Natural Organic Pest Control Remedies
This month’s topic is all about natural pest control. Spring is the time to plant your garden but it is also time for all of those pests to find food on those tasty new leaves. Always remember you want a healthy garden with the many insects and creatures keeping each other in check without you rocking the boat too much. Yes you want wonderful vegetables, herbs, and flowers to eat and enjoy so practice diversity and don’t aim for perfection and neatness. Even when using natural sprays, don’t try to outgun nature. As with all things in nature, there is a balance. Gardening naturally/organically doesn’t upset that sensitive arrangement too much. We’ve got to eat of course, so we sow, plant and harvest on cleared land. Good soil produces good plants and keeps their carbohydrate, protein, chemical (including pest deterrents) and other nutrient ratio in balance. Poor soil under nourishes plants which hampers their production. Among other things, they produce more carbohydrates which insects thrive on. So keep your soil healthy and pests will not flock to feed on them. Below I have provided lots of information that will help you control –naturally/organically those pesky little pests in your garden-so you might want to just print this page and keep it in a safe place.
Essential information about controlling garden pests organically
Here is a summary of exactly what organic garden pest control mixtures consists of and how they work:
- Gases and odor molecules: Many plants give off natural odors or have 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. Sprays or fertilizers made from these plants will deter pests.
- Heat or fumes: Chilies, kerosene, methylated spirits, salt etc, will burn, harm or kill pests.
- Smell: Garlic, tobacco, rhubarb, fish and other strong smelling substances are great to repel pests.
- Soap: Natural vegetable based soaps or detergents added to sprays in small amounts help them stick to plants. Many insects dislike and are harmed by soap also.
- Oil: Mineral oil, vegetable oils and proprietary oils, such as those made with cottonseed oil, will suffocate soft-bodied pests.
A few simple rules to remember
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 enzymes and softeners added). A small dash of detergent is okay to give a spray some ‘stickiness’. Beneficial bugs, birds and critters, including kids, pets and you too can suffer toxic effects of organic potions and lotions. From bees to butterflies, ladybirds to long-tailed lizards, they all have the potential to get caught in the crossfire. Don’t let that happen! Hand picking beetles and caterpillars off of your veggies by hand is the first choice as long as you’re vigilant and have a small area.
- If you can’t re-locate them and they must be killed, squash them, or drop into a bucket of soapy water, or suck them up with a vacuum cleaner or dust buster.
Play fair. . . are these pests really out of control? Remember THEY think it’s THEIR garden, leave THEM alone if no harm is being done. Decide what you need to do and do no more.
Remember the golden rule of gardening; there are no rules. Feel free to make your own rules; in other words if you battle constantly with certain bugs or diseases on specific plants at certain times of the year… then don’t grow them anymore!
Grow more of your successful veggies and buy others, or better still, swap for ones that others grow better than you
Natural Pest Control Remedies
There are some effective organic commercial preparations, such as Neem Oil, Insecticidal Soap and Fatty Acid Sprays, but if you want cheaper options and be more eco-friendly, make your own!
Here is a list of the best homemade organic garden pest control solutions I know… Garlic, Onions and Chili’s Garlic fire spray is the stuff of legend. There are many recipes, but they consist of some or all of the following: garlic, chili peppers, soap, vegetable oil, kerosene and water. Don’t even think about starting a garden without a concoction of this. 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 pests (such as scale and mealy bug ) suffocating them such as scale and mealy bug. It will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs and just about any little invader. SO BE VERY SELECTIVE—MIND THE LADYBUGS, LACEWINGS, BEES AND OTHER GOOD GARDEN FRIENDS. Spraying this mixture around the edge of your garden will also deter pets. Rabbits, gophers, woodchucks and other garden gate crashers will also be discouraged. This is the brew I use and is very effective:
- 3 garlic bulbs (about 6-10 cloves per bulb)
- 6 large or 12 smaller hot chili peppers (any variety will do, or substitute with 1-2 Tablespoon hot chili powder)
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons of eco liquid dish detergent
- 7 cups water. (Use about 2-3 cups in the blender, and top up with the rest later)
Put all ingredients into a blender—except water. Add only 2 cups of water and mix well, then strain through muslin, a coffee filter or similar. Add remaining water (some people prefer to add the additional water directly to the spray bottle so they can control the strength). Pour what you need into a spray bottle for use and store the rest in well labeled jars with lids on. 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 is still a few pests, lower the water dilution rate or change the ingredient quantities slightly. Don’ worry the smell goes away 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.
