Do-It-Yourself Safe Pesticides
These natural and DIY pesticides are effective at helping to rid your invasions of harmful critters,
but safe enough to keep from poisoning you and your family.
There's nothing like having a home garden to make you begin to appreciate the trials and tribulations
of the farmers who grow our food. Between weather, weeds, and insects, not to mention the
challenges of soil fertility, it can be an incredibly humbling experience to try to put food on the table
with a home garden - especially when adhering to organic protocols that don't rely on quick, yet
potentially harmful, solutions, such as herbicides, pesticides, and conventional fertilizers.
When it comes to keeping your garden healthy in the face of massive quantities of plant-munching
bugs insects, there are a number of approaches that can help turn the tide in favor of your own
plants, and while removing insects by hand is one time-tested method, it can also be incredibly
challenging to do so, or can be too little too late.
Another, far less time-intensive method of knocking
back insect populations is by applying natural or homemade insecticides, which can reduce their
numbers or eliminate them all together. Not all bugs insects are harmful, so applying insecticides
indiscriminately, especially harsh pesticides that affect even the beneficial insects, can have a
detrimental effect on your local garden ecosystem.
A homemade insecticide made from vegetable oil mixed with a mild soap (such as Dr. Bronners
castile soap) can have a devastating effect on certain troublesome insects, such as aphids, mites,
thrips, etc. To make a basic oil spray insecticide, mix 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of
soap (cover and shake thoroughly), and then when ready to apply, add 2 teaspoons of the oil spray
mix with 1 quart of water, shake thoroughly, and spray directly on the surfaces of the plants which
are being affected by the little pests. The oil coats the bodies of the insects, effectively suffocating
them, as it blocks the pores through which they breathe.
A very similar homemade pesticide to the oil spray is a soap spray, which is also effective for
controlling mites, aphids, whiteflies, beetles, and other hungry little insects. To make a basic soap
spray insecticide, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of a mild liquid soap (such as castile soap) with 1 quart of
water, and spray the mixture directly on the infected surfaces of the plants. A soap spray insecticide
works in a similar fashion as an oil spray pesticide, and can be applied as necessary (though it is
always recommended to NOT apply it during the hot sunny part of the day, but rather in the evenings
or early mornings).
An oil extracted from the seeds of the neem tree is a powerful natural insecticide, capable of
disrupting the life cycle of insects at all stages (adult, larvae, and egg), making it a great resource for
the organic gardener. Neem oil acts as a hormone disruptor and as an "anti-feedant" for insects that
feed on leaves and other plant parts. Neem oil is biodegradable and is nontoxic to pets, birds, fish,
and other wildlife, and is effective against a variety of common garden insect pests, as well as being
a natural fungicide that can combat powdery mildew and other fungal infections on plants.
Neem oil can be
found at many garden stores or natural foods markets. To use neem oil as an insecticide, either
follow the instructions on the bottle, or start out with a basic mixture of 2 teaspoons neem oil and 1
teaspoon of mild liquid soap shaken thoroughly with 1 quart of water, and then sprayed on the
affected plant foliage. Neem oil can also be used preventatively by spraying the leaves of plants that
are often ravaged by pests, before they're actually infested.
This natural substance with a somewhat unwieldy name is made from a sedimentary rock created by
fossilized algae (diatoms), and which is a rather abundant resource (diatomaceous earth is said to
make up 26% of the earth's crust by weight). Diatomaceous earth has a number of uses in and
around the home, and acting as a natural insecticide is just one of them. This material works not by
poisoning or smothering the insects, but instead by virtue of its abrasive qualities and its affinity for
absorbing the lipids (a waxy substance) from insects' exoskeleton, which then dehydrates them to
Diatomaceous earth is often available at garden stores, although many times only in large
bags, so if you've got a small yard, consider splitting it with a neighbor. To apply, simply dust the
ground around your plants, or even sprinkle it on the foliage, where it will help control snails and
slugs as well as other crawling insects. Due to its dried nature, in order to be an effective natural
pesticide, diatomaceous earth needs to be reapplied after every rain.
Garlic is well-known for its pungent aroma, which is delectable to some and yet repellent to others,
and it is this strong scent that comes into play when used as a natural insecticide. Actually, it's not
really clear if garlic spray and chile spray (below) are actually insecticides or are more likely insect
repellents, but either way, these common kitchen ingredients can be used to knock down, or even
knock out, insect infestations in the garden.
To make a basic garlic spray, take 2 whole bulbs (not
just 2 cloves) and puree them in a blender or food processor with a small amount of water. quart of
water. Let the mixture sit overnight, then strain it into a quart jar, adding 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
(optional), 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap, and enough water to fill the jar. To use this homemade
insecticide, use 1 cup of mixture with 1 quart of water and spray liberally on infested plants.
Similar to garlic spray, chile pepper spray is a great homemade natural insect repellent that can be
used for a variety of different pests. Chile spray can be made from either fresh hot peppers or chile
pepper powder. To make a basic chile spray from pepper powder, mix 1 tablespoon of chile powder
with 1 quart of water and several drops of mild liquid soap. This mixture can be used full-strength on
the leaves of affected plants. To make chile spray from fresh chile peppers, blend or puree 1/2 cup of
peppers with 1 cup of water, then add 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Let sit until cooled, then
strain out the chile material, add several drops of liquid soap to it and spray as desired.
Caution: Hot chile peppers can be very potent on humans as well, so be sure to wear gloves when
handling them, and keep any sprays made from them away from eyes, nose, and mouth
This is an all-in-one DIY natural insecticide. To make it, puree 1 bulb of garlic
and 1 small onion, add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder and let steep for an hour. Strain the
mixture and add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and mix well. To apply this homemade insecticide, spray
it full-strength onto both the upper surface of the leaves, as well as the undersides, and store the
remainder in the refrigerator for up to a week if desired.
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