Spider mites, aphids and other pests can cause considerable damage to flowers and food plants (that is fruits and vegetables). These creatures attack your garden in swarms, literally draining the life from your crops and often inviting disease in the process.
Many chemical pesticides can prove unsafe for the environment or may make crops unsafe for consumption, however.
Thankfully, there are many homemade, organic options for you to turn to in your “war” on pests.
We selected these 7 for your garden:
Method 1: Using neem oil
1. Combine ½ ounce (15 milliliters) of neem oil with half a teaspoon (2 1/2 milliliters) of mild soap. Many believe neem oil, which comes from a bitter tree leaf, to be one of the most effective natural pesticides in existence.
2. Mix the neem and soap into 2 quarts (2 liters) of warm water. Stir slowly, but thoroughly.
3. Pour the pesticide into a spray bottle. Use it immediately, dousing the entire plant and focusing on spots where you can clearly see pests or signs of pests.
Method 2: Using cooking oil
1. Select a mild liquid dish-washing soap. Avoid anti-bacterial, scented and other specialized soaps, since these may damage your plants.
2. Mix 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) of your selected soap with 1 cup (250 milliliters) cooking oil in a small bowl. Use either canola or vegetable oil.
3. Combine 2 and ½ teaspoons (12 milliliters) of this oil mixture into 1 cup (250 milliliters) of water. Mix thoroughly.
4. Pour this new mixture into a large squirt bottle. Give the mixture another shake inside the bottle to combine it more thoroughly.
5. Test the mix by spraying it onto a small portion of your plant. This step allows you to make sure that the mix will not cause more harm than good. If the section of the plant you test the spray on wilts or changes color, try using a different soap for this pesticide (or another type of pesticide for that matter).
6. Spray the mixture anywhere you have encountered problems. If you tested your solution and it did not cause any harm to your plant, spray it around your entire plant, including the undersides of leaves. Focus on areas where pests lay their eggs, since an oil spray is designed to target eggs and immature bugs.
Method 3: Using soap
1. Opt for a mild liquid dish-washing soap. The milder your soap is, the less likely it is to have a harmful effect on your plants. Stay away from anti-bacterial, scented and other specialized soaps.
2. Mix a few teaspoons (10 to 15 milliliters) of your selected soap into 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water. Combine the soap and water using your hands or a large spoon.
3. Pour the solution into a large squirt bottle. You may not be able to fit all of the solution into a bottle, but you should use the largest bottle you can find to make use of as much of the solution as possible.
4. Spray the entire plant. Cover the top and undersides of leaves, focusing on the areas that seem the most overcome. This spray works by paralyzing insects, that is making them unable to eat.
5. Continue to spray your plants every two to three days for the next 2 weeks. Since this pesticide is fairly diluted, continued application is the only way to ensure that the infestation eventually ends.
Method 4: Using tobacco
1. Mix 1 cup (250 milliliters) of tobacco into 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water. Tobacco is useful in targeting caterpillars, aphids and worms, but it is not safe to use it on peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, or any member of the solanaceous plant family.
2. Sit the mixture out in the sun or in another warm location. Allow it to rest for 24 hours.
3. Check the color of the mixture. Ideally, the pesticide will look similar to the hue of a light tea. If it is too dark, dilute it with water. If it is too light to see, allow it to sit an additional few hours.
4. Add 3 tablespoons (45 milliliters) of mild liquid dish soap to the solution. Mix thoroughly.
5. Pour the mixture into a large squirt bottle. Shake the solution inside the bottle once more to combine it further.
6. Spray the infested plants. Focus on areas that show the most damage, but also cover spots that still seem in good condition.
Method 5: Using oranges
1. Peel an orange. If you do not have a fresh orange, use 1.5 teaspoons (7.4 milliliters) of dried citrus peels or ½ ounce (15 milliliters) of orange oil. Citrus is especially helpful in targeting soft-bodied bugs, including slugs, aphids, fungus gnats and mealy bugs. When sprayed directly onto the pests, this pesticide also works against ants and roaches.
2. Place the peels into a glass container and pour 2 cups (500 milliliters) of boiling water over the peels. Allow the solution to sit in a warm spot around the clock (24 hours).
3. Add a few drops of castile soap. Peppermint-scented castile soap may prove especially effective. Mix the solution thoroughly to combine.
Method 6: Using chrysanthemums
1. Combine ½ cup (113 grams) of dried chrysanthemums with 4 cups (1 liter) of water. Chrysanthemums contain a chemical component called pyrethrum, which is capable of paralyzing many garden insects.
2. Boil the mixture for 20 minutes. Boiling the mixture releases the pyrethrum into the water.
3. Pour the solution through a strainer. Remove the dried flowers and save the infused water.
4. Pour the pesticide into a spray bottle and treat plants. Focus on the most damaged areas before moving onto less damaged areas. Cover the entire plant, including the undersides of leaves.
5. Store the solution up to 2 months. After that period, it may no longer be effective.
Method 7: Using hot vegetables
1. Combine ½ cup (113 grams) of hot peppers with ½ cup (113 grams) of garlic cloves or onions. You may also use both onions and garlic. All the vegetables should be chopped prior to their use.
2. Blend the vegetables together in an electric blender. A thick, chunky paste should form after the blending.
3. Add the vegetable paste to 2 cups (500 milliliters) of warm water. Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
4. Pour the solution into a plastic or glass container and allow it to sit for 24 hours. If possible, keep it in a sunny location. If not, at least keep the mixture in a warm spot.
5. Strain the mixture. Pour the solution through a strainer, removing the vegetables and collecting the vegetable-infused water into another container. This water is your pesticide.
6. Pour your pesticide into a squirt bottle. Make sure that the spray bottle has first been thoroughly cleaned with warm water and disinfected with soap to rid it of any potential contaminants.
7. Spray your plants with the pesticide. Treat the infected plants every four to five days. After three or four treatments, the pests should scatter. If the area is thoroughly covered, this pesticide should keep bugs away for the rest of the season.
A tip: You can create a more potent pesticide by combining different organic pesticide solutions. For instance, neem oil can be added to a chrysanthemum spray.
Warning: Many pesticides, especially tobacco and soap-based sprays, can cause damage to certain plants. Test your pesticide on a small portion of a plant before wetting the entire thing. This way, you can see whether or not a certain pesticide is likely to cause more harm than good.