How to Make Your Own All-Natural Pesticide

This year, we planted a vegetable garden and have been in constant amazement at the miracle of life happening in our back yard. I was so enthralled with my first full-grown snow pea, that I had to take a picture of it to share with you. However, in addition to the life that is our plants, there is other not-as-welcome life: the inevitable garden pests. Critters with teeth have been nibbling and insects have added decorative holes to our greens.

creatures are camouflaged, yet evident, on the leaves of my broccoli

Wanting to keep to our commitment of maintaining a natural garden, we refuse to buy pesticides, and have planted thing like marigolds and hot peppers, which are supposed to deter interlopers. However, it became apparent that we had to take a bit more aggressive action, so I pulled out the neem oil, which I keep in stock for the production of some of my bath and body products. Neem oil is extracted from the tropical neem tree. I had read a while ago that it is a very effective insecticide, miticide and fungicide, and is listed as okay for use in organic production.

According to Plant-care.com, neem oil has the following features:

• Broad spectrum insecticide/fungicide/miticide

• Controls insects and mites including whitefly, aphid and scale

• Controls fungal diseases including black spot, rust, mildew and scab

• For indoor/outdoor use on ornamental plants, flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and fruit and nut crops.

Mountain Rose Herbs says that neem biodegrades rapidly in sunlight and within a few weeks in the soil. Neem oil has very low toxicity to humans and pets, but it is not recommended for internal use.

I had also read that rosemary and lavender are effective pesticides, plus they smell better than neem, so I decided to include the in my natural pesticide.

Here is my recipe: Mix 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of neem, and ½ teaspoon each rosemary and lavender essential oils (I used organic version of all the oils). You can also add a couple of tablespoons of phosphate-free liquid dishwashing soap. Mix thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle. Spray over every part of your plants, mixing frequently to keep the oils and water from separating.

By the way, these Sprayco spray bottles, which I buy at my local family-owned hardware store, are made in the US from recycled materials and provide jobs for handicapped individuals.

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192 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own All-Natural Pesticide

  1. Can’t wait to try this out! I also have cabbage loopers on my broccoli — brought one small head inside the other day, and there were FOUR suckers hidden in there! — and I love that you caught one (or maybe two?) in the photo above.

    Is it possible/practical to make your own essential oils? I have lots of fresh lavender & rosemary… but this might be a case where it’s more sensible to buy than DIY.

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    • It’s funny. When I was taking the photo, I didn’t see them. It was only after I blew up the image that I noticed those loopers!

      As for essential oils, you need to have a distiller. If you have the room and enough materials, it is definitely something you can make yourself. Let me know if you do!

      Like

      • You could make a tincture. I have not done it but I have been reading on different sites about making tinctures. I am excited to try it when my herbs grow. Start saving your jars.

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    • Setting up your own distiller isn’t terribly hard. You need:

      1 stock pot.

      2 medium sized metal bowls – they should easily fit inside your stock pot.

      1 large metal bowl, big enough to seal off the stock pot, with a rounded base.

      Water.

      Whatever you’re trying to distill.

      Ice.

      Put your stockpot on the stove. Put one of the bowls in the water Fill with water to about 2/3 of the way up the side of the bowl. Turn the bowl over, so it’s upside down in the water. Add about 2 cups of your herbs or flowers. Put the second bowl on top of the first one, but right side up.

      Then put the big bowl on top. Fill the big bowl with ice. Start heating – you want the water inside at a gentle boil but no more than that. Give it about 25 minutes.

      When you pick up the big bowl off the top, the smaller bowl inside will be full of lavender or rosemary water, with a small amount of essential oil floating in that. Skim off the oil. Lavender and rosemary water both are nice for scenting the skin, can be put in a spray bottle and used on fresh laundry, and for other around-the-house scents. They’ll last for about a week in the fridge.

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  3. I’m so glad I found this post. I get so tired of my rose bush and hostas being eaten. I’ve tried to use beer in canisters next to the hostas to attract the bugs. While this works, having to clean the dishes and add more beer nightly is tedious. I’ll try your solution and let you know how it works. Thanks.
    Rhonda

    http://musingsofastrongblackwoman.wordpress.com

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      • When I was studying Aromatherapy, we were told that in order to get a good mix between distilled water and essential oils, especially for spraying, to add one teaspoon of vodka to the mix. Would this be ok as it was going to be sprayed onto plants. It would be a very diluted concentration in a gallon of water.. What is your opinion.??