Onion Scrap Spray
You can make your own organic onion spray easily by simply saving scraps of onions. Save your onion skins, peels and ends refrigerating them in an empty tub or ziplock bag. Once you have enough, place the onion pieces in a bucket (preferably with a lid) and fill with warm water. Soak for a few days, up to a week. You can keep this on the patio in the sun to steep but this is optional. After one week, strain the onion bits out and store the onion water in spray bottles.
Spray both house and garden plants with the onion water to fight aphids and pests. You can also mix your garlic trimmings in with the onion pieces, bugs hate garlic too!
Don’t throw the drained onion bits away as can be buried around plants that are prone to aphids, spiders and other pests.
Oily pest control mixtures are best for mites, nematodes and hard shell insects, such as scale… it simply suffocates them. It’s fine to use for indoor plants, but when using outdoors, don’t use when the sun is out otherwise it can burn the plants. Too much of oily mixes can harm plants as they need to breathe too so when using spray lightly. Blend together ½ cup of liquid or grated pure soap in 1 cup of vegetable oil. Any cheap salad oil from supermarket is fine. Mix it well by using a blender and it will become a thick white consistency. This is a concentrate so store in a jar with a tight lid. To use, mix 1 T with 1 liter of warm water in spray bottle. Lightly spray plants where you find the pests (remember not when the hot sun is out).
\As well as adding to other insect sprays, soap can be used on its own. Soapy water will control many little soft bugs, such as aphids and spider mites. Make up a weak soapy solution with pure soap, grated then dissolved in warm water. Try approximately 1 Tablespoon of soap to a bucket of water. Many people save their dishwashing water to use, but make sure it is eco-friendly.
Beneficial (predator) insects such as Ladybirds (ladybugs), wasps, lacewings and dragonflies should be encouraged. All pests are food for their predators and by killing them all off you are cutting down the chances that predators will build up enough to do the job of ‘pest control’ for you.
Fish Fish Fertilizer is another useful deterrent for unwanted pests. Made into a liquid or meal from fish scraps, it is mostly used as an insect repellent for mosquitoes and similar pests. It’s also good in the garden as a fertilizer and helps deters mites, caterpillars and even nematodes. Some gardeners and farmers noticed that when they sprayed their plants with fish fertilizer, the pests 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:
- First-because fish fertilizer is oily, this smothers nematodes and mites.
- Second-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!
Below is the recipe that works best for me:
- Add fresh fish parts to a blender with arm water. Blend well. Do not use canned fish.
- Fill bottom of 5 gallon bucket with dried leaves, or dried grass, straw, as this helps control the smell and absorb extra nitrogen from the fish.
- Add molasses (unsulfured or dried) to bucket. This helps to control smell and speeds up the process of decomposition.
- Add fresh or dried seaweed (optional)
- Add 1 to 2 T Epsom salt. This adds magnesium and sulfur.
- Cover—stir once or twice a day for 2 weeks
- Dilute before using. 1 to 5 ratio –add to plants and/or lightly spray on leaves.
This is one concoction where you definitely need to put it way down the back of the garden and cover it except for some tiny little air holes as this stuff really stinks! The fishy aroma lingers around for a day or two after usage. So beware close neighbors may smell it also.
