Organic Pest Control Garden Spray Recipe

homemade organic pest control spray recipe

I bet you didn’t know this, but…

I didn’t exactly grow up in an “organic” household.

In fact, my dad has worked in the farm chemical industry for years, both selling and applying herbicides and pesticides.

I grew up surrounded by every form of herbicide and insecticide you could imagine. All of our childhood coffee cups and kitchen utensils were emblazoned with the names of various chemicals and seed treatments.  I remember the seeds we planted in our garden each year were bright pink from the “pre-treatment” applied to them.

And as you can imagine, it makes for some, um, interesting conversations around the table when we go back to visit, considering I’m now the “Prairie Homestead Girl.”

But here I am, 20 years later, passionate about figuring out a better way. However I have to admit, the bugs eating my garden this year have made me want to say bad words…

homemade organic pest control spray recipe

My DIY Liquid Fence recipe is a good option for keeping out bunnies, but I still needed an organic pest control method to keep insects from mowing down my beans and beets.

I blame it on the extremely abnormal amounts of moisture dry ol’ Wyoming has had this year, but it’s been a constant battle to keep my poor little plants from being devoured.

I developed a system with the Prairie Kids where I pay them a penny per potato beetle picked. That has actually worked out pretty well, but my bigger problem are my other plants. The leaves are turning into lace, and I have yet to see the little munchers who are responsible…

The Prairie Kids pickin' bugs.
The Prairie Kids pickin’ bugs.

Which is why I turned to this homemade organic pest control garden spray. So far, it’s seemed to help the plants I’ve sprayed it on, the key is just being diligent with your spraying efforts.

Why use these ingredients?

Onions & Garlic: It’s a fact that most pests (including rabbits) don’t love the strong flavors of onion and garlic. Interestingly enough, the green bean rows next to my onion rows are mostly unaffected by nibbling insects, while the rows further away look like green bean lace.

Mint: Critters and creepy-crawlies tend to steer clear of mint as well. I love adding peppermint essential oil to my homemade bug sprays, and fresh mint leaves work the same way. I used the basic peppermint growing in my herb garden, but you could really use any variety of mint you have hanging around.

Cayenne: Spicy stuff isn’t the way to win your way to a hungry bug’s heart. But that’s what we want.

Soap: Adding a bit of liquid soap to your organic pest control spray helps it cling to the plant’s leaves.

homemade organic pest control spray recipe

Organic Pest Control Garden Spray Recipe

Makes one gallon

  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups mint leaves OR 20 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons liquid castile soap (or biodegradable liquid dish soap)
  • Water

Place the onion, garlic, peppermint, and cayenne in a blender, and pulverize it.

Allow the mixture to soak/steep for a couple hours (optional, but do it if you can), then strain with a fine mesh strainer.

Add the onion/garlic mixture to a one-gallon contain (an old milk jug or vinegar jug will work), add the soap, and enough water to make one gallon.

Pour into a spray bottle and spritz on any plants being attacked by bugs.

Spray 1-2 times per week, or after a heavy rain.

Notes:

  • Make sure you use a super-fine mesh strainer, (or maybe even cheesecloth?) to strain this stuff. Otherwise, it’ll clog your sprayer, which is annoying.
  • It’s best to NOT spray this on the parts of the plant you want to eat, just so you don’t end up with a little extra “flavoring”…
  • I generally try to spray in the evening when the sun isn’t as hot, otherwise, there’s a risk of the spray and sun combination burning the leaves of your plants a bit.
  • I don’t spray this over my entire garden, just on the plants being eaten the most.
  • I use this liquid castile soap or this natural liquid dish soap, just in case you were wondering (both are affiliate links).

homemade organic pest control spray recipe

5.0 from 2 reviews
Organic Pest Control Garden Spray Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Garden/DIY
Serves: 1 gallon
 
Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups mint leaves OR 20 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons liquid castile soap (or biodegradable liquid dish soap)
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Place the onion, garlic, peppermint, and cayenne in a blender, and pulverize it.
  2. Allow the mixture to soak/steep for a couple hours (optional, but do it if you can), then strain with a fine mesh strainer.
  3. Add the onion/garlic mixture to a one-gallon contain (an old milk jug or vinegar jug will work), add the soap, and enough water to make one gallon.
  4. Pour into a spray bottle and spritz on any plants being attacked by bugs.
  5. Spray 1-2 times per week, or after a heavy rain.

My Other Tricks for Naturally Battling Bugs

Homemade Liquid Fence Recipe

homemade liquid fence recipe

What do you say when your 5 year-old hands you a headless rabbit?

Yeah, I was tongue-tied too.

