When I moved from a farm to a big city, one of the biggest things I missed was having my own garden.
So, when I found a home that came with a small outdoor space, perfect for growing my own vegetables, I was ecstatic. After all, I grew up on a farm where I helped my mom take care of her vegetable garden. Taking care of and enjoying all those homegrown organic vegetables will be a piece of cake, right?
Soon, my potatoes were overrun by potato beetles and tomatoes with aphids.
I considered turning to pesticides. However, they’re not only toxic to bugs and insects but to the environment, animals, and people.
Luckily, before I gave in and started using them, I consulted my friend from back home. She opened my eyes to natural pesticides.
I’m beyond happy to report that I successfully got rid of critters damaging my plants in a completely natural way, and I haven’t had any issues since.
Today, I’ll tell you all my best-kept secrets, so you can start using natural insecticides too.
Bugs in your garden can be a serious pest. Not only will they eat your plants, but they can also bring germs and diseases and mess with your garden and landscaping.
The main weapon for fighting pests is synthetic pesticides. They are designed to kill a target insect. The majority of garden pesticides you can buy today are synthesized chemicals. This means they are effective but are also highly toxic.
They can lead to environmental hazards and are toxic for living things. Synthetic pesticides can have severe health effects on people, such as cardiovascular issues and respiratory disorders.
For example, chlorpyrifos was commonly used in California for a long time before it was finally prohibited in 2020. What people didn’t know is that chlorpyrifos was used as a nerve gas weapon during World War II.
Imagine how harmful this could be for people using it.
On the other hand, natural pesticides are made by natural organisms or come from an organic source, for example, a mineral or a plant.
They have the same goal as a synthetic pesticide — kill or repel insects that are damaging the plant. But, they are much safer. Natural pesticides won’t harm the environment, animals, or people.
Natural insecticides are toxic too. However, they are much less toxic and safer for the people, and if used responsibly, they won’t cause any health issues.
Here are the main benefits of using natural pesticides:
DIY bug killer #1 is the option I would never have thought of on my own — a huge shout-out to my friend for helping me discover this easy, DIY, natural pesticide.
Dish soap is one of the most common household ingredients, so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make.
Best of all, it’s easy to make and perfect for blasting bugs.
In a large container, mix one and a half teaspoons of mild liquid dish soap with one quart of water. Pour the mix into a spray bottle or a garden sprayer and spray the infected surface of the plant.
Spray the undersides, tops of leaves, stems, buds and blooms thoroughly. Repeat every 7 to 14 days until you’re rid of the pests.
Cover the top and bottom of the leaf with the spray, and use it in the early morning or evening. Don’t spray in the middle of the day when plants are exposed to heat and direct sunlight.
The soap dish is good against aphids, mites, beetles, and whiteflies.
Pro Tip: Don’t use soap with bleach as it’ll harm the plants. Be careful with how much soap you use, as too much soap can ruin the plants.
The second on the list of homemade pesticides is vegetable oil spray. It’s similar to the soap dish in how it’s made and used, and it also contains soap.
The combination of oil and soap coats the insect’s body and suffocates it by blocking the pores through which the insect breathes. I know it may sound cruel, but think about what the pest is doing to your precious plants.
According to Colorado State University, soybean oil, commonly used for cooking, is good in combating insects and mites. However, cottonseed oil is considered to be the most effective.
Mix one cup of vegetable oil and one tablespoon of mild soap. When mixed well, add two teaspoons of the mix to one quart of water. Pour into a spray bottle or a garden sprayer, and shake thoroughly.
Then spray the top and bottom of each leaf, and if necessary, the stems.
Same as with the soap dish, don’t apply during the heat of the day, but in the early morning or evening.
Vegetable oil is good against aphids, beetles, whiteflies, thrips, and mites.
Pro Tip: Pause and shake the spray bottle several times during the application. You want to ensure the soap, water, and oil are mixed.
Eucalyptus oil is traditionally used in commercial medicines. It has a warm and earthy smell, and it can relieve stress. However, it can relieve pests as well as stress.
I found numerous studies that claim it can be safely used as a pesticide.
I decided to give it a try and was vowed with the results! Especially, I like that it can be used in many different ways.
