Who doesn’t love gardening in the spring? Getting fresh organic food only a few steps away in your own garden is great. But keeping your garden “organic” can be a challenge. It’s not enough to use natural fertilizers. When the armies of bugs come marching in to chomp on everything you’ve worked on, it’s tempting to grab the first bottle of commercial spray you see. This can put harmful chemicals on your plants and into our water supply. We’ve found a few eco-friendly DIY pesticides that will keep your garden bug free and allow you to continue to call your garden “organic.”
A simple way to make an effective pesticide is my combining vegetable oil and some mild soap. This can be great against small bugs like aphids, mites, and thrips. Mix one cup of vegetable oil with one tablespoon of liquid soap. Add the mixture to your handy plastic spray bottle and add one quart of water. Shake well and spray on your plants. The oil works like a commercial dormant oil by coating the bodies of the insects and suffocating them.
If you don’t have vegetable oil on hand, don’t worry, you can still make an effective homemade pesticide. With this one, all you need is 1 ½ teaspoons of liquid soap with one quart of water. It works similar to the oil, suffocating the pests. But you should only spray this on your plants in the early mornings and evenings to avoid damage to plants.
No, this is not a joke about how garlic deters more than vampires. But it can work as a natural pesticide and repellent to keep slugs, snails, and other vegetable chewing insects out of your garden. Just place a few garlic cloves in water, and you’re good to go. This is a 100% natural solution that’s perfectly safe.
Chili Pepper Spray
A little spicier than garlic, chili peppers is a natural pesticide and repellent. You can use either fresh peppers or chili pepper powder. Mix one tablespoon of chili powder with one quart of water and a few drops of liquid soap. To make the spray from fresh chili peppers, puree a ½ cup of peppers with one cup of water. Place the mixture in a saucepan, add another quart of water, and bring to a boil. Wait until it cools then strain out the chili peppers and add the liquid soap. It not only works against garden pests but predators as well.
Tomato plants, like potatoes, peppers, and eggplants, are part of the nightshade family. Their leaves contain potent alkaloids which can work as a natural pesticide. Prune two cups of tomato leaves and let it steep in 1 quart of water overnight. Strain out the leaves, add to a bottle and spray away. Its suggested to prune leaves from the bottom and insides of the tomato plant and not the leaves that catch the most direct sunlight. Tomato leaves can also be used to boost the flavor of various dishes.
DIY pesticides can be easy. If you want to make sure bugs don’t get into your garden in the first place, plant some insect repelling flowers and herbs alongside your vegetables. Petunias have a scent that deters aphids, squash bugs, and tomato hornworms. Chrysanthemums keep away ants, ticks, cockroaches, and silverfish. Mosquitoes and ants hate lavender plants. Herbs like mint, rosemary, basil, and cilantro will keep the bugs at bay and add a nice touch to your dinner.
Floating Row Covers
One simple pest-control tactic that really keeps the bugs out! This translucent polyester fabric will control aphids, potato beetles, and a host of other garden pests. They’ll also protect your plants from birds, rabbits and squirrels. Floating row covers allow water and sunlight to reach your plants, but they can only be used if the plants don’t require pollination. You may want to use them when you first put your plants in the ground, then switch to an organic spray as the plants mature.
When applying your organic insecticides, spray responsibly. Not all insects in your garden are bad. Some like nematodes are actually helpful. They feed on the harmful bugs and add nutrients to the soil. Ladybugs can be your garden’s best friend since they feed on aphids and potato beetles. Praying Mantis and spiders will do a lot of the work for you, by going after the tiniest bugs that you may not see.
By using organic pesticides to control your garden you won’t have to worry about the dangerous side effects of chemical sprays (respiratory problems, cancer and kidney failure). You may have to apply some of these solutions more often, but having a chemical-free garden (and a chemical free world!) is worth the extra effort.
Jack Malone is a farmer and freelance writer who prides himself being eco-friendly. He enjoys finding new ways to practice green-farming with no chemicals.