July is notoriously the time of year when gardeners are faced with a variety of pests and diseases on their favorite plants. This year we have seen many insects earlier than normal and in greater number. This may be due to milder than normal winter temperatures but, I didn’t notice that it was much warmer. Though, there are many beneficial insects that we actually want to attract to our garden (like the Lady Bug pictured in the photo at left), there are usually more bugs and other pests that are destructive to our vegetables and plants.
Many of our readers have been asking what is a safe insecticide to repel or eliminate these destructive insects without resorting to toxic chemical sprays so I am sharing some of our time-tested methods of natural pest control. Besides natural bug repellent we also encourage wrens, swallows and other birds to our garden to keep insects under control. Toads are a big help with the slug population and other bugs so we move them to our garden area whenever we find them hopping in the grass, woods, etc…
The most useful household ingredients we have included in our plant sprays are hot peppers, onion, garlic, Murphy’s Oil soap, liquid dish soap (Ivory works well), baking soda, sugar, cider vinegar, vegetable oil, cayenne pepper, baby shampoo, alcohol, liquid kelp, and citrus fruits. We have also used the ground up leaves from tomato, tobacco, wormwood and other herbs.
Try the recipes shared here the next time you need to find a quick solution to your pest or disease problem and you don’t want to use chemicals or have the time to wait for an order from a specialty garden catalog. But if you would rather order some organic bug spray check out some of our favorite garden supply resources listed below. For homemade insecticide formulas that the multinationals don’t want us to know check out this e-book .
Basic Garden Spray (Makes one gallon)
Separate garlic cloves from one whole bulb and place in a blender with 2 onions, 6 jalapeño or cayenne peppers and 2 cups warm water. Blend and add to one gallon of hot water. Cover and let steep for 2-4 hours. Strain mixture through a double layer of cheesecloth or an old piece of pantyhose. Using a funnel pour into a plastic milk jug and add 2 tbsp. Murphy’s Oil soap and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Apply with a hand-held or 1 gallon capacity garden mister/sprayer.
Garden Spray II (Makes one quart)
Mix together one finely chopped onion, six cloves finely chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper and one quart of warm water. Let sit overnight and strain to apply with a hand-held sprayer. This can be used for a variety of bugs.
Pepper Spray (Makes one gallon)
This works well on roses to deter Japanese beetles and can also be used on vegetables. (best to avoid leafy greens such as lettuce) To make this spray combine ½ cup cayenne peppers and ½ cup jalapeno peppers with 1 gallon of water and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes. (Do NOT boil and keep pan covered to avoid fumes!) Let mixture cool and strain. Add ½ teaspoon dish soap and apply with a hand-held sprayer.
Flea Beetle Solutions (Makes one quart)
When trimming your tomatoes save some of the leaves to use in a flea beetle spray. (Combine 2 cups chopped tomato leaves with 1 quart water in a pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain and add 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap. Apply with a hand-held garden sprayer.) This mixture also repels whiteflies, asparagus beetles, and cabbage worms. Re-apply after it rains or if it gets washed off. You can also sprinkle wood ashes or diatomaceous earth around affected plants. Or try planting an area of radish, turnips and/or Chinese cabbage to lure flea beetles away from your favored crop.
Citrus Spray (Makes one quart)
This one smells great, but caterpillars hate it! Place one cup of any chopped citrus fruit peels (orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit) in a blender and add ½ cup of boiling water. Liquefy and let sit overnight at room temperature. Strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and pour liquid into a hand-held mister/sprayer. Add water to sprayer and apply to plants. (If you add a tablespoon of baby shampoo or dish soap it will repel aphids on roses. Spray and repeat after four days.)
Slug Bait (Makes one gallon)
Pour a one pound package of brown sugar, ½ package of dry yeast and water in a one gallon container. (we use empty milk jugs) Let the mixture sit for two days, uncovered. Pour into slug traps (can be purchased at garden centers or catalogs or visit resource list at end of post) or use shallow pans or dishes set slightly below soil level.
Natural Methods of Disease Control
Mildew Control (Makes one gallon)
Cucumbers, melons and some varieties of squash are susceptible to powdery mildew or downy mildew. (Powdery mildew first appears as circular, whitish spots on leaves and downy mildew causes yellowish brown spots on upper surfaces) Eventually a white powder will cover the entire leaf surfaces. Remove afflicted plant parts and burn. (Do Not compost them) Then spray your plants from top to bottom with a mixture of 4 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons Murphy’s Oil soap and 1 gallon of water in a hand-held sprayer. It’s best to do this whenever the weather is damp and humid before mildew strikes, or at the first sign of it.
Fungus Spray (Makes one gallon)
Mix 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoons dish soap and 1 gallon of water together. Apply with a hand-held mister/sprayer in the morning so plants have time to dry off. Reapply after rainy, damp weather.
Rust Spray (Makes one gallon)
For plants that are prone to rust, spray this solution once weekly to help control this problem. Combine 3 tablespoons liquid kelp, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and one gallon of water and apply early in the day to allow plants to dry before nightfall.
Natural Herbicide (Makes one quart)
Since weeds contribute to insect problems I thought to add this chemical-free spray recipe to help keep them under control. Most of us appreciate all the help we can get when it comes to eliminating weeds in and around our gardens. (Avoid spraying nearby plants!) Mix 1 tbsp. vinegar, 1 tbsp. of gin, 1 tsp. dish soap and 1 quart very warm water (but NOT boiling). Apply with a mister/sprayer.
Natural Pest Control Resources-
All-natural weed control, fertilizers, bioinsecticides, fungicide, beneficial insects, insect barriers & traps, soil, etc. www.gardensalive.com (513)354-1482
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
888-784-1722 www.groworganic.com (Everything you need to grow organically. Low prices. Free catalog.)
Gardener’s Supply Company
800-863-1700 www.gardeners.com (Deer repellent accessories and a variety of garden products.)