You can apply eucalyptus oil to plants in three different ways:
Eucalyptus oil repels mosquitoes, ants, gnats and kills aphids, whiteflies, mites, and earwigs.
Neem has a long history of being used in medicine and cooking. However, it’s also good as a pest deterrent and can treat other garden diseases like powdery mildew and rust.
It has a bitter taste and a strong odor that helps keep the pests away from your garden. It’s also biodegradable and non-toxic for people, animals, and plants.
Neem oil is widely available at garden stores or natural food markets.
To apply it, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
You can also make your own. For 1 liter of neem oil, use 1 quart of warm water, 1 teaspoon of neem oil, and two teaspoons of mild liquid soap.
Mix water and soap, and shake them well, so the soap dissolves. Then add the neem oil and shake again.
You’ll get a neem oil pesticide with a concentration of 0.5%. If you need a stronger concentration, you can add more neem oil. Be careful how much neem oil you use, as too much can burn the plant. If you buy it, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Use the mixture to spray the affected plant leaves.
You can also use neem preventively on young plants before they get infested. It’s effective for 22 days.
Neem oil is effective against 600 insects. Some of them are caterpillars, aphids, beetles, mealybugs, scale, and thrip.
Pepper spray has capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers the hot taste.
It can be used to repel mammals. If you live in an area with deers who like to munch on your plants, this is the solution you’re looking for. Capsaicin also kills insects by causing membrane damage and metabolic disruption.
Many insects will sense the pepper spray and will avoid the treated plants.
You should wear gloves and a mask when making and applying pepper spray because it can cause discomfort in the eyes.
To be on the safe side, avoid applying on a windy day.
Mix two tablespoons of red cayenne pepper or paprika with a gallon of water. Then add six drops of mild dish soap. This helps the solution bind.
Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and apply at dusk. Spray until there’s a nice coat over the foliage and underside of the leaves. Repeat every 3 to 5 days and after a rainfall.
Pepper spray is good against spider mites, aphids, and deer.
Pro Tip: This spray can hurt the honey bees, so use it once they’ve gone back to the hive in the evenings.
Garlic is famous for its aroma, which people either love or hate.
It’s exactly this aroma that puts garlic on the list of organic pesticides for vegetables.
Actually, garlic isn’t so much a pesticide as an insect repellent. But, the important thing is, it works!
I wasn’t a fan of my garden smelling garlicky, and it did make me cut down on the time I spent there, but it worked like a charm for getting rid of pests.
You can plant garlic around your vegetable beds, or in them, together with other vegetables to make sure the insects stay away.
Or, you can make a garlic spray.
Take two garlic cloves and put them in a blender or a food processor with a little water. Let it sit overnight, then strain. Add a teaspoon of liquid soap and a half cup of vegetable oil. Put in enough water to fill a cup.
Use the mixture with one quart of water and pour it into a spray bottle.
Spray tops and bottoms of leaves once a week.
Garlic spray is good against ants, slugs, aphids, beetles, and whiteflies.
Pro Tip: Something I discovered too late — don’t spray close to harvest, or your veggies will taste garlicky!
If aphids are your primary concern, I’ve found tomato leaf spray works like a charm!
Tomato plants belong to the nightshade family, which means they have toxic compounds known as alkaloids in the leaves.
When the leaves are chopped, the alkaloids are released. You can use the leaves to make a spray that’s toxic to aphids but safe for people and other plants.
Best of all, this spray is believed to attract beneficial predatory insects that'll help your tomatoes flourish.
To make the tomato leaf spray, chop two cups of tomato leaves and soak them in a quart of water overnight.
Then strain the leaves with a cheesecloth or a strainer. Pour the water into the spray bottle and apply to stems and foliage.
Tomato Leaf Spray works best against aphids.
Pro Tip: Apply liberally to the underside of the leaves, as this is where aphids like to congregate. Apply also to stems and growing tips.
One of the best homemade insecticides is salt spray. It deters pests, but it’s also beneficial to the plant. It increases nutrition absorption, such as sulfur and magnesium.
Your plants will thank you for using the salt spray.
You can sprinkle some salt around the base of the plant every week. This will deter the pests and help add magnesium to the soil, which will increase the plant nutrient absorption.
