Homemade Insect Repellents

Before you reach for the chemicals to treat bug problems in your home and garden, try these simple recipes from A Sonoma Garden first and keep the toxins away. FYI – we use Dr. Bronners peppermint soap for all our insecticide soaps…

Homemade Insect Repellants (Day 15 & 16 of 30 DTABG)

Oh those pesky pests. They can be insatiable sometimes, can’t they? We don’t have too bad a time with them, but from time to time we do fall victim (remember that horrible aphid/kale disaster we had last year? or the aphids and cabbage worm infestation?) Now in the ideal organic garden, the beneficial insects take care of most of the bad bugs. And the few bad bugs they don’t get don’t do too much harm because by growing organically, you are growing strong healthy plants that don’t fall prey to those insects. But this is real life and sometimes your garden won’t be the garden of Eden, so you need to call in back up. If you are like me, when you see large infestation of aphids, earwigs, cabbage worms and other bugs, there is a very strong temptation to just obliterate the area with the most toxic stuff you can find. However I’ve found some great recipes for homemade insect repellents.

Garlic Pest Control Spray
Many cultures around the world have used garlic as a natural antibiotic and anti-fungal remedy. When garlic is combined with mineral oil and soap, it becomes a very effective pest control product. However, when it is sprayed, it is not a selective insecticide. It can be used to control cabbage worm, leaf hoppers, squash bugs, white fly, but will also affect beneficial insects so be careful where and when you apply this product.

3 ounces finely chopped garlic
2 tsp mineral oil
1 pint water
¼ ounce garden safe soap

Allow the garlic to soak in the mineral oil for 24 hours. Add water and garden safe soap. Stir well and strain into a glass jar for storage. This is your concentrate. To use: Combine 1-2 tablespoons of concentrate in 1 pint of water to make the spray. Do be careful not to make the solution too strong. While garlic is safe for humans, when combined with oil & soap, the mixture can cause leaf injury on sensitive plants. Always test the lower leaves of plants first to make sure they aren’t affected.

Dormant Oil
The purpose of an oily spray is to suffocate over wintering pests, such as aphids and mites. Most commercial products are made of kerosene or other petroleum oil. A much less toxic and more sustainable approach is to use a renewable resource such as vegetable oil.

1 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp garden friendly liquid soap
1 gallon water

Combine the soap and oil and stir to blend thoroughly. Add the water a bit at a time, stirring as you go (water and oil don’t really emulsify; the soap helps the process). Pour the mixture into a clean garden spray container. Spray a coat of the mixture over the entire plant. Shake the container frequently as you are spraying. This recipe makes 1 gallon.

Homemade Insecticidal Soap
Soap has been used for centuries as an all-purpose pesticide. It disrupts insects’ cell membranes, and kills pests by dehydration. The key is not to use too much soap, or you’ll also kill the vegetation near the pests. If you follow the proportions of soap to water in the Soap Spray recipe, below, the vegetation should be fine.

1 to 2 tablespoons garden safe soap (not detergent)
1 quart water

Combine ingredients in a bucket, mix, then transfer to a spray bottle as needed.

All Purpose Pesticide Soap Spray
Strong smelling roots and spices such as garlic, onions, horseradish, ginger, rhubarb leaves, cayenne and other hot peppers, are all known to repel insects.

A handful of roots and spices
Boiling water to cover the roots and spices
Insecticidal Soap Spray (recipe, above)

Add the roots and spices to the bottom of a mason jar. Cover with the boiling water, screw on the top, and let set overnight. Strain, and add to the Soap Spray. Note that this will rot, so use it all up or freeze leftovers for another time. Place into a spray bottle and apply to the plants to control pests.

Easy Snail/Slug and Earwig Traps

Earwigs and slugs can decimate a vegetable garden almost overnight, so we set out small traps that kill them off in no time. Simply take a shallow pie pan or tuna can and bury it so the lip is even with the soil, then fill with beer. The snails and slugs are attracted to yeast and will crawl in and drown. For earwigs, we do the same thing, except that we substitute vegetable/canola oil for beer and add a few drops of soy sauce. Works like a charm!

Want to read about more homemade insect repellents, here’s more:

  1. Natural Aphid Repellant Recipes
  2. Easy Earwig Trap
  3. Another Earwig Repellant using Diatomaceous Earth DE Crawling Insect Killer – 1.5 lbs which you can buy online.

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