The aphids, inch worms and pill bugs are back, hacking away at my beautiful vegetable garden again, and it seems like they've grown stronger this year. Maybe it was the mild winter helping them bide their time down below, lifting weights and building muscle all the while, gearing up for the most fierce and devastating feast EVER.
My good old standby DIY insecticide did a good job on the first round, but it became clear that I was facing infestation and I needed another weapon in my arsenal. Something these little buggers have never experienced before, and one that would obliterate their ranks. Enter the mega-obliterator, neem oil.
Why Neem Oil?
Neem oil is derived from the fruit and seeds of the neem tree. It's been used in gardening for so long, even the big boys like Bayer have their own OMRI certified product line. But since I like to know exactly what's in my stuff (and they won't tell me), I decided to go the DIY route and make my own eco-pesticide. Besides, it's cheaper.
The reason this works so well is because neem oil is toxic to the insects that ingest it, and rosemary and peppermint essential oils are natural bug repellants as well. But the coolest part of all is that this mix is safe for beneficial insects like honey bees and ladybugs because they don't eat the treated plants. External contact or minute ingestion doesn't pose a threat, but we should still take care to avoid their exposure whenever it's possible by applying the pesticide in the early morning or late evening when the good bugs are the least active.
Neem oil is especially safe for beneficial insects after it's dry, and it will still be ingested by the garden pests when they munch on the treated leaves.
And a side note, our eco-pesticide also doubles as a fungicide.
How to Make Neem Oil Eco-Pesticide Garden Spray
- 1 gallon water
- 2 Tablespoons organic neem oil
- 1 teaspoon organic rosemary essential oil
- 1 teaspoon organic peppermint essential oil
- Combine all ingredients in a gallon glass or plastic container with lid, and shake well.
- Carefully apply to both sides of plant leaves once every 7-14 days until pest problem is resolved (shake well before and during each use). Be sure to apply only in the early morning or late evening when beneficial insects such as bees and ladybugs are less active. This will minimize their chances of exposure.
I fill a spray bottle for application, and save the rest in the sealed gallon container until needed. If an entire gallon is too much for you, just cut the ingredients down to fit your needs.
You can substitute different essential oils for this recipe because many others have natural pest control properties as well. Here's a handy list to help you pinpoint the essential oils that may work best for your garden.
NOTE: Lots of DIY pesticides have soap as an ingredient, but I don't want soap on my garden because it'll suffocate and kill my beneficial nematodes too (another post on my tiniest bundles of joy coming soon!).
What's your favorite eco pesticide?