Today’s world of food is full of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. While you can’t control what other people use in their gardens, you can choose what to use on your own. Most gardeners nowadays just assume that if it’s filled with harmful chemicals, it must be the only thing strong enough to keep the pests away.
This misconception is yielding crops full of chemicals, while also harming the ecosystem around the gardens. Through trial and error, many avid gardeners have found several organic alternatives to these pesticides that do actually work, and work well! Here are five of the most effective.
Five Organic Remedies For Pests
1. Floating Plant Covers:
Floating row covers, which are also called “garden fabric” are a more passive way to protect your fruits and vegetables from pests. They are white and thin covers, usually made out of polypropylene or polyester. The great thing about floating row covers is that they truly do float above the plant and expand naturally upwards with the crops as they grow taller. Sunlight and rainfall are able to pass through the garden fabric material with ease, whilst pests cannot.
Floating plant covers work to protect fruits and veggies from insects, rabbits, birds, squirrels, and deer, given that you buy covers that are made for this purpose. They are very effective at keeping insects that are often resistant to organic or chemical pesticides, such as squash bugs, cabbage moths and worms, beetles, etc.
In addition to protecting fruits and veggies from various pests, plant covers work as a form of frost protection, disease protection, transplant shock prevention, and extreme heat or cold protection. Most species of veggies and fruits, including leafy greens, root vegetables, and self-pollinating edible crops can be grown successfully under floating plant covers from seed to harvest if done correctly.
If you are wanting plant covers exclusively for the purpose of keeping pests out, all you will need is a lightweight floating row cover. In this case, the installation process is simple and easy. All you need to do is drape the covers over the crops and secure them with anchor pins, hoop stakes, rocks, soil, or two by four pieces of lumber. Make sure that the edges are strapped down securely in order to effectively keep all kinds of pests away.
There are certain precautions and care to take when using row covers for pest protection.
The first being different species of insects overwinter in the soil, so you need to actively check areas of your garden you have had problems in before. For this reason, using plant covers requires crop rotation. Secondly, utilizing floating plant covers, with all their advantages, also means that you won’t be able to see what is going on underneath them with ease without looking up close.
Closely monitoring moisture levels, air circulation, temperature, and possible weed growth is necessary. If it becomes too hot and humid inside of the plant covers, an easy fix is to simply open up the ends a bit to let some air in and out. Lastly, if you are growing plants that require insect pollination, you will have to either open pollination tunnels regularly or hand pollinate.
2. Soap Spray:
Soap spray works as a natural or organic (depending on the soap you use) insecticide to fend off pests like aphids, mites, whiteflies, beetles, scales, mealybugs, ants, thrips, leafhoppers, and psyllids.
Some people recommend using 1-1/2 teaspoons mixed with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle, while others suggest using 1 tablespoon with one quart of water. Another great idea many have found success with is to put 1 cup of sunflower or safflower oil into a spray bottle and add in 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of mild dish soap or other preferred natural soap of choice.
The sunflower or safflower oil helps the soap stick to the plant foliage. If you are truly trying to keep it organic, opting for an organic soap like Castile soap is the way to go.
When using a soap spray in your outdoor garden, it is important to only use it in the evenings or early mornings, as opposed to the hot and sunny part of the day to prevent any scalding. If you have an indoor garden, on the other hand, or just houseplants that are out of direct sunlight, you don’t have to worry about what time of day you’re using the spray.
To use, make sure to shake the mixture thoroughly. Then, begin by spraying the top part of the leaves, the undersides of the leaves, and the stems for extra measure. It is advised to spray the mixture on a single plant before proceeding with the others to test and make sure it doesn’t damage them.
3. Essential Oil Spray:
Essential oils have a wide range of uses from cleaning, to cosmetic, to health-related, thanks to their antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties.
However, they also work wonderfully as natural insect and bug repellents for your garden. Although peppermint oil is one of the best repelling oils for many different kinds of bugs and insects, there is a long list of essential oils that can do the job, including orange oil, cedarwood oil, rosemary oil, thyme oil, and more.
