Growing organic fruits and vegetables in your own garden is certainly a rewarding experience. You insure the produce you grow is chemical-free and as healthy as possible. The alternative is to purchase produce from a market or farm along with the unknowns of what chemicals were used to treat and grow the produce.
Maintaining the delicate balance of your organic garden’s ecosystem is the best way to keep your plants healthy and insect-free. When that balance is upset and insects become a problem, the need for a pesticide may arise. Choosing between a homemade remedy and a commercial pesticide is a hard choice for an organic gardener. It goes against every belief you had about your organic garden. It was supposed to be a chemical-free environment. Why would you actually put chemicals into your garden? It’s a valid question.
If you identify the insect and prepare and apply the recommended pesticide correctly, a homemade remedy can be as effective, and in most cases, significantly cheaper, than a commercial pesticide.
Consequently a homemade pesticide is usually the safer bet and logical first choice for an organic gardener. You can control the ingredients in the mixture and avoid anything that you may not prefer to apply to your plants. In the event the homemade remedy does not work, you can always follow up with a commercial pesticide at your discretion.
For as many pests as there are out there ready to feed on your precious plants, there are an equal number of homemade remedies to control each of these insects. Some remedies, quite frankly, just aren’t practical. (for example, there’s one that requires you to collect dead bugs and blend them into a smoothie!)
Two Homemade Remedies For Common Garden Insects
Aphids, whiteflies and other soft-body pests – Mix a few drops of mild dishwashing detergent with water and spray on plants leaves (make sure you get both sides and avoid spraying on flowers!)
Cabbageworms and spider mites – Mix 2 tablespoons salt in 1 gallon of water and spray on affected plants.
As an alternative to spot treatments after an infestation has already occurred, you can use a general repellent instead that is applied as a preventative measure at regular intervals throughout the growing season. A recipe for one such treatment is provided below.
General Pest Repellent
– 1/4 cup of hot red peppers (red pepper sauce works well as a substitute)
– 1/4 cup of fresh spearmint (look in your produce for fresh herbs or grow your own!)
– 1/4 cup horseradish, both root and leaves (prepared horseradish doesn’t work as well)
– 1/4 cup green onion tops
– 1 tablespoon of liquid detergent
Grind the spearmint leaves, horseradish, onion tops and peppers together with enough water to cover everything in a blender or food processor. Strain the solution and add the liquid to half-gallon of water with the detergent. Store the mixture for a few days in a cool place and then spray on affected areas. Outside use only. Re-apply once every two weeks or sooner after a heavy rain or watering.
It is important to note that the effectiveness of any home remedy, preventative or otherwise, will depend on the type of pest you are trying to control and the severity of the infestation.
Considering all of these factors may seem a bit overwhelming and stressful. However, if you are successful in keeping the harmful garden insects in check, you will be rewarded by your garden with some of the freshest, healthiest produce on earth. Please never forget one of the most important things about your garden. You planted it because gardening is fun.
Visit the author’s comprehensive article, Organic Gardening Pesticides, for more detailed information about prevention and the use of both homemade and commercially-available pesticides.
Suzy T is a mom and avid gardener from New Jersey. Visit her website and blog, Suzy’s Garden for more gardening and crafting articles, projects and information. Be sure to visit the Pest and Disease Guide at Suzy’s Garden for specific information on how to control many more insects that those listed in this article.
Suzy’s other interests include writing, shopping and her two Golden Retrievers and she is an advocate for the rights of children with special needs.