The Pyrethrum Daisy (Tanacetum cinerariifolium) is from the chrysanthemum species and is easy to grow. With a little effort you can make one of the most effective insecticides that have been around for many years. This is a contact poison that affects the nervous system, so it must touch each pest. Depending on the pest, some insects will go a bit balmy, some will make a run for it and some will keel over for good. To make your own, you will need dried flowers. Pick the flowers from the Pyrethrum Daisy when the flower heads are at their peak. Pick enough stalk so you can hang the flowers to dry in a covered and preferably cool, dark place. When brittle and dry, grind them finely with blender. Use quickly as it loses its potency within 1-2 days. There are two options for usage:
- Finely shake the pyrethrum power directly onto target pests
- Make a solution by mixing 2 teaspoons with 3 liters of water. Let it steep for 3 hours, add a quick squirt of liquid soap, then use as a spray.
- A follow-up spray 2 days later can prove to be extra effective as it will often catch those insects that have tottered out of hiding.
Spray or use on a cool evening if possible as light and heat hasten its deterioration. Only effective for 1-2 days.
Molasses repels brassica butterflies and moths partly due to its stickiness. For caterpillars already on plants, they soon fall off once sprayed. This is a mild insecticide that also acts as a fertilizer. Mix 1 Tablespoon of molasses with 1 liter of hot water and add a squirt of liquid soap. Spray as needed.
This oil is especially useful against earwigs and other creepy, crawly bugs such as millipedes. Mix 6 teaspoons of eucalyptus oil with 1 cup of water. Add 2 teaspoons of liquid soap and spray surrounding soil of effected plants.
A very week solution of any sort of household vinegar will scare away many leaf chewing beetles and caterpillars. Full strength vinegar is a popular natural weed killer so it is capable of killing plants. So DON’T make it any stronger than specified below or you may harm your plants. To make your solution put 1 teaspoon of vinegar into a 1 liter spray bottle and lightly spritz all over leaves and stem of specific plants. Only spray in the evening or on cloudy/dull days, because sunshine on vinegar can burn plants. Leaves Leaves sometimes work well as a poison to sap-sucking pests, but other times they don’t! Don’t ask me why as all I know is sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
These are the three most favored plants to use:
Tomato Leaves: Boil up a pot of leaves covered with water. Let cool and seep for several hours at least, then pour or spray over plant where you see insects or caterpillars.
Rhubarb Leaves: : Rhubarb leaves are semi-poisonous to us, and a tea brewed from rhubarb leaves poisons smaller pests, such as aphids, mites, white fly, and some caterpillar varieties. 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 then spray over pest infested plants. Repeat every 10 days or so.
This bitter bark is sold worldwide and used as an insecticide, mostly for flies, mites and aphids. It is especially useful to repel possums. To make a spray- first buy the chips at a garden supplier. Add 3 cups to a large bucket of hot water, and let cool and soak for 1-2 days. Add a squirt (about 1 teaspoon) of liquid soap or eco detergent, and spray the ground around plants. For small insects you can spray the plants themselves, but wait a week before eating them—it’s very bitter, astringent and will do you no good.
For possums–Quassia chips can be scattered in roof spaces and entry points to where possums are not welcome. Put a fresh lot of Quassia spray or chips around each night for up to a week. the possum will soon give up and go away. If it comes back or a new possum comes around-just retreat the area.
Sticky Traps are used to attract and kill whitefly and aphids. Coat yellow boards or strips of something weatherproof with oil or paste/glue, or double-sided sticky tape, and hang near to plants. The bright yellow attracts these insects and they then get stuck on the sticky surface This also works great for inside plants if you have those little tiny pesky fling pests around your plants.
Tinsel decorations leftover from Christmas make good deterrents for some garden pests. String some reflective garlands around the garden to deter birds. Although this only works for a few weeks before the birds get smart. Aphids also seem to get confused and retreat if you weave tinselly/shiny ribbons around plants, or place on the ground. The bright side of aluminum foil does the trick too. I hope you find these recipes helpful, if you have others that have worked well for you I would love if you shared them. Thanks and happy gardening the natural organic way!!
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