Though all of us know that naturally derived pesticides (or natural pesticides) are safer for both our families and the environment, we often resort to quick-fix solutions when the situation seems dire. Buying pesticides (especially synthetic-derived ones) is expensive, and their organic alternative is not only safer for you and your garden, but also significantly cheaper.
More often than not, you can make organic pesticides yourself. But when should you go for natural pesticides? The simple answer is always. Here are some common types of natural pesticides that work wonders in organic gardens, as well as instructions on how to prepare them and how to prevent insect damage in the first place.
Natural Pesticides: A Clever Man’s Solution
A substance capable of disrupting, interrupting the cycle of, or killing organisms that are harmful to our gardens is considered a pesticide. Pesticides come in a variety of types, but they mainly come down to two categories: chemical pesticides and natural pesticides. The latter represents a substance that is synthesized by other organisms (generally as a means of self-defense) or produced from natural sources (such as plants or minerals).
Nowadays, homeowners and gardeners have a multitude of natural pesticides at their disposal. These substances are safer to use and pose a lesser risk to the environment, but there are exceptions even in the case of natural pesticides that we need to be mindful of.
Natural Pesticides for Gardens and Vegetable Growing
Since most natural pesticides stem from easy-to-obtain ingredients, there’s always the possibility of making garden pesticides from ingredients such as plant oils, garlic, or mineral oils. Here are just some of the most common ingredients that can be used for the production of natural pesticides:
- Neem Oil – commonly used in gardening and landscaping (works against insects that chew on leaves and grass), neem oil and juice are powerful natural pesticides. While some companies sell ready-to-use products, you can also make your own spray solution by combining organic liquid soap, organic neem oil, and warm water. The concoction should be used immediately.
- Mineral oil: Mineral oils are great at dehydrating both the insects and the eggs they lay. Simply mix mineral oil with water (30 ml oil to 1 L of water) and use a spray bottle to distribute the solution.
- Himalayan Crystal Salt: Certain pests are sensitive to a mixture of salt and warm water (particularly spider mites).
- Lemon, Orange and essential oils: This is a great natural pesticide when combined with water and organic, biodegradable liquid soap.
- Garlic and Chili: these two natural insect repellents work great against slugs, borers, beetles and leafhoppers. The key is to let the chili-garlic mixture to steep overnight.
- Cayenne Pepper: nature is so generous when it comes to natural insecticides, and cayenne pepper is one of the strongest organic pesticides. When mixed with citrus oil, it works wonders against ants.
- Chrysanthemum Flowers: contain pyrethrum, a chemical component that attacks the nervous system of insects and paralyzes them.
- Rotenone: this broad-spectrum natural insecticide is also used in gardening and landscaping and can be found as a powder or as a liquid.
- Baking soda is an excellent antifungal agent. Mix it with oil and warm water and spray the affected plants with the mixture.
- Eucalyptus oil: flies, bees and wasps don’t enjoy eucalyptus, so a mixture of eucalyptus oil and water is a great repellent.
- Diatomaceous Earth: this dry, powder-like material is a marine organism shell derivate, and it is generally used against crawling pests (both indoors and outdoors).
- Onions, jalapeno peppers, and garlic: mixed with a gallon of warm water is another option against larger critters (including self-indulging rabbits feasting on your carrots).
Natural Pesticides for Home Use
In the case of indoor use, certain natural pesticides work better:
- Boric acid (also known as borate insecticide) can be purchased in either liquid or powder form and can be easily used against powderpost beetles, cockroaches, termites, and carpenter ants.
- Oils (especially plant based) can be used in a variety of situation and against most indoor pests.
- Natural dusts (such as silica oil) are made using naturally occurring minerals and are excellent for long-term usage.
Natural Pest Prevention
Of course, the easiest form of dealing with pest damage is to prevent it altogether. That’s where a healthy garden comes into play. There are some things that can significantly reduce your garden’s risk of attracting pests to begin with.
Soil quality is perhaps one of the most important elements. That means that you’ll be focused on building healthy soil by natural, organic composting methods, green manuring, mulching and top-dressing with compost. Also, make sure to use natural fertilizers.
Identify and eliminate weak plants. Since a weak plant may already be infected, it’s best to eliminate them from the get go.
Crop rotation and inter-cropping. One efficient form of pest prevention is inter-cropping since plant pests are often specific to certain plant types. So if you’re constantly changing the crops in your garden, you’re not only increasing the overall resilience to pests, but you’re also deterring existing pests from thriving among their preferred food sources.
Use clean mulch, seaweed spray and mulch to ensure that the soil contains the necessary amounts of iron, barium, zinc, calcium, sulfur and magnesium. These elements are essential to the normal and healthy growth of a plant.
Both fungal and insect damage is more common in high-moisture conditions, so make sure to keep foliage dry. Irrigation and watering should be done in the mornings so that the garden is dry for most of the day.
Benefiting from insects and natural predators
Another option is to attract beneficial insects to your garden, which prey on harmful insects, larvae, and other pests. Here’s a list of insects for you to consider:
- Hover flies
- Praying mantis
- Beneficial nematodes
Of course, throughout the time that a gardener will care for his plants, he will also encounter unique situations which call for special interventions. However, there are some items that he or she should always have at hand: insecticidal soap, for one, alongside a low-toxicity pesticide, will generally be enough to scare away the most common of garden pests in a way that’s both safe and eco-friendly.