We were out working in the yard when I pointed out to Prairie Girl that her barn cat was carrying a freshly-caught bunny in its mouth.

A split-second later, I heard “Here, Mommy” and turned around to see her holding a decapitated rabbit by it’s hind legs.

Followed by, “Hang on, I’ll get the head too…

I stuttered for a minute before quickly explaining the rabbit was beyond the point of saving. Prairie Girl begrudgingly returned the bunny to the annoyed cat, and I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of my blonde-headed little girl wrestling a headless rabbit from the mouth of a hungry kitty. She seems to have inherited her mama’s strong stomach.

But that brings us to the topic of rabbits.

We have a rabbit epidemic…

It wasn’t so bad when we had our two athletic dogs, but ever since they passed away, the bunny population has sky-rocketed. Our remaining dogs (an old, fat one, and a big, slow one) just aren’t cutting it, and although the barn cats will grab one here and there, they still aren’t making a dent.

Truthfully, the rabbits wouldn’t bother me much if they would just stay away from my vegetables. We have a fence around the garden (hog panels plus chicken wire at the bottom), but I think they are still squeezing in somewhere.

And they have done a very thorough job of eating every.single.one of my cucumber plants down to the nubs.

I’m not impressed.

Because I want pickles.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on rabbit repelling sprays, and versions of this liquid fence recipe get rave reviews. The key is to make it stinky… Very, very stinky.

So I mixed up a BIG batch and have been spraying it religiously.

Some folks say it works for deer too, but since we don’t have deer problems in our garden, I can’t vouch for that.

homemade liquid fence recipe

Homemade Liquid Fence® Recipe

Crack the eggs and combine them with the garlic and water in a bucket (use an old bucket you don’t mind getting icky).

Cover the mixture, and set it outside in the sun for 24-48 hours. Yup, that’s right. We want it to ferment and fester and get really, er… strong.

After it’s had time to get nice and smelly, strain out the garlic chunks, then mix in the soap and clove essential oil.

Place the mixture in a sprayer and spray generously around any area of your garden or yard that is being overtaken by rabbits.

I spray mine around the perimeter of my garden, in between the rows that are having the most problems (cucumbers!), and even on some of the plants.

Reapply after heavy rains or watering.

homemade liquid fence recipe

Notes:

  • WEAR GLOVES with you apply this stuff! It stinks like crazy and the garlic makes it hard to wash off your skin completely. It doesn’t burn or anything. It just stinks.
  • I use a garden sprayer for my liquid fence recipe. It makes the application process much easier, as compared to using a small spray bottle. Although, if a small sprayer is all you have, it’ll still work, your hand just might get tired.
  • As with any spray I might be using on my plants, I try to apply this in the evenings and avoid the heat of the day. Sometimes a spray, combined with the sun’s rays, can “burn” a plant’s leaves a bit. I haven’t had any problems thus far, but just FYI.
  • You can totally cut this recipe in half if you want to make a smaller amount.
  • I let my sprayer sit a few days before cleaning it, and the egg residue clogged it up a bit. It’s best to use a full batch and then clean everything out between uses, if possible.
  • Have old eggs or even slightly rotten ones? This is a great way to get rid of them! The stinkier, the better…
  • If you don’t have clove essential oil, you can add 10-15 whole cloves to your liquid fence recipe and allow it to steep with the garlic before straining. Or, just omit the cloves altogether.

4.7 from 3 reviews
Homemade Liquid Fence Recipe
Author: 
Recipe type: Garden DIY
 
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap
  • 10-20 drops clove essential oil -- optional
  • 1 gallon water
  • Pump sprayer
Instructions
  1. Crack the eggs and combine them with the garlic and water in a bucket (use an old bucket that you don't mind getting icky).
  2. Cover the mixture, and set it outside in the sun for 24-48 hours. Yup, that's right. We want it to ferment and fester and get really, er... strong.
  3. After it's had time to get nice and smelly, strain out the garlic chunks, then mix in the soap and clove essential oil.
  4. Place the mixture in a sprayer and spray generously around any area of your garden or yard that is being overtaken by rabbits.
  5. I spray mine around the perimeter of my garden, in between the rows that are having the most problems (cucumbers!), and even on some of the plants.
  6. Reapply after heavy rains or watering.

 

Our Deep Mulch Garden — Year Two

deep mulch garden method

I’m really good at messing things up.

Lest you think the Prairie Homestead girl has it all together and things always run smoothly, let me be the first to assure you, they most certainly do not.

I’ve had more than my share of flops over the last six years of homesteading, including horrendously awful dehydrated eggs, a hugelkultur bed that refused to grow anything the first year (not even weeds), goats that annihilated my very expensive trees (multiple times), and the list goes on… And on…

But last year, I happened upon something that actually worked. And it worked darn well.

