Homemade Organic Pesticides

and Herbicides - Do they Work?

Controlling Insect Pests

homemade organic pesticide and herbicide

Organic Pesticides do they work?:

First I like to see if I can manage the pests in my garden without my intervention.
If all fails I reach for the stuff that's in my cupboards. Using soap, water, baking soda and oil works, but it's also "trial and error" for me and sometimes with slower results than store-bought pesticides.

Organic Pest Management ( OPM ) is also an option, but it takes patience. :)
OPM combines cultural, biological, physical and some chemical controls which are used as a last resort when all organic homemade concoctions aren't adequate.

Integrated Pest Management ( IPM ) is a pest controlling philosophy that combines cultural, biological and physical control measures that controls to prevent or eliminate problems.

Biological Controls:
Encouraging beneficial insects and animals for a balanced ecosystem in the yard is a good Organic Pest Management.
Birds are a problem for me since they eat my soft fruits as well as pests.

Physical Controls:
I hand pick caterpillars, beetles, snails, insect eggs and whatever I can grab before reaching for a bottle of anything. With sprays everytime it rains, the sprays needs to be renewed.

Home Sprays and Traps:
I make garlic spray for lily beetles and aphids for my fruit trees and soft fruits. It doesn't kill anything, unless I spray the insect, but the smell confuses the pests. I don't smell the garlic smell on the fruit, maybe it's because I like garlic. :)

Spray for Rust and Black spots on plants:

I use a litre of water and a tablespoon of baking soda. Shake it and you ready to go.
I usually get Rust - on my fruit trees and Hollyhocks.
Black Spots - on roses.

Japanese Beetle Traps:

I found these beetle last year eating the leaves of my grapevines. This year they are eating the leaves from the plum tree as well.
Fill a bottle or jar with 1/3 full with fermented mixture of water, sugar, crushed fruit and yeast. Hang from tree to attract beetles.
I check my fruit trees every morning with a jar full of water and a few drops of oil. Enough oil the beetle cannot fly out. Just shake the beetles in the jar.

Sugar and yeast will also work on slugs and snails.
Video Recipe for slugs and snails from Barbara

Flea Beetle Traps:
These Beetles are such a nuisance.
Sticky tape works and you can make your own if you have "Tanglefoot or any sticky stuff like STP oil. Cut a piece of yellow plastic (yellow attracts insects) poke a hole in the plastic and attach it to where beetles are a problem.
What about small plastic balls covered in sticky stuff?

Tips for Controlling Apple Maggot:
Use a red ball or a yellow ball and cover it in sticky stuff for Apple Maggot Traps as well. Even corn syrup will work. You just need something sticky.
Renew the glue every two weeks. I'll gladly scrape off the disgusting insect's bodies and re-stickify everything. :)
Actually I like the colorful balls hanging from my grapevines and fruit trees.
Organic Bug Sprays - How to at H-n-G.


Herbicides are substances that kills weeds very in their level of safety in the environment. If you are an organic gardener you are probably looking for an organic solution. Perennial weeds will need more than one application for effective control. Some grasses like "couch grass" the only way to eradicate it, is with Glyphosate. It's the active ingredient in popular weed-control products like Roundup. Roundup concentrate is banned in some Canadian provinces. We can buy the mixed version of Roundup, but it doesn't work as well as the concentrate. This stuff is very expensive and not good for the environment.

What's the alternative?
Well, I have couch grass and chicory growing in my gravel driveway. I think I tried almost everything including "Round-Up" and it's still there. Not as bad as before, but it's still visible. I have tried, smothering it with cardboard, solarization with black plastic, poured straight Vinegar, Bleach, Salt and Boiling Water on it and nothing. This stuff will work to a certain extend with annual weeds, but not on some perennial weeds with long tap or prostrate roots. I don't want to use anything with Glyphosate in it, so I will keep on digging it up and then eventually pave our driveway. :(

Herbicides on Lawn Weeds

I don't know any homemade weed killer that we can make at home that won't kill the grass surrounding the weeds as well. For most lawn weeds, I either pull them out or use "killex". Killex works well on clover and most of my lawn weeds.
Annual Weeds that will grown wherever they land and not on the lawn - vinegar mixed with water and some dish soap will work. I have poured straight vinegar mixed with some soap on my weeds. Soap is there to slow down evaporation.

List of Controlling Insect Pests some with chemicals
- from Rodales's Gardening and Landscaping book copyright - 1990

So frustrating to spend hours and hours looking after your garden and then have something eat all of your hard work overnight. However, some of the pesticides that gardening books suggests sometimes I just can't find them where I live. Hence, the homemade concoctions. Hope this helps.


Controlling Insect Pests

Apple Maggots:

description: Larva is 1/4" long. White or yellowish. Adults are 1/4" black flies with whitle yellow marking on abdomen, zigzag black stripes on wings and yellow legs.
host: Apricots, Apples, blueberries, crabapples, cherries, pears and plums.
control: Collect all dropped fruit. Trap flies with red sticky tape. Trap flies in jars with 1 part of blackstrap Molasses and 9 parts of water. Hang from tree.

Asparagus Beetles:

description: Adults are blue-black with 4 yellow squares and reddish margins on wings; 1/4" long. Larvae is grey or green with black head and legs; less than 1/3 inch long.
host: Asparagus
control: Clear away plant debris; turn over soil in fall. Hand pick Adults or use Pyrethrum for severe infestations.

Cabbage Loopers:

description: Light green caterpillars with yellow stripes. They loop as they walk. Adults are brown moths with silver spot on each wing.
host: Members of the cabbage family, beans, lettuce, parsley, peas, spinach and tomatoes.
control: Use BT (bacillus thuringiensis) for serious infestations or hand pick and drop in soapy water.

