After all your hard work – planting, weeding, watering and caring for your garden – the last thing you want to see is an infestation of harmful pests wreaking havoc. But before you reach for the pesticide, consider the side affects. “Spraying will kill not just the pests, but also the beneficial bugs that you want in your garden,” warns Katy Wilcox, a gardener at the Denver Botanic Gardens. “By skipping the pesticide, and working to attract some good bugs, you will be able to create a healthier growing environment in the long run.”

Cultivate more blooms
Plants that produce nectars will attract the good bugs your garden needs, like lacewings and trichogramma wasps. The blooms will give the bugs something to eat (when they’re done eating the bad bugs). The tiny trichogramma wasps are particularly drawn to plants in the Apiaceae family (like Queen Anne’s lace, dill, parsley) thanks to their cluster of small flowers.

Pair up companion plants
Certain combinations will help you save the important plants from being attacked by harmful pests. For example, putting marigolds in with your tomato plants will attract trichogramma wasps, which eat the bad bugs that might feed on your tomatoes. Or you could grow some bean plans among your rose bushes. The spider mites that love to feast on roses will be attracted to the bean plants instead. Once those are infested, you can either cut them down or treat them with something gentle (like an insecticidal soap). “It’s a way of tricking the pests into leaving the star plants alone,” says Wilcox.

Buy some bugs
You can actually purchase some of the most beneficial bugs and then introduce them into your garden to eat up harmful insects. Stock your garden with lady bugs, lacewings, trichogramma wasps and tiny worms called nematodes (they will eat the larvae of pest insects before they even make it out of the soil.) For best results, buy from suppliers who source the bugs locally – or at least at the same elevation as where you live – to ensure that the bugs stick around and don’t fly off to more familiar territory.

Add some water
If there’s room, building a small pond or water feature in your ward will help bring insect-eating amphibians into your garden. Frogs will eat the flies, moths and other flying insects that can prey on your plants. Water will also attract dragonflies, and those will chomp on unwanted mosquitoes.

Bring in the birds
Planting your garden near a canopy of tall trees mean that plenty of birds will come to visit. And while there they’ll eat all sorts of bad-for-the-garden bugs, including beetles, moths, and flies. Another reason to not use pesticides in the garden is because, in addition to killing off both harmful and beneficial bugs, those products can harm birds, too.

Eradicate aphids
One of the most commons pests that can infest your flower or vegetable garden is the aphid. If you’ve got them, be sure to bring in some ladybugs – they love to eat aphids (and they’ll consume mites and small caterpillars, too). Wilcox suggests that if you are having an aphid problem and don’t have any ladybugs to eat them, hitting your plants with a powerful water spray will wash them off your plants and kill the nasty pests in the process.

by Sally Wadyka, a freelance writer based in Boulder, Coloarado, who specializes in health, nutrition, and fitness.

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