This was my first year of growing damask roses. In the past, I grew double knock out roses which were hardy and simply laughed at the pests and the elements. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of insects that adore Damask roses. I watched in horror as sawflies and spider mites attacked the plants, I got busy making a nontoxic garden bug spray to send a message that they were not welcome. Now, this spray is my new weapon against general pest problems.
It can be yours too! (Note, this spray will not control sawfly larvae. Neem or light horticultural oil will.)
Homemade Pest Spray for the Following Insects:
My version is similar to insecticidal soap which kills the following soft bodied pests such as :
- Eggs and pupae of other insects
- Mealy bugs
- Immature leafhoppers
- Immature white flies
- Spider mites
Colorado State University Extension notes that Japanese Beetles and boxelder bugs are susceptible. However they further note,
“Lady beetles, green lacewings, pollinating bees and most other beneficial insects are not very susceptible to soap sprays. Predatory mites, often important in control of spider mites, are an exception: a beneficial group of organisms easily killed by soaps.”
Here is the following recipe to use to deter pests. I adapted my recipe from HERE.
Before You Spray:
First–test a small portion of the plant with a little spray to see how the plant reacts. Wait 24 hours. Soap and oil can burn the plants’ leaves.
The following plants according to the Clemson Extension are sensitive to soap based sprays:
- certain tomato varieties
- Conifers in drought conditions
- Bluish colored plants. (They may lose their color.)
- Sweet pea
- Horse Chestnut
- Mountain Ash
- Japaneses Maple
- Bleeding Heart
- Maidenhair Fern
- Crown of Thorns
- Eastern Lillies
If you see browning in a few hours, rinse with cool water.
Second–Only spray when the temperature is below 90 degrees. I spray early in the morning. I take an extra precaution two hours later, I rinse with water so that the soap doesn’t burn the plants.
Third–Be sure to get both the tops and the undersides of the leaves. Pests hide under leaves.
Nontoxic Garden Bug Spray Recipe
- A Gallon Container. (A vinegar container works great.)
- 4 Tablespoon of non-toxic dish washing soap. I used Dr. Bronner Peppermint Castille soap. (Peppermint repels bugs.)
- 2 Tablespoons of oil to help to get the spray to stick to the leaves. I used olive oil.
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper (optional) to keep other bugs away
- Distilled water
Why distilled water? The Clemson Extentsion notes that hard water can affect the effectiveness of the soap.
“Calcium, magnesium and iron cause the fatty acids to precipitate out of the solution causing the soap to be ineffective. It is important to use the purest water possible. You can determine if your tap water is compatible by mixing the recommended concentration of soap that you want to use with the appropriate amount of water in a glass jar. Agitate and let the mixture stand for 15 minutes. If the mix remains uniform and milky, the water quality is fine for the spray. If there is a scum on the surface, you should use distilled or bottled water.”
Mix up all the ingredients and pour them into the container. Then add water up to the top of the container.
I add the contents to a backpack sprayer if I am spraying many plants. (I use one similar to this one.)
I repeat every 4 to 7 days until I don’t see any more pests.
Why Does it Work?
According to the Clemson Extension:
“While it is not completely understood how the soaps work, they appear to disrupt the cellular membranes of the insect. They may also remove protective waxes that cover the insect, resulting in dehydration. Insecticidal soaps are also an effective leaf wash to remove honeydew, sooty mold and other debris from leaves.”
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How do you keep bugs in your garden at bay?
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