There is nothing quite like growing your own food in a vegetable garden. But the excitement of growing a vegetable garden can quickly wear off once you start seeing foreign insects and pests destroying your plants.
You want to get rid of these pests, but you don’t want to contaminate your food with harsh chemicals either. There are options you can use that don’t hinder your desire to keep up with organic gardening.
Luckily, there are quite a few really effective pesticides and insecticides you can use to help.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best Organic Insecticides for Your Vegetable Garden
- 1.1 1. Diatomaceous Earth
- 1.2 2. Neem Oil
- 1.3 3. Oil Sprays
- 1.4 4. Spinosad Sprays
- 1.5 How to Make Your Own DIY Insecticide
- 2 Types of Pest Control Methods
- 3 Getting the Best Results
The Best Organic Insecticides for Your Vegetable Garden
1. Diatomaceous Earth
This is one of my favorite organic vegetable garden insect killers. You can use it as a pesticide to deter a broad spectrum of insects and pests that might eat the leaves or fruit of your plants, and it’s non-toxic!
It’s made of crushed up shells and fossilized remains of oceanic organisms. They grind the shells up so finely that they get into the skeleton of pests and make it super uncomfortable for them to be around.
It sounds gross, but diatomaceous earth dries out insects by absorbing the oils/fats from their exoskeleton, making it one of the more effective insect killers.
I always buy the food grade version because they have to go through a few more hoops to make it safe for your vegetable garden.
What Does Diatomaceous Earth Get Rid of?
Diatomaceous earth can help keep of all kinds of different pests away, including:
- Squash bugs
- Spider Mites
- Japanese Beetles
How to Apply It
Note: Make sure to wear protective goggles and a face mask as this stuff is very fine and can irritate your eyes and mouth.
Water your plants and vegetables well enough that you can skip a few days. You’ll want to check the weather to sure you aren’t doing this one the hottest day of the year so your plants can go a few days without wilting and losing growth. If you water your plants right after applying this, it’s going to get washed away and not be as effective.
Using a duster bottle or your hand, sprinkle it on your vegetable garden plants and leaves after they’ve been watered (and have had a little time to dry off).
While it may not kill every kind of pest, it will make the environment so uncomfortable for them that they won’t be coming back anytime soon. Japanese beetles and bean beetles especially hate this method of pest control because it gets under adult insects wings and makes it hard to move and fly.
2. Neem Oil
Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide that comes from neem tree seeds that are native to India and South Asian countries. It can grow in warmer climates like California or Florida as well. This insecticide is completely natural and safe to use on your plants to get rid of almost any garden insect.
What Does Neem Oil Get Rid of?
Neem oil will kill some bugs and for others its bitter taste keeps them away.
Neem oil works to help repel:
- Cabbage worms
- Fungus gnats
- And lots of other pests!
How to Apply Neem Oil
Make a mixture of 1 ounce of neem oil extract/concentrate per gallon of water. Then you can use a spray bottle or garden hose attachment to spray all plant surfaces (top and bottom of leaves) until they are wet.
Here is a great garden safe neem oil to try out. While it often comes in larger sizes, you’ll want quite a bit of this once you see how well it works 🙂
3. Oil Sprays
Oil sprays are another great option for insecticides in vegetable gardens. These are created from crude oil, soybean oil, or cottonseed oil extracts. The oils end up clogging soft bodied insets and prevent them from getting enough oxygen into their bodies.
Oil sprays can also help with disease prevention and help control powdery mildew, rust, greasy spot, botrytis, and other fungal diseases.
What Do Oil Sprays Repel?
Oil sprays can kill insects like:
- Spider mites
Bonide Horticultural Spray
This is a type of paraffinic oil insecticide spray that may be used during growing season, as a dormant spray or to control overwintering eggs insects. It’s great for use on fruit trees and ornamental plants as well.
