Every garden, big or small, requires the managing of insects and other pests. Good planning, healthy plants and good combination planting are the first lines of defense against undesired pests. When you are faced with an incoming pest problem, sometimes you just need to SPRAY! Here are the best sprays and methods we know of.
Here is a summary of what exactly organic garden pest control
mixtures consists of and how they work:
- Smell: Garlic, tobacco, rhubarb, fish and other strong smelling substances that are used to repel pests.
- Gases and odor molecules: Many plants give off natural odors or have volatile oils which some bugs find unpleasant. Often these odors or oils are a warning to bugs that the plant contains its own built in insecticide. Concoctions made from these plants will deter pests.
- Heat or fumes: Chilies, kerosene, methylated spirits, salt etc, will burn, harm or kill pests.
- Oil: Mineral oil, vegetable oils and proprietary oils, such as those made with cottonseed oil, will suffocate soft-bodied pests.
- Soap: Natural vegetable based soaps or detergents are added to sprays in small amounts to make them stick to plants. Many insects dislike and are harmed by soap also.
Pest Spraying Tips
Never use spray on plants during hot sunny weather as it may cause the leaves to burn. Natural soap is tolerated by plants better than detergent (which may have other ingredients such as surfactants, enzymes and softeners added).
Decide what you need to do and do no more. For example, do you want to kill the wretched caterpillars that are making a mess of your cabbages? Right, get the biggies by hand and/or make up a strong killer mix and stop them in their munchy tracks!
From then on you should be able to keep an eye out and use only a mixture that deters or repels the butterflies or moths from landing to lay eggs.
Always remember you want a garden teeming with life with the many insects and creatures keeping each other in check without you rocking the boat too much.
Yes you want wonderful vegetables, flowers and trees to eat and enjoy; so practice diversity and don't aim for perfection and neatness. Even when using natural sprays, do as little harm as possible and don't try to outgun nature.
Here are the best non-toxic organic garden pest control solutions:
Garlic Fire Spray
Garlic fire spray is the stuff of legend. There are many recipes, but they consist of some or all of the following: garlic, chilli peppers, soap, vegetable oil, kerosene and water. Don't leave home without a concoction of this.
Depending on its strength it will slay dragons and ants
- 2-3 garlic bulbs (about 6-10 cloves per bulb)
- 6 large or 12 smaller hot chilli peppers (any variety will do, or if unavailable try 1-2 tablespoon hot chilli powder)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 squirts of liquid detergent (approximately 1 dessertspoonful)
- 7 cups water. (Use about 2-3 cups in the blender, and top up with the rest later)
Put the whole lot into a blender and vitamize well, then strain through muslin, a coffee filter or similar. Pour what you need into a spray bottle for use and keep the rest in jars with lids on in a cupboard or on a shelf somewhere, well labeled.
Experiment with it if necessary and check for results or any damage to young plants. If it fixes the problem and your plants are happy, you've got the perfect mix, but if there's still a few biggie pests, albeit struggling, then lower the water dilution rate or change the ingredient quantities slightly.
Lovely garlicky, pongy stuff, but the smell dissipates quickly once it's been sprayed around. This garlic fire mixture needs to be re-sprayed frequently, such as after rain and dew. It's best to spray every few days until there's no sign of pests, then about every week to 10 days for any eggs or larvae that may have hatched out.
Uses for this natural garden pest control are unlimited. Because it has oil and dishwashing liquid in it, it sticks to plants as well as suffocating pests such as scale and mealy bug. It will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs and just about anything small. SO BE VERY SELECTIVE — MIND THE LADYBUGS, LACEWINGS, BEES AND OTHER BENEFICIAL FRIENDS.
Spraying this mixture around the edge of your garden will deter pets. Rabbits, gophers, woodchucks and other garden gate crashers will also be discouraged.
Here's another version, if you don't have a blender. Put a whole garlic bulb through a garlic press and let it sit in a glass jar with several ounces of mineral or salad oil. Mix a few spoonfuls with dishwashing liquid, hot pepper sauce and water in a spray bottle.
Smothering Oily Mixture
- ½ cup liquid or grated pure soap
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 litre of warm water
You can make a pure smothering oily mixture. Blend together ½ cup of liquid or grated pure soap in 1 cup of vegetable oil. Any cheap salad oil from supermarket is fine. Use a blender or beat by hand and it will become a thick white consistency. To use, mix 1 tablespoon with 1 litre of warm water and spray every bit of plant where you find the pests you're after.
- Rhubarb Leaves
Pour boiling water over crushed rhubarb leaves then leave to soak for several days. Strain, add a good squirt of detergent and dilute enough so that it looks like weak tea and spray over pest infested plants.
- 1 tablespoon of molasses
- 1 litre of hot water
- 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent
Mix one tablespoon of molasses with a litre of hot water. Then add a teaspoon of liquid detergent and put in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves, top and bottom, about once a week.
- 1 part Vinegar
- 3 parts Water
- 1 teaspoon of liquid detergend
Blend 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Add a teaspoon of liquid detergent and put in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves, top and bottom to kill off grubs and bugs.
- 1/4 teaspoon of oil
- 2 tablespoons of baking soda
- 1 tablespoon of mild liquid soap
- 2 gallons of water
Mix 1/4 teaspoon of oil, 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 tablespoon mild liquid soap in two gallons of water. Spray or wipe on plants once a week for 3 weeks or until gone.
Fish Fertilizer is another useful jack-of-all trades deterrent for unwanteds, such as mites, caterpillars and even nematodes. It seems some gardeners, orchardists and farmers noticed that when they sprayed their plants with fish fertiliser, the pests held their noses, packed up and left, spreading the word as they did so.
Exactly why it works is not yet clear but there are a couple of possibilities:
Firstly, because fish fertilizer is oily, this smothers nematodes and mites.
Secondly butterflies and moths find their host plants by their acute sense of smell. So they are not going to hang around breeding caterpillars when the smell of cauliflowers or apples is masked by fish!
Be considerate of your neighbours though, as they might not like the fishy aroma that lingers around for a day or so.
Heirloom Organics Super Bug Repellent Concentrate
There are many variations of this floating around in print and on the web, but here is another good all around recipe for repelling bugs:
- 1/4 cup liquid dish soap (or Murphy's Oil Soap or baby shampoo)
- 1 cup tobacco tea (3 fingers of chewing tobacco in a nylon stocking and soak it in a gallon of hot water until the mixture is dark in color)
- 1 cup antiseptic mouthwash
- 1/4 cup of Tabasco Sauce (or substitute chopped hot peppers)
Mix 1 cup of this liquid to 1 Gallon of water and spray thoroughly once a week until the bugs get fed up and leave.
More organic garden pest control resources
Companion planting: Another important method to help control garden pests is companion planting.
A-Z of Garden Pests: Here are some organic garden pest control alternatives.
Beneficial Garden insects and creatures: Here's how to attract these good critters to help with natural garden pest control