I've been asked a few times how I'm keeping garden pests like bugs and cabbage worms, etc. at bay in my outdoor garden. Honestly, I think most of it is luck. The rest is me being overprotective, checking the garden at least twice a day and being proactive. But I am not immune. I have had a few problems. Although, I try not to wait until there's a problem to find a fix.
Being an organic gardener does not mean that you just have to sit back and watch bugs, caterpillars, and worms eat your hard work. There are plenty of natural, organic products out there that can take care of the bad pests without hurting you or your plants, or the beneficial insects (if used properly).
In 2021, I had only two hornworms. I would have preferred to have none, but I felt blessed to have only 2. I also had a few armyworms destroy some tomatoes. And I had aphids and whiteflies.
As soon as I planted this May I discovered that I had a rollie pollie aka pill bug problem. My garden beds had a ton of them. But, everyone claimed that were harmless and good for soil so I ignored them at first. Then I was like WTF?? I noticed holes in the leaves. Then I caught them in action. They ate up a whole lemon squash seedling.
They ate several holes and edges on tomato and potato plants. Most recently they ate my turnip seedlings as soon as they popped up. Obviously they eat more than just decaying matter. This is common during an infestation. They had to go!
For the rollie pollies, all I had at first was DE aka Diatomaceous Earth. I sprinkled that all over the leaves of the affected plants and around the base.
I then ordered Sluggo Plus. This was sprinkled around the base of the seedlings and around the edges of the raised beds where they nested. I still have a few, but it's nothing like it was.
In the beginning of June flea beetles invaded many of my beautiful leafy greens. And it happened fast. One day they were beautiful, the next day there were small jumping bugs and holes everywhere. They really seem to like turnip leaves, radish leaves, tatsoi, mustards, and similar. They did not touch cabbage or collards.
The first step in getting rid of many pests is just to wash them away. So when I'm watering my garden, I will often give all of my plants a good blasting with my hose on Shower or Flat. This is very effective in washing off aphids, spider mites, flea beetles, white flies, and more. The blast often kills the bugs or they can't find their way back to the plant.
Also, once a week I spray a preventative spray for bugs and diseases. Start spraying at the first sign of pests. Many of the bad ones come out at night. You might see holes, or even poop before you ever lay eyes on the actual pest. Strange looking poop that resembled rabbit poop was my first sign of hornworms.
I first got the idea for an all-in-one spray to battle bugs, fungal, and bacterial diseases watching YouTube back in 2020/2021. I started experimenting last year. Everything listed here is usually used mostly alone. But, it's all natural and not harmful to plants, so why spray something separate for each problem instead of just combining it to save time? So far I have sprayed my garden with this 3 times this season, and its worked well.
This recipe is for a 1 gallon sprayer. It should be noted that I did not purchase all of these things at the same time. I purchased them at different times for different problems over the past couple of seasons, before I decided to just give it a go doing them all at once.
The links below are all to Amazon for convenience. But please check the prices in your local stores like Home Depot, Walmart, or Lowe's before you buy. These are usually only a good deal on Amazon if on sale.
- 4 tsp Monterey BT (https://amzn.to/3ui2rDa)
- 1 Tsp Monterey Complete Disease Control (https://amzn.to/3OIgwBV)
- 2 tsp 100% cold pressed Neem oil (https://amzn.to/3abxiKH)
- 3 tbs Captain Jacks Dead Bug Brew (https://amzn.to/3OXHR2J)
- A squirt of Lost Coast Plant Therapy (https://amzn.to/3AiOJ6I)
- 1 tbs Epsom salt (https://amzn.to/3bJhHmb)
- 2 tbs Dr. Woods Natural Peppermint Castile Soap (https://amzn.to/3nAFw29)
Now I am no expert, and as mentioned I am just experimenting. If you decide to try this in your own garden please spray a small area of plants that are less prone to damage and give it a few days. See how they do before you decide to spray everything.
And don't feel compelled to use all of this. I admit this is extreme. As you can see some of these things are quite expensive. I just happen to have accumulated them all over time. And if I have them, why not use them? If you want to create something that will take care of most garden pests I would recommend at the very least getting the Dr. Woods Natural Peppermint Castile Soap, BT and the Neem. Lost Coast Plant Therapy is also useful for many causes. A simple mixture of BT, Neem oil, and the peppermint soap (amounts mixed as instructed on the bottles) would likely take care of many garden pests. I will never skip the BT because the big one for me is the caterpillars and worms. They are not as easy to just rinse away. And the Neem and peppermint will take care of many soft-bodied pests and even Japanese beetles, which many are having a problem with this season.
Some other additives or variations that I have seen are common things that we use when battling bugs indoors in hydroponics. These include hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol are both common ingredients when making homemade bug spray. They break down the bodies of the pests and dry them out. Baking soda is helpful for fighting disease such as powdery mildew. I'm going to try some variations as the season moves on since that's usually when disease hits.
Whatever you use be sure to spray in the evening right before dusk after the bees have gone to bed. Also, I would avoid spraying peas as they seem super sensitive to any sort of spray. But, having some type of routine can help you keep on top of garden pests.
I hope this helps. Happy pest fighting!