Who doesn’t want to keep all the bugs from destroying your garden! Keeping those greedy critters off your plants and crops is a nightmare, especially when trying to stick to organic protocols and keeping away from potentially harmful solutions, such as conventional pesticides.

These are a few homemade solutions that you might want to try, that won’t break the bank or be a danger to yourself or your animals.

Neem Oil

This is something I’ve read a lot about. It’s an oil extracted from the seeds of the neem tree and is a powerful natural insecticide, capable of disrupting the life cycle of insects at all stages (adult, larvae, and egg), making it a great resource for the organic gardener.

Neem oil acts as a hormone disruptor and as an ‘antifeedant’ for insects that feed on leaves and other plant parts. It is non-toxic to pets, birds, fish, and other wildlife, and is effective against a variety of common garden insects, as well as being a natural fungicide for powder mildew and other fungal infections on plants. Follow the instructions on the bottle, or start out with a basic mixture of two teaspoons of neem oil and one teaspoon of mild liquid soap shaken thoroughly with one quart of water, and then spray on the affected plant foliage. It can also be used preventatively by spraying the leaves of plants that are often ravaged by pests before they're actually infested.

Vegetable oil

Mixed with a mild soap, vegetable oil can make an effective insecticide for insects such as aphids, mites, thrips, etc, and to make a basic oil spray, mix one cup of vegetable oil with one tablespoon of soap and then when ready to apply, add two teaspoons of this mix to a quart of water, shake thoroughly, and spray directly on the surfaces of the plants that are being affected by pests.

The oil coats the bodies of the insects, effectively suffocating them, as it blocks the pores through which they breathe.

Soap Spray

A similar homemade pesticide to the oil spray, which might help control mites, aphids, whiteflies, beetles, and other hungry little insects. To make a basic soap spray, mix one and a half teaspoons of a mild liquid soap with one quart of water, and spray the mixture directly on the infected surfaces of the plants. This works in a similar fashion as an oil spray pesticide, and can be applied as necessary in the evenings or early mornings, but not during the heat of the day.


Garlic is well-known for its strong scent that comes into play as a natural insecticide. Actually, it's not really clear if garlic spray and chilli spray (below) are actually insecticides or are just insect repellents, but either way, these common kitchen ingredients can be used to knock down, or even knock out, insect infestations in the garden.

Take two whole bulbs (not just two cloves) and puree them in a blender or food processor with a small amount of water. Let the mixture sit overnight, strain off the solids and add the resulting fluid to half a cup of vegetable oil (optional), one teaspoon of mild liquid soap, and enough water to fill a quart jar. To use this homemade insecticide, use one cup of mixture with one quart of water and spray liberally on infested plants.

Chilli Pepper Spray

Like garlic spray, chilli pepper spray is a great homemade natural insect repellent that can be used for a variety of different pests and can be made from fresh hot peppers or even just chilli powder. To make a spray from fresh peppers, blend or puree half a cup of peppers with one cup of water, then add one quart of water and bring to a boil. Let sit until cooled, then strain out the pulp, add several drops of liquid soap to it and spray as desired. To make a spray from powder, mix one tablespoon of chilli powder with one quart of water and several drops of mild liquid soap. This mixture can be used full-strength on the leaves of affected plants. Just be careful of getting the raw ingredients in your eyes!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan