Have you ever tried using insecticidal soaps to deal with hungry garden bugs and pests? If you're already cultivating a population of good garden bugs and are looking for other, natural ways to get those pesky aphids, mites, mealy bugs and other soft-bodied beasties off your veggies, here are a few sustainable, affordable recipes for homemade insecticidal soaps.
Peppermint and Neem Insecticidal Soap
At first glance, you might not expect every hippie's favorite some-suds-maker to make a good insecticidal soap, but what Dr. Bronner's lacks in fancy packaging, it more than makes up for in green points and all-natural versatility.
To make this pesticidal soap, just add 2-3 tbsp of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and 1 tbsp of neem oil to one gallon of water. Spray or swab plants as necessary, being sure to get the undersides of leaves too. If you apply the bug soap to actual vegetables, just remember to thoroughly rinse the veggies before you eat them: while Dr. Bronner's is certified organic, it's really not all that tasty! And, remember that this (like most natural bug soaps) is a long-term solution, so don't expect one application to solve your infestation problems.
Silky Smooth Insecticidal Soap
Here's another insecticidal soap that I made a slight modification to: instead of using dish soap (as this bug soap recipe did when given to me), I replaced it with Dr. Bronner's again. It's a bit pricier, but Dr. Bronner's goes a long way, plus it 100% safe to use in just about any situation.
To make this pesticidal soap, mix 1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil, 2-5 drops of liquid soap, and 1 quart of water. Mix well and apply to the stems, leaves and undersides of leaves of the infected plant. Like other insecticidal soaps, this isn't a quick fix but with repeated and persistent application it works!
Citrus Insecticidal Soap
To make this pesticidal bug soap, grate the rinds of 2 lemons and 2 oranges, then add the grated peels to 3 cups boiling water. Remove from heat, add 1 tbsp soap (like Dr. Bronner's), cover and let steep overnight. To use, strain and spray directly onto bugs and slugs, or apply to the tops and undersides of leaves as needed.
Use Caution When Making Your Own Insecticidal Soap
When making your own insecticidal and pesticidal soaps, it's important to remember to use a foaming agent (i.e., soap) that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate is not safe for human consumption and is actually even used in testing facilities for its skin-irritating properties. Here and there on the internet you'll find recipes for homemade bug soaps that advocate using dish soap and the like. Should you choose to use those recipes, I encourage you to use a safe, non-sodium-lauryl-sulfate-containing soap (like most Dr. Bronner's soaps) instead. While your end product won't be as sudsy as it could have been, your insecticidal soap will be much safer!
(Images graciously provided by tijmen, pawel 231 and asolario. Thanks!)