“The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place.” David R. Brower
We pesticide to protect
For every gardener there are a number of benefits to growing your own fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to be a thrift-seeking, penny-pincher to realize that growing your own produce saves you money in the long run, not to mention the immeasurable benefit of healthy eating. However, along with growing your own food comes the responsibility of protecting those plants from unwanted insects and disease. Enter the pesticide…
Pesticides gained their fame in the post World War II era, when farmers were given access to DDT. This synthetic pesticide was very successful for two decades, but resulted in both environmental and human damages. Ever since, large companies have succeeded in maintaining the myth that the general public needs pesticides to keep them safe from malicious, crop destroying insects. Be that as it may, growing your own fruits and vegetables has been around as long as the earliest humans and way before any artificial pesticides where needed to keep us safe.
The truth is that you can make your own all natural pesticides using simple ingredients that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make yourself!
There really are large selections of homemade pesticides to choose from, so it is important to take the time to test and choose the right one for each species of plant. Remember that “pesticide” literally means “a chemical used to kill pests,” which is NOT what we will be making. The following recipes are designed to repel and discourage insects from destroying your hard earned fruits and vegetables, while sustaining a healthy environment for both you and your plants.
But there are alternatives!
Here are a few of the more common homemade “pesticides” and how they work:
*Remember to test all of the homemade pesticides on a small area before continuing onto the entire plant.
The recipe for this is very quick and painless, and will specifically target pest eggs and immature bugs. You will want to spray the leaves and their undersides in an attempt to coat and cover the insects as they begin development.
You do need to be conscious of the liquid dish-washing soap that you use here (and other recipes) and pick one that you think is best. Things like scented, anti-bacterial and other specialized soaps may have an adverse effect on your plant so start off by testing your mixture on a small section of plant before engaging the entire plant.
- 1 cup cooking oil ( i.e. canola or vegetable )
- 1 tablespoon liquid dish-washing soap
- Use 2 ½ teaspoons of this mixture in 1 cup of water
Mix all ingredients and pour into a large squirt bottle. Spray the oil mixture anywhere you have problem pests and ESPECIALLY where they lay their eggs!
This has the same basic idea of the Oil mixture but without the oil. You can also see that the mixture isn’t nearly as concentrated as the Oil mixture so you may want to increase the times you spray your plants to every 2-3 days for the next 2 weeks. The Soap mixture will cause the pests to become paralyzed and unable to eat forcing them to starve.
Spray the mixture on the leaves and undersides for most effective use.
- A few teaspoons of liquid dish-washing soap
- 1 gallon of water
Mix all ingredients and pour into a large squirt bottle. Spray the oil mixture anywhere you have problem pests.
This next mixture takes a little more time to prepare but will keep the bugs you have just gotten rid of, away for the season.
- 1/2 cup hot peppers of your choice
- 1/2 cup garlic cloves ( onions will also do )
- 2 cups water
Take all the ingredients and steep them in a container for 24 hours. Place the container in a sunny spot if possible. After 24 hours, strain the mixture into a spray bottle and spray your plants.
Tobacco or Nicotine Spray-
We can’t forget that some types of bugs (known as beneficial insects) are actually good for our gardens so it is helpful to use pesticides that can target specific bugs. This tobacco mixture is great for caterpillars, aphids and most types of worms.
***PLEASE BE CAREFUL*** DO NOT use this mixture on peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, or any other member of the solanaceous family. Tobacco chemicals can kill these types of plants.
- 1 cup of tobacco
- 1 gallon of water
- 3 tablespoons of liquid dish soap
Similar to the Garlic/Pepper mixture, take the tobacco and mix it with the water and let them sit for 24 hours. After 24 hours check the color of the mixture; if it is very dark, dilute it with water; if the color is too light to see, let it sit a few more hours. Ideally the color will be similar to a light tea. When the color is right add the liquid dish soap and spray your plants.
Orange Peel Spray-
This is another mixture that can target the bad bugs destroying your plants. It will work great against soft-bodied bugs suck as aphids, fungus gnats, mealy bugs and will also repel ants.
- 2 cups boiling water
- Peelings of on orange
- A few drops castile soap
Take the boiling water and pour it over the orange peels and allow to sit for 24 hours. Take the mixture and strain it into a container and add the soap. Spray plants completely.
Tips for working with any home-made pesticide:
- Apply the pesticide on top of the leaves as well as underneath. Excess spraying can cause damage to plants.
- Most recipes can be used effectively with just a weekly spray. Excessive spraying may affect the plant as well as kill the good insects you want to encourage in your garden (earthworms, bees, ladybugs, etc.). If you aren’t seeing results with a 7 day spray, you can bump it up to 5 days but watch the plant carefully to make sure it can handle it without being damaged.
- Avoid spraying during hot sunny weather, spray later in the day to reduce the risk of plants burning.
- If it looks like rain, delay spraying the plants until the weather is clear since any rain will wash away the new treatment. If it has recently rained, wait till the plants are dry before applying treatment to prevent the recipe being diluted with water.
- When trying a new pesticide recipe on a plant, test a couple leaves before spraying the whole plant (spray then watch how the test leaves react after two or three days, if no signs of damage proceed with spraying the whole plant).
A home for all
As you learn which pests are harming your garden and which bugs you want more of you can begin to bring a sense of harmony without the use of harmful chemicals.
“Much like a subtle spider which doth sit
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In middle of her web, which spreadeth wide;
If aught do touch the utmost thread of it,
She feels it instantly on every side.”
- Sir John Davies, 1570-1626, The Immortality of the Soul