Organic gardening doesn’t mean that you plant and hope for the best regarding destructive bugs – it means you use naturally occurring ingredients to make your own bug spray. It doesn’t harm the soil, is not toxic for people or pets to ingest, and some gardeners swear that the DIY insecticides work better than the mass produced chemical ones.
It’s kind of intuitive – you need something that’s strong in smell or acidic mixed with water to make it into a spray and a little soap to help it stick to the bug. Use Castille soap whenever possible – it’s made from vegetable ingredients. I prefer Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap – it’s available in health food stores, and the mint is a nice ingredient – bugs don’t like it, but humans do! Let your mixture sit for a day or two, or heat it up to mix the ingredients faster.
Here are some common ingredients to add to your soap/water mixture. Make sure to make your concoction strong. Test and increase strength if needed.
- Garlic & Cayenne Pepper – a good all-purpose bug spray
- Cayenne Pepper & Horseradish – soft-bodied pests like caterpillars, whiteflies, scale, slugs
- Lemon or lime – all purpose, but especially mites
- Tomato leaves – notice how few bugs actually eat tomato leaves? Try this on many of your bug problems
- Yarrow tea & Coffee – caffeine is toxic to many bugs, including slugs and snails
By all means, experiment with your own concoctions. We once boiled up tobacco from stale cigarettes, strained the water and had great success against aphids. Now that we know that cigarettes contain chemicals we wouldn’t want to ingest, we don’t make that one anymore. Some people recommend adding mineral oil, but you have to be careful with that one, spraying only certain plants at certain times of the day. We keep it simple here at Bite Size Gardening, so oil sprays will be its own post sometime in the future.
Good luck in your battles –