5 non-toxic sprays to get rid of garden pests

October 9, 2015

While there are plenty of toxic chemical controls for garden pests, the vast majority of problems can be corrected with inexpensive organic solutions. The next time your plants are being pestered, try one of these five non-toxic sprays.

5 non-toxic sprays to get rid of garden pests

1. Soap spray

  • Great for aphids, mites and other soft-bodied insects
  • Choose a commercial variety or brew your own: 10 millilitres (two teaspoons) dishwashing liquid, a few drops of vegetable oil and 3.7 litres (one gallon) water
  • Do not use soap sprays in drought or hot weather, or you may damage leaves, and always test them first on a few leaves

2. Horticultural oil sprays

  • These smother eggs and developing pests
  • Use light oils year-round, except in temperatures over 29°C (85°F)
  • Use dormant oils before plants leaf out

3. Sulfur or lime sulfur spray

  • Use to control fungus such as powdery mildew and various blights
  • It's especially effective on fruit trees, berry bushes and roses
  • In general, this spray should be applied during the dormant months or very early in the growing season, as buds begin to swell
  • Do not apply in temperatures over 32°C (90°F), and never use within two weeks of applying horticultural oil

4. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)

  • This is bacteria, usually sold in a spray, that is used as a last organic resort to control caterpillars and some moth larvae. A different form is used to kill mosquito larvae

5. Repel aphids with a citrus-rind spray

  • Soap solutions are usually the recommended method for dealing with aphids. But the makers of insecticidal soaps don't tell you that some of them may harm your plants as much as, or more than, the little bugs
  • Here's an approach to try before you spray. Ironically, even though aphids love citrus trees, they don't like ground-up citrus rind
  • Grate the rind of one lemon or orange and combine it with 500 millilitres (one pint) of boiling water. Let it steep overnight, then strain through a coffee filter to remove the bits of rind
  • Add the mixture to a spray bottle and spray the aphids on the leaves of the plants
  • Make sure to spray underneath the leaves, where many aphids gather
  • Reapply every four to seven days as long as the aphid problem persists

Garden pests can be a nuisance, but getting rid of them doesn't have to harm you or your garden. Before you reach for a toxic garden spray, give one of these organic options a try.

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