For a short list, peppermint oil helps to kill aphids, ants, squash bugs, beetles, spiders, and fleas. Rosemary oil helps to repel fleas, flies, mosquitos, and insect larvae like the cabbage looper caterpillar. Thyme oil fights off most biting insects, such as chiggers, roaches, and ticks. Clove oil is effective against a lot of flying insects.
There are a few different ways to go about using essential oils in the garden for pest control. Some people like to use the spraying method, which involves mixing L code: one part essential oil of choice and 10 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on any and all foliage that bugs or insects are inhabiting.
Another option is to make a soap and essential oil spray, with about 20 drops (1 teaspoon) of essential oil(s), 5 drops of mild soap, and 1 gallon of water. Put all of the ingredients into a one-gallon pump sprayer and spray your whole garden early in the morning before any pests arrive, reapplying every week or two.
You can also simply add 20 or so drops of essential oil(s) to your watering with each regular watering session. For extra protection, soak some Q-tips or cotton balls in the essential oil mixture and rub it onto all of the cages, posts, and other structures in the garden area.
4. Hot Chili Spray:
Chili powder works as a great deterrent for bugs and insects of all varieties. Since they are not big fans of plants that have a strong odor or taste, the capsaicin in chili powder, which is the ingredient that gives it its hot flavor, is not very appetizing to them.
To make a homemade hot pepper spray, you’ll need 1 gallon of water and 3 tablespoons of hot pepper flakes. You can also finely chop up 10 fresh hot peppers if you prefer. Cayenne is said to work the best, but any pepper will do.
Place the ingredients into a pan and simmer for 15 minutes to infuse for a stronger spray. Then, allow the mixture to sit for 24 hours to absorb the hot pepper flakes. After 24 hours, strain the mix and add a couple of drops of either natural dish soap or oil to ensure it sticks to the plants.
If you don’t want to heat the concoction up, you can always just mix the ingredients together cold in a gallon jug, and let it sit for 26 to 48 hours, occasionally shaking it up, straining it afterward and adding the soap or oil.
5. Beneficial Insects:
There’s a reason your garden is called a mini ecosystem. In order for it to thrive, a balance has to be maintained. While there are many “bad” pests waiting to feast upon your crops, there are also many beneficial bugs and insects that are waiting to feast on them. The top ten beneficial insects are as follows.
- Aphid Midge, which feeds on more than 60 species of aphids, the Braconid Wasps, which kill caterpillars, moths, beetle larvae, and aphids
- Damsel bugs, which eat small caterpillars, aphids, leafhoppers, thrips, and other insects,
- Ground Beetles, which devour slugs, snails, cutworms, cabbage maggots, and more
- Lacewings, which eat aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, scales, thrips, and whiteflies.
- Lady Beetles, which love to eat aphids, mites, and mealybugs, while their larvae eat even more insects
- Minute Pirate Bugs, which are open to eating almost any insect that crosses their path
- Soldier Beetles, which has a taste for aphids, caterpillars, and other insects
- Spined Soldier Bug, which prefers hairless caterpillars and beetles larvae
- Tachinid Flies, which focus mainly on eating caterpillars
You can order these beneficial bugs online any of the 100 plus mail order companies that sell these predatory and parasitic bugs for gardening purposes. Alternatively, you can attract beneficial insects to your garden with specific types of plants. For example, the Minute Pirate bug will be attracted to your garden if you grow Goldenrods, daisies, alfalfa, or yarrow. This also provides another reason to not use commercial chemical pesticides, as they will not only kill the harmful insects but the good ones too.
Even though these organic garden pest repellents are much safer than your typical chemical pesticide, too much of anything can be bad. Aside from the plant row covers, only use these organic sprays as often as needed.
While it may be tempting to get a quick fix and buy a chemical pesticide or insecticide, in the long term, they can cause more harm than good. Floating row covers can not only help keep out big and little pests alike but also protect your crops from weather changes. Soap spray is a natural, mild form of the chemical sprays you will find on the shelves. Essential oils will ward off pests and make your garden smell amazing. Hot Chilli spray will scare them away and beneficial insects will eat them before they have the chance to nibble any plants.