Gardeners: I freaking hate Neem oil.
In the past when it came to organic pest control in my home garden my only real weapon was Neem oil. And it would have worked, except that the squash bugs and beetles saw me coming with it and laughed at me while simultaneously flipping me the bird and feasting on my veggies anyway. I’ve found that when it comes to Neem oil, some people swear by it, and some people just swear. I’ll bet you can guess which group I was in.
I decided that this year I needed some type of natural spray, because the only other option is to stand watch over my garden at all times ready to go all “Gran Torino” on any detrimental bug who dare fly in its direction, and with all my energy being expended upon a tiny little human at the moment, that’s just not possible.
So I did my own research and put together a simple, natural concoction. The result was this local-farmer-approved, organic pesticide recipe you can spray with confidence on your veggie plants to keep the unwanted guests away.
The Ingredient List
It’s a simple list, I promise, and you likely have these ingredients already in your pantry (minus one important one which I’ll get to in a moment.) If there’s one weapon I keep hearing over and over that garden pests hate it is cayenne pepper, so that is one of the 4 ingredients along with garlic, onion, and Castile soap. I didn’t have Castile soap on hand so I was planning on using the natural dish detergent under my sink. No big deal! Isn’t it right that soap is soap?
I checked with Mary from Windcrest Farms first before using the mix on my garden. She agreed with the onion, garlic, and cayenne pepper, but when it came to the soap, she shared a tip that made me glad I checked with her first:
“Please don’t use dish detergent, which contains hormones and enzymes to break down food, plus artificial dyes and fragrances. Go with a Castile soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Oil Castile Soap (the peppermint oil in it is a good deterrent also). Castile soap is vegetable based. The purpose of the soap is to break down the waxy exterior of certain insects to dehydrate them. This part of the recipe gives you a tool against existing pests.”
Lesson learned: gardening is somewhat like baking, in that you have to be precise. You can’t approach it like you would cooking, where you can just sprinkle a little extra here and substitute this-with-that and still have it come out OK. In baking, one small substitution or off measurement can be the difference between a delicious cheesecake and a toxic one. In this case, the soap matters.
So! Here’s the recipe, below. I can’t promise you that it is 100% effective as I am only just trying it myself, but I can tell you that, when approaching my garden, I did not experience profanities from any of the current pests. Let’s just hope they were so quiet because they were cowering in fear behind the leaves of my pepper plants.
DIY Organic Pesticide (Organic Farmer Approved!)
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp pure Castile soap (get Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Oil Castile Soap so you have extra protection with the peppermint oil)*
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 spray bottle
Directions: Fill a jug with 1 quart (4 cups) of water. Add the minced garlic and onion to the water, and leave in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning add the Castile soap and cayenne pepper. Mix well, then strain the liquid into the spray bottle.
That’s it! The mixture will stay good in the refrigerator for 7-10 days. Spray either in the morning or at night, on plants and underside of leaves.**
*Note: I also love this particular soap not only because it has a TON of other uses listed right on the bottle (face and body wash? Veggie wash? Yes and yes!), but it is fair-trade, cruelty-free, and detergent-free, made with organic oils, and sits inside a 100% recycled bottle.
**Big Fat Important Note: If you have any plans whatsoever to come back and get frisky with your husband/wife/whomever after spraying this stuff, you might want to know it could make you a little…undesirable. I sprayed this on a windy day and came back inside to hug my husband, and unintentionally enveloped him in a cloud of “eau de onion-and-garlic” and while gross, it was pretty funny to see his face. (And it was a non-intentional payback for those times he’s let me walk into a not-so-favorable cloud of his own creation, too.)