For those of you who’ve been following me for a while, you’ve heard me singing the praises of the deep mulch gardening method. I stumbled upon it last year and nervously decided to take the plunge. I had nothing to lose, considering my garden was completely overtaken by massive amounts of weeds, and I was getting ready to throw up my hands and add gardening to my list of massive FAILS anyway.

My initial mulching last year. I might have had slight heart palpitations while doing this...
My initial mulching last year. I might have had slight heart palpitations while doing this…

So I tossed some hay (Ok… not some… it was actually a LOT of hay) on the garden, held my breath, said a prayer, and waited to see what happened.

You can see my fantastic results in this post, but needless to say, I was hooked.

After last year’s amazing harvest, I was dead-set on repeating the method again this year. So I covered my garden with a fresh layer of hay last fall, and began to scheme for this year’s growing season.

deep mulch garden method

And then the doubts started creeping in…

“So now that you’ve told the whole world how much you like the method, what if it doesn’t work in subsequent years?”

“What if the ground is as hard as a rock next year?”

“What if year #2 is a total flop and you have to scrape off allllll that hay and start over?”

Oh boy… what did I get myself into?

I nervously waited for planting time and hoped and prayed I hadn’t led you all astray.

After our monsoon rains finally stopped, I dutifully grabbed my bucket of seeds, threw the pitchfork over my shoulder, and headed out to the garden.

I pulled the hay aside, took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and plunged my pitchfork into the earth…

*gulp*

When I finally raised one eyelid, I stood there with a gaping mouth.

On the end of my pitchfork was the richest, moistest, most worm-filled dirt I had ever seen.

Hallelujah!

deep mulch garden method

After I did a small happy dance, I proceed to plant every bit of my garden, without a rototiller in sight.

When I posted a pic of the soil on my Instagram account, I got lots of questions, so here are all the down-and-dirty details about round two of my deep mulch garden adventure—>

Deep Mulch Gardening: Round Two

My biggest fear I faced was the ground becoming rock-hard after winter’s worth of weather, winds, and snow.

Last fall, I had made sure to cover every square inch of the garden plot with a generous layer of mulch, but I had no idea what it would look like when I uncovered it this year.

In my previous traditional gardening efforts, by the time planting rolled around each spring, the exposed ground would be dry, crusty, and hard, with a complete carpet of weeds covering the whole thing.

deep mulch garden method

Task #1 was always to drag out the rototiller, work the soil, and plant as fast as I could before the weeds start coming back.

This year?

I had a few stubborn weeds popping up through the hay mulch as I waited for planting season to arrive, mostly wear I had allowed the mulch layer to become too thin, but that’s it.

And as I mentioned above, the traditionally dry, crusty soil was instead, moist, dark, and rich.

However, the most shocking part to me was the sheer number of worms I found as I dug. We’ve had *some* worms in the past, but this year, nearly every single time I dug into the earth I would pull up at least one worm. It ‘s crazy, I tell ya. Crazy!

How I Planted This Year

This year’s planting efforts closely mirrored what I did last year:

deep mulch garden method
Pulling back the mulch to expose the dirt for the rows

1. First, I pulled back the hay to form rows where I wanted them

deep mulch garden method
Quickly loosening the soil with the pitchfork

2. While the soil was still very moist and soft, thanks to the mulch, I still stuck my pitchfork into the soil and turned it/shook it a bit– just to prepare it a bit for the seeds. It took me about three minutes to work an entire row with my pitchfork, and it was far from back-breaking. :)

deep mulch garden method
Planting in the dirt, as usual

3. I planted the seeds in the soil. (I used my hand to break up any big clumps I found, and to smooth the surface out a bit, as needed). As the seedlings come up, I will pull the mulch around them.

Did I mention I didn’t need my rototiller for the first time in six years?! I want to scream it from the roof tops. I want to throw a rototiller-retirement party. My goal of a no-till garden is finally becoming reality!

Daily Tasks in the Deep Mulch Garden:

I only spend a few minutes each day in my garden (mostly admiring my work, *ahem*). But here are a few things I check on a regular basis:

1. I check to make sure the mulch hasn’t blown/moved across the rows. This happens infrequently (which is surprising, considering the violent thunderstorms we’ve had), but you want to make sure the hay isn’t snuffing out any emerging seedlings.

deep mulch garden method

2. I adjust the mulch or add more mulch to any area that seems sparse. Last year’s mulch is still going pretty strong, however, I added around two extra small square bales to this year’s garden, just to fill in some gaps.

