Pesticides are the only toxic substances we intentionally release into our environment in order to kill living things.
The chemicals don’t just harm their intended targets though – pesticides have been linked to an increasing number of human health conditions, ranging from headaches and nausea to cancer, endocrine disruption and neurological problems. However, this doesn’t mean you have to put up with garden pests destroying your perfect roses and juicy fruits and vegetables! Thankfully, there are a number of natural substances that act as organic pesticides.
1. Garlic spray: Making a batch of garlic pesticide is quick and cost-effective. Peel and crush the cloves from five bulbs of garlic and mix them with 500ml of water. Allow to infuse for at least six hours. Add in a dash of natural dish soap before passing the mixture through a fine strainer. Dilute this liquid with 4L of water and decant into a spray bottle. Spray this mix on your plants once or twice a week – mixing up a fresh batch weekly – for best results. If you’re using this garlic pesticide on your vegetable garden, avoid using it close to harvest time as it may affect the food flavours. To avoid destroying beneficial bugs, only spray the plant parts that are infested.
2. Epsom salt pesticide: To make an Epsom salt spray, dissolve one cup of the salts in a large bucket of water. Decant into a spray bottle and apply to the affected plants. This will work to burn slugs and beetles, ensuring they keep their distance. An easier option is to simply sprinkle the salts around the base of your plants, reapplying every other week. This will not only deter pests, but will also increase nutrition absorption, as magnesium helps plant roots take up vital nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur.
3. White oil spray: This is a simple but effective spray, made using just two ingredients – soap and oil. It works by coating soft body insects in oil. The added soap helps the oil stick to the bugs. To make, just mix a cup of vegetable oil with a quarter cup of liquid soap. Shake this well until it turns white in colour. When you want to treat your plants, mix one tablespoon of this liquid with four cups of water. Reapply every five to seven days. White oil concentrate will keep for approximately three months in a sealed container or jar.
4. Rubbing alcohol spray: If you just need to tackle a small infestation, apply rubbing alcohol directly to the insects with a cotton swab soaked in the alcohol. Larger infestations mean the alcohol should be sprayed directly on the entire plant – including the stems, flowers and underside of the lower leaves. As alcohol evaporates quickly once exposed to air or sun, it should cause minimal damage to the plant. Repeat the application once or twice a week until the pests are no longer an issue.
5. Lemon-fresh insecticide: To make this freshly-scented insecticide, simply bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and add the grated rind of one lemon. Allow to sit overnight before straining the liquid through a fine mesh sieve. Pour this clear liquid into a spray bottle and apply to the top and underside of the leaves of the affected plant.