You can also make a spray. Mix half a cup of salt in one gallon of warm water. Pour into a spray bottle, stir well until the salt dissolves, and spray on pest-infected plants.
The salt will prevent the insects from sitting on your plant and feeding off of it by drying them out.
Salt spray is good against slugs, beetles, and cabbage worms.
Apple cider vinegar is essentially fermented apple juice. It’s been used as a home remedy for a long time, but it’s also an effective organic bug repeller.
Moreover, it won’t only repel the bugs, but it can give new life to your flowers, veggies, and fruits by getting rid of harmful insects altogether due to its acidity.
You can use either white or apple cider vinegar, but white is usually more affordable.
To make a spray, combine three parts water and one part vinegar in a spray bottle. Add a teaspoon of soap dish to help bind the solution. Shake until well combined and all the ingredients are mixed.
Spray directly onto the bug, or apply to the base of the plant. You can also apply to leaves if they are heavily infected.
You can also use vinegar to repel dogs, cats, and coyotes from your garden.
Vinegar is good against slugs, snails, moths, ants, and fruit flies.
Pro Tip: You can also use vinegar to kill weeds. Mix 50-50 vinegar and water and spray directly on weeds. If you have grass you want to get rid of, such as grass growing through cracks on the walkways, you can also spray it with vinegar.
70% rubbing alcohol is another excellent natural pesticide.
There’s some controversy around this one. I’ve encountered many claims it should be applied on a cotton swab and then dab mealybugs and their eggs. This doesn’t work because it won’t affect mealybugs in the microscopic, juvenile stage.
I found rubbing alcohol works much better when applied in a spray.
Not only will rubbing alcohol kill the insects, but it also draws out the mobile insects from their hiding places, so it’s easier to control and get rid of them.
Mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 teaspoon of dish detergent in 1 quart of water. Pour into a spray bottle, and shake to make sure it’s well mixed.
The alcohol melts the protective wax covering parts of insects and dries out their bodies.
Spray the mix on stems, leaves on both sides. Pay special attention to leaf axils, as pests tend to hide here.
Rubbing alcohol is good against aphids, thrips, whiteflies, and mealybugs. It’s mostly effective against adults, but it can sometimes work on eggs and pupae too.
Diatomaceous Earth is a natural substance. It comes from a sedimentary rock, and it’s made up of bodies of prehistoric diatomic fossils.
When these fossils are ground-up, they are very sharp, and it feels like razor blades on the insect respiratory systems. It effectively dehydrates the insects to death.
Diatomaceous earth has many uses, and a pesticide is only one of them.
You can find diatomaceous earth in garden stores. There are different versions of diatomaceous earth, so make sure to get the horticultural grade.
It’s usually sold in large bags, which doesn’t work if you have a small garden (like me). In this case, you can split it with your friends, family, or neighbors.
Put on a mask and gloves, and dust the ground around your plants with it, or put it around the garden bed you want to protect. You can also sprinkle some on the foliage to control the crawling insects.
Because diatomaceous earth has a dried-out nature, you’ll have to reapply it after every rain.
Diatomaceous earth is good against snails, ants, and slugs.
Pro Tip: Use a brush or a small spoon if you want to get it into cracks — for example, to stop ants from crawling out. If you want to cover a bigger area, use a flour sifter.
There’s one important thing to note about natural pesticides — same as chemical pesticides, they’ll kill all bugs they come in contact with, be it a pest or a beneficial bug.
Before you reach for a pesticide, think about how much damage the insects are making in your garden. You could potentially end up causing more harm than good to the plant if you use pesticides.
Here are some tips and tricks to follow for optimum natural pesticides use:
You can choose any natural pesticides on this list, and you won’t make a mistake. They’ve been a lifesaver for my garden.
Think about what kind of bugs you want to get rid of. Many of these pesticides work on the same type of bugs — for example, pretty much all of them are guaranteed to kill aphids. On the other hand, if you want to get rid of cabbage worms, go for salt spray, for slugs use vinegar, and so on.
Soon you’ll have a pest-free garden, and best of all, you’ll achieve it in a way that’s good for the environment and doesn’t harm the animals or yourself.
If you have any questions about natural pesticides, or you’ve used them yourself, let me know in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for new natural pesticide ideas!
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