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Growing Good Food at Home

Homemade Bug Spray for Vegetable Plants

Easy DIY methods for making homemade bug spray for vegetable plants that kill and repel pests like aphids, beetles, and mites.

A good old-fashioned spray with the hose is my favorite way to rid my veggie garden of leaf-eating pests, especially the Japanese beetles who love to munch on my basil. But you know as well as I do that waterboarding insects only goes so far, because whatever bugs are chowing down, will eventually come back.

Another method is to put together plants that help each other out. For example, planting basil in your garden is beneficial for a lot of your vegetables, because while it smells nice to us, it scares away pests like tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, aphids, and even mosquitos. Marigolds are garden helpers too-they keep away plant lice, beetles, even rabbits and improve most vegetables around them (except beans and cabbage).

But the real winner in flowery pest control is Chrysanthemums. All the little multi-legged, winged creatures seem to hate them, from Japanese beetles to roaches, ticks, spider mites, silverfish, ants, those pesky harlequin bugs that like to eat your cabbage. You can even make a homemade bug spray for vegetable plants with it, simply boil the heads in water, and add it to a spray bottle.

For snails and slugs, just get them a little tipsy, and the problem is solved. Leave out a little beer in the evening in an inch-tall saucer and they’ll all come running to the pub for happy hour, fall in, and drown.

Now keep in mind, not all bugs are bad. You want bumble bees so they can pollinate your plants (a great reason not to use commercial pesticides and weed killers in your yard). You also want ladybugs because they eat several soft-bodied pests like aphids and their eggs.

All that said, having a good homemade bug spray for vegetable plants is a necessity if you’re growing a food garden, even if you’ve lined every bed with bug-repelling flora, and did a rain dance to wash them all away.

How to Make a DIY Homemade Bug Spray for Vegetable Plants

First, you’ll want an empty 16-oz spray bottle. I prefer not to recycle anything that previously held toxic cleaning detergent in it, since it’s ending up on your food. Fill it with 2 cups of warm water. Distilled is always lovely, but you can use tap water.

In a glass, mix together 1 tsp of dish soap (preferably the dye-free, scentless, eco-friendly kind) and 1 tablespoon of oil. Ideally, use cold-pressed pure neem oil that’s not mixed with anything else, but something that stays liquid, like olive oil, vegetable oil, and not a solid coconut oil will work. Mix together until totally combined.

Add the mixture to the warm water, cap, and shake vigorously for a couple minutes so that the oil emulsifies. Otherwise, you might end up with high concentrations of oil when you spray.

Add 5-10 drops peppermint essential oil or extract and mix again. Peppermint repels pests, so you can use essential oil, but also peppermint extract if that’s all you have.

The reason for using neem oil as a preference is that it’s a natural pest repellent, and it’s non-toxic. It also won’t hurt bees, ladybugs, or worms unless you spray it directly on them, which is important. It really targets and repels the more soft-bodied bugs. According to Oregon State University, the Azadirachtin in neem oil “reduces insects ability to feed, and acts as a general insect repellent. It also interferes with insect hormone systems, making it harder for insects to grow and lay eggs. Azadirachtin can also repel and reduce the feeding of nematodes.”

That said, any oil will help, so if you don’t have neem oil, you can use any edible liquid oil you have in your cabinet. In fact, you don’t even need to use oil, just the mix of dish soap and water will dehydrate pests like aphids and spider mites, it just won’t stick to the leaves like the oil solution will.

How to Use this Homemade Bug Spray for Vegetable Plants

Once you make your homemade bug spray for vegetable plants, don’t go spraying it all willy nilly. Follow the guidelines below.

  1. Start early. Be proactive and use it before you have an infestation.
  2. Spray at night. Spray at night so that you’re less likely to spray directly on some of the more beneficial insects.
  3. Spray the leaves and stems. Stick to ridding pests from the plants themselves, not the bounty. Don’t use on quick-growing greens like lettuce and kale, because the oil can be hard to rinse off.

Remember, your garden contains food you are consuming, and if you can keep bugs off the leaves and stems, they’re more likely to stay off your plants. Fungus and disease are more likely to ruin your tomatoes and other vegetables than bugs if you can repel them with this homemade bug spray.

Have you made any homemade bug sprays for your #VegetableGarden? I’d love to hear your recipe.


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