorphon


Flowers and vegetables

Roots attacked by tunneling larvae

Put BHC in the soil


Garden and greenhouse plants

Holes eaten in the leaves

Dust nesting places with ant killer dust

Wooly Aphid


White fluff on branches

Brush or spray on a solution of malathion or BHC

Overall Garden Pest Control Summary

As you can see the list of potential garden pests is a long one. The good news is that for most would be gardeners, you may never encounter most of these. Some are really only present in fruit trees and bushes, and not many of us will grow those.

Pest controls like slug pellets are cheap to buy as are many of the garden sprays. It is more about being aware that something is attacking your plants and flowers and taking action as quickly as you can.


I am someone who enjoys a little gardening. Now I am not someone who spend hours in the garden, but I do like both my front and back gardens to look really nice. Well kept lawns, neatly trimmed hedges, and borders filled with plants, make a huge difference, to how your property looks.

Enda McLarnon

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