You planted your vegetable garden for humans not bugs to eat. But you must often wage the battle of the bug in order to outsmart the little critters that try to steal your precious zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables. If you are opposed to the use of poisons on your food crops, there’s an easy, cost-effective alternative that you can make right in your own kitchen—organic hot pepper insecticide.
Since the last quarter of the 20th century, more people have climbed aboard the organic foods bandwagon in the hope of improving their health and limiting the amount of toxic chemicals that go into Mother Earth. Whatever your reasons for wanting to use fewer pesticides and chemicals, you can save money by making more homemade products. From homemade soup to sprays that you can use to control bothersome insects in your yard, making and using our own homemade products is an ancient tradition that many people have lost in the last 100 years.
Insects to Eliminate
Aphids are small, sucking insects that love the leaves of succulent vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They literally suck the life out of the plants if their numbers increase to the point where they cover the plant. Spider mites also attack many leafy vegetables—you can spot them because of the fine webs they weave on the plant. Scale insects are also sucking creatures. If you spray them with pepper spray when they are soft-bodied juveniles, your success at eradication will be better than later, when this insect develops its armored adult shell. Pepper spray can also deter slugs and snails. Be sure you know what insect you are dealing with because many beneficial insects, like the ladybug, exist and you don’t want to harm them.
Recipe for Pepper Spray
Fill your blender jar half full with water and then add two or three chopped hot peppers—jalapeño, cayenne or habañero are easy to find fresh and are among some of the hottest peppers. If you can’t find fresh peppers, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of powdered hot chiles. Whirl the peppers and water on the “blend” setting for 1 minute, and then strain the mixture through a sieve or piece of cheesecloth. Transfer it into a 1-quart spray bottle and start spraying your problem insects as soon as possible. You can store your spray in the refrigerator for about one week. If you want to add several cloves of garlic to your spray, many people believe it adds to the effectiveness of deterring and killing insects.
How to Spray
Spray your plants on a warm, sunny day when the insects are active. Cover both the top and bottom surfaces of the leaves as much as you can for maximum effectiveness. If it rains, spray again soon after it stops.
How Often to Spray
Continue spraying every one to two days until you see a decrease in the population of insects. The pepper spray will kill some insects and deter others—don’t expect to get rid of all your problem insects or to keep them away forever. One old adage of organic gardening is to grow more than you need: grow some for you and some for “them” (the bugs). Insects are just trying to live and survive, just like humans.