The above photo shows some of my sparse spots with the weeds that did pop up. It’s still pretty impressive, considering in the past I would have had a complete carpet of weeds by this time with my previous method. These are the areas I covered with fresh hay.

3. I water as needed, and pick/cover any weeds that are trying to pop up. The most “intense” period of weeding is while I’m waiting for the seedlings to emerge. During this time, I weed along the rows and between the new seedlings. However, once the plants get a bit bigger, I will pull the mulch around the plant, which reduces the weeding even further.

My Results so Far?

deep mulch garden method

We’re cruising right along! It’s still early in the game, but so far, so good. My pumpkins, lettuce, kale, and beans are sprouting (we were late to planting this year, thanks to one of the rainiest springs on record…), the onion sets, cabbages, tomatoes, and broccoli I transplanted have all happily taken to their new homes, and everything else is right on track.

deep mulch garden method
Happy Broccoli

I’ll keep ya updated as the season progresses, but at least for now, I’m happy to report that my deep mulch gardening efforts appear to remain a success.

Wanna Dig Into More Deep Mulch Garden Info?

Grab my deep mulching ebook explaining the whole process– start to finish– for FREE. I included a ton of pictures, FAQs, and my best tips, too—>

weedwarfeaturebox

deep mulch garden method

 

 

 

DIY Spoon Garden Markers

diy garden markers spoon

Someday I will have perfectly manicured gardens; complete with decorative flowers (edible, of course), a quaint stone walkway, and a bird bath with crystal-clear water.

Today is not that day.

Although my garden and I have been getting along much better since I implemented the deep mulch method, I’m still all about just getting it done around here.

A lot of that probably has to do with the fact we are in the midst of a massive remodel project, which caused us to rip off half of our house. That’ll kinda get in the way of your manicured dreams, ya know?

Anyway, in the midst of our chaos this year, I have been feeling the urge for at least a tiny bit of tidiness, and I’ve been waiting all year to put in a kitchen herb garden in the pots near our deck.

diy spoon garden markers

It makes me all warm and fuzzy to walk out on my deck barefoot to harvest vibrantly fresh herbs as I cook meals. It’s truly the epitome of farm-to-table, and the flavors of just-picked herbs are second to none.

I fell in love with these hammered spoon garden markers the minute I saw them. Not only are they repurposely a cast-away item (my favorite thing to do EVER), they also are durable and classy way to tell all those green seedlings apart.

And they’re much prettier than the duct-tape-and-rebar garden markers I’ve used in the past. (You think I’m kidding? I’m not… I won’t be posting any pictures of those.)

Here’s how to whip up your own homemade spoon garden markers in a jiffy.

DIY Spoon Garden Markers

You Will Need:

  • A variety of old spoons
  • A hammer
  • Small rubber alphabet stamps
  • Permanent ink (either an ink pad or marker)

diy spoon garden markers

Don’t have a bunch of old spoons just laying around? Neither did I. Thankfully, thrift stores always have bins full of lonely, mismatched spoons. Perfect.

diy-garden-plant-marker

Grab your hammer, and think of something that makes you really angry. Now take out your aggression on the spoon. I found it was easiest if I first pounded on the back side of the spoon on the rounded portion first. (I had a piece of flat metal under my spoon, but a piece of scrap wood will work too) Continue to hammer until the spoon is nice and flat.

repurposed-plant-marker

Like this.

diy spoon garden marker

I got my alphabet stamps at Hobby Lobby for a buck. You can usually find sets like these at craft stores for pretty cheap. (I found these on Amazon (affiliate link), but check your local craft store first– I bet you can find them for a better price.)

diy spoon garden markerUsing a Sharpie or permanent ink pad, thoroughly ink the stamp.

diy spoon garden markerProceed to stamp out the name of the plant you’re marking on the spoon. (One caveat: since you’re using permanent ink, your stamps won’t really wipe clean afterwards. This didn’t bug me, though, considering I only paid a buck for my stamps)

diy spoon garden markerStick ’em in the garden, and you’re all set! No more wondering which plant is which. And you’ll look all crafty and creative, too. Bingo.

What About Metal Stamps?

Initially, I wanted to stamp my spoons with metal stamps. Because, I dunno, it just seemed cooler.

I ordered this set of metal letter stamps on Amazon (affiliate link) and was excited for them to arrive:

diy-plant-marker

Sadly, when I went to stamp out my spoons, I was dismayed to find the letters were way too small. You could barely read them. Bummer.

Therefore, I decide to just stick to my rubber stamp method. It’s cheaper (the metal stamps were $20), and even if they rub off a bit from year to year, it only takes a second to re-stamp them.

I do think metal stamps would work, though, if you got set with larger letters.

diy garden markers spoon