Having a sustainable food source at home is even more ideal and practical these days. And so, it’s no surprise that more and more homeowners are now into vegetable planting or indoor herb gardening. Insect pests, however, are part of this growing trend. There are chemical insecticides available. But for safety and cost-efficiency, you can make a homemade garden spray for organic pest control.
1. Soapy Water Spray
- Target pest: Insect soap spray can dehydrate aphids, mites and caterpillars.
- How to prep: A strong spray of water should remove these insects from your plants. But for higher efficacy, this liquid soap and water mix should do the trick. Tap water is fine. But if your area has hard water, use distilled or bottled water instead.
|3 drops of mild liquid dish detergent
|Combine liquid soap, oil and water in the spray bottle.
|1 tbsp cooking or vegetable oil
|Spray the plant leaves, but avoid the blossoms.
|Skip spraying at 26C to prevent scorching your plants.
- Alternate solution: Insecticidal soap spray is safe to use in the garden, too. All you need is two tablespoons of liquid Castile or insecticidal soap and 946ml of water. Combine the two in a spray container, then spritz it on your garden plants when needed.
2. Neem Oil Garden Spray
- Target pest: The bitterness and powerful odour of neem drive away soft-bodied insects like aphids, mites and scale. Good thing neem spray is safe for plants, birds, animals and people.
- How to prep: This neem mixture makes 1 litre with 0.5% dilution. Make sure to use it within 8 hours as neem breaks down once added in water. To avoid wastes, cut this recipe in half or double it to match your garden needs.
|1 tsp pure, cold-pressed neem oil
|Mix the warm water and soap first.
|1/3 tsp insecticidal soap or detergent
|Pour the neem oil slowly while stirring vigorously.
|1L warm water
|Transfer the solution to a spritz bottle.
|Stirrer and plastic spray bottle
|Keep shaking the bottle as you spray your plants.
- Additional tips: When spraying, don’t forget the undersides of leaves. And if you have some solution left, you can pour it into the garden soil around the roots. Usually, it will take one or two sprays to rid your plants of garden pests. I recommend spraying a small area first to observe the changes. For extreme infestations, drench the leaves thoroughly, then spritz them again once a week until all harmful insects have disappeared.
3. Homemade Garden Fungicide
- Target pest: If your garden plants look like someone sprinkled flour on them, that only means you have a fungal issue called powdery mildew. Squash, pumpkin, cucumber and watermelon are commonly at risk of this disease.
- How to prep: Susceptible plants like grapes, apples, roses, phlox and bee balm can also benefit from this fungicidal garden spray.
|4 tsp baking soda
|Mix all the ingredients in the spritz bottle
|1 tsp mild dish soap (phosphate-free)
|Spray the top and bottom of affected leaves.
|Agitate the bottle as you spray your target plants.
- Additional tips: Like other natural insect repellents, test your DIY fungicide first to a small area. Make sure to steer clear of bleach-based soaps as these can harm your plants. Also, postpone garden spray time when it’s too hot outside.
4. Chrysanthemum Garden Spray
- Target pest: Pyrethrin in chrysanthemum flowers can paralyse several insects, including small mites, mosquitoes, cutworms, cucumber bugs, squash bugs and whiteflies.
- How to prep: This garden spray uses dried flowers. So, before you can make the solution, gather chrysanthemum in full bloom where pyrethrin concentration is high. Then hang the flowers to dry for 24 to 48 hours. Once dry, crush the flowers into powder form using a blender or mortar and pestle.
|10g of pyrethrin powder
|Soak the pyrethrin powder in water for 3 hours.
|3L warm water
|After that, spritz the solution to the affected plants.
- Alternate solution: Instead of grinding the dried flowers into powder, you can boil whole dried flowers in water for 20 minutes. Strain and cool the solution before transferring it to your spray container. The mixture can last for two months. But if you have extra powder or dried flowers, you can freeze them in a sealed container for up to 6 months. Freezing keeps pyrethrin stable and away from heat or light.
5. Garlic Spray
- Target pest: Even pests are not fans of garlic breath! And these include slugs, snails, caterpillars, ants, mealybugs, aphids, whiteflies and probably all the other garden pests you know.
- How to prep: I especially like this garlic spray solution as you can make it with just fresh garlic cloves and water – all-natural and without non-edible ingredients. And that means it’s safe to use anytime you need it.
|12 pcs garlic cloves, peeled
|Blitz the garlic in 1½ cups of water.
|1½ cups + 3.8L water
|Place a strainer or cheesecloth in a large container to strain the garlic water. Discard the pulp.
|Top up your garlic water with 3.8L clean water.
- Alternate solution: For a more potent garlic spray, blitz 12 garlic cloves in 946ml water, then let it stand for 24 hours. Strain the garlic water into a container and stir in 1 cup of vegetable oil. Next, add one tablespoon of cayenne powder, set it aside for 24 hours then strain again. When you have pests to handle, add half a cup of your concentrated garlic solution to 3.8 litres of water.
6. Hot Pepper Spray
- Target pest: If you have chilli peppers in your vegetable garden, pick some to make natural pesticides that will drive leafhoppers, spittlebugs, beetles and loopers away. The capsaicin in this spicy ingredient also repels spider mites, ants and whiteflies.
- How to prep: Make sure to wear gloves during prep and spraying time. Also, spray away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Remember, pepper is just as potent to humans.
|½ cup hot chillies, chopped
|Puree the peppers and water using a blender.
|Transfer to a container and set it aside overnight.
|2 tbsp bleach-free, mild dish soap
|Put on your gloves then strain the mixture to get the pepper water.
- Alternate solution: If you do not have fresh peppers on hand, you can also use red pepper powder. Combine one tablespoon of chilli powder and six drops of liquid dish soap in 3.8 litres of water. Then transfer the solution to a sprayer and use it on affected plants.
It’s impressive how simple ingredients can keep our healthy gardens thriving. Food scraps and wastes can be repurposed for compost, too. Even eggshells make excellent fertilizers or plant pots. Check out this article to learn how!