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      • Thanks for your comment, Angela. I am sure that one teaspoon of vodka would be fine since, as you said, it would be quite diluted. And if it helps to better integrate the oils into the water, then it can only help! Thank you for the tip!

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  4. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be passing this to my gardening pals.

    I’ve been trying to figure out what to do about these guests … I know they need to eat too but I planted vegetables for my family and I :)

    Thanks again!

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment. I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel bad about getting rid of the little buggers, but it would defeat the purpose of having a garden if I let them eat everything :)

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  5. Wow! This is great. I’m going to try it out for my garden. I have a friend who writes a co-op blog w/ me, and she maintains a pretty good urban garden in Chicago. She will love to see this blog, for sure. Cheers!

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  7. Thanks for this! I just started my first backyard garden and have been on the search for organic pesticides.

    Question: since it shouldn’t be ingested, would this mixture be safe for use on lettuce (washed, of course)? Or should I just spray around the lettuce? Thanks!

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    • I spray it on all of my vegetables. It’s definitely a good idea to thoroughly wash anything that you plan to eat as there is always that possibility that animals have been roaming around your garden (our neighbors’ cats love to hang out in ours).

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  8. Interesting post. I grew up eating tender Neem leaves – the local legend had it that it would guard you against toxic insect/scorpion bites. We used to have Neem trees all over the place. People even brushed their teeth using Neem stems.

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  9. I only wish I had a big garden enough to plant more plants
    I have only planted chilies, and a mango tree. We are harvesting soon.
    Thanks for the tip

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  10. I have noticed by using natural nontoxic mixtures the bees have come back in force. Bugs do eventually get the garden but it’s usually past it’s prime by then. From no bees when I first started to happy buzzing now, it’s been worth the small effort of making your own mixture.

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    • What a nice side benefit! We’ve always enjoyed watching honeybees take advantage of our gardens. This winter, we discovered that a neighbor one street over has hives, so we assume that we are playing host to his swarm :)

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  11. This is such a great post. I’ll share your tips to a friend who’s into gardening. More than that , i work in a health resort where we use organic foods, that’s why i truly value natural pesticide.
    Thanks for sharing this through your blog.

    Heaven bless you! (~_~)

    Like

  12. This has a lot of potenital use for me! I’m hopefully going to be moving soon and starting a few things outside. It’s always great to know there’s an effective homemade alternative out there for anything. Your blog looks really interesting. I think I’m going to go take a more thorough look at it! :)

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  13. Hi thanks for your interesting blog. I am trying my hand for the first time growing a few herbs and a tomato plant on my ground-floor patio. Are they anymore protected because they are in pots? and…..you said rosemary is a good pesticide. Could I just use a tea made from rosemary on them?

    Wish me luck, most of my plants die of fright, the bugs never get a chance!!!

    Like

    • I have found that insects tend to stay away from my herbs, so they generally don’t need to be protected. But I have found that when I’ve grown tomatoes in pots, they still needed some help.

      I am not sure whether rosemary tea would be strong enough. You can try making a strong infusion (1 cup of dried herb for each quarter of water, steeped for at least 4 hours) and see how it goes. Let me know if that works!

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  14. Pingback: How to Make Your Own All-Natural Pesticide (via herban lifestyle) « Wonderful Shrubs

  15. Thx for the post. I, too,have been dazzled by the wonder of growing a garden, naturally of course. Mine started when I planted tomato seeds that were harvested from my dinner plate. I have been hooked ever since. But I have been bothered by pests. I’ve tried a few remedies and while my latest spray of garlic and soap suds seems to be effective, I’ll try finding neem.

    http://lenanozizwe.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/oh-

    http://wp.me/pBcWV-ua

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    • How cool that you started plants from your dinner plate! I’ve never tried that. Also, I notice in your blog post on natural pest control (and the Wonderful Shrubs post) that your first line of defense is manually removing the pests. I can’t believe I didn’t think to add that as a first step.

      The soapy water is good for certain insects, but I’ve found that I need something a bit stronger for others. I haven’t tried garlic, but I may just add that to my mix!

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  17. Neem oil contains azadirachtin which is a chemical which acts like “diet pills” on the insects. Many insects lose the urge to eat after a small mouthful. It also has some other effects which damage insects.

    But is it is not toxic to mammals.

    The first synthesis of it was done at Imperial College by Steve Ley.

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    • Thank you for illuminating me on the mechanism by which neem oil works on insects. I appreciate hearing the perspective of an organic chemist on this issue. I came across a couple of articles on the constituents in rosemary oil, but nothing on lavender. If you know of any good references please pass them along!