Codling Moths:

description: 1 inch - Pink long larvae with brown heads. Adults are grey-brown moths with delicate brown lines on their forewings and fringed, pale hind wings.
host: Apples, Pears and other fruits and walnuts.
control: Use sticky traps. Pheromone traps for moths are effective. Horticultural oil is a good preventive.

Colorado Potato Beetles:

description: Yellow 3/8" long beetles with black stripes, orange heads and rounded backs. Plum red larvae have two rows of black spots on sides, black heads. Yellow eggs in rows under leaves.
host: Various vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants
control: Mulch heavily with clean hay or straw. Hand pick and remove eggs in spring. Use Pyrethrum for serious infestations. Ladybugs prey on Potato Beetles.

Cucumber Beetles:

description: Actually 2 species of insects. One type is 1/4" long, yellow with black spots, larvae are slender and white; 1/4" long. The other beetles are 1/4" long, yellow-orange with black stripes; Larvae are beige with brown head and brown spot on the last body segment; 1/2" long.
host: Vegetables, trees, flowers and fruits.
control: Clear debris, specially spent cucurbit plants. Cover plants with floating row covers from germination to bloom. Use Rotenone for serious infestations.


description: Larvae of nocturnal moths. Fat, greyish to brown caterpillars, usually curled and 1 - 2 inch long. Overwinter in grass or debris. During night, larvae will chew stems at below ground level.
host: Seedlings, transplants or most vegetables, annuals and perennials.
control: Protect seedlings and transplants with 3" paper collars. Paper towel and toilet rolls works for this. Beneficial nematodes and trichogramma wasps prey on cutworms.

Japanese Beetles:

description: These beetles are such a pretty colour. Adults are shiny, 1/2" long, metallic green beetles with copper coloured wings. Larvae are pump, 1 inch long, greyish-white grubs with dark brown head, usually curled up on a "c" shape. Adults will eat foliage or fruit.
host: Adults feed on many fruit and shade trees, shrubs, flowers and a few vegetables. Right now they are on my plum tree and grapevines.
control: Hand pick them. They are good fliers and drop or fly off when touched. Go there with a bucket of water and shake them in the water. For a long term control use BP (bacillus popilliae) Use Pyrethrum for severe infestations.

Leaf Miners:

description: Small Larvae of various insects. Usually green or black 1/4" long. Adults are tiny, greyish or shiny black flies. Larvae will eat the inside of leaves leaving white winding trails.
host: Various trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials.
control: Remove and destroy infected leaves. Insecticidal soap is effective if applied just as eggs hatch, before larvae enters leaves. Ladybugs prey on eggs.

Plum Curculios:

description: Adults are 1/4 inch long beetles with curved brown snout, mottled grey backs with 4 humps. White larvae are legless grubs with brown heads.
host: Serious pest of stone fruits, such as plums, cherries, apples and peaches.
control: Collect all dropped fruit and destroy. Shake adult beetles from tree into a bucket of soapy water or crush.


description: Several species of wasplike flies with 2 pairs of wings. Can be 5/8 - 1 1/2" inch long. Larvae look similar to caterpillars; maybe black or green; 1/2" long. Feed in groups.
host: Various trees, shrubs, grasses, fruits and flowers. Some may roll leaves or mine leaves or spin a web.
control: Hand pick larvae. Insecticidal soap is effective. Cultivate soil to expose larvae to predators. Use Pyrethrum or Rotenone in extreme cases.


description: Round legless insects with waxy shells in various colours; 1/8" across. Resembles bumps on plants. They will suck sap from stems and leaves.
host: Many types of plants, depending on species of scale.
control: Scrape them with rubbing alcohol. Insecticidal soap and alcohol will work in severe cases. Horticultural oil in late winter will kill eggs or larvae. Chalcid wasps will prey on scale.

Spider Mites:

description: Tiny, 8 legged relative of a spider. White, green or rust colored.
host: Many vegetables, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.
control: Insecticidal soap. Green lacewings or ladybugs will eat spider mites.


description: Adults are dull brown, green or black, sometimes stripped; 1/4 - 1/3" long. Resembles leafhoppers. Green nymphs are surrounded by froth and they are gross. :)
host: Many vegetables, fruits, flowers, trees and some favour strawberries. Nymphs and Adults suck juices of plants.
control: Spray with Insecticidal soap. Use Rotenone for severe infestations.

Squash Bugs:

description: Flat, dark brown to black bugs with orange-brown on the abdomen; nearly 3/4" long. Nymphs have red heads, antennae and legs. Adults and Nymphs suck plant juices causing leaves to wilt, blacken and dry.
host: Various vine crops, especially squash and pumpkins.
control: Insecticidal soap is effective. Use Rotenone in severe cases.

Squash Vine Borers:

description: White, 1" long larvae with brown heads and tiny brown legs. Adults are orange and black clear winged moths; 1 1/2" long.
host: Pumpkin, gourds, squash, cucumbers and melons.
control: Protect young plants with row covers. Inject BT (bacillus thuringiensis) into infected stems. Slit stems and kill worm inside. Pile soil over wound to encourage rooting.


description: Thin 1/25 th" long. insects with fringed wings. Usually present in great numbers.
host: Many flowers and vegetables.
control: Insecticidal soap is an effective control. Pyrethrum in severe case. Green lacewings prey on thrips.


description: Tiny mothlike insects. Nymphs are green, transparent and flat. They suck plant juices caused weaken growth.
host: Many flowers and vegetables.
control: Spray with insecticidal soap. Use sticky traps early in the season. Use Pyrethrum in severe cases.