Vegetable Garden Pests & How to Kill ’em

I think the biggest mistake new gardeners make is thinking that vegetable gardening consists of planting seeds, watering them once and walking away.

And that might actually work for some things, but for the most part having a successful garden depends a lot on having a really good line of defence when it comes to pests. In the past I’ve found a shotgun works well with neighbours, but doesn’t do so well with leaf chewers.

It’s amazing how a .22 can take down a full grown man but not even phase a cabbageworm. Cabbageworms are tough little shitheads.

So today I’m going to share with you 2 of my most trusted, safe for the garden, pest control measures. That don’t require gunpowder or a license.

My favourite pest control to use is Safer Brand Caterpillar Killer with BT, 8 Ounce Concentrate"" “>Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki. Otherwise known as BTK.

BTK is a a natural bacterium found in soils that does a great job of controlling (and by controlling I mean killing) pests while not harming beneficial insects.

BTK only targets leaf chewers. In other words those bugs that are eating your food before you get a chance to.

For Corn worms … Mix 1 part BTK with 20 parts mineral or vegetable oil and apply 5 drops to corn silks when silks have *just* turned brown.

For everything else, mix 1/4 tsp. of BTK in 2 cups of water and spray tops and undersides of leaves, as well as stems.  Repeat after rain.

And if it’s your zucchini plants you’re having trouble with the problem might be that you’re growing them wrong. Here’s how to grow zucchini the right way.


Use on …

Cabbage Worm
Corn Worm 2

Garden Safe 93179 16-Ounce Neem Oil, Case Pack of 1"" “>Neem Oil is another product that works well, but takes a bit longer to produce results. The only thing I use Neem oil for is in my attempts to control squash bugs. But what really works to control squash bugs is going outside with a pair of scissors twice a day and cutting the bugs in half. It’s gross. Like really gross. Yucky. Especially when you have to cut two squash bugs who are having sex in half.  It’s disgusting on a whole variety of levels.

But it works.

I also use the scissors to cut away the portion of the leaf that has the squash bugs eggs under it.

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of Neem Oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle and spray tops and undersides of leaves, as well as stems.

Neem Oil

Cucumber Beetle


Use on …

Squash Bug


Between the scissors, the shotgun, BTK and Neem Oil I’m hoping to be able to eat the majority of the produce I’ve grown this year  myself.  It’s not that I don’t like sharing.  It’s that I don’t like sharing my food.



  1. Murray Smith. says:

    Hi Karen, as 84/y male from Melbourne, A.U., I so enjoyed reading your blog, you have a wonderful way of incorporating humor into everything!, I have at present Zucchinis growing and your advice will be used, thank you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Murray! That’s great. :) I hope your zucchini do well for you and you find yourself in a position to throw them in people’s car windows. If you’re in Australia what happened to your “u” in colour?! ;) ~ karen!

      • Murray Smith. says:

        Karen, thank you for replying!, first off!, in Australia throwing zucchini in car windows would be grounds for an assault charge, and also the waste of a very edible vegetable, both events are against my religion!, ( It must be some North American tradition, that has not penetrated, us backward types, down under?.), and yes, we still use the letter, “u”, in the word “Colour.”, but of course my computer wants to mark it incorrect!, bye for now, it seems I have hours of study to catch up on some of your writings and also the very entertaining comments, Murray Smith.

  2. AaME AaME says:

    So the lovely tomato hornworm. I do not have chickens or budding fishers. At present I pick off and drown in water.what I want to know is prevention. Any tips

  3. Lynn Pope says:

    Where do you get the need oil? I can’t find it on

  4. ThatAnnoyingBeggar says:

    I’ve heard of BT, but when BTK came up, I suddenly had doubts about Our Karen and her state of psychological being.
    Pop culture such as it is, has become an earworm.
    For a bit there, I was concerned that you had Dennis Rader out on work release, cleaning up your squash plants.
    I am sure he would get the job done with no qualms about the little squishy bodies involved, but definitely not anyone’s first choice as a garden helper….
    Merely checking in on the newest news and this story popped up next.
    You need a second and possibly a third woodstove.
    Not enough to keep you busy, seems like.

  5. Gina Rice says:

    Karen, can I just say how terrific your posts are, I don’t think I’ve read one that didn’t leave me laughing out loud – I swear, damn near everything you say is entertaining. Somethings I probably shouldn’t laugh at, but I have a wickedly weird sense of humor. So, I am attempting a winter garden this year. Summer one was somewhat successful, dis learn, by accident, that all broccoli does not grow in nice heads like in the grocery store. That’s another story. Summer squash, they started out beautifully, then seemingly overnight this horrible white moldy looking crap took over. I trashed my squash plants. I tried neem oil, might have been too far gone. Anything you recommend? I live in North Florida! Oh, and if you want disgusting bugs, try dealing with these freaking monster Lubber Grasshoppers, they eat EVERYTHING and seem to double in number overnight. I say this because every other one I seem to find is copulating. I cut them in half with hedge trimmers, partly because they are so HUGE and mostly because they are scary and I’d have to get to close to cut them with a scissor. Apparently, they are pretty much immune to any pesticide. My Jack Russell Terrier, Cooper, likes them, as a snack. Immediately after, he vomits everywhere. Which is twice as disgusting as cutting them in half! I try to catch him and take it away, but have you ever tried to catch a Jack Russell Terrier? Keep up the good fight and thanks for making me laugh out loud, especially in this nightmare known as 2020.

  6. Leslie Russell says:

    My Jack Russell pointed them out to me by growling at them. They’re as long as my thumb! I pull them off with those little velcro feet making that icky sucking sound and feed them to my chickens. It’s creepy how soft they are. This is a quote from some website: “They can rear up their front half to look menacing while holding on with those prolegs (rear)”. Ewwwww.

  7. Kerstin says:

    Hi Karen, great article. But you do not mention the ugly tomato worm. What helps with those?

    • Karen says:

      Ah. The tomato hornworm. SO gross!! I don’t use anything specifically I just keep a careful eye on my tomato leaves and if I see signs of hornworm (like half the leaves have been eaten overnight) I SCOUR the plants until I find it and then just remove it by hand. ~ karen!

  8. nicole says:

    I use a spray bottle with water and doterra peppermint oil and spray the leaves of my plants… it REALLY helps keep ants and aphids and other pests from killing my garden. I spray after rain, or every week or two, and it works GREAT!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Art of Doing Stuff