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      • I recall that lavender oil has lots of terpenes in it, one Spanish paper (Jesús Muñoz-Bertomeu, Isabel Arrillaga and Juan Segura, Biochemical Systematics and Ecology, 2007, vol 35, issue 8, pages 479 to 488) lists α-Pinene, Camphene, β-Pinene, Sabinene, Myrcene, α-Terpinene, Limonene, γ-Terpinene, p-Cymene, Terminolene, Cineol, Sabinene hydrate, Camphor, Linalool, Lavandulyl acetate, Myrtenal, cis-verbenol, trans-pinocarveol, Lavandulol, α-Terpineol, Borneol, Geranyl acetate, Myrtenol, Geraniol, trans-caryophyllene, Caryophyllene oxide as being found in lavenders.

        I will have to check the reference book which I keep on my office shelf for lavender, I have a book which lists almost every medicinal plant known.

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      • Thank you very much for the information! I have a couple of books by Dr. Jim Duke on the medicinal constituents of plants, but not having an organic chemistry background, I don’t know how to translate this into how it would affect insects.

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      • I have just consulted my copy of Sandberg and Corrigan (Natural Remedies, published by Taylor and Francis, 2001.)

        All it says on Lavender is that the essential oil is 30 to 60% esters (mostly linalyl acetate). The book is mostly about drugs for humans so it has little to say on things for killing insects. But it does mention pyrethrum and nicotine.

        I might write in my blog about some of the substances in plants which can be used to deal with garden pests such as insects.

        Like

      • Thank you for the information, Mark. If you do write a post, please come back and leave a link, as I am sure many people would love to learn more about this topic.

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      • Thank you for letting us know about your article. It sounds as if we need more research on the mechanisms by which Neem oil works, and definitely more green chemistry efforts that look into natural insecticidal chemicals such as pyrethrins.

        Like

  18. ooh, I will keep this on hand for when I graduate to a real vegetable garden. So far, I’m very transient in life and thus have herbs and tomatoes in pots, from which I just pluck the little buggers when I see them.

    Like

    • It’s great that you are growing tomatoes and herbs in pots. And it’s even better that you’re able to keep the pests under control without having to use anything on them! That’s the best solution!

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  19. I am so glad you wrote this! Neem is a very important Ayurvedic herb, used for thousands and thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Keeping a neem plant in your home will purify the air you breathe and eliminate toxins. I recommend anyone with allergies or asthma to keep a neem plant (if you can find it). You can use pure neem oil on your scalp to prevent hair loss (however, it does stink) or use neem powder for certain skin conditions.

    Great pictures too!

    Like

    • Thank you for sharing those other great uses for neem. I will try to locate a neem plant. csreeraman also said that she grew up eating the leaves, and that she knew people who used it to brush their teeth. What a wonderfully versatile plant!

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  20. Not sure if these will be applicable in your case, but just wanted to throw them “in the pot” with all the other great advice!

    Try garlic (crushed) infused water in a normal spray bottle. It’s kept out apple tree complete free of worms and other pests for years. It works best if you do it while the apples are still tiny – and no! It doesn’t smell. Of course, the scent will linger as you spray it on, but within a day or two – weather depending – the smell has evaporated. Usually one or two treatments early in the season is enough.

    For lilies (and against lily beetles, those red bugs) put 3-4 cloves of garlic into the soil about 4 inches from the stem. This keeps the beetles away and does no damage at all to neither the flowers, other plants or the soil itself. If you already have the infestation of beetles make sure to remove them first. It only works “on approach”. Repeat treatment after about 4-5 weeks if necessary.

    For keeping roses free of bugs make sure to water them HEAVILY very early in the season. By watering I mean… literally, shower them… make sure to get under all the leaves (that’s where the eggs are). This flushes away any pests and bugs without any need for pesticides or other toxins.

    Great blog – enjoy your garden!
    Rayn
    http://www.scatteredrayn.wordpress.com/

    Like

      • Am happy to share in return for the great info you provided! Will be keeping an eye on your blog from now on!

        Like

  21. How did it work for you? Are you fairly pest free now? We are struggling with our plants…word for the new gardening folks – don’t plant dahlias unless you’re prepared for a looooot of earwigs. Blech.