4. Spinosad Sprays
A spinosad is a type of pesticide that are really good insect killers but are non-toxic to the plants in your vegetable garden.
You can use them to control all kinds of insects while not harming your garden.
A brand called Monterey makes a great variety of insect killer that is OMRI listed as organic and non-toxic for humans and animals. This spray is produced through fermentation but doesn’t produce any odors.
This product works well on a variety of garden pests like caterpillars, leafminers, codling moth, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, trips, borers, fire ants, and more.
How to Make Your Own DIY Insecticide
As gardeners, we often love figuring out ways to make something ourself instead of buying it from the store. For those of you who want to make your own insecticide, here are a few ideas.
This one is my favorite insect spray!
If you’ve ever heard of companion planting, this idea will make complete sense to you. Garlic is often listed as a great companion plant for many herbs and vegetables because it helps repel insects like tomato hornworms, aphids, and beetles which impact a lot of vegetable gardens.
- 10-15 garlic cloves
- 1 quart of water
- 4-5 drops of liquid dish soap (organic/all natural is best)
Puree the garlic and add the water to it. You’ll want to strain this out a bit if you can so you don’t clog up the nozzle of your spray bottle.
Once it’s in the spray bottle, go ahead and add the dish soap to it and you’re ready to spray it on any plants having trouble with insects in your vegetable garden.
Chili Pepper Spray
If you’re having trouble with deer, rabbits and squirrels as well as insects in your vegetable garden, this one is for you!
Another great companion plant is jalapeno or chili peppers. Because of the capsaicin in the peppers, they are great at repelling insects and larger animals as well.
Insects it helps control: aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, cabbage loopers, beet worms, leafhoppers, and other soft-bodied insects. Chile pepper spray will also help with squirrels and rabbits, as well as the occasional deer.
- 5-7 hot peppers
- 1 tablespoon of dish soap (non-detergent)
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable or mineral oil
- 3/4-1 gallon of water
Throw all of that in a blender and you are ready to go!
Bonus: Add 6-10 cloves of garlic to the spray to get the benefits of the garlic spray mentioned above.
Liquid Soap Spray
If you don’t have chili peppers or garlic laying around, you can use a mixture of dish soap with water instead. While it won’t have as great an impact and kill insects like the others, it will still help repel aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and a few other insects in your vegetable garden.
- 2 teaspoons of non-detergent dish soap
- 1 quart of water
Types of Pest Control Methods
There are many different types of pest control, and if you don’t understand the different types before purchasing something, you might end up doing more harm than good.
Pesticides are chemicals that may be used to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, plant diseases, snails, slugs, or weeds among others. These chemicals can work by ingestion or by touch and death may occur immediately or over a long period of time.
Insecticides are a type of pesticide, and are used to target and kill specific insects, like wasp spray, ant killer and snail bait.
Herbicides are instead used to kill weeds or other invasive plants. Different varieties of herbicides may be used to target a specific kind of plant, and some are potent enough to kill all plants they come into contact with.
Spinosad is an insecticide that is highly toxic to insects, but safe for most everything else.
A spinosad is a “a mixture of two chemicals called spinosyn A and spinosyn D” and are used to help control a variety of insects and pests like fruit flies, ants, mosquitoes, thrips, and leafminers.
Pyrethrin is a kind of insecticide that comes from flowers. Because of its natural origin, it is safe to use on a vegetable garden and edible plants. Pyrethrin is great for killing ants, aphids, caterpillars, fleas, and wasps.
Organic Insecticides (Botanical)
These are kinds of insecticides that are not harmful to humans or the environment. Because you are trying to keep pests off of the food you’re growing to eat, this is a natural choice for many (no pun intended).
Getting the Best Results
While there are plenty of chemical and toxic options out there, you’re going to be eating the plants and fruits/vegetables from your garden so keep that in mind.
There are a lot of great organic options with non-toxic active ingredient and they’re easy to use as garden insect killers and deterrents.