Anyone who loves to garden knows about the constant battle between their plants and the resident creatures that can do them harm. Of course, one option is to use chemical pesticides but more and more people are moving away from the chemical versions and instead want to use a homemade pesticide for plants that are made from natural ingredients. These can often be just as effective as their chemical counterparts and they are less harmful (although you do still need to be careful).
It is important to remember that homemade pesticides can be just as powerful as chemical ones so it is important not to overuse them. The goal with pesticides is not to eliminate all bug life from your planting area because this will disrupt the natural ecosystem that will help your plants to thrive. Instead, you should use pesticides sparingly to ensure that they get rid of only the pests that are harming your plants.
Homemade pesticides can be made cheaply and often with products that you already have at home. If it’s something that is important to you, using a homemade pesticide for your plants will also mean that they are organic. Some solutions can be toxic to other animals and humans, so remember that just because they are homemade using natural ingredients, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to be careful when handling them.
5 Best Solutions for Homemade Pesticide for Plants
1) Vegetable Oil Spray
This works in a similar way to the white oil spray that you would find in a store. Commercial white oil uses petroleum as its base, making it both expensive and not really the best thing to be spraying around your garden area. Vegetable oil spray, on the other hand, will use ingredients that aren’t as harmful as petroleum and are generally cheaper. You will likely have them to hand just by taking a look around your house.
Both types of spray work by coating the bodies of insects in a thick oil that sticks to them. Remember that insects breathe through their exoskeleton so by covering the pores of the exoskeleton in oil, they suffocate.
To make homemade vegetable oil spray, mix two cups of vegetable oil with half a cup of pure liquid soap (remember to use one that doesn’t have any bleach in it). Pour the mixture into a bottle or jar and you have your concentrated vegetable oil spray. To actually use the spray, however, you need to dilute it and transfer it to a spray bottle. A bottle like this which gives out a fine mist is perfect for making sure that you properly cover your plants.
To make your dilution, you need to use a ratio of two teaspoons of vegetable oil/soap mix to every one liter of water. This spray is effective for insects of all kinds, including aphids, caterpillars, mites, and many more.
2) Garlic Spray
Garlic spray works very differently from vegetable oil spray. Rather than killing the insects that are already present on your plants, the sulfurous compounds it contains works as a natural repellent to keep bugs away from your plants in the first place. It works with anything from aphids, to caterpillars, to slugs, and even ants.
To make your garlic spray, you will obviously need some garlic. The more garlic you use in the mixture, the more potent and effective your garlic spray will be. To make a relatively strong solution, take all of the cloves from a head of garlic and blitz them in a food processor until they are puree. Place the garlic puree in a bowl and fill it with boiling water. Place the bowl in a fridge overnight so that the garlic fully infuses into the water. The next morning, strain the garlic (to get rid of any chunks) and put the water solution into your spray bottle.
Remember that garlic spray is a repellent only that won’t kill any bugs that are already on your plants. It will just make it a much less desirable place for them to come and lay their eggs or feed. If you also want to kill the bugs that are already present, you can add some liquid soap into your garlic solution so that it suffocates the bugs that are already there.
It is a good idea not to spray any edible plants with garlic spray very soon before you are going to consume them because they can end up tasting very garlicky! Another solution is to plant garlic plants among your other plants as a way of naturally stopping the pests from getting on all of your plants.
3) Tobacco Spray
We all know that tobacco is harmful to humans, so it makes sense that it will also be harmful to other creatures. Unlike humans, however, it is actually the nicotine found in tobacco that is toxic to many insects. This includes slugs, aphids, gnats, and more. Nicotine works as a fast-acting nerve toxin that gets rid of pests very quickly.
To make your own tobacco pesticide spray, you will first need to make a tobacco tea. Depending on the regulations in your area, you may be able to grow tobacco plants yourself. Otherwise, you will need to go and buy some. Steep one cup of dry tobacco in a gallon of water and leave it. The longer you leave it, the stronger the pesticide will be. Then sieve the tobacco solution into a storage container. The sieve needs to be quite fine because the tobacco leaves can be very small. A strainer with a fine mesh such as these from Cuisinart would be perfect. You can then transfer the solution to your spray bottles whenever you need it. Mixing a very small amount of liquid soap into the solution (around one teaspoon) can help the solution stick to your plants and add some extra toxicity.
Tobacco as a homemade pesticide for plants is a very powerful solution so you will need to be extremely careful with how you use it. It can be toxic to the beneficial bugs that will be present on your plants, such as ladybugs. Only spray the solution directly onto the pests that you can see and don’t use it indiscriminately. You also shouldn’t spray it on plants that are in the tobacco family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, or peppers as it can be harmful to them.
4) Epsom Salts
Epsom salts are crystals of magnesium sulfate so aren’t the same as table salt at all. You might already have some in your home as a way of treating aches and paints. If not, picking up some pure Epsom salts like these from Epsoak would be perfect for gardening purposes.
Epsom salts can help to protect your plants in a few different ways. You can sprinkle a ring around your plants of Epsom salts that will deter soft-bodied bugs like slugs from getting near to your plants in the first place. You can also mix some in with the soil surrounding your plants. This has the added benefit of increasing the magnesium in the soil which can help your plants to thrive (be careful because if the soil is already rich in magnesium this could have a negative effect).
Another method is to mix some salts with water to spray directly onto the pests. Add two teaspoons of Epsom salts to every gallon of water and put it into your spray bottle. Epsom salts are abrasive so they scratch the insects’ exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and death. For soft-bodied pests, like slugs, it directly absorbs the moisture from their body to dehydrate them.
5) Neem Oil
Neem oil comes from the seeds of the neem tree. It is a powerful insecticide and works as a hormone disrupter that interferes with the life cycle of insects at all stages, including adults, larvae, and eggs. Because it works at every point in the lifecycle, you can use neem oil at any time of the year and it will be as effective. It also works as a miticide, killing mites, and it can even get rid of some fungi. As an added bonus, it isn’t harmful to beneficial bugs such as ladybugs and earthworms.
You may have some neem oil at home for its uses in skincare. If not, this neem oil from Kate Blanc Cosmetics will work a treat. You will need to dilute the neem oil with water. Because it is an oil, it won’t mix well with water on its own so you will need to add a detergent such as liquid soap. Add one or two teaspoons of the soap to a gallon of water first and mix thoroughly then add one or two teaspoons of neem oil to the solution. Then add some to your spray bottle and it is ready to use.
The Bottom Line
Any avid gardener knows that careful management of garden pets can make all the difference to how successful your plants are. More and more people are moving away from harsh chemical pesticides, instead opting to make their own organic homemade pesticide for plants. A lot of gardeners have their own special solutions that they swear by, and you can even mix and match the different options to make your own version that works for your garden area. Whatever you choose, it is surprising just how effective these natural pesticides can really be.