Caterpillars, beetles and other crawlies may be fun to look at, but they are hungry little beasts. Anyone who's had a garden knows what japanese beetles, tomato hornworms, earwigs and countless other pests can do to your crops. A serious invasion can kill your plants, but spraying poisonous, toxic insecticides all over your food isn't a smart solution. Instead, adopt an attitude of vigilance, and mix up some safe, effective potions to fight pests without endangering your own health.
Natural Insecticidal Soap
This tried-and-true mixture is very commonly used on aphids, mites, mealy bugs and other small pests. To fight an aphid infestation, for example, spray away as many aphids as you can with a strong stream of water, and remove any heavily infested leaves. Spray the remaining bugs directly with this soap, and repeat as many times as necessary. Be careful not to over-soap tender plants like tomatoes and peppers! And don't spray the good bugs; this will kill them, too.
1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid soap, either castile soap or another natural, biodegradable soap
1 quart of water
1/2 tablespoon of light cooking oil (optional; helps the mixture stick longer but can be dangerous to tender leaves)
Mix in a spray bottle and spray, with special attention to the undersides of leaves.
Garlic Chili Insect Repellent
Strong odors and flavors repel all sorts of pests, particularly chewing insects like beetles and slugs. You can make this spray with just about any strong herb or root, but garlic and chili powder are undeniably effective—and as an added bonus, they can help deter deer and rabbits.
Chop or crush five cloves of garlic, and place them in enough water to cover them. Add a tablespoon of chili powder and let the mixture steep overnight. Then strain it into a spray bottle and top off with a quart of water.
Alternatively, mix the two above formulas for an all-purpose insect spray. Also, try this Spearmint Hot Pepper Horseradish Spray!
Fight Fungus and Mildew
They're technically not "pests," but they can still do serious damage. To kill powdery mildew, mix a teaspoon of cider vinegar into a gallon of water and spray it directly on affected areas.
To ward off or dry up a fungal infection, mix two quarts of water with a tablespoon of baking soda and a half tablespoon of cooking oil. Spray immediately; it won't keep.
Image: Briana's Darkroom