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    • As long as I’m diligent about it, it keeps most of the pests away. But the new problem is critters – I am now finding little bite marks on the edges of the leaves of some of the plants :)

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      • Yeah, we are having that problem as well, most recently with our pepino fruit. We are also noticing days where most of our plants seemt o shed a powdery white substance. Today it was exceptionally bad. I’m off to do some Google research :)

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  22. Thanks! Best of luck with your new garden! I don’t have any fruit in my garden (except blueberries, which the birds keep getting before the bugs do), so I don’t know how this will work on them. Let me know!

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  23. Hey,

    Great Post. Just put up a Topsy Turvey (sadly the extend of my black…ah…green thumb) and it looks to be working.

    Do you think this spray could be used on the yard to get rid of the ichy looking pincher bugs?

    Debby

    Like

    • Yes, we are! That’s very interesting that you also wrote a Neem post recently. You have a wonderful blog, and I see that you have links to two of my herb mentors – Jim Duke and Susun Weed.

      Like

  24. It’s great to learn about things like this that are good for the environment. Thanks for sharing and we’ll have to try that.

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  25. Thank you for this post! I tried growing cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower for the first time this year and have been plagued with those green caterpillars! I call my cabbage “swiss cheese cabbage.” I don’t even think it’s going to be edible. :(

    Would love to hear your results from this spray.

    I even have those green caterpillars eating up a nasturtium plant. I was hoping for some pretty flowers, but it’s almost dead now.

    Like

    • I feel your pain. The spray took care of the insects, but some furry critter started nibbling on the leaves of my broccoli. The nasturtium are doing very well, though. So I definitely recommend you give this a try.

      Like

      • Organic Gardening also recommended planting nasturtiums among those vegs to attract the bugs and caterpillars away from the vegs.

        Like

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  27. Hi! Thanks for sharing this with us. This is exactly what I am looking for. I have started to live a green life a few months ago, doing things like replacing commercial chemical cleansers with soda bicarbonate and trying to make my garden as ‘organic’ as possible.

    Just a question, does this work against caterpillars and grasshopper? These two pest are the busiest in my garden and up till now, I am using commercial pesticides (which of course is very unhealthy for both my plants and my family).

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  28. Can’t wait to try this out! I’m all over an organic pesticide. Are you using any kind of fertilizer? My farmer boyfriend is convinced we need some kind of fertilizer as well. I’m not as convinced.

    Like

    • I have used Plant-tone on my vegetable garden. I’m not sure if it is necessary, but I wanted to give them a boost. I also added compost from our compost pile, which is a great source of nutrients for the garden. There are many recipes for homemade fertilizer on the web if you want to stay away from commercial ones.

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  29. Such a great hint and exactly the kind of thing I like to know. I will have to check back and look forward to sharing this tip with some folks that I know as well. Also, previous thing about Mulberries was spot on giving that ours are just starting to turn.

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  30. Pingback: cilantro planted in hell, the need for breakfast, & cupcake dreams… « what jenny likes, jenny posts…

  31. Pingback: All Natural Pesticides « Organic Properties of Costa Rica

  32. Wow! Thank you for sharing!! I am always worried about the effect of the pesticides- and have not known there to be an alternative- I will give these ideas a try. Thanks for posting these!

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  33. Nice re-discovery of life in our dear planet. How about introducing some friendly little creeps that eat insects in your garden to balance pests? Small lizards are cute. :-)

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  34. Wow, you’ve clearly hit upon a very popular topic! We’ve been seeing quite a few ants lately and I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to make them go away. I’ll try this.

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    • Yes, it seems that many, many people are looking for natural alternatives to garden chemicals. I found a trail of ants walking on my greenhouse door, and I tried spraying Neem oil on their path. I walked away and returned 5 minutes later — not one ant remained on the door. Hopefully this will work in your garden, too. Let me know!

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  36. Rosemary oil is very good for the health since it can alleviate stresses on the body. It is very soothing to use rosemary oil.”

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    • Thank you for your comment, Jonathan. Rosemary oil is one of my favorites for the scent, as well! It’s delicious-smelling. And for this recipe, it not only wards off bugs, but it also masks some of the strange scent of the neem oil.

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  38. Very timely post indeed. This time of year we are anxious to get outside and attend to our gardens. Maybe I missed it, but where do I buy the Neem Oil? I read several posts in regards to Ants & Spiders..whether outside or in the home these pests hate MINT. Peppermint Essence on a cotton ball placed around entries and and anywhere their getting in will keep the pest away. Mice especially DO NOT like the mint. Thank you for your wonderful Blog ~

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  39. I have been looking for something to get rid of the black spots and the little green worms on my rose bush.. Thankyou very much.. I see a trip to the store in my future

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  40. I read this in Organic Gardening magazine many years ago. Pick bugs off your plants and drop them into a jar with some water.( the more bugs, the more potent your solution.) Pour them into a blender (obviously, you won’t use this blender for anything else) process for a few seconds until the bugs are liquified. Strain through a cloth and pour into a spray bottle.Spray this onto your plants to keep other bugs away.The bugs are in a panic mode when they die, and this alerts other bugs to stay away. I never tried this, but O.G. said it works. And no chemicals at all.

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    • Thanks for the tip, Ramona. I hadn’t heard of that technique before. I have to admit that I’m a bit too squeamish to try it! Do you have a link to the article in case any of my readers are game for trying it?

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  41. Thank you for the post for the spray. I try to go natural as much as possible. Do you or anyone on here have a tip to keep black birds from toping your garden plants. I have planted my pepper plants 2x and come out the next day to find that the top leaves of the plants have been plucked off. I just spotted 4 black birds flying out of my garden near where the plants located.

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  42. Thank you soooooo much! My best friend’s and mine crops are full of holes and we have aunts from hell that and other stuff eating out lettuce and other leafy greens! I hope this work, I have tried cinnamon, grits, aunt traps and other stuff and nothing works so this should be good!!! Thanks again!!!

    Like

    • You’re quite welcome, Isabel! I use this spray in my kitchen to get rid of those tiny sugar ants. And my husband found a nest of ants under his lawnmower cover and wiped them out with one treatment from this spray. Best of luck!

      Like

    • I haven’t tried it on slugs, Lana, as they haven’t been a problem in my garden. However, from what I’ve read, neem is not effective against them. As I understand, cups of beer set in the soil that they fall into and drown seem to be the best natural trap. If that doesn’t work, here is a page full of information on natural ways to deal with them! http://www.ghorganics.com/page13.html

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  43. Pingback: How to Make All-Natural Insect Repellant | herban lifestyle

    • I recommend rinsing any produce before you eat it. The neem oil should come off with a good rinsing, and it doesn’t have any long-term effects on the taste of the produce. I have never tasted it, and given the smell, am not tempted to try :)

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  44. Hi! Thanks for this wonderful post. Haven’t gone through all the comments. So maybe this is a repeat query. Will this spray work as a pesticide inside home too? I mean kitchen counters/shelves for ants, spiders, etc? Thank you in advance

    Like

    • Thank you! This formula is fine to use indoors. I use it to take care of sugar ants, who have a habit of taking over my kitchen every spring! It leaves an oily film, which has to be wiped away, but it works like a charm.

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      • Great :-)) Would love to try this out. Have stopped using harmful pest control management for a while now. Thanks a bunch for the quick reply.

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  45. This is great but another one is 1-1/2 cups vinegar, squirt of dish soap, mixed with warm water in a gallon jug. Can spray on everything. Took care of our problem now our broccoli, collards, greens, Brussels all look great.
    I will be putting this in our little book of tricks for sure. Thank you!

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  46. Am so happy i tan accros ur blog!!! Am ready2 try this on my plants, specially on my mint plant :)
    I will b sharing these great tips with my mother (she loves working on her garden n loves all natural alternatives)

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  47. It’s awesome that I stumbled onto this information. I am currently working for a national pest control company but have customers always asking if we have any green solutions, which we don’t and most likely will not ever. So I have just begun my journey to find everything I can for pest control the organic natural way instead of using pesticides that can and will cause cancer. My goal is to open my own green/organic pest control company. I will continue to follow my thirst for this information and will follow your posts too. Anything I find that applies I will gladly share.

    I do know that diatomaceous earth is a great natural powder that will help with many different insects. It is an extremely fine powder that has sharp edges which cuts into the insects exoskeleton and kills them. It is even consumed by some who use it to rid their body of internal parasites. It is not harmful and is food grade. Check it out. It can be found at tractor supply and other hardware type stores but you have to make sure it is food grade. There is some on the market for pools which is what you do not need to purchase.

    Thanks and see ya soon with some more info as I gather. Will get website up and running and share the link as well.

    Like

    • Thank you for your comment! I wish you all the best in starting a natural pest control company – I’m sure there are many, many people who would love to see a business like that. And I have heard of diatomaceous earth, but did not realize that it had so many uses. I appreciate the information! I look forward to seeing your website when it is live. Best of luck!

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  49. Pingback: 5 All-Natural Bug-Killing Pesticides For The Garden | Off The Grid News

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