Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Make Your Own Garden Insecticide

For the most part, I don't believe in using either insecticide or fungicide chemicals. They work best when used sparingly and only after everything else you tried has failed. A small bottle of concentrate should last for years. This philosophy will keep your garden healthy, in balance and provide a home for the good bugs. The good bugs will help keep the bad bugs in check.

So what should you do when you see the bad bugs getting the upper hand? Try this homemade insecticide! Now I must say, although I call this an insecticide, it really isn't. It won't kill anything. What it will do is keep the bad bugs off your plants until the good bugs come in to help. It also works on rabbits, deer, chipmunks, squirrels and other small critters that want to eat your garden. I read in the Wall Street Journal awhile back that in Africa, it even keeps elephants out of the corn fields! You can use it safely on all vegetables, fruits and herbs. What is it? Chili Pepper powder!

You can go to the grocery store and purchase chili pepper powder if you would like, I prefer to grow my own. You can see how I do that a little further down in this post.  For now, lets start with the instructions to make the insecticide:
  1. Mix one to two tablespoons of chili pepper powder in one quart of boiling water.
  2. Mix well. Let the larger pieces fall to the bottom of the container.
  3. Let the chili pepper 'tea' cool to room temperature. I mix mine up at night and then let it sit until morning.
  4. Pour carefully into a garden sprayer. You want the tea in the sprayer but not the pieces at the bottom of the container. You may want to use a strainer to make pouring easier.
  5. Add additional cold water to make one gallon.
  6. Spray as needed. This works best when the weather isn't rainy. If it rains, you are probably going to have to spray again. 
The spray should last about 10 days. If needed, spray again after 7 to 10 days. This should give the good bugs enough time to find the bad bugs in your garden and 'take over' the job of insect control. If needed, sprinkle chili powder directly on any plant that larger critters like to eat. I have sprinkled powder on tomatoes, parsley, carrots and squash with very good results.

As you may know, I have a chipmunk that has taken up residence somewhere in my garden this year. He loves to eat my tomatoes. I have made a paste of chili pepper powder and water and smeared it on the tomatoes that are starting to turn red. (The chipmunk isn't eating the green ones.) It is raining here almost every day but the paste is lasting well through the rain! I have also tried wrapping the tomatoes in insect fabric with good results too. When the tomato is ready to pick, I move the fabric to another tomato.

Now all this spraying and making paste can get expensive if you are having a bad year for bugs. What to do? Try growing your own! Peppers are easy to grow, not much bothers them and they are not susceptible to many fungal diseases either. I have mine in a grow box. I mixed plain potting soil with compost and filled the container. Then, I planted the peppers and added mulch on top so the dirt won't splash up on the leaves. Peppers are heavy feeders so be sure to periodically side dress with more compost or fertilizer. I  use an organic fertilizer and feed 2 tablespoons per plant twice a month (the first and fifteenth).

As a side note, the most important thing you can do in your garden to help keep diseases at bay is to mulch. There are a lot of fungal diseases in the soil. They get on the plants when raindrops splash a bit of dirt onto the leaves. Mulching avoids this. 

Here is how to make your own hot pepper powder for an insecticide:

Grow the hottest jalapeno peppers you can find. The hotter, the better. Here is a picture of one of my plants. I have a total of three.

When the peppers are ready, slice them thin. My husband usually slices ours because peppers this hot make me sick when I touch them. I must wear both gloves and a face mask. Don't forget to save some seeds to plant next year!

Spread out on a dehydrator tray. Each piece should have space around it and should not touch any other piece.

I dry peppers as a vegetable at 135 degrees. You can also dehydrate fruits and vegetables in a sun oven. It's easy and it is my preferred method of drying foods. However, it only works when the sun is out. That hasn't happened in my area in a while.

Dry the peppers until they are crisp and break up easily. In the picture below, I have dehydrated 38 peppers. (This is a big family size serving bowl, I am sorry I did not include something to show scale.)

I store the dehydrated peppers in a storage bag until the end of the growing season. Then I will vacuum seal and place in storage until next year. Late next spring, I will grind the peppers into a powder to use as needed during the summer. There are lots of ways to grind them up to make a powder. You could use a blender if you would like. I don't have an electric blender so I usually use a mortar and pestle  I have also used a hand crank grinder as well. It really depends on how many peppers I have to grind!

Making your own garden insecticide is super easy, cheaper than what you can get at the store and encourages a healthy garden! Even better, it brings you one step closer to